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Active vs Passive

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by davidlim88, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. davidlim88


    Apr 20, 2004
    I know the difference between active and passive electronics (i.e. with and without a preamp) but what do people mean when they talk about active and passive pickups? Can the pickups themselves be "active" or am I just confusing all the terms. As you can tell I am a novice in such things.
  2. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Active p-ups have a built-in preamp. Mostly because they'd be too low output by themselves
  3. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    Active pickups have a preamp in the pickup--the pickups won't work without a battery.
  4. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Active pickups are low-impedance pickups--which means they can plug straight into a mixing board if necessary, but they will need some kind of buffer or preamp, which is usually built in to a bass, since we like to plug into amps, too. A low-impedance pickup system can drive 100 ft long cables with no signal degradation. EMG active pickups include a buffer, which has no gain, but some companies build a preamp into the pickups before they're sealed with wax or plastic.

    Passive pickups are high-impedance devices, and need some kind of impedance-coupling device like a DI, or an active preamp (which can somewhat ignore impedance problems) to plug into a mixing board, mic pre, etc. without serious signal degradation.

    As far as amps, etc, go there's not much difference in the end result between active pickups and passive pickups with an active preamp/EQ scheme, but I like active pickups, because you can raise them right up to the strings for maximum signal, and for reasons beyond my comprehension they don't pull the strings and affect sustain like the magnets on a passive pup will.
  5. davidlim88


    Apr 20, 2004
    I have also heard people refer to a 18V and 9V powered preamp - can anyone tell me what is the benefit of going for 18V? is it just a higher output or are there tonal implications?

    would also appreciate any views/advice on what active pickups will go well with my Basslines STC 3 band preamp. I need soapbars (either P2 or BC size).