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Passive, active, misguided?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by katzscratch, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. katzscratch


    Dec 19, 2005
    I am new to bass playing as I am also new to the forum. After reading many threads on this forum and based on budget I decided to go with one of the the Yamaha BB series 4 strings. Went down to the local Sam Ash. The problem was I didnt know which to get... the passive 414 or the active614. I started thinking I might get the passive being a new bass player and not wanting to be overwhelmed with all the electronics. They both felt great but not being experienced enough to know the difference, I put my trust in the salesman (who was NOT a bass player). The 614 sounded awsome, a lot of power. Then he played the passive 414 and it was much quieter and weaker in comparison. I didnt notice him changing any settings on the amp and he said he had the volume and tone all the way up. He said I would want the active if the music we played was loud (which it is) so I could cut through the drummer and for just $50.00 more "I couldn't lose". So I bought it. Then I started second guessing my choice. Why would so many bass players, especially in heavy bands, have passive basses if they couldn't "cut through"? I also just recently noticed that someone on the forum here said that the 414 was more "ballsy". So my question is ...was I hustled for an extra $50.00? Can a passive still have the cutting action I need to be heard? Am I sacrificing that warm heavy tone for volume? The music we play is deep and heavy .. kind of "stoner rockish" for lack of a better word .... a mix of Cream, Sabbath, and ZZ top ...if that helps. Please forgive the lengthy post. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
  2. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    The bass you bought is fine for what what you're doing - the passive one would have worked fine too. The active bass presents more signal to the amp, so if you A / B them, it will obviously be louder. HOWEVER...ultimately your amp will only put out what the power section is capable of putting out - so just because the active is louder at a given amp volume setting doesn't mean much - with the passive you just make the preamp work harder - turn it up - and it will be loud too.

    What you wind up with is situation where with one bass the amp will start to clip and crap out on 5 and the other it won't until 7.
  3. Technically, he gave you bad info but it's no biggie.

    The reason the active sounded louder is that it has a built-in preamp, thus it has a hotter output. Most amplifiers have a different input (or a special compensating switch) for active basses to compensate for this. When switching between the passive and active basses, he should have made the necessary change.

    That said, the active yamaha will give you more tone flexibility. IIRC, it has:

    * Bass boost/cut
    * Mid boost/cut
    * Treble boost/cut

    This will give you a lot of options in terms of shaping your sound/tone. When you combine those options with the p/j pickups, you have an EXTREMELY versatile bass!

    Again, it's only a $50 dollar difference and you got an excellent, versatile, nice quality bass. Enjoy it and don't look back!
  4. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger Commercial User

    Sep 22, 2005
    Not Mars
    The Overlord of Nordstrand Pickups
    well there's three mistakes right there. ;)

    but seriously, with passive basses you just crank the input gain more than with an active bass, and there's the "missing" volume. when you see amps with a passive / active switch or seperate passive and active inputs, there is like a 10db pad for the active, to cut down the hotter output. overall volume is controlled by the power amp.

    i have both passive and active basses, and adjust my input gain accordingly.
  5. Wesley R

    Wesley R Supporting Member

    can be a pain.

    If you like it be happy! Hopefully the $50 wasn't ahuge jump in affordabilty for you. It certainly shouldn't hurt anything being active.

    Best of Luck,
    Wesley R.
  6. AxtoOx


    Nov 12, 2005
    Duncan, Okla.
    You're fine, the active will give you a little more of a wider range in tone, but as was said before, unless you use the pad and I don't, you have to turn the gain down or you clip the amp. Passive you can turn the gain up higher. I have some active basses I can only turn the gain up to 1/3 the way on my Ampeg before they start clipping.
    The passive would have been fine, I play both, but I really wouldn't sweat $50 unless your just running that tight.
  7. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
  8. katzscratch


    Dec 19, 2005
    Thanks for the quick reply. Maybe I was looking for an excuse to go back and the get beautiful wine burst color that only came in the 414. Just kidding .. the black pearl is pretty awsome as well. I am still wondering though, why WOULD someone choose a passive over an active? With volume aside, what is it about the passives that people like especially all those diehard Fender players out there?
  9. nad

    nad 60 Cycle Humdinger Commercial User

    Sep 22, 2005
    Not Mars
    The Overlord of Nordstrand Pickups
    simplicity! i've had my P-bass for 8 years and have NEVER had a problem, and the only time i ever opened up the electronics cavity was when i was bored. my Tobias eats batteries and every so often my Sterling craps out (bad battery contacts). but i love all 3. :)
  10. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    I would go back and get the 414, but that's just me. I'm partial the wineburst and passive basses. But, regardless, you made a good choice. I think in the end you'll be happy that you have more tonal options than you would with passive.

    I like passive basses because they have a more vintage, "natural" tone and the controls are obviously more simplistic. Also, I like that if I forget to unplug the bass, I'm not going to drain the battery.
  11. Katz -

    I'll just echo what others have said ...

    1) Some people prefer that their sound be not be "colored" by an internal preamp.
    2) Some people like the dead-bang simplicity of 3 (or two, or even one, as the case may be) knobs.
    3) Some people don't like to fuss with having to change (or remembering to change) batteries.

    I'm a perfect example. I have a (passive) BB415 that I bought specifically as a "simple" counterpart to my (active and majorly complex) Bongo.

    By the way, all Fenders are not passive -- there are a NUMBER of active Fender basses.
  12. katzscratch


    Dec 19, 2005
    Well thanks everyone for all the replies. It's been a great help. This a fantastic forum. The more I read, the more excited i get to play. More posts to come, I'm sure.