active vs. passive, your thoughts?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by apoodangle, Nov 28, 2003.

  1. active

    28 vote(s)
  2. passive

    25 vote(s)
  1. i'm just curious as to what you all own/prefer.
  2. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I personally prefer active, but even better is passive pickups with active bypassable preamp :)
  3. you're absolutely right.

    both styles are good, I prefer passive cause I feel it's slightly warmer rock tone.

    when playing wireless, you need a good volume on your output. At least, for my old VHF thingie I need that. Else I loose to much low and top end.
  4. dave_clark69

    dave_clark69 Guest

    Jan 17, 2003
    I am getting active, with a bypass pull switch to make it passive. Does anyone know if the corvette standard would work without a battery if on passive?
  5. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    As long as the bass sounds great, I don't care.

    Currently, all my basses have an onboard preamp.
  6. BOTH!! (active/passive switch)
  7. tuBass


    Dec 14, 2002
    Mesquite, Texas
    If I Understand the question correctly, you are asking about active pickups, which is different then an active bass. You cannot have a passive switch on active pickups, it's impossible.

    To answer your question, I use active pickups on my main bass, and am totally sold on them. My EMGs are totally sheilded, and have a great sound. I don't use a inboard or outboard pre amp, and only boost my low mids just a touch on the mixing board.
  8. tuBass


    Dec 14, 2002
    Mesquite, Texas
  9. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX

    Huh? ...don't quite understand what you are saying.

    Actually the term "active pickups" is pretty misleading. An active bass has active electronics (op-amp(s)) so that you can have more control of the signal going into the amp. The eq has a bigger effect on the signal, in other words, you get a bigger boost/cut for the lows, mids, and highs. It can also boost the signal depending on how much juice is in the battery.

    With passive pickups you can only cut frequencies, which really limits what you can do to the signal before it reaches the amp.

    They both have their pros/cons. With passive electronics you don't have to change out betteries all the time, besides do you really need to do any eq'ing on the bass when you can do it on your amplifier or preamp?...not that I'm against passive electronics.

    Personally, I agree with Nino...

  10. tuBass


    Dec 14, 2002
    Mesquite, Texas
    I think the original poster was asking about the benifits of active pickups, which is different than active basses. Active pickups require a battery to run the pickups themselves, even if you dont have an onboard EQ.
    Check out the EMG line of DC and CS, or read the link i provided, you'll understand.
  11. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    I have never heard of "active pickups". That would mean that the battery was hooked up directly to the pickups, I can think of some advantages with this configuration...but I've never heard of them. Is this something new? If so I'ld like to get some more info about this.

    I have heard of "active electronics" which means that the battery is used to power active electronics (or active filters) used for eq'ing, to boost the signal as it leaves the bass, and to provide a low impedance output.

    As far as I know, all pickups are passive. I used the term "passive bass" and "active bass" to describe the electronics used.
  12. tuBass


    Dec 14, 2002
    Mesquite, Texas
    The main advantage, as i understand it, is an active pickup uses far less windings than a normal humbucker, so it has a clear, single coil sound. The internal pre-amp inside the pickup boosts the signal do it can be heard. Also, it allows the pickup to be much more sheilded than a normal pickup. I can play or record my bass next to Computer monitor with no noise. They are that quiet.

    AMG are the largest maker of active pickups, I think some, if not all Duncan pickups are that way too.
    Read up on the link I posted, It's full of information.
    Don't worry, you're not the only person who has been confused about the differences in an active bass and active pickups.
    one year ago, I was in the same boat as you.

  13. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    I voted passive. I have one bass which is active/passive. It gets played passive 90% of the time. Passive seems more organic. My experience with active is limited and those two systems could be suspect? I've been fortunate in that all the aftermarket pickups I've installed (Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, and Bartolini) have improved the tone of the instrument dramatically. How? They bring more of the acoustic tone (ribthump) to the amp. A bass has got to sing acoustically first and foremost. :bassist:
  14. Dream Works

    Dream Works

    Dec 5, 2003
    hm.. im getting a Ibanez EDA900 Ergodyne, but im not sure if its an active bass or not.. but i do know it has active pick ups... how do you know if they're active or not?
    and when a bass has active pick ups you can change the pick ups as long as the new ones are active aswell right?
  15. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    It is really pretty simple. Active means the bass has a preamp in the bass. EMG and others do make what they call active pickups. These are pickups that have the preamp built into the pickup housing. Often times you can identify these because they have 3 wires coming out of the pickup.

    Sometimes active basses will use standard passive pickups and then have a preamp in a cavity in the bass. The preamp might be inside a little plastic box or it might just be a circuit board. Either way, all active basses need power which is usually provided by one or two batteries in a cavity in the bass. There are some high-end basses like the Alembic Series I or II basses that use an external power supply.

    If you want to swap the pickups out of your bass, then talk to a competent guitar tech or luthier. If you are asking these questions, then you won't be able to do the work yourself.
  16. passive for retro sounds..
    and if you mean active like emg and lightnin rods
    i guess for a modern slap sound...:)smiley eq
    on the other hand
    passive with active eq cut and boost is the ideal with a active passive switch...
    then you can vary quite easily
    but for me i vote passive pups...
    they are quickly and readily swappable...
  17. cliffemall


    Dec 8, 2003
    Passive. Period. I can understand the advantages of all this active, pre-amp, noiseless stuff, but cmon. NOBODY can deny the truly organic,rich, and warm tone of a passive bass. In my opinion, the knobs on a bass should be spartan if not non-exisitant (meaning no preamp). The bass is simply the vessal. Ive always believed that with a decent bass and a damn good amp/external pre-amp, ANY sound is possible, and with todays modern noise reducers...theres no point to active i think. Dont even get me started on batteries...strings are a p.i.a. I mean once you get settings on an amp they dont change, but if you "make" your tone on an onboard preamp...your always fumbling with beaucoup knobs and Ive never been able to get the EXACT tone twice with my active i sold it. Simpler the better.
  18. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
  19. Bekkeland


    May 16, 2003
    Sandnes, Norway
    Active pups can have fever windings on the coil, and because of that they need a preamp in the bass or in the pickup housing. Fewer windings means lower ipmedance and wider frequency range.
    Passive pups with more windings limits the frequenzy range. This might actually make the bass sound better, depending on what kind of sound you are after. IMO passive pups might be best with a skilled engineer, but active basses often sounds best when pluged directly into the house mixing board.
  20. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    I'll go with active every time. I'll even build the preamp myself. A well designed preamp won't change your tone "at all" (except for whatever EQ you decide to use). It can be designed to provide the exact same impedance to the pickup that a tube amp provides, so what comes out of the pickup will be identical. There are many big advantages to active: first of all, active preamps generally provide a low impedance output so you can drive very long cables with very little signal loss. Then, a correctly wired differential input active preamp will eliminate any hum from your instrument, so you won't have to worry about buzz and ground loops and all that stuff. (And note in passing that most manufacturers' active preamps are "not" correctly wired, they're just single ended gain stages with a few bells and whistles). Third, you can't boost mids on a passive instrument, and that can be a necessity with many pickups. When you need to cut through or for slap solos and stuff like that, it's great to be able to dial up the mids a little (right from your instrument, without having to reach over and muck with the knobs on the amp). Also you can use low impedance pickups with an active pre, which you can't do with a passive instrument (that can be a good thing or not, depending on the pickups). :)