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Less circuitry, any benefit?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by maturanesa, Aug 3, 2012.

  1. Is there any real benefit in sound when using less circuitry?

    Just looking at anthony jackson´s fodera, for example, and i cant believe there´s not a reason related to sound to do that:

  2. You would have to be a NASA Engineer to diagnose any difference (if any) from a few less knobs on a bass.

    Real life impact? None.
  3. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I'd think most of us could easily tell the difference between and an active bass and a passive bass though.
  4. No, actually, it's quite simple. When you have volume pots in a circuit, they present a resistance parallel to the output that lowers the signal's impedance. This changes the resonant circuit and decreases the output. As you should be aware, people talk about 250k versus 500k pots all the time, because the difference of resistance changes the behavior of the circuit.

    Basses with no pots, or very high value pots usually have a noticeably hotter and brighter output. If you don't like this, you can always add fixed resistors to simulate the load of pots.
  5. Not necessarily. One of the big things about having a preamp is that output impedance is lowered before reaching the instrument cable, and thus, the parasitic capacitance of the cable is not significant to suck the treble. The resonant circuit between the input stage of the preamp and pickup coils is often identical to that of a passive bass, just without the capacitance of the cable, and also, a constant input impedance regardless of what the bass plugs into. Some preamps have a particular voicing that is not related to the effects of signal impedance changes, as well.
  6. LiamCohl


    Jan 29, 2005
    Toronto, ON
    I think you'd have to be deaf not to hear the difference two pots in the circuit makes on a passive pickup, Probably not nearly the same with active though. I recently built a bass with a P pickup wired straight to the output jack and in the end had to put a socket with a couple resistors and a cap in parallel to the output jack to add the same amount of resistance two wide open 250k pots would introduce to take a bit of top end off. The output difference is noticeable too. If you have a multimeter or soldering iron, check for yourself.
  7. wideload


    Apr 15, 2004
    Salinas, CA
    I think its just a matter of control. If the straight signal is what you like, great. You can still change with effects or amp settings. I like having some control at hand for when I change from fingers to pick (favor the neck PU, roll off high mids) - easier than going back to my amp, and keeps the show rolling.
  8. There are ways to get the best of both worlds. If you leave the grounds off of the volumes, you will just add series resistance to drop the output of one pickup. Soloing and muting becomes an issue, but if the resistance is high enough, you can make either pickup fairly quiet, and use a killswitch when you need dead silence.
  9. The reason people skip the controls is that they want complete and utter simplicity. Some don't want the distraction of knobs to twiddle and switches to flip; others think that having controls offers one more thing that could fail and need repair; some just want the direct pickups-to-amp tone without any special buffers or fancy gear. If you wanted volume pots and EQ and such, you could easily run the pickup coil directly into a buffer, with a capacitor across the coil to match the capacitance of a run of instrument cable, and an input impedance that matches that of an amp or effects pedal or whatever, to get the same result. That Fodera is all about simplicity, however.
  10. Who said anything about 250K vs. 500K pots?

    The OP was being extremely vague, basically asking if less is more... in a very vague answer - no, don't worry about it.

    This should be the LAST thing being considered when buying a bass...
  11. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    There is no benefit (beyond making a fashion statement) to the utterly simple approach that could not be obtained by other means. But the other means requires active circuitry in many cases and of course many bassists seem 9V-battery-phobic. If you like passive basses and have a great sound team or a convenient pedal board that you trust to do all your tonal adjustments then there is no need to have anything on the bass but pickups and an output jack. My only "gig" is playing in a church band. When I am at home I play with all the knobs and buttons on my active basses. Sunday morning I set the EQ to flat-flat-flat, the pan pot to both, and the volume is either full on or full off. The sound team handles everything but the plucking and fretting.

    In the end only acoustic basses are either simple or passive. Every electric bass eventually plugs into an amplifier, if nothing else, and at that point the electric bass system becomes both active and complex.

  12. I use the tone and volume controls on my various active instruments, but I never change the settings, so theoretically I could solder in the proper resistors and caps and I'd be set. In that case, the circuitry would still be there, just not variable.

