Active Vs Passive basses. Is it even worth caring about?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Peeved T-40, Jul 6, 2022.

  1. Peeved T-40

    Peeved T-40

    Jan 12, 2021
    I'm shopping for a new bass. Currently I'm looking at an active bass. I have bad experiences with an active bass in the past. Came from factory with a defect that rendered the bridge pickup un-usable. I also found it's tone to be excessively bright even when backing off the treble.

    I'd like to not let one bad experience ruin active basses for me so i thought I would get some opinions.
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    You seem to recognize that a single experience within a thing isn't indicitive of all experiences with that thing. Get another active bass if you want. Buy from someone with a return policy.
    pjbassist, pcake, wintremute and 11 others like this.
  3. Peeved T-40

    Peeved T-40

    Jan 12, 2021
    ok... but I still want peoples opinions on the differences
  4. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Active/passive is just one of many attributes that make a bass what it is.

    buy a bass because you like it and don’t lose any sleep over whether or not it utilizes active circuitry.
  5. ClusterFlux

    ClusterFlux Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    I avoid active whenever possible, it's just one more thing to fuss with endlessly and to go wrong (batteries).

    That said, a lot of active basses give you a passive mode option. If you are concerned, I'd just pick up one of those.
    OpposableThumbs, pcake, lomo and 19 others like this.
  6. Basslice

    Basslice Supporting Member

    May 11, 2008
    Western Massachusetts
    I have both. I like active live because I change my tone a lot song to song live. I prefer futzing with the bass preamp than messing with the amp or PA tone settings.

    I record the passives. They record better to me.

    I have never run into battery problems unless I forget to unplug the bass and it sits a long time and the battery drains. Takes 3 minutes to change the battery and they last a LONG time.
  7. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I have active basses and passive basses. My highest output bass is active, my next highest output bass is passive, my lowest output bass is active. Stock Fender P and J are right in the middle. My deepest tone no matter what I do (least available treble in tone) is active, my brightest treble tone is also active. I'm there with you. The fact that a bass is active doesn't lock the tone one way or another, they are all different.
    I would not say you "need" one or the other, just that you're right to be open to either.
    MonetBass, BOOG and Arthur U. Poon like this.
  8. Hmmm...Never heard of that being a problem. Unless of course you don't pay any attention and leave the cord plugged into the bass all the time. Which is how the preamp is turned on, and it WILL drain the battery if you leave it plugged in. I have several of both and the only difference I note is that the active ones generally speaking have a lot more onboard adjustability in their tonal ranges. More adjustment on the bass itself so you don't have to fuss with the amp settings as much. Passives tend to have more of a limited tonal pallet to choose from (generally speaking), which if you like that sound (think P bass, J bass etc) isn't an issue. IMO really just depends on what kind of sound you're going for and what is required to achieve that sound.
  9. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    If you predominantly want a more vintage / old-school vibe, get passive.
    If you want more modern / hi-fi, get active.
  10. Jeremy Crockett

    Jeremy Crockett Amiable Crank

    Since you asked: In my opinion, no.

    Both of my basses are passive but if I found an active that I dug, I would not hesitate to buy it.
  11. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    The battery in a John East preamp will last 2-3 months with normal use. The battery in a Ray seems to last forever, I have never had one fail and I have had them last a year with daily use and then replace just out of disbelief. I had a Kramer from high school and left it at my mom's house in the late 90s and she asked me if I wanted it because I basically forgot about it. I picked it up in 2018 and the battery still worked. Don't recommend trying but hey, it worked.
  12. Peeved T-40

    Peeved T-40

    Jan 12, 2021
    So, this is just my experience, and like i said, the bass has electrical problems, but if I use the bridge pickup I have to change the battery every other week if not more
  13. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    The last thing I consider.
    Finish/color is more important to me...won't even bother to pick up a bass unless I like the way it looks.
    I do have active basses, but the electronics were not my reason for picking them.
    Two G&L L2000s...always used in passive mode.
    Two Dean Exotica acoustic passive setting, of course.
    Squier Contemporary Active Jazz bass...very nice active electronics, and I'm someone who doesn't like active Fenders.
    gebass6 likes this.
  14. Zak TMD

    Zak TMD

    Apr 22, 2016
    Outside of the heart of darkness, Washington, DC
    Breaking even is the new making money.
    Personally, I'm not a fan of actives. Played a few and it's just one more thing to fiddle with, plus the batteries always seemed to kick out at the worst possible time. I maybe have never had a top of the end pre in any of the actives I've used, but I also didn't find fiddling with the eq on the front end to be particularly useful for my set up - in fact, messing with it just muddled the process.

    For me, I want to keep my bass as simple as possible in terms of signal, and my EQ is done through either my pedal pre (if I'm using it) or my amp. If your bass has pickups and strings that you already find appealing sonically, I'd figure you're pretty good to go.
  15. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Don't assume all actives or all passives fit the mold (whatever you think the mold is). One of the things some manufacturers do is make their actives much brighter sounding...because they can. A lot of those end up sounding brittle to me. And some active basses have batteries that last forever, because they use low power op amps, which sounds line a good idea, until you hear the hiss that comes with that decision.

    So, some actives are less than desirable, due to poor choices made by the manufacturers, long as you try before you buy, it should be relatively easy to avoid the dogs, and find a good bass, whether it's active or passive.
    Robert B, Dust2Dust and gebass6 like this.
  16. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    yes if needed, no if you can get away with it
  17. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Certain pickups may be designed to work with said preamp in an active bass, but plenty of folks just take the preamp out and wire things up passive with great results. Which model bass are you looking at?
  18. I like passive cos I have a set of tone controls on my amp and one good sound is good enough for me. I also don't like the idea of batteries going dead etc.

    Some people prefer active cos they want different sounds for different songs.
    Anthony Fury likes this.
  19. TrevorG

    TrevorG Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2012
    Too many variables for a definitive answer. Be sure about what you want to hear. Some passives will do it. Some actives will float your boat. Having both could get you both or neither. Which ever I always recommend giving what you get a fair chance. Once in a while the problem is what you think you’re listening for.
    SubNautican likes this.
  20. Peeved T-40

    Peeved T-40

    Jan 12, 2021
    Schecter Stiletto Stealth. I like the pickup choices and it's supposed to have a pretty fast neck. I haven't been able to find one to try though
    Malak the Mad likes this.

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