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Passive 5 string thoughts/advice

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Awesome Sauce, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. Awesome Sauce

    Awesome Sauce Already tired tomorrow

    Dec 21, 2011
    NW Chicago 'burbs
    So I'm going to be getting a new bass soon and am planning on doing some modding right away. The first thing I need to decide is if I want to go active or passive eq. The thing is, I've never owned a passive 5er and those I've played- only in music stores w/ poor set up- have sounded weak on the B. I know a lot of TBers prefer passive basses, but don't know their string arrangement. To be honest, I rarely tweak the eq on my bass, preferring to find my tone through my amp. Right now I'm looking at the V/V/T/T passive harness at BestBassGear or a Bartolini preamp; but I'm really leaning towards the passive for all the options it gives. I guess what I really want to know is: can a B sound good, even great, through a passive set up?
  2. SJan3


    Dec 8, 2010
    I have a Yamaha BB425. I think it sounds very good! And, of course you can EQ to taste on your amp if necessary. I think the B String is very nice on this bass. Lots of presence!
  3. I'm GASin for a passive Lakland 5er. My main bass is an active 4 string Lakie that I love to pieces. But there's something to be said about good earthy passive tone, especially with a B string.
  4. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Since most of the best low Bs come in a price range where active electronics are the norm, I can see how one might make the association.

    But IME the two are not actually linked. My Dingwall Afterburner 6-string is passive and it has a fantastic low B - best I've ever owned or tried.
  5. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    In my humble opinion, yes, a passive bass can have a great feeling and a great sounding low B. A few weeks ago I bought a new Fender American Standard 5 string Jazz bass. For me, no mod's are needed.

    YMMV but I couldn't be happier.
  6. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    A good low B comes from the bass, and the strings. It doesn't matter if you have active or passive pickups, or active electronics.

    If the low B string sounds good unplugged, it should sound good amplified.

    Also, you shouldn't think of the onboard EQ as doing what the amp's EQ does. It's supplemental. It's good for tweaking your tone for different songs and stuff. That's not something you want to do at the amp.

    My basses have great low Bs. Most are passive.
  7. Awesome Sauce

    Awesome Sauce Already tired tomorrow

    Dec 21, 2011
    NW Chicago 'burbs
    Thanks for all the replies everyone! That settles it- definitely going passive and am gonna rock this thing! :hyper::bassist:
  8. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    When the majority of fivers don't have a really excellent 5th string, even after proper setup, whether a bass is active or passive isn't a big deal. Once you've heard a really, really solid and even low B (think Dingwall), the so-so 5th strings you typically get on MM and Fender basses pale in comparison.

    I would look for the right bass first. Once you find a great passive instrument, if you find that you miss the active functions, it's easy enough to get a preamp installed. Or have the preamp bypassed on an active bass, for that matter...
  9. DaveyM69


    Jan 1, 2011
    Good strings and set up (on a decent instrument to start with) are what gives a 'good' B, active/passive makes no difference to that IMO.
  10. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    A lot of that comes from the neck construction. One piece necks like you find on Fenders and MMs are too flexible, and that makes the low notes sound blurry.

    Longer scale lengths help, but you can get a great low B on a 34" scale bass if it's made the right way. But sticking a low B on Fender style instruments doesn't always work well because they weren't designed for it.
  11. J-wall

    J-wall Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2006
    Lawrenceburg, TN
    ^^^ Great, concise explanation that makes mucho sense. Thanks, David!
  12. tubby.twins

    tubby.twins Amateur Pickup Reviewer Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Totally agree. The stiffness of the neck really defines the tautness, feel and thunder of the low B string, more so than the scale length.

    I've had great results with the low B string on most of the passive basses that I've built; many of them have laminated exotic wood necks which are stiff and very stable.
  13. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    I agree about neck constrution. I'm no expert, but I'll tell ya...I had an MIM Fender Active Deluxe 5 string and I could never, ever come to terms with the E and low B on that bass regardless of setup and trying differant string brands. Not saying that all MIM's are like this, just saying that mine was a flop.

    Night and day differance with my American Standard 5 string. That bass is a joy to play.
  14. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Ive heard very few fivers who'se low B impressed me. All those have been active and have been near or over $1,000 in price for new with the exception of one that was in the $500 range. You can get good low B with passive if very well built bass. But thats gonna cost more imo. And those will sound even better in most cases with active preamp even with bass set flat. For the low bass extension and articulation thats normally only found on active basses. I'm surre theres exceptions. But I know Id like a great sounding passive bas even better with active eq added. Just gives a more hifi and extended range voice in most all cases to me. Being a synth player to, qaulity of bass voices is very important to me for bass guitars. cause if it cant hang with low bass synth pads etc, its just gonna sound weak and wimpy.
  15. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I think they put graphite in the US made 5 string necks. That helps a lot.

    And strings are very important. Some low Bs are really bad, even on a great bass.
  16. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Electronics certainly do play a role, IMHO - even when passive. (Dingwall designs and builds his own pickups, and employs a slightly unusual wiring scheme in that 6-string I keep raving about.)

    High on my project "want" list would be to assemble a fully worthy passive 5-string J-bass. When I get around to that, you can bet I'll be choosing the pickups and control layout at least as carefully as everything else!
  17. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Oh, and, speaking of electronics as they pertain to B strings, IME for the best low B articulation, a bridge pickup is a must.
  18. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I always ran my L2500 (both Trib and US) passive--sounded great, excellent B string IMO.

    I owned a passive Dingwall Afterburner AB1 fiver too and that low B was simply the best I've ever heard---if you can rock the fanned frets(not a problem for most) and crazy-long scale of the B(was an issue for me being a little dude) then you should try one out.
  19. Buy a bass that lets you select passive or active, e.g., Warwick Corvette $$ has both modes. I believe the G&L's do as well. Get one of those and find out whether you like active or passive best. Then when you decide, only use the one you pick for 6 months. Then try the other mode again and you'll like that better! Either that or it'll be time to GAS up for different bass.
  20. newbold


    Sep 21, 2008
    I really like my passive jazzV.

    I also like a 5 string for playing shorter scale notes and more overall instrument mass.

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