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How to use an active bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sam Dingle, Sep 7, 2017.

  1. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    New Orleans
    If anyone's used reddit, I would have posted this under "no stupid questions".

    I'm serious though. My experience with electric basses has always been a passive bass from my first squire P bass, to a thunderbird, to a schecter (which i left flat always) to a fender jazz bass.

    Now I've got a sadowsky mv5 and a sire v7. to put it simply there are too many knobs. I've only played them out a little bit and I've only ever used them passively.

    I'd like to take advantage of the preamp but I'm not sure what it's used for? I dont understand how it can add different sounds (coming from passive basses and upright bass). Is there like a video explaining this or any advice on how to explore the two basses.

    The lazy part of me wants to save up and replace the preamp on the sire with a sadowsky so I don't have to learn two systems haha. Thanks!
  2. Experiment with it. Turn the knob all the way down play something. Turn the knob all the way up. Listen to how it sounds different. Then turn the knob in the middle and play something. You'll probably find that you like the way it sounds in certain positions, and like it less in certain positions. Dial it in to where you like it the most. Play some more, mess the knob, see if you can make it sound "better" to your ears.
  3. https://www.sadowsky.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/SadowskyBassControlKnobs.pdf

    you know those knobs on your amp that say bass, treble, mid? That's the preamp. The purpose for having an active bass is so you can make tonal changes on your bass, rather than turning around and fiddling with it on the amp.

    And if you have 2 pickups you get different sounds blending between them.

    This should get you started:
    EQ: boost bass for warm jazz or country sounds, boost treble for bright funky rocky sounds, and boost mids for Latin and fretless sounds.

    Pickups: neck for classic Precision sound, bridge for Latin, blend for normal.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
  4. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    You'll get use to it and love it.
    Thumb n Fingers likes this.
  5. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Roselle, IL
    Typically, you set the tone knobs to the neutral position to start with. Sadowsky's preamp is a little different than most. If you increase the bass or treble knob, you start reducing the low mids at 300hz. Increase both knobs and the low mids will get even more decreased.

    Check out the company websites and start learning. That is the only way to overcome your fears of the unknown.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I remember reading in Phil Lesh's book that it took him a long time to figure out that the key to EQing is generally to cut certain frequencies rather than boost others. FWIW.
    Blankandson likes this.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    This reminds me of something that happened to me. So I'm hangin' at the bass/guitar store and this blues dude is there telling about some kid he heard play guitar. "You know that kid could play like nothing you ever heard", he said, "but he had no idea how to tune his guitar!" "He just had to have someone else tune it for him and then MAN could he play!" He just shakes his head thinking about the kid not knowing how to tune his guitar... Then the owner asks the old guy, what he was there for and Blues Dude points to this little guitar amp: "I bought this amp here a couple of weeks ago and I really Love it, but I bumped the knobs and I need you so set them back the way they were!" Boing! Absolutely true story.

    Just live with it for a while and learn what all the knobs can do for you. Period.
    Caca de Kick likes this.
  8. CaseyVancouver


    Nov 4, 2012

    Yeah just live with it and you'll figure out what works for you. I get confused by Alembic electronics.
    None of it can be as confusing as Jack's early bass. He seemed to do ok.
    wmmj likes this.
  9. I tend to run my basses flat most of the time. The controls are great for fixing issues though. Like you can do things like cut highs and boost mids at the same time to take the edge off the attack a little without making it sound like someone through a thick blacket over your bass cab like a lot of passive basses sound.
  10. Burwabit

    Burwabit Likes guitars that tune good and firm feelin women Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2011
    Lubbock, TX
    I love the simplicity of the Sadowsky onboard preamp. It's basically a passive bass with the ability to boost bass and treble via the stacked knobs (all the way off is flat). If I need to do fancy EQ'ing I'll use my amp.
  11. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Ditto for this guy:

