PASSIVE AND ACTIVE what are the main differences?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by countrybass5, Feb 4, 2018.

  1. I've never owned an active bass. I would like to try one but there is not a close music store where I live. I plan on ordering a Carvin PB 5 but I don't know which to order. If you were in my place which would you order and why?
  2. rockscott


    Aug 28, 2010
    play one before you pull the trigger. Some folks love them, some don't. some can go either way. I have owned several over the years, i don't own one now and probably never will again.
    Skybone and DuranFanWI like this.
  3. kinopah


    Oct 19, 2014
    Yeah you need to try examples of each. An active bass has an onboard power supply and preamp. The sound can feel a bit more conditioned and vibrant, but that's not ideal for everybody. Right now I have an active StingRay and a passive Fodera. I vastly prefer a passive, old school sound in general, but sometimes I definitely want that beefy active vibe too. I also really like leaving my bass plugged in, which you can't do with active. I advocate for having a passive bass and a solid preamp/DI pedal for the best of both worlds. But DEFINITELY try a couple if you can.
    DuranFanWI and Spectre Gunner like this.
  4. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Why not get a bass that does both? You need to be careful though - some active basses have a switch that bypasses the preamp entirely but leave you with no tone control at all. Others may use an active blend circuit so you are never truly bypassing the preamp. IMO the best are the ones that allow you to run active or bypass the preamp entirely but still have a passive tone control. Sadowsky's VTC comes to mind.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
  5. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I bought a fender American deluxe 5 a couple years ago and figured I'd check out active electronics. Hated it... Not only do I have to worry about 2 9 volt batteries but all of a sudden I have a stacked knob 3 band eq that makes serious impact with small changes to the knobs. Im just not that into it and have played the bass in passive mode for most of it's life. IMHO if you want an active preamp, pedals are the way to go. At least then you can power them independently and choose whether or not it's needed from gig to gig. ALSO if you don't like that particular preamp pedal, no soldering is necessary to change it out.
  6. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    You will find an active bass can mean active pickups but passive tone controls or an active preamp with passive pickups and there are some with active pickups and active preamp,so ask questions when doing your research. All will have an onboard power supply.
  7. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Simply put- With an active bass, you have more distance between silence, and maximum loudness (dynamic range), which should make the bass more versatile. In the real world, more hit records have been made by passive basses PLUS, we build in this nice (supposedly better) dynamic range, and then put a compressor in the chain to REDUCE dynamic range.
    Active basses allow cut/boost EQ, which MAY be important to you.
    Some active basses have passive ability, and may or may not have a passive tone control. Personally, I DO use the active EQ, and NEVER use a passive tone control.
    Active basses can do some things a passive can't, such as drive longer cables, and MAY run quieter.
    Only you can decide what's better. A passive bass can quite cheaply be made active at a later date (food for thought).
  8. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    If you're talking about this one, you should have nothing to worry about.

    Passive electronics are standard online the PB5, and the pickup is Kiesel Guitars' SPC split coil alnico model. Many pro bassists prefer the traditional split-coil design for deeper bass and clearer highs all in one pickup. The passive SPC split P-type humbucking pickup is designed for both 4 and 5 string basses. Each coil incorporates a single large Alnico V magnet and produces a tone so huge that it emulates built-in active electronics. Vintage plain enamel wire is used for its sweet and natural well-rounded bottom end, full punchy mids and dynamic highs. The single alnico magnet means that you won't get any signal drop off like you do from a conventional P-type pickup if the strings are not perfectly centered between the pole pieces. Controls consist of a master volume control and tone control. You can add a single coil jazz-style pickup in the bridge position of your PB5 for a P/J pickup configuration. The P/J oickup option can be ordered with active or passive electronics, giving you a wide range of tones suitable for all styles of music.
    View attachment 2902523
    Jason Hollar, wmmj and el_Bajo_Verde like this.
  10. Thanks for all the info. I guess I'll have them build me a passive bass and go from there.
  11. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    Active basses have a battery that will die on stage or just before a show.
  12. mmbongo

    mmbongo I have too many basses. Supporting Member

    It takes like 4 seconds to change a battery on most basses.

    But if you do have a battery issue, just switch to passive and keep going.
    TrevorR, ruju, red_rhino and 2 others like this.
  13. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    Most commonly (including with Carvin/Kiesel) "active" basses have passive pickups and a built-in preamp with an EQ, most often 3-band. The advantage is then that you get to tweak your EQ right there on your bass without needing to go back to your amp settings.

    Myself, though, I only play passive basses. I have a preamp on my pedalboard so having one on the bass seems redundant, and I don't tweak my tone all that much from song to song. My general preference is to keep things simple and an active bass is just one more moving part I prefer not to think about.
  14. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Reviewer: Bass Player Magazine
    The battery in an active bass will usually last over six months. Schedule to change it whenever you do a setup on your bass and you’ll never have an issue. Your car is more likely to break down on the way to the gig than your battery dying in the middle of it.
  15. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    Every January, I change out all of the batteries in my pedals and basses.
    The only thing worse than a battery dying onstage is a battery leaking acid in your bass or stompbox because you left it in there too long.
  16. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Funny thing is, I can take my battery out of my active bass and still play all night long.
  17. Mantis Tobaggan

    Mantis Tobaggan Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2015
    Tampa, FL
    It only happened to me once but it was bad
  18. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    That's why I bought an active bass that doesn't need a battery.
    One reason, anyway.
  19. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Reviewer: Bass Player Magazine
    Yup. The batteries in my Zons actually go way beyond six months, but I change them in case of leakage.

    Except for my current one anyway- I’m kind of doing a Seinfeld “let’s see how far we can keep going on the E” kind of thing.
    JeffC23 and superdick2112 like this.
  20. Charlzm

    Charlzm Guest

    Mar 25, 2011
    Playing active basses since 1990 and never had a battery die on me under any circumstances. Of course, I change them out once a year or so...
    StyleOverShow, TrevorR and jd56hawk like this.
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