How hard to make my active bass passive?

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

  1. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I'm always curious as to why members here ask how to do something to their bass, and invariably a few other members swing by with "Why would you want to do that?" ;)

    It's HIS bass. He wants passive pickups. Why does it matter?

  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Sometimes I wonder if the urge springs from misconceptions (“signal is too hot” - most quality active preamps are capable of unity gain) or word-of-mouth that doesn’t paint an accurate picture in all cases (“sterile tone” - not if you have adequate headroom, such as by using 18v).

    If the OP is misinformed, or not completely informed, then I think we should fill in the gaps. If he/she still wants to convert afterwards, well of course that’s their right!
    ex-tension, ruju, mcnach and 2 others like this.
  3. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    My passive go-to Basses have a hotter signal than my active ones. Really.

    Active gets in the way of my technique. I play my amp the way a guitarist with a tube amp does. I also get a lot of variety of expression and tones with muting, attack, moving up and down the string. Active preamps seem to smooth out the differences I want and to exaggerate the differences I don’t want.
  4. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Guys want to make posts like this because they’re convinced there’s some kind of magic in their own limited personal experience.

    That experience is certainly no determining factor.

    Active rigs achieve certain goals. Passive, others. Preferences are what they are. And I’m pretty sure that it’s a bigger difference than tone wood or neck/body interface.

    There is something of a trend back to passive, which suits my own personal taste. But I’m well aware that it’s just personal taste, and I love what all good players do on their own preferred rigs. Yours too!
  5. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    There are vast differences in sound of various active systems. Some have a pretty strong baked in sound (my old 2 band stingray may not have any actual neutral point, and I think a lot of the Ray sound comes from the pre). In contrast, my main bass is a J type with an Audere preamp that I think is basically neutral when set flat. I like it because it gives a nice balance control and there is eq if I need it. I almost always leave it flat, but there are a couple songs where i boost the bass a bit. I also occasionally boost the mids if I feel im not cutting through the mix, and then I’ll fix it on the amp between sets

    for the OP, as others have said, it depends which EMGs you have whether they’ll work passive. If they’re select or HZ, they’re passive anyway. If they’re active pickups, you’ll probably need new pickups. If you need soapbar size, I’d look at nordstrand. Pretty much all of his 4 string pickups are available in 4 string size. I believe he even has a set that are j pickups in a soap bar housing. The wiring parts are cheap. 20-30 bucks for pots, a capacitor, and maybe a new jack.
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  6. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    I vote for this. It's less damaging and effective if you just have a guitar tech/luthier add an on/off switch to the bass. Then you're done. Also, you can have him add a quick change battery door if you have a screw on cover for your battery.
  7. Zoffy

    Zoffy Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2020
    Sacramento CA
    Turned my active Spector into passive by taking out the pickups and pots and changing everything to EMG Geezer Butlers. The kit comes with the pickups (of course), all pots, and wiring. It's non-solder plug and play. Took about 26 minutes to do from start to finish. The bass sounds great and is my main gigging bass. This is the second bass that I put Geezers in and have been very happy with the sound both times.
    woodyng2, DrMole, Dubious Aa and 4 others like this.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    He seems to be a seasoned LA player.

    I have been at this for 35 years. I just happen to prefer the sound of passive basses. It's not so much that I can't get in the neighborhood of the same tone with an active bass. It's more in how a passive bass reacts to my playing. It's hard to explain, really.

    But, to me, a passive bass sound different played softly and harder. While, to me, an active bass sounds exactly the same only louder when you hit it harder. Does that make sense?

    I'm a physical player. I go from barely touching the strings to treating them like I'm shooting an arrow from them. And passive basses have always reacted more to those diffin touch.

    I've owned some really nice active basses with quality components too. I once briefly owned a Mike Lull with a Sadowsky pre. I couldn't get that bass to react to my playing no matter how I tried. It just sounded the same across the board (literally). The tone was fine. It was just that one tone, period. I can coax a dozen completely different tones out of my passive basses.

    Anyway, I ain't mad at you. :D It's just that often here when someone expresses a strong preference for any particular thing, fans of "the other" thing seem to think they just aren't "doing it right" or they would be fans of the thing you like.

