Active Pickup options for my P bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by descendent22, Aug 3, 2017.

  1. descendent22


    Jul 29, 2015
    I'm about done with passive pickups. I have nothing against passive pickups as I've used them for years but every time I plug in and use/play an active bass, to me it gives me the response I want from a pickup. Active pickups have the response,tone,power and feel that I want from my bass. With that said, I'm looking ta some EMG pickups but I also want to explore other options. What other active pickups are out there that people reccomend for a P bass?
  2. Grylls

    Grylls Inactive

    Jun 21, 2017
    Are you looking for active pickups exclusively, or an active onboard preamp? There's a difference. Most active basses have passive pickups with active electonics.

    Classic EMG pickups are active pickups by virtue of the fact that they are underwound and use a battery to provide power to bring them up to normal output levels. They need a separate preamp with bass, mid, and treble boosts/cuts to perform in the way you'd normally expect an active bass to sound.
  3. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    The number of "active basses" that use passive pickups is probably higher than 90%

    Unless the P pickup you're interested said EMG on the cover, chances are very high that it's a passive pickup with an active preamp (i.e. EQ/tone controls)

    It's the common misconception here on this forum that "active bass" = "active pickup(s)" Most often it doesn't.

    So, what you may be interested in is adding that active preamp to your bass fro some tone shaping options?

    EMG are just about the only ones I'm aware of.
  4. This sounds like a rather arbitrary choice. There is no inherent difference in the tone of active and passive pickups. It all comes down to how specific pickups are designed. In any case, active pickups are very rare. EMG is the main company that makes them. Seymour Duncan, MEC, and a couple of others make them, as well, but that's about it.

    Why not choose standard passive pickups, paired with a preamp or simple buffer, with the features that you need?
    mcnach and Aqualung60 like this.
  5. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    You are correct that EMG's active pickups are underwound and use a battery (they also have much weaker magnets than passive pickups), but they have a small preamp inside each pickup. They do not require a separate preamp with bass, mid, and treble. In fact, they ship with passive volume and tone pots.

    That said, most basses you see that have active EMG pickups will have one of their active preamps installed as well. Since you're going to need a battery for the pickups themselves, it kinda makes sense to go ahead and install one of their preamps, unless you want to save some $$$$$. Their preamps don't require much more space than typical passive pots, so limited space is not usually an issue.
    NickRich and mcnach like this.
  6. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Oh, and as far as active P style pickups, EMGs are the one and only.

    Active soapbar shape pickups can be had from EMG, Seymour Duncan and MEC.

    Bartolini has made some active pickups for specific luthiers, but they don't make them available to the general public.
  7. descendent22


    Jul 29, 2015
    You make a great point and ask a good question. I could be a little confused on the subject know that you bring it up. So I'm going to ask you to provide me with some info and help. I have en Ibanez edb 600 Ergodyne. It's an active bass with a circuit board and a bass, mid &treble boost/cut knobs. I had a fender active deluxe p bass special which was half active as the jazz pickup was active and p pickups were passive. As far as the Ibanez goes, I LOVE the power and response I get from the active pickups. That's what I am looking for out of my precision and even jazz bass but I don't want to have the bass, mid or treble knobs. I want to keep it 1 volume & 1 tone. Can you explain to me about the onboard pre amp, active pickups, the difference or similarities and what I should do now that you know what I'm looking for?
  8. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    Those are passive pickups in your ergodyne I believe. I did a bit of digging on some other threads here on TB.. In at least one case, OP was reading resistances off of their ergodyne pickups and getting readings that were in the range of standard passive designs.
  9. Saetia


    Mar 27, 2003
    I had an EBD 600 like 15 years ago or more and it was definitely active pre amp and passive pickups. 9v for the pre amp .
    FugaziBomb likes this.
  10. Saetia


    Mar 27, 2003
    Active pre amp allows you to cut or boost within that pots frequency band.