    wmmj likes this.
  12. There are a bunch of ways to use an active preamp.
    You can shape the tone initially before it hits your amp by boosting and cutting frequencies.
    You can use the preamp to boost or cut the entire signal coming out of your bass to compensate for differences between instruments.
    You can leave the eq flat and shape the signal with your amp so that you are just getting the effect of the preamp out of your bass.
    I could go on and on but what I have found over the years is to spend some time and use your ears. Whenever I get a new instrument I will set the eq flat on the bass and adjust eq on my amp for a sound that I like. That way I know I can not have to fiddle with knobs on the amp anymore. Once I'm dialed in there then I will play up and down and across the fretboard, if I feel like some notes are not even then I will fiddle with the active electronics or If I need a specific sound then I will fiddle with the active electronics. That way I can always set it back to flat and sound good.
    When I first started I didn't know what worked for me so I would set the bass, then the amp, then adjust the bass, then the amp again and on and on. It became very frustrating.
    Fwiw, I spend 98% of my time with both my amp and bass set flat on eq now. Lol. I have found over the years that I just like the sound of an active over a passive and that when I was redoing my eq over and over it was because my amp just wasn't strong enough for me to hear myself clearly, so I would start boosting stuff to compensate.
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    The beauty of the Sadowsky preamp, IMO, is the natural color it adds to the tone even in the neutral position. That is, if engaged, it adds a nice presence to the tone even with the treble and bass untouched.

    I tend to use the EQ somewhat sparingly as a little goes a long ways. My "standard" tone is about 10% bass boost and the PUs at center. I leave treble flat and the passive tone wide open. The bass sounds great plug and play. 90% of the time, the EQ on the amp is dead flat. I won't mess with it at all unless the room demands it. But, I do have a couple of "alternate" tones that I use fairly often.

    One is a brighter tone that I get by boosting the active treble about 40% and then rolling back the passive tone. This combination adds high-end presence without being too piercing and shrill.

    The other is the bridge PU tone. A great thing about the Sadowsky pre is that you can add a lot of bass without it getting too boomy or muddy. It continues to sound pretty natural. On a passive bass, when you pan toward the bridge to get that gritty, grindy tone, you tend to lose a lot of low end. On the Sadowsky, you can easily dial it back in with the bass boost. It sounds great.
  14. klejst


    Oct 5, 2010
    How to use an active bass? Actively of course...:rolleyes:
  15. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    The Sire controls.....


    You seem to have passive figured out. Pickup pan on both basses will determine whether you are favoring the neck or bridge pickup. Neck soloed is more "round". Bridge soloed is more mid range and "burpy". In the middle will be kind of "scooped" with more treble and bass and less mids.

    Once in active, The Bass EQ will boost or cut bass.
    Treble will boost or cut treble frequencies.
    Each of those knobs probably have a center indent. In other words, when you are in the middle of the knob's sweep, you will feel a "click". That is flat. In other words, no boosting or cutting.

    The mids are more tricky but if you learn how this system works you will find this will help you cut through a mix. Turn the top (small) knob left and right and you will boost or cut mid frequencies. By turning the lower (bigger) knob left and right you are setting WHICH mid frequencies you are boosting or cutting. For me, usually, slightly boosting lower mids gives me a little added punch without being too boomy. That was the secret weapon of an Ibanez BTB I played a TON of gigs with some years ago.

    Turn the switch to active and start flat. Ask yourself "What do I need more or less of?" Then tart turning knobs until you get there.

    Unfortunately it takes time. You have to "noodle" with it to really learn how it reacts.

    Sadowsky controls....

    The Sadowsky is boost only. So, all the way down on treble and bass sounds EXACTLY like being in passive. It is a very transparent preamp and a beautiful thing if you get to know it.

    So, turn the bass and treble knobs all the way down and set it to active. It should sound no different than passive. Then (if you need it) boost the treble or bass to taste.

    Don't overthink it. Use your ears. Play with it. You can't hurt the knobs by tweaking them.
    Goatrope likes this.
  16. ONYX


    Apr 14, 2000
    I run the EQ on the bass flat ( or neutral ) and I try to get the best tone out of the amp settings. If I need to make an adjustment mid-song, I use the onboard controls rather than the ones on the amp.

    But, like others have said, experiment with it and find what works best for you.
  17. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    The sire electronics are pretty amazing for their price group. I have found on active basses, with passive tone, doing a slight treble cut while keeping the passive tone mostly wide open, removes the brittle treble associated with "modern" active basses, and sounds much more "passive" in nature, while still allowing mid and bass manipulation.

    Sit down with it. Dial in your closest p-bass tone. Then dial in a jazz, then a Rick, then try for stingray. Stingray may be the hardest to cop. But play with it, you will be amazed at what can be done.
  18. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Bit of a hijack but related: Do you guys typically leave one side (bass/amp) flat and adjust the other or do you adjust both the bass and amp? If you boost your treble on your bass, do you match it on the amp?
  19. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Adjust the amp for the room and the bass for the song.

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