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Doomsday thinking...passive vs. active

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by zuma, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    So...my buddy and I are talking bass and he comes up with this doozie - "If we were attacked with an EMP, would a passive bass be safer than an active one?" I don't spend much time worrying about EMPs (or HEMPs) so I need some help answering his question.

    I did some preliminary research and, although I found something about vacumm tubes, nobody seems to have given the fate of bass guitars a second thought. :D:smug:;)

    What does the TB hive think?
  2. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Well, neither would work afterward... though I don't know what you mean by "safe".
  3. I think a passive bass might still work, but i'm not really informed.
  4. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Your safe with upright.
  5. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    What an incredible appropriate username you have for this discussion.
  6. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    Would our basses still work is the question... Of course, a silly thing to ponder considering what else would be going on in such an event. Just wondering from a scientific perspective...that Wikipedia article stated, for example, that a wrist watch would be too small an item to be affected. Perhaps the electronics in our instruments would be safe too?
  7. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Depends on the type of EMP and how "big" it is. A doomsday type EMP will kill the electronics in a watch and a bass... if not from the current alone, then from the heat. Your pickups have what, half a mile of windings on them? :)
  8. PortlandBass77

    PortlandBass77 Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2013
    Portland, OR
    The basses would still work. It would be the amps that would die.....
  9. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    Maybe not? Some tube amps might be safe, especially if you had one in an anvil case or something like that (?).
  10. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    The key word here is electronics. Passive basses (and a lot of tube amps) don't have any. Anything with circuit boards, microprocessors, computer chips - they'll most likely be fried. Tubes? Most likely not, unless they're on when it happens. That would be a "maybe", depending on the strength of the EMP. Probably be OK, though.

    Where were you planning to get the electricity after this happens, though? Plug the amp into a currant bush, maybe? :D
  11. sowilson


    Jul 5, 2013
    stick with the upright. Do you really think the power grid would be functioning with an EMP blast?
  12. Military Electronics Technician, here:

    Passive basses are a maybe, active basses are toast.

    EMP is easiest to think of as a giant zap of static electricity. Integrated circuits, capacitors, transistors, diodes, and other discreet components are voltage and/or current sensitive - put too much through them and you get a puff of smoke. The electronics system of a passive bass guitar - simplistically - is a big inductor (or a transformer in the case of humbucking pickups), a couple of wires, some potentiometers (variable resistors), and a capacitor placed in series with a variable resistor to make the high pass filter that we generally refer to as the Tone knob. Pretty simple.

    But that's where the maybe comes in. The tone circuit is toast so it will have to be fixed or bypassed (most likely the second option), and with a big enough dose of EMP the unshielded pickups are likely to physically fuse, ending their usefulness and most likely amplifying that current and melting the Pots.

    But there is a solution: keep your gear in a Faraday Cage. And if you want to make noise through an amplifier, keep it in there as well. And your electric generator with plenty of fuel (but the you might be able to keep the fuel somewhere else, hopefully a hardened nuke shelter).

  13. ChrisB2

    ChrisB2 Bass... in your fass

    Feb 27, 2008
    TalkBass > Off Topic
    ^ You paint quite the gloomy scenario sir.

    So. who would be enthralled by my rapturous bass sounds in such a scenario??

    If no alluring dancing cougars remain after such an event may I be vaporized along with them....
  14. Oh the dancing cougars will still be there, you'll just be able to use them as a light in your underground bunker :)

  15. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    Simply fascinating. Mission accomplished. Thank You all.
  16. Hi.

    Yeah, nobody.

    Except the Russians.

    And the Chinese.

    So hardly anybody ;).

    In fact, without the former USSR, China and to some extent India, refusing to abandon small signal/voltage/power tube technology in the 70's is the sole reason we have affordable vacuum tubes for our amps today.

    The key word that You're after is probably solid state, not electronics.

    There's only a handful of FULL tube amps that will work if left unprotected against an EMP, 99% or so have solid state rectifier(s) and those will be toast.

    Plenty of generators run without any solid state electronics or are heavily shielded against EMP's of any kind.

  17. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    We're assuming the area of the fallout shelter - the place where electric generators will be turned on after the nuclear blasts are over.
  18. PWRL


    Sep 15, 2006
    I think I'll wait until it's safe to leave the fallout shelter and then just build a gutbass. That way I can use the pole to fend off the mutants attracted to our postapocalyptic hoe-downs.
  19. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    My new favorite imaginary genre.
  20. zuma


    Dec 21, 2006
    East Los Angeles
    Edited my post for clarification. Indeed an interesting point you bring up though.