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Passive pickups w/ active system

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by bassuser35, Apr 1, 2004.

  1. bassuser35


    Mar 25, 2004
    how does a passive pickup system with active volume controls compare to a system with active pickups?
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Hi, and welcome to Talkbass!

    Please note there's a FAQ at the top of the topic list which contains links to many frequently asked questions (this is one of them)

    If you're looking for 'which is better', there's no answer to that.

    You can have:

    1) Passive pickups, passive controls (vol/tone)
    2) passive pickups, active controls (vol/bass/treb etc)
    3) active pickups, passive controls (vol/tone)
    4) active pickups, active controls (vol/bass/treb etc)

    Generally, if you're wanting a vintage tone you'll go for passive pickups with/without active controls. Most basses with active preamps let you bypass the preamp to get totally passive sound if you wish or to get by if your battery and/or preamp dies.

    If you have active pickups, battery failure will leave you dead in the water. Also active pickups will generally have a more modern tone.

    Could you be more specific as to what you're looking for in terms of comparison?
  3. bassuser35


    Mar 25, 2004
    I'm currently looking to buy a spector q5 pro which has emg-hz passive pickups but has the tone controls. So I wanted to know if I would get a lrage sound difference if I purchased active pickups to install o the q5, thanks
  4. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Active pickups are quite rare. 99% of all active setups are passive pickups w/ active EQ.

    It's hard to determine intrinsic differences, they're negligible anyway IMO.
  5. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    With Passive Pickups, you can bypass the preamp if your battery goes dead or gets too weak and distorts. With Active pickups, You can't bypass the battery!! You would be 'dead' on stage !!
    Passive Pickups with Active Preamp and Bypass is the best way to go in my book !
  6. todd 4ta

    todd 4ta

    Apr 3, 2003
    Also, do a search on EMG HZ (which I believe is the pickup in the Q5), because the upgrade to active EMG's is discussed quite a bit. Look for people that have actually done the upgrade to see how they liked the results.
  7. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    By saying,,, Bypass... are you indicating an on/off switch?
    My active preamp has an on/off switch... If I turn it off.. & the battery fails... am I still SOL?
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY

    Ken was talking about active pickups, not preamp, when he said "With Active pickups, You can't bypass the battery!! You would be 'dead' on stage !!"

    As for preamp bypass/onoff, you may think you're switching it off, but in most cases you're just bypassing it. The preamp is still running, but isn't getting any input signal.
  9. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    I know he's talking about the pre... so am I...

    I guess the only way to find out is, if I pull the battery outta my bass w/ the on/off switch, set to off.
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    When you by-pass the preamp, the battery is not being used but is being drained at least in our Basses. You can pull the battery out and still operate the Bass passively if you have it in by-pass mode.
  11. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Interesting question when I think in terms of my own experiences with both - which is not extensive with actives: EMG PJs & JVs, Duncan ABJs (2 and 3 dip) and AJJ-2. Seems to me there's a quality of sound that's different about actives that I can't really put a finger on. They've all been dead quiet which is a real plus. Tone just seems more hi fi I think. Seems to me they're clearer and more sensitive than most passives. But they seem an unlikely source of a killer tone like you chance across with passives sometimes. I suspect they may sound more consisent and reflect less of the tone of the bass so that they're sound is somewhat independent of the bass they're in, but maybe not. I'll have to swap some around to different basses and check it out.

    Personally, I've found an outboard preamp to be of more use than a passive control on an active/passive bass cause you only have minimal control in that mode anyway. I'd rather have either all the controls passive or no controls running a direct out instead of half way in between. If you run through an outboard then, in general, you either have double the controls or the same controls you'd have on the passive/active setup. And you can use the outboard on any bass. The only disadvantage to an outboard that I can think of is, to my knowledge, you can't buffer an outboard. All my onboards have been converted to outboards and I'm finding that I use them very little cause, to me, they muddy up the tone - pretty apparent when you can easily seperate the two. To me, about anything you can do to isolate the source of a tone is good thing. Otherwise, how do you know what has what affect since you have nothing you can compare it to.
  12. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    Can't do a search that includes "hz".

    Look here:



    I replaced the 5 string hz's in my Dean Q5 with bartolini passive 72P45C soapbars and a bartolini HR4.6AP/918 preamp using the existing 9v battery compartment and am very happy. Better, warmer tone. More tone control. The active preamp seems to give a wider variation in tone as the knob is turned. I like having the mid control. When you get the AP bartolini preamp, pulling the volume knob out gets you passive mode, pushing it in gives you active.

    Preamps: bartolini seems to be a choice for those looking for warmer with mid control, aguliar seems to be the choice for those looking for non-altered tone I also think no mid control, and emg seems to be for those looking for a more agressive tone.

    You need to know that tone you are looking for and how many holes your bass has and if you want 3 band eq with mid control and if you want one or two 9v batteries. After a week searching here, you should know what you want.


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