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active vs passive......

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Toony, Dec 10, 2001.

  1. Toony


    Jun 15, 2001
    does one really out weigh the other or is it just a bunch of whooplaa, or maybe personal preference? i've heard good, bad, and neutral about the subject but i really haven't noticed a difference. am i maybe looking or listening for the wrong things, or is there nothing to differ at all.

    maybe dumb questions, but i rather ask a dumb question than none at all. =)
  2. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    For me, it's a preference thing. I like passive in the studio, and active on stage. In the studio, passive gives me warmth, without being overbearing or brittle. Live, however, I like the balls of an active tone.
  3. Toony


    Jun 15, 2001
    would you use a passive bass live, or vice versa? i mean is one or the other equipped to be used in the opposite situation?

    just curious. is it like how one would enjoy music through they're headphone set if they wanted more of a detailed listening, while he would crank the speakers up loud to allow others to feel the edge put not the core of his musical preferences? by metaphor i mean, not literally. is the passive personal and for emotion, while the active is harsh and for attack, in your opinion? hope this makes sense, it's late and i'm going on 20 hours without slumber. =)
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Passive is better... end of story.

    Just kidding. I have no preference, it depends on the bass, the mood I'm in, what I'm wearing, what I had for lunch...

    you know, the usual stuff.
  5. Toony


    Jun 15, 2001
    that simple eh brad? eheh.....now that sorta takes it back to my original comment, there's really no diff...or is there. the world may never know. =p
  6. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    It's just a matter of personal preference, don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.

    Use some common sense; if one or the other was clearly superior then why would there be so many active and passive basses out there?
  7. RicMeister

    RicMeister Guest

    Nov 25, 2001
    Toony-- The following is strictly my personal opinion, FWIW.

    It truly is an individual preference. My preference is passive because I like a warm, traditional tone. Active electronics give a more aggressive, out front, "in-your-face" kind of tone. However, you supposedly have the option of cutting back on that type of tone by making the appropriate adjustments on the controls.

    To me, active electronics on a bass tends to be little more than a gimmick, a convenient "play toy". Make the necessary tonal adjustments on the amp and be done with it. But, proponents of active electronics don't agree with that, though.

    The commonsense recommendation is to "test drive" as many different name brands and models, active and passive, as possible before spending your money. Do your homework and research FIRST, because an informed decision is almost always the best. And the least expensive.
  8. phogchris

    phogchris www.scarsoflife.com

    May 27, 2000
    Boca Raton, FL
    I use graphite necked basses with ultra high output pickups, I CANNOT get that sound with a passive bass. It is far from a toy or a gimmick. To me, passive basses are toys, but its all about preference...

  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Active sounds more open (no loss of highs in the cable).
    Agressive is the wrong word here.
    I like the smooth sound of my active. Passive basses tend to sound more bland IMO.

    BTW: Lots of basses have active AND passive mode.
  10. Toony


    Jun 15, 2001
    so i guess the only answer is to go with whatever i like, to lwt tone of each individual bass guide me...not the active-passive thing. hmm...makes sense. thanks all.

    side note: phogchris...man i really like that groove you got going in "front of the line" track....that owns. what sorta bass?
  11. phogchris

    phogchris www.scarsoflife.com

    May 27, 2000
    Boca Raton, FL
    It was a Carvin 5-string, but the kicker is, its not me, I am new to the band, and I don't really like the bass tone on the CD or that demo track, but it isn't "too" bad..

  12. Toony


    Jun 15, 2001
    it has a sorta primus feel, is all, sorta. nay, not too bad in my opinion.
  13. phogchris

    phogchris www.scarsoflife.com

    May 27, 2000
    Boca Raton, FL
    Cool, I appreciate the kind words....
  14. Good passive basses sound warm and clean, not "bland."

    Good active basses sound full and aggresive

    I like my passive tone that i get out of my L-2000.
    I also like my active setting. If i want a good vintage growl, i go passive and solo the bridge pickup, turn the bass all the way up on the bass and cut the treble 3/4 of the way.

    and when i want a more modern growl, i flip the active switch and I get a mean ass growl that no Fender jazz bass could even dream of!

    To sum it up...there is no "better" between passive and active...it's all in the players' preference.
  15. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I like active better, but I would never hold it against a bass, for being passive.

    (I wouldn't discount a bass, solely because it was passive, or count it as a strike against it.)
  16. Also, please be aware that some active systems are designed only to increase the gain fed to your amp. The Lane Poor 1x1 preamp didn't have any tone controls, but was supposed to take the signal from your pickups and make it louder. That's why this "active is a gimmick" thing is almost as ludicrous as my Fodera that took three weeks to build. If your active onboard preamp is set to flat, you have virtually no tonal colouration. But there's still an advantage over passive in that your amplifier "sees" a stronger signal. So, I'm a proponent of active electronics but don't fit into whatever silly generalisation has been made about what we "proponents" want.

    In my experience, a lot of engineers want a passive bass for recording because of their squashed freqency response that sits well in a track. Both my MTD 535 and Turner Electroline fretless 5 have full-range systems that really take up a lot of sonic space. I don't mind, but engineers who are used to a Fender Jazz sure do. Doesn't mean that passive is "better" or that active isn't good for recording, though.
  17. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    It's a matter of preference.

    I totally agree.

    What does an active bass offer that a passive bass does not?

    * Higher output? - just crank your amp or preamp and the passive bass will be just as loud.

    * EQ flexibility? - Nothing that can't be done with the EQ on amp.

    Actually, I've read that active systems can make pickup blending for instance on a jazz bass better. Also, if you like to change your sound a lot on the fly while on stage the active systems can really help a lot (though given a chance a passive "tone" control can do a lot more than most people give it credit for).

    Personally I want the least amount of circuitry between my fingers and the speakers. Active EQ adds a LOT of unnecessary electronics IMO. I want a wire, an amp, and a speaker. A couple tone controls on the amp and variation of technique should be all I need to get the sound I desire.
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I let my passive basses sound like they sound and adjust my active basses to suit me. Because I play different basses I leave my amp flat. If the bass I'm playing doesn't sound great with my amp flat I don't want it, regardless of what's inside. I've found several basses that fit my requirements.

  19. Bartolinis in passive mode are notoriously low in output. Not all amps have input gain adjustments either. Also, depending on your amplifier, if it does have input gain control, cranking it could introduce unwanted noise into the signal chain. I am aware that cheap active preamps have this same potential.

    Probably true. But what if you're not much of a knob tweaker and your amp (or an amp that you borrow) has both graphic and parametric EQ's? What do you do if your tone needs more mids? With an onboard preamp, there's one knob for mid. A lot of people (myself included) value this simplicity. I think that a lot of thought has been put into the design of onboard preamps to make it easy to make quick adjustments on the fly. I for one don't mess with my amp EQ at all (it has an EQ bypass), but if I need to make small adjustments, I just use the onboard EQ, with which I've become very familiar.

    A lot of the "super Jazz" basses have pickups that are purposely wound a little less hot so that the preamp can do its job. You're right about the convenience for small tonal adjustments. I'd also add that the pickup blend itself can yield tons of useful, unique tones.

    Cool. I think we can agree on the personal preference thing.
  20. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    The main advantage of active preamps is the low impedance of the output signal. A low impedance signal will suffer less signal loss or coloration in the instrument cable than a high impedance signal (passive basses). The result is a more open sound because there is less loss of highs.
    Active circuits don't have to be louder, on my bass active mode is no louder than passive.

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