    I'm willing to bet all of your basses are passive pickups and only active EQ.
    mcnach likes this.
  11. brianmharrison


    Oct 11, 2007
  12. descendent22


    Jul 29, 2015
    So should I go with an onboard preamp or active pickups?
  13. sheltjo6

    sheltjo6 Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2012
    I've used EMG P and PA pickups on two of my basses.
    The difference is the P uses a ceramic magnet whereas the PA uses an alnico 5 magnet.
    I tested an EMG PAX pickup, but uninstalled it after about 5 minutes of use.
    I'm not a fan of EMG X series pickups. They sound thin to my ears.

    I prefer the PA pickup's tone over the P pickups.
    It's mid-frequency response has more mids and the hi-frequency response is not as harsh as the ceramic EMG P pickup's tone.

    I would recommend an EMG PA pickup.

    Side note:
    Interestingly, I've gone in the opposite direction and have tried several passive P pickups.
    So far my favorites are EMG Geezer and David Allen 1088P.
    I just bought a Aguilar AG-4P 60 and am looking forward to comparing it to the Geezer and David Allen.

    The only other pickups I know that are active are Lace Man O War and Duncan Pro Active and Lightning Rods.
    I've never tried either pickup.

    Hope you find the pickup you're looking for.
  14. Grylls

    Grylls Inactive

    Jun 21, 2017
    Active pickups are absolutely not the droids you're looking for. You've got the sounds, functions, and purposes of active pickups and active preamps confused. TB is chock full of discussion on this stuff, and some of it actually is correct. For the sound you're looking to get, it will be found with an onboard active preamp.

    If I really had to have a P bass with active electronics with only two knobs, I'd do it with any passive pickup, and then get a single volume control and a concentric bass/treble cut and boost knob for the bass and treble from the active preamp. Two knobs, three controls. You could also just take a regular P bass and plug it into a Sadowsky outboard preamp and get the same result, as pedal based outboard pres are essentially the onboard pre electronics in a box.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2017
    mcnach and 4StringTheorist like this.
  15. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    I'd say passive pickup and an preamp. Given that you find the tone of the bass lackluster right now, I'd suggest digging into the suggestions for P pickups on this forum. Get the pickup right first, then worry about a preamp.

    @Grylls nailed it. Getting a passive pickup and a preamp that work for you seems to be your way forward given what your ears seem to be liking. A concentric bass/Treble stack can fit right into the current two-hole P bass control scheme. But I'd say do some reading.. compare to your musical goals. and nab a pickup that's in your wheelhouse first.
  16. Bodeanly


    Mar 20, 2015
    Weird. Did you wire it this way?
    mcnach likes this.
  17. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    Hmm... nobody has mentioned yet the original raison d'etre of EMG active pickups ( I have been using EMGs since 1979, in fact I had the first three sets ever imported into Canada - back when EMG was still "Overlend"...)

    Their low impedance coils feed a balanced differential op-amp installed INSIDE the pickup, and that gives the pickup much better inherent noise rejection. So much better that you can disconnect the string ground completely.

    SO... no buzzing if you let go of the strings - and none of those nasty shocks from the microphone (granted that's pretty much an old school danger, I guess).
    clickclack likes this.
  18. descendent22


    Jul 29, 2015
    Pickups aren't really lack luster. I just always personally liked active feel,tone,response and power better
  19. descendent22
    My suggestion to you is this:
    Before you spring for "Active Pickups & an Onboard Preamp" You should BORROW an OUTBOARD PREAMP from a buddy and try your P bass with it. I personally use a Sadowsky "SPB-1 Preamp/DI Pedal" SPB-1 Preamp/DI Pedal – Sadowsky Guitars for my Passive Bass, which is a Rickenbacker 4004 Laredo. The Sadowsky SPB Preamp/DI Pedal is the except same Preamp Sadowsky uses in his Basses that have an ONBOARD Preamp.
    PawleeP and 4StringTheorist like this.
  20. descendent22


    Jul 29, 2015
    Jeez, I wish I had buddies like you. I have none that have any gear to let me borrow. No bassist..I actually was thinking of getting that Ampeg DI/preamp pedal, but I'm pretty sure I want to go with something onboard
  21. Primary

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