How hard to make my active bass passive?

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


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  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    Actually, I beg to differ with you there. Active and passive instruments are theoretically designed to accomplish the exact same goal; that goal being to facilitate the process of making music.

    There was a time that I too, held strong beliefs that one type of electrical component would serve me better than another for whatever reason. When I started designing and building my own pickups and electronics, I found that I had defenestrate these positions in favor of accomplishing that goal.
     
  2. Standalone

    Standalone

    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Maybe the only thing I wish to defenestrate is the idea that inclusion of a big word automatically equals a winning internet argument.

    I'm honestly glad for your opinion approach to pickups and preamps if it is working for you.

    I have vented my opinion enough here though. Time for me to browse the classifieds and stop debating before the second defenestration.
     
    DrMole and Bonafide like this.
  3. pedroims

    pedroims

    Dec 19, 2007
    Michigan
    You can convert a passive bass to active and vice versa.

    People will give you a better answer If you provide the brand and model of the bass or at least a picture of it. Options I can think of:

    a) Active pickups > Change them for passive pickups, you will need to change the pots.
    b) Passive pickups/on board preamp > add a passive switch.
    c) Change the preamp for one that has a passive mode.

    Price will depend on the changes you need to do.
     
    Lesfunk likes this.
  4. Bonafide

    Bonafide 'RG' Rodney Gene Junior Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2002
    Austin Texas
    Artist: Band In A Box, Nick Silver Pickups, Free The Tone, Carr Amps
    Serve you better? Or Preference? Its a significant distinction. Not to mention just because they serve the same goal does not mean they serve 'the tonal goal' the same for everyone. The global sweeping all encompassing 'that goal being to facilitate the process of making music' covers every manner of gear conversation. It defeats the entire gear conversation altogether. We could say the same thing about fruit...'the goal being able to facilitate the process of eating' therefore all fruit is the same. Banana and grapefruit. Same? They serve the same goal, but I do a have preference in the tone of my smoothie.
     
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    :laugh: hey, thanks for doing your part to set the internet on fire! who knew? :D

    TBH: i'd play an active if i thought i needed all those tones or specific versions of 'edge'. i think some sounds are impossible on passives (or at least: 'harder to get').

    but i'll answer your question from my own POV, anyway:
    - no longer need all of the tonal options: passives are 'good enough'. ;)
    - the batteries and the active parts weigh too much: if you're trying to play the world's lightest ax. :laugh:
    - i can leave it plugged in: i love this aspect! :hyper:
    - generally cheaper component/system options: if i want to change out 'electronics'. :greedy:
    - easier to mix and match components, IME. :cool:
    - less "finicky" components/systems, IME: my passives seem simpler to troubleshoot/fix by comparison to my actives. :bassist:
     
    ctmullins likes this.
  6. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    Active basses can have different kinds of eq onboard, but...with active pickups, the sound coming out of the pickup is unchangeable - the peak's frequency and amount of superelevation are determined, nothing you can do to retune them. The basses I build and/or wire for myself and clients, I am able to change that stuff by virtue of using different loading on the pickups. In that realm, a passive design has more options than an active one (if active means the pickups are active). People that think there aren't many options to what you can get out of a passive bass are generally lacking in their understanding of what can be done - granted, not many people have ever tried some of the things I've done, but they're not really rocket science - they're just clever, and require a bit of imagination.
     
    JRA likes this.
  7. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    UK
    I noticed that all the sounds that came out of my bass which felt like me were when in it was on passive, and that all the sounds which made me feel like some kind of impersonator were when it was on active. Out came the battery.
     
    ctmullins likes this.
  8. micguy

    micguy

    May 17, 2011
    Some of those are in the mix, but fundamentally, the reason a lot of people like active basses is because of certain trade-off that Leo made. At that time (early 1950's), amplifiers were noisy devices, and making a bass as loud as you could m=without messing up the tone was part of the equation. So, he wound the pickups to a fairly high impedance. That means the cable is a significant load on the bass, so the tome depends on the cable you use, the volume control acts like a tone control as well, etc.

    A lot of the limitations of passive designs can be mitigated without active circuitry in the bass - you either wind the pickups less "hot", or you take a humbucker, and wire the thing in parallel, which brings the impedance down by a factor of 4. Now, you can load the thing like you want (onboard loading capacitors) You can tune the thing for extended response (it'll sound "active"), or for the same sound as an old passive design, or anywhere in between.

    The point is, if you view your bass and electronics as a system, an active bass doesn't really solve any problems that can't be solved in other ways. It adds convenience if you like eq on board. It does add other problems - batteries as a failure source, hiss (a lot of active designs use low power op amps to save on current draw, which maximizes battery life, but also means the thing hisses more than it should.