    There is a simplicity benefit, and a resistance to developing problems, when you remove moving parts from a circuit, even if there's still a circuit. Moving parts tend to wear out fastest.

    I tend to do tone and volume control with my pedalboard. That is, when I'm not doing it with my pick(guitar) / fingers(cello/bass) / bow(cello).
  13. steubig


    Jul 17, 2001
    locustland, ca
    as someone who took all the actives out of his basses and went from pickup straight to jack before jackson did, my suggestion is thst the only way you'll know is by trying taking the electronics out and seeing if you can hear the difference.

    i did, liked what i heard and have stayed away from preamps since then.

    it comes down to personal taste.

    i know a few people who do the straight to jack thing.
  14. The 250k vs. 500k thing exemplifies the tonal difference between two finite resistive loads in the circuit. In this case, we are comparing one (unknown) finite and one (nearly) infinite resistance. Exact same concept, different variables.
  15. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    the reason it's like that (i read in an interview with AJ) is that he decided that no tiny battery-powered onboard pre could be the equal in headroom and fidelity to an actual big ol' 110V AC-powered studio preamp, so he left the bass "blank" with the intention of doing all the tone-shaping outboard.
  16. That's nonsense. Considering the voltage of the signal, versus the supply voltage for the transistors, headroom should not be an issue at all. Sound quality and such is a different issue, however. There are all sorts of things you can do with outboard gear that are not practical inside of a bass, such as tube based preamps with high plate voltages. That is not to say you can't make opamp or discrete transistor-based preamps sound good. The only thing you've got working against you with your design choices is available supply voltage, which can be phantom, or externally supplied, if need be; and available component space, which is usually not an issue.

    Unless he wanted a 31 band EQ or something. :hyper:
  17. BogeyBass


    Sep 14, 2010
    as mentioned adding more passive devices will change the output impedance. Impedance becomes to low it will effect either high end or lowend frequency response. An active pickup is just the same old thing connected to a opamp. Magic things opamps are they raise the input impedance to millions of ohms, without adding millions of ohms of voltage noise. or some ridiculous large resistor that would be a millions of ohms....also they lower output impedance much closer to the ideal impedance of 0 which allows it to drive lower impedance loads without frequency loses.

    Otherwise some experienced players dont need some mumbo jumbo of knobs.
    They just turn the volume all the way up and never touch the tone knob.
    So if you never use the tone knob, there is no reason to have one.
    Likewise if you volume is up full all the time when playing, (best setting for passive anyways) and then fully down when not playing.

    Its almost like you dont even need a volume knob.

    lap steel guitars and cheap amps with only a volume knob were the norm way before electric guitar and bass, and the tone knob was added to the instruments to expand on tone control not available on the amp as a selling point.
  18. steubig


    Jul 17, 2001
    locustland, ca
    to my ear, onboard preamps tend give a more compressed and less open sound.

    so, for me, i like the sound of a bass without the pre.

  19. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    You probably don't want to bass this particular topic solely on AJ. He is notoriously particular and opinionated in terms of his equipment preferences (and perhaps rightfully so).

    We're talking about a guy that uses a Millennia HV3 mic preamp and API 550EQ through a pair of Meyer CQ-1 powered PA cabinets for his bass rig. That's a $15k setup and we haven't even started to discuss his basses, where he has been a pioneer in terms of extended scales, zero-radius fingerboards, exposed core strings, and wiring the pickup straight to the output jack.

    Personally I think he's a fantastic and prolific player and I've always liked his sounds. But I think that has more to do with the man than the gear so I won't be ripping the pots out of my basses anytime soon or selling a car to buy a Millennia/API/Meyer rig.

    I should add that it's been a couple of years since I've checked and AJ may have moved on to even more fascinating equipment.
  20. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    yeah, it's funny how when you get to that level of ability, even if you become more and more fanatical or idiosyncratic about esoteric elements of the gear, your playing renders the gear less and less important to actually sounding good!

    eric johnson is another famous example of someone with odd notions of the equipment (insisting he hears tone differences between brands of 9V batteries, or between chrome-plated and raw brass 1/4" plugs), while his actual mastery of the guitar means he would sound just as good through a line 6 POD right into the board.

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