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Advantages of on-board preamp vs external preamp?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Chrisk-K, Nov 11, 2010.


  1. Chrisk-K

    Chrisk-K

    Jan 20, 2010
    Maryland, USA
    I'm considering an on-board 3-band preamp to replace the Tone Pump in my Spector. But, now I'm asking myself, "Why not just buy an external version so that I can use it with my other basses?"

    Besides convenience, are there any difference between an on-board and external preamp (say, an Aguilar pre)?
     
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    In most cases, the only difference is in the amount of loading on the pickups caused by the length of cable from the bass to the external preamp. If your cable is decent-quality and relatively short, then that difference will be utterly inaudible to most people. If your cable is long (say 20' or more) or has higher capacitance, then you could expect a little loss of high frequencies with the external preamp.

    The exception is in the cases of a few specific onboard preamps that use active buffering and blending of each pickup. Examples include Audere and Glock. In those cases, the active blending has to be onboard the bass, and the effect of blending pickups actively rather than passively is audible. Whether it's "better" is completely subjective--some people prefer the tone they get with passive blending, where the way the pickups load each other down gives a pleasingly traditional tone.
     
  3. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    Another thought: Outboard means one more pedal (or rack unit) to buy/schlep/protect from theft.
     
  4. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I've had this debate with myself many times. Why not buy a passive bass and when I want that "active" sound just get a preamp pedal. Everyone has one - Sadowsky, John East, Eden, Aguilar, SansAmp, etc.

    Best of both worlds..."real" passive tone, not a bypass and whatever active preamp you feel like with whatever bass. Makes sense to me.

    The schlep factor is a downside.
     
  5. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    Well, in the instance of the Tone Hammer (Aguilar), you get an additional gain stage that you wouldn't on board.

    :bag: (carefully looks out for Bongo to respond).
     
  6. Convenience is a double-edged sword. There's a possibility of taking your bass with you and leaving the pre-amp behind. Oh yeah, I've seen a couple of guys run back to the stage way after their set like headless chickens, after they realized they had left their external pre-amps or wireless base units behind.
     
  7. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    You know my only beef is with the implementation of that gain stage. It's a fine pedal otherwise, and as you yourself are proof, many people don't mind the volume jump at all.

    In fact you raise a good point, that most onboard preamps offer only a subtle tone coloration, whereas many outboard preamps include overdrive or amp-simulation.
     
  8. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    HAHA! Cheers, Bongo.
    I was just bustin' chops :D
     
  9. Cutty

    Cutty

    Jun 25, 2006
    U.K.
    I had a J-Retro in my usa jazz bass five,but after going back to passive,i much prefere the bass this way,i have now got a Sadowsky outboard pre and think it's a better pre in anycase IMO,and can use it with my other basses,IMO,the best of both worlds.
     
  10. This was my choice, I'm pretty happy. The Sad pre suits me just fine, and with the outboard I can use it on all my passive basses if and when I see fit. No schlep anxiety here, I'm a big boy and I routinely run through a pedal board anyway. If my board got lost or stolen, I'd be in the same boat either way.
     
  11. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I am debating a new bass - passive - and going with a Sadowsky box. True passive for the classic rock,soul and R&B stuff, and kick in the Sadowsky for the contemporary jazz and church stuff.

    I wish I could decide on a bass as easily...
     
  12. KsPiNeSh

    KsPiNeSh

    Mar 28, 2008
    Kansas City
    This. To my ear, it seems that an on-board pre (while still asserting it's voicing) works more naturally with the bass than an outboard. I have nothing to back this up, but I've found over the years that I very strongly prefer EQing at my bass rather than my amp.
     
    Ausbass1970 likes this.
  13. Chrisk-K

    Chrisk-K

    Jan 20, 2010
    Maryland, USA
    I'll go with an outboard preamp. The choice comes down to a Sadowsky or a Tone Hammer.
     
  14. If you find highs somewhat lacking after externalizing the pre just put a simple buffer circuit inside.
     

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