    I don't think the idea of an active bas is heresy or anything - fr some folks, I'm sure it's just the ticket. For what I care about, I have yet to see an active bass that's done how I would like it.
     
    ctmullins likes this.
  9. Wow, surprised about the negativity here.....
    I like passive basses. I prefer the sound and tone. I also play with a lot of bands, go to big clubs with their own back line (like the whisky and Viper room) which means I have to play a rig I am not familiar with and I like simplicity.
    I like all my basses to be similar so I can change basses with no issues.
    I like my basses with the same nut width, the same level of action, and except for one bass with flats the same kind of strings.
    I don't like basses with a lot of knobs. I like to use my amp for tone, not the bass. I run my pickup volumes full up all the time and don't mess with the tone knob. So I don't like 5 knobs on my bass.
    The active bass has a different volume level so I have to adjust the volume when changing basses. (I don't like that)
    The active bass has a different tone. (I don't like that)
    If I need to buy new pickups and the wiring it is only two or three hundred bucks for the whole deal (depending on brand)

    The bass is a Jackson five string concert bass. It has a nice neck, but the active electronics have a little distortion that I do not like. I am currently running all the EQ in the middle, nothing cranked up.
    Bottom line, I don't like the tone so I want to change it.
     
    friend33 and ctmullins like this.
  10. Wow, surprised about the negativity here.....
    I like passive basses. I prefer the sound and tone. I also play with a lot of bands, go to big clubs with their own back line (like the whisky and Viper room) which means I have to play a rig I am not familiar with and I like simplicity.
    I like all my basses to be similar so I can change basses with no issues.
    I like my basses with the same nut width, the same level of action, and except for one bass with flats the same kind of strings.
    I don't like basses with a lot of knobs. I like to use my amp for tone, not the bass. I run my pickup volumes full up all the time and don't mess with the tone knob. So I don't like 5 knobs on my bass.
    The active bass has a different volume level so I have to adjust the volume when changing basses. (I don't like that)
    The active bass has a different tone. (I don't like that)
    If I need to buy new pickups and the wiring it is only two or three hundred bucks for the whole deal (depending on brand)

    In case it matters, I don't care about the battery one way or another. It is not an issue and I always carry a spare. If it fails in the middle of a show, I just grab another bass.

    The bass is a Jackson five string concert bass. It has a nice neck, but the active electronics have a little distortion that I do not like. I am currently running all the EQ in the middle, nothing cranked up.
    Bottom line, I don't like the tone so I want to change it.
     
  11. PhatBottomBass1 likes this.
  12. mmbongo

    mmbongo Regular Human Bartender Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Unless I missed it, you still have not specified what pickups you have in your bass. Jackson makes a bazillion different concert basses with different pickups.

    Please post a picture of the pickups in your bass so we can see the brand and shape of them so we can help you.

    You will likely be replacing the pots either way. But if you already have passive pickups you don't need to replace them unless you want to upgrade them. If you have active pickups you will be replacing everything.
     
  13. Hey Scott,

    I hear the quest for simplicity, less is more knob-wise and I'm comfortable guessing the pickup soapbar are EMG40 if a 5 string and EMG35 if a 4 string. Also, that a battery is not taboo, nor is it a deal breaker for you.

    I want to just toss out a suggestion that you may find cool in your mix and would likely give you some improvements over a basic "tone knob."

    If you get those Aguilar Dual Ceramic Bar Humbuckers in there with each on a volume control OR on a blend control with Master Volume (my recommendation). Look at the EMG EXB Control. It is a 1 knob active circuit that works with BOTH active and passive pickups. It boosts both lows & highs and cuts the mids at the sometime. I think you would find it useful in a stripped down situation and would goose those Humbuckers in a MAJOR way!

    Good luck on it!
     
  14. woodyng2

    woodyng2 Supporting Member

    Oct 4, 2015
    Oregon Coast
    Wanting to do something similar with my Spector NS2J. It has active emg pickups attached to an Aquilar obp3 3 band preamp,and I just don’t care for the basic sound,or the reactive characteristics. I’ve not really liked most active systems i’ve heard, Alembic is about the best to my ears. A set of alembic j bass activators would probably cost as much as i paid for the bass, though.
    I’m considering Fralin and Demarzio passive replacements, and would likely go with a simple VVT wiring harness. I don’t think i would like passive emgs any better than active ones.....plus the ns2j has both pickups in the smaller neck size, so buying a matched set is out.
     
    Zoffy likes this.
  15. Thank you, That sounds like great advice. If it was a vintage Fender, I would not mess with it. But a modern Jackson, why not have some fun.

    Thanks again to all the positive replies.
     
    PhatBottomBass1 likes this.
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    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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