    Sorry if I seemed argumentative.
  9. John Webb

    John Webb Guest

    Apr 20, 2006
    You have seen the light!!!!
  10. braud357


    Jul 1, 2010
    Gonzales, LA
    I recently purchased a Ibanez SR300E bass - it is "as-new" except for one problem. The bass was gutted except for the pickups and included a bag full of new parts that he had purchased from Ibanez. He said that the preamp had gone out, and upon investigation I found out that he had not purchased enough parts to make it functional. Not wanting to spend any more money on it I decided to wire it up passive, with just a "volume - volume" set-up, no tone controls. It sounds AMAZING - far better that the Ibanez I owned previously. If I were you - I would try bypassing the controls and preamp and hook the pickups directly to the jack and see how it sounds. If you are dissatisfied it is easily reversed.
    Dubious Aa, Standalone and Seashore like this.
  11. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Yes. This is exactly what I was getting at above. There is a different type of dynamic range on a passive bass, IME
    Ricky Rioli likes this.
  12. Steadfast


    Sep 28, 2015
    Search Me
    I have one of those sub basses with the crazy hot preamp. I can’t really use it because of that. Passive would be the solution. However I don’t use it much anymore because of newer bass acquisitions that make it a mute point. Lol
  13. NeonVomit


    Jan 29, 2013
    Pretty easy for even a relatively n00b tech to wire your pickups straight to the output. That's basically it.
  14. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Fancy phrases like "Be they" or "Beg to differ" aside, reductive logic really doesn't carry much meaning. "It's all just making music so nothing matters." I don't see how anyone could buy that.

    What you believe is not synonymous with what facts are; the same is true of all of us. I can't say that my opinion is the one true one, beyond saying that there are sure to be different opinions and the truth of it is somewhere inbetween them.

    Anyway, I'll back it up with music - here's a particular tone I got for a particular song. It's a big buzzy floppy whaling away on the E string; and whatever someone thinks of the song it's not at all served by an active circuit. Nothing wrong with active setups; but here is an example of a passive bass direct in the studio (pardon the band-syncing video lol) I think I play like 5 or 6 different notes in the song; the simplicity is kind of the point.
    ctmullins likes this.
  15. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Dear lord my patience is short with the people going so negatively after the idea of making a bass passive. I mean we're not taking a bandsaw to a pre-CBS Fender or something....

    My attitude is "you do you, Boo Boo." I love listening to bassists who play passive and to those who play active. I mostly use passive, for reasons. I can't understand why those reasons are an affront to folks?
    Ricky Rioli, mcnach and Thegrandwazoo like this.
  16. Thegrandwazoo

    Thegrandwazoo Supporting Member

    Sep 8, 2013
    West Virginia
    Hear, HEAR! Cannot recommend the GZR pickup(s) highly enough. Far and away my favorite P pickup I’ve ever heard/played (and I’ve heard them all), and the silent J pickup in the P/J set complements it VERY well. If OP’s Jackson is a P/J, that’s my recommendation, too, but I’m guessing it’s an EMG soapbar type affair being a 5. I’m also not sure that the GZR pickups are offered in 5-string.
    Zoffy likes this.
  17. Thegrandwazoo

    Thegrandwazoo Supporting Member

    Sep 8, 2013
    West Virginia
    The simplest way might just be removing the battery, depending on whether your pickups are active or just your preamp. If you have passive pickups and an active preamp, it might work passive that way, or might not, depending on the design of said preamp. If it does work passive without the battery, you may or may not have a passive tone control. We need more information about your particular bass to know what’s going on with it.

    The easiest way that will for-sure work would (in my opinion) be to get a set of appropriately-sized passive pickups from EMG, they come with solderless controls and a jack, so literally anyone can install them without special tools or knowledge. Second to that would be simply to take it to a good tech or luthier and have them figure it out and give you some options to choose from.
  18. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    I know what you're getting at. But it's part of TB, and I like a bit of genuine "why" questions when earnestly asked.
    @ctmullins was just asking a musing type of question, not really pushing back -- he was curious and getting at the why of it all, which is cool. I think some other respondents here came on stronger.
    woodyng2, mcnach and two fingers like this.
  19. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Thanks, yes, and I’ve learned something from the responses. I have several active basses and several passive basses; I need to spend some time comparing their dynamics through my own rig. :thumbsup:
    woodyng2 and two fingers like this.
  20. Bonafide

    Bonafide 'RGJR' Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2002
    Austin Texas
    Artist: Band In A Box, Nick Silver Pickups, Free The Tone, Carr Amps + more
    Active pickups w/ active preamp...Passive pickups w/ active preamp (non switchable such as Audere)... Passive pickups w/ active preamp, switchable....passive pickups with passive controls. These all sound, feel and respond different to playing dynamics, amplifier response, preamp response, pick response etc. Sometimes extreme, sometimes subtle. It's very evident if you have the experience. Some can't hear the difference or not enough to care, or they simply do not have the time behind the wheel with the different variables so to speak. That's just the way of it and has always been. As a 20+ year veteran of the pickup/electronic gear tech nerd industry, I personally like all the choices. - I have noticed any division in the approach is a trivial and internet only argument.
    JRA likes this.
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