Active or Passive?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Tom Crofts, Jun 8, 2001.

  1. Active

    211 vote(s)
  2. Passive

    123 vote(s)
  3. Don't care/Can't tell the difference

    43 vote(s)
  1. Tom Crofts

    Tom Crofts

    Mar 15, 2001
    Assume that active means anything with a battery.
  2. LeonD

    LeonD Supporting Member

    I've been a big active supporter seeing I've played only active for the last 8 years. Then I got my latest bass. It can be played both active and passive.

    My opinion is slightly different now.

    On this bass, there is absolutely no difference in sound between the passive mode or the active mode with the EQ flat. The passive voice is the accurate, natural voice of the bass. The active is used to color (or modify) that accurate sound.

    People say that if a bass doesn't sound good acoustically, it will never sound good amplified. I'd carry that further to say if the bass doesn't sound good with passive electronics, it won't sound good with active.

    So, to answer the question, I think they both have their place. Just don't use active electronics to mask deficiencies in the passive, natural sound of the instrument.

  3. I would like to add that, normally, basses with active electronics sound a little too muddy, because the sign that goes to the amp is a little modified. Its not a rule, but most of the actives sound muddy, while the passive sound cleaner, brighter. Actives are good for playing heavy things, while passives are good for anything. Yeah yeah!
  4. BassDude24


    Sep 12, 2000
    I kind of like what LeonD said, because with active, you can shape your tone from the guitar itself. That way, if you go from a song where you want to sound like knockyoudown likes, to a more mellow song that you want more low end out of, you don't have to mess with your amp, you can just mess with a knob or three on your bass.

    I got my Carvin LB70 nack before I knew anything really, it was a gift for high grades. Now that I know what I am doing, I am glad I got the active. When I ordered it, I just figured, "it costs more so it must be better" but now I know why.

    Lets say that you don't like the active sound, you think it is "muddy", all you would have to do with my bass is pull on the volume knob and you are running a true passive line to the amp. And it is true, that they can be "muddy" but that is good for a song when you want a lot of low end, and not too many notes are coming out of the amp, to me it sounds full and rich.
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Good active basses do not sound muddy.

    I own a Pedulla Rapture J2 5 string and a Zon Sonus Custom fretless 5 string.

    The Rapture has Bartolini Jazz pickups with active bass and treble, and the Sonus has Bartolini soapbars with active bass and treble, and a piezo bridge pickup.

    If I want mud, both of these basses can do that with the neck pickup soloed and the bass all the way up and treble all the way down, but there are a ton more tones available too, and the tones that use the most out of the 2 basses are not muddy at all.

    Cheap active basses can sound too midrangey, and can have a lot of hiss when you turn up the treble, but I've never played one of those that were real mudy sounding either, unless you boost the bass all the way and cut the treble all the way.

  6. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Passive/Agressive! :D

    Sorry...I have no Idea wht I though that was funny (in conjunction with the thread title), I just did...

    Personally, in nearly ever case I have found, I much prefer active to passive, simply beacuase of what my ear likes. I do not like, however, having to buy batterys...which is why I'm getting Active/passive on my next bass...
  7. NJXT


    Jan 9, 2001
    Lyon, FRANCE
    I had/have active and passive basses and, mostly depending on the overall quality, the "good" passive ones can sound way better than the "bad" active ones.
    My two actual basses are passive, both with Barts, and I dig their sound. But I could use a good preamp on both and an active/passive switch to match my mood (~current tastes).
    Though, I tend to like the "I-don't-have-to-care-about-batteries" thing ;)
  8. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I picked I don't care because I have active & passive basses & I play either when I'm that particular mood.
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    What you say only applies to basses with very bad active electronics, e.g. Ibanez Soundgear.

    A good active bass usually is FAR MORE versatile than a passive bass.

    In general, an active bass EQed flat will sound brighter and cleaner, and here's why:

    Passive Pickups have high impedance. A signal coming form a high impedance source will loose highs in a long cable. An active bass won't loose highs, because an active circuit has low impedance which is hardly affected by cable length.

    P.S.: My bass has an active/passive switch, so I can switch on the fly if I want to. But I go active 99,9% of the time. I only use it if I want to go for a vintage J or P sound.
  10. Most of my basses are high quality passive instruments, but I do have several that are active/passive electronics that are usually in passive mode unless I want a tone change. I do have several outboard instrument preamps that do get utilized quite regularly.
  11. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    So when you say active/passive electronics, do you mean passive pickups with active EQ? I'm asking because that's the way my BTB515 is described. Thanks!

  12. I think that passive VS active also has a lot to do with the type of music you play..

    I prefer active though :)
  13. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I think that the poll doesn't ask the right questions. It should be:

    1) Active Pups/Active tone Control
    2) Passive Pups/Passive Tone Control
    3) Passive Pups/Active Tone Control

    My choice are 1 and 3. Active Pups/Active Tone Control, such as on Alembic, produce the typcal hi-fi sound, which is great for some types of musice. Option 3 gives you best of everything, since you can always switch off the active tone control.
  14. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    My Spector has about the cleanest, most focused sound I've EVER heard, so I s'pose I'd have to agree with you, Mr. emb...
  15. Newsted


    Jun 24, 2001
    i think that active is better for heavy sound.i agree that the good acctive dosent sound muddy in my basse the 1th acctive system it was muddy and also wile you play it was makeing some kind of noise so i changed whith an EMG acctive system and it was great
  16. Luis Fabara

    Luis Fabara

    Aug 13, 2000
    Ecuador (South America)
    Audio Pro - Ecuador
    I think you should have both worlds.
    Active Electronics with Passive Pickups.
    That way you can have an Active/Passive switch to select the sound you want in a given moment.
    You could also add a Passive Tone control in the signal line of the passive wiring.

    Both worlds merged!
  17. GroovBs


    Jun 30, 2001
    Only passive I've ever liked was a Fender 1962-Re-issue p-bass!!! lovely shen sounded!!
  18. Sexualscar


    Jul 4, 2001
    I think that passive give the bass the pure sound that sounds the best. if you need to change that, then i think that just buying a preamp would be better
  19. CYoung


    Nov 30, 2000
    Gainesville, FL

    Don't forget:

    4. Active pickups, passive tone control.

    Yes, they do exist (Peavey RSB, for example).

    Personally, I like to have a bass that can go both ways, which gives more options, and also can cover your butt if your battery dies!