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Active P'ups vs. Passive P'ups w/ Active EQ

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Jeff2287, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. Jeff2287


    May 4, 2002
    I was curious about the differences between basses with active pickups and basses with passive pickups accompanied by active EQ controls. I was curious about whether one setup projects more than the other, does one have more flexible tone shaping possibilities than the other, etc.

  2. thetawaves


    Dec 29, 2006
    I think the latter (passive w/active EQ) is better for flexibility since you can switch between active/passive and still retain the benefits of both. I have both, and I must say the passive with active EQ has a far greater output in comparison. Maybe coincidence though. :) A huge plus is being able to switch to passive mode if the battery dies on a passive w/active EQ
  3. RyreInc


    May 11, 2006
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Active pups have less windings, and therefore have a brighter output.
  4. I was wondering about this too, because my Bart 9J's and NTMB aren't cutting it - quite literally- in my SX J-bass. It's too dark, and I would just like a little more presence. I'm not saying there should be more treble, just more transparency. I was thinking about giving some DiMarzio Ultra Jazzes a shot.
  5. AndyLES


    Aug 25, 2008
    New York
    Bump! I was thinking of picking up an Ibanez SRX that had the Passive PU/Active EQ configuration and I was curious to know what the difference is...
  6. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    While there are differences, it's really hard to make sweeping generalizations. EMG PUPS are active- and sound great to me when they feed a passive cicuit. Do they sound as good feeding active citcuits? A lot depends on the circuit. My experience is that a cheap active circuit is only a a sales tool ("Hey, this one's ACTIVE! So, it's worth more money!!") and you'd be better served at lower price points getting a good passive instrument.

    Good active PUPs can be tailored to overcome some limitations inherent in magnetic pickups. To get more output you need more wire, but that chokes the highs. So, you can design a PUP with low output but a wide frequency range, and you can make it a noice cancelling PUP, then put a pre-amp in it to boost the signal back up to a useable level, and shape the sound with the pre-amp. That's one way to get a noisless Jazz bass for example.

    But passive PUPs feeding good active circuits are very good and very useful. In fact, that's the most common active set-up. Why? Because it offers tonal flexibility, and it offers lots of the advantages of active circuits (impedance buffering, more output, tone shaping, etc.) with the ability to build that basic sound from a classic PUP. Plus, you CAN give it a passive option (which may or may not be useful- depends on the design of the passive section*). Whether one is more useful for you depends entirely upon YOUR needs and your prejudices.

    *Most of the passive options I have experience with are really just an "OOPS! I was too lazy to change my battery and the pre is going dead on stage!! option. I know Sadowsky offers a passive option that not only by-passes the pre-amp, but sends the output to a regular passive treble-cut tone control. That's not the same as the passive option on my Laklands, where the passive swtich just by-passes the entire pre and sends the PUPs straight to the PUP blend control.

  7. DannyWBassMan22


    Dec 10, 2007
    Although, its just slightly off topic....does anybody know if it possible to reduce the output on an active bass if the signal is too hot?

    I have been going from my bass, into a compression pedal, into my amp. Recently I started to get a distorted signal and replaced the battery in both the pedal and my bass. I am still getting some distortion though when going straight from the bass into the amp unless I use the -10dB on the amp. When going through the pedal though I'm getting complete distortion. I've used the trim pot to lower the gain on the pedal as much as possible.

    It was all working fine up until a few weeks ago so I'm not sure how the output level has suddenly risen, any suggestions?
  8. Check in the control cavity on your bass for a trim pot. I know many preamp manufacturers include a trim pot (it'll be pretty small).
  9. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    I played BFISHER 1970's modified Ibanez SRX-705 the other night and was blown away! He removed the original passive pickups and onboard preamp and replaced them with (active) EMG 40TW pickups and passive Volume and Tone controls. The 40TWs have (iirc) three coils allowing you to configure them as either a dual coil humbucker or as a stacked humbucker (giving a single coil sound). The dual coil humbucker mode was rich and fat and full while not sounding all that "active" if you know what I mean.

    Plus, they're dead quiet and you don't need a bridge ground (for safety!!!).
  10. RafaelNS


    Aug 27, 2014
    How about the LTD B55 Passive P.U. w/ Active EQ any thoughts?
  11. This is only true of some active pickups. Many are simply buffered.

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