Passive vs Active

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Darrelpr, Mar 