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Difference Between active and passive pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Noosh, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. Noosh


    May 1, 2006
    North Carolina
    besides the fact that active uses a battery and passive does not, what are the sound and tonal differences.

    now im referring to pickups only, not an active preamp.

    for example, incase someone dosent understand what i mean.

    what is the difference between these:

    and these:

    besides the obvious use of a battery?

    thanks guys
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    The main thing to understand is that "active pickups" are just passive pickups that have a preamp built into the housing. I saw one guy argue that because the passive coils of active pickups are designed especially for the purpose of adding a preamp, that therefore they aren't truly passive pickups, but IMO that's hogwash. I only mention it to forestall the debate.

    IOW "active pickups" sound like passive pickups through a preamp. That can include a wide range of sound qualities.
  3. Hi.

    I'm not a fan of active electronics or pickups in general, but back in the late 80s I was going to design one (guitar pu.). But that didn't happen.

    At least three things can be acchieved with active pickups that can never be acchieved with passives.

    1. Almost zero string pull by using weaker magnets or different field shaping. Which leads to richer harmonics and more sustain.

    2. Zero hum without grounding the bridge, reduces the shocking experience greatly. And zero hum from single coils (JB).

    3. Almost unlimited tonal pre-shaping possibilities so the manufacturer can use the same basic design over and over again and with few tweaks "Invent" a new pickup.

    Those first two goals were my main focus, but the cost would'we been prohibitive and so I dropped the idea.

    Wether the manufacturers of the "active" pickups mod them from passives or design them to be active with all the benefits, I leave to be answered by those who have wider experience about them.

  4. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    As T-Bird wrote, active EMGs certainly employ the advantages that were covered in Items 1 and 2...Item 3 is a possibility too, but their specs for various active pickups suggest that the designs to vary.

    EMG encourages their active pickups to be placed as close to the strings as your playing technique will allow.

    I have active EMGs in my J5 and they're very accurate sounding pickups...

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