1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

I am clueless with active basses

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Jaco Taco, Jun 22, 2014.

  1. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    So, in my 30 years of playing bass, I've only owned passive basses, that's just what I'm into. At the same time, I'm not opposed to the idea of active basses, I mean, I would buy an active bass if I really dug one. The problem is, whenever I go into a guitar store and try out an active bass, I'm clueless as to how to use it. I don't really have any idea how to dial in a tone that I'm going to like. I just kind of fiddle with the EQ knobs like an idiot and just start playing it, not really knowing if the sound I'm hearing is the bass or the active EQ or what.

    I'm sure this must sound hilariously stupid to some of you guys out there, but yeah, I just don't know how to "use" an active bass. Is anyone else in the same boat or can anyone give me pointers on how I should dial in an active bass that I'm trying out in a guitar store?
  2. Equalization should not be used needlessly. Every band should be set flat, and only adjusted if you need to boost or cut something from the bass itself. Your goal should be to use higher quality outboard gear, when possible.
  3. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it Supporting Member

    Yes, definitely set everything flat on the bass (where the center detent is), and adjust from there. I am partial to passive basses, but I use my active Lakland sometimes too. You just have to be careful not to overdrive your amp's input stage...this will result in unwanted saturation.
  4. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    Thanks for your replies. Yeah, I always set everything flat because I don't really know what to do outside of that. But doing so, I often think "well, what's the point of an active?" I assume it's because players want to adjust their EQ on the fly live. But I've never felt a need to do that.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    And to offer an opposing viewpoint, I don't set the EQ on my BQC preamps flat at all. I set them to match the tone of my Precision with the Geezer Butler P, and that involves a fair bit of mid boost at around 700-800hz, an ever so slight bass boost, and I cut treble to varying degrees depending on the song. In the end, it's the same as any EQ on any amp...it's just built into your bass. If you can work an amp, you can work an active EQ on your bass. Or you can just leave it flat and enjoy the pickups in their natural state. Really doesn't matter as long as you get a sound you like.

    But don't feel obliged to learn how to work active systems. Some folks dig them, some folks stick with passive. I like both and I use both but passive is more my thing these days.
  6. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    There's so many active basses out there that I sometimes think "am I missing something? Why can't I get into this?" but I can't for some reason.
  7. faulknersj

    faulknersj Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2008
    Scottsdale Az
    Just play passive basses...it sounds like they are a good fit for you.

    If you don't need an onboard EQ, you really don't need an active bass.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
  8. EQ is only one feature that can be had with active setups. Some active basses have no EQ at all. Don't overlook things like buffering, constant input impedance, gain boosts and/or fixed voicings.
    joeyl likes this.
  9. faulknersj

    faulknersj Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2008
    Scottsdale Az
    Excellent point! However...most active basses do offer EQ features.
  10. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 Life: It's sexually transmitted and always fatal Supporting Member

    I use it for tonal shaping changes for the song requirements. Room differences etc. Not necessary but " nice to have" i strongly prefer 3 band eq's top roll off mid boost and bass freq tuning . Leave my amp virtually flat.
    Also nice for "levelling" the output and tonal different between basses with different output profiles. Or to enhance certain aspects of one bass vs another. Vive la difference

    I use the on board eq far more than the one on the amp.
    edpal and faulknersj like this.
  11. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    What's to know? So after 30 years do you know how to use the knobs on your amp? While there are active basses that are rather extreme, the basic idea is pretty simple: Move the EQ knobs that are on your amp over to your bass to make them easier to reach! You could also do the same thing with a passive bass and a bass preamp on a stand in front of you! An active bass also has an advantage of driving long cables without rolling off a lot of highs. But basically that is it!

    Yes there are things called "active pickups" which do have electronics inside them for various reasons, but most "active" basses you see out there are really just passive basses with an EQ and cable driver slapped on them inside the bass. Basically as /\/\3phis0 said it's because the knobs on the bass are more handy than the knobs on the amp it just makes it more convenient. I particularly appreciate an "active" bass when playing through a DI. When the only control over tone I have is a passive toy tone control, it makes me feel rather helpless. Active knobs cure the feeling.

    No great mystery.
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Good point about the control over the house sound, Bongo. That's a nice advantage. There have been times where I ran out in the crowd and thought the soundman wasn't getting it right, and having the controls on the bass is nice to be able to overcome it. Of course, I know that when I go back onstage, he's going to change it back ;) but at least one song will sound right!
    DocGeorge and faulknersj like this.
  13. davy4575


    Nov 4, 2009
    Denver, CO
    I have a spector 5 string that has active eq. Im dont go with a flat eq at all on it. It has a bass nob and a trebble nob and then vol controls for each pick up. I like the trebble way up, the bass way up so it eradicates the mid, Ill blend the volume of the pick ups to desired tone and then use an eq mid setting on my effects board if I need a little mid cut through a mix. Gives me a lot of adjustment, I play with blue steels and sometimes need to curb the trebble a little so I can back it down. Nice not having to go adjust the eq on my heads.
  14. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I don't see the problem really - use your ears and tweak the EQ knobs until you like what you hear. It's not rocket surgery. ;)
    davy4575 likes this.
  15. The impact of the active EQ on active instruments is only really relevant in a full band mix. Where passive instruments limit you what frequencies you can adjust on the fly when playing live, active basses let you conveniently dial in or roll off those frequencies that are not doing you any favours without having to turn to your amp. My settings always vary depending on the band I'm playing with or even the room itself.

    Additionally, active basses tend to have hotter output than passive ones (generally speaking). This can be a blessing or a curse - especially if you're into using effects pedals. There are a few pedals which don't take kindly to the hotter signal of active instruments.
  16. I'm trying to not be too condescending here, but:

    If you can use an EQ on an amp, shouldn't be able to use an EQ on a bass???

    How do you "dial in" that sound on your amp?...do the same on your bass, it's not rocket science.
    faulknersj likes this.
  17. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 Life: It's sexually transmitted and always fatal Supporting Member

    Simple. Find a happy medium between the variances of the basses. And say one bass needs more mids. .. dial that in on the bass preamp. Another needs a touch less bottom. Dial that out on the bass.
    Another senario. Part of a song has a really dubby warm smooth passage followed by a scoop slap passage.
    Basically your question equates to : if I can get distortion by turning up the gain on my amp, why would I need a distortion pedal?
    Not trying to be condescending here.
    A lot easier to facilitate switches in tone response on the fly on stage. Lot less convenient to tweak the amp back and forth at the time of switching instruments. Set the preamp on the bass for the desired tone and leave it there. Plug in and go rather than spend 30 seconds tweaking your amp between songs... While your band and more importantly the audience waits.
    For example:
    I have a fretless Dan Armstrong that is passive and only has tone and volume, and super bottom heavy. I dial the bottom off on the amp and roll up the mids (for mwahh) when setting up for the night. This amp eq setting makes my wawick sound like @$$ even in passive mode. Easily adjust the preamp on the warwick to compensate.. Both basses sound like I want them ... i have to switch basses between songs and it takes 5-10 seconds and the results are predictable.. does that clear up the confusion?
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
  18. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 Life: It's sexually transmitted and always fatal Supporting Member

    I disagree with the amp set flat. I seldom boost anything, but often cut. I set it nearly flat, but basically the amp eq is for the basic tone for the cabs and room and fine tuning is done on the onboard preamp.....
    Most often though both eq's are NEAR flat.
  19. I didn't say anything about setting amp EQ flat. I said the onboard preamp should be set flat and used only when necessary. It is a lower quality EQ than that of outboard gear, and is there only for convenience.
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    And I still disagree. Set it to wherever you like. They may run on batteries and they may not be as good as an amp EQ, but they ain't bad at all, and it can really help matching with other basses you may use so you don't need an outboard EQ.
    davy4575 likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.