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How hard to make my active bass passive?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by LuckyScott, Nov 1, 2020.

  1. I have one bass that has active electronics and the rest of my basses are passive. I would prefer to just have it be a passive bass.
    Do I have to change all the pickups and electronics or can I just do something with the wiring?
    If I do have to change everything, what is a reasonable priced setup?
  2. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    It depends on the type of pickup in your bass.
    If you have an active pickup, like most EMGs, they require a battery to power them.

    if you have passive pickups, like jazz bass, P bass, musicman, and a separate active preamp, you can Remove the preamp and re wire the controls For passive operation
  3. OK, I think I have emg pickups, but maybe I can buy a complete set on sweetwater of pickups and controls?
  4. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    What kind of bass do you have?
    Got a picture of the pickups?
  5. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Just call Ray Donovan. lol
    Lesfunk likes this.
  6. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I’m always curious when people want to convert from active to passive, what’s the motivation? Is it not wanting to rely on a battery? Is it not liking a too-hot signal? Is it a tone issue? Too much hiss perhaps?
    woodyng2, JRA, RickyT and 2 others like this.
  7. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Supporting Member

    He’s a fixer
    PhatBottomBass1 likes this.
  8. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    If you have an EMG system you might be looking at a full swap of all electronic guts. They often use pickups with the preamp inside the housing (so called active pickups) or preamps integrated into the pot assembly. Need to ID what current state is.

    But! Worst case scenario is that you are into it for a new set of passive pickups, some pots and wires. Good little project... Maybe throw some shielding tape in while you are under the hood.
    MYLOWFREQ likes this.
  9. My preamp is after the volume and blend pots, so I could add an active/passive switch, Nordstrand style. Pretty simple, I added a switch, but you could also use a pot with a pull-up switch. The circuit just bypasses the preamp - sends volume output directly to the output jack. old_2B-4B.jpg
    AudioTaper likes this.
  10. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I think most often it's some sort of stigma about the battery failing.
    I know at least one person who spent money on having a stringed-instrument repair-person put in passive/active switches, just in case their battery ever failed.

    There was a recent thread in this sub-forum where a person wanted all-passive & mistakenly bought pickups they didn't need, since the instrument already has passive pickups.
    In my mind, I think it's probably better off leaving well enough alone if someone doesn't know what they're doing, but that is just my opinion.

    If paying someone else to do the job, but let them do the work, no need for the peanut-gallery quiz.
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I've done it before to a bass that had a faulty preamp. Just pulled everything out and put a mute switch between the pickup and output jack as an experiment. Ended up sounding great. It's become my favorite practice and recording bass.

    I also have a several active basses for gigs where I need onboard EQ. But in situations where I don't need it I'd rather use passive.

    OP: Before you buy anything wire your current pickups directly to the output jack to see A) if they work and B) if they sound good without the preamp.
  12. what’s the motivation?

    I just don't like the tone like a passive bass. My ears detect some distortion. I prefer a clean jazz bass tone.

    Its a Jackson bass, five string. I mainly play Fender Jazz basses but I got this bass because I have been playing in some 80's metal bands and the Jackson bass fits in visually. It just does not sound as good as the Jazz bass. The neck is nice, the action is good, but I would like to improve the sound. I'm fine with replacing the pickups and all the wiring.
  13. "Before you buy anything wire your current pickups directly to the output jack to see A) if they work and B) if they sound good without the preamp."

    That sounds like a great suggestion. Thats kinda what I was looking for, and idea to try out before I replace everything.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I’ve done it a few times, for myself and clients. If you know what you’re doing, it’s pretty simple.

    If you don’t, you can make a mess of things pretty quick.
    woodyng2 and Ricky Rioli like this.
  15. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    what kind? what kind of pickups? the more specific you are the better answers we can give you.

    are there EQ knobs on the bass? if so, how are you adjusting them? if you have them turned up too much that could indeed cause distortion. try running them flat, at the halfway point where the notch is.
    does it even have jazz bass style pickups? if not then it'll never sound like a jazz bass, active or not.

    (there's lots of perfectly clean-sounding active jazz basses out there)
  16. Dincrest

    Dincrest Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Re: EMG

    EMG-HZ soapbars are EMGs passive offering. No need for juice with those. A good portion of EMG pickups are active, but the HZs are not.

    And I've had a luthier I know de-active-ate some instruments I've owned. This Warwick I used to have sounded better with passive Duncans than active MECs. And he swapped the active EMG DCs and pre in my LTD for passive Duncans and a V/V/T controls. The tone is huge and I love it.

    I don't like mussing and fussing with too many knobs and I've had batteries die on gigs one too many times on basses without easy-access battery compartments. I like the simplicity and lower maintenance of passive. Better tone (to my ears) has been an added bonus.
  17. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Your pickupsare passive, the preamp inside your bass is active. Most basses have a switch to active/passive mode, but if You like it fully passive - bring it to Your master and he will do the thing. Don't know about the money he will want.
    alaskaleftybass likes this.
  18. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    I have done the active-passive thing. It’s been a learning experience. Truth be told, I got lucky. My Delano pickups performed nicely as passive, as well as active. It was a different sound, but good all the same. I’m back to my preamp. It provides more flexibility.
    The passive setup I had going was vol - vol - tone - tone. In a passive setup, one tone affects the other. It was a pain to get a tone that I liked.
    After messing with that setup for year or so, I ordered a nice Audere two band pre. It works really well with the Delanos. I set my amp flat, with a little mid bump, and adjust the treble/bass knobs on my bass accordingly.
    One las t thing I did that has been a pretty immense help is, I added parallel-single coil-series switches for each pickup. Just a little more flexibility.
    I change my 9v battery in July and December. And also carry a spare just in case.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  19. If your pickups are ACTIVE no signal without 9v/18v power.

    NOW, the good news is that the EMG35/40/45 sizing are the most copied aftermarket design there is. Bartolini, Duncan and Aguilar all have EMG direct replacement pickups on the shelf. Wire a set to passive controls...but an active preamp will be recommended!

    Or...try a set of X Series EMG's!!
  20. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    The active/passive debate is up there with the tonewood debate and the bolt-on/neck-thru debate. Guys want to go from active to passive because they’re convinced that they’re somehow losing that passive tone magic.

    Some basses are active. Some basses are passive. Usually if I like or don’t like a bass, weather it’s active or passive isn’t the sole determining factor.
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2020
    MobileHolmes, ctmullins and ruju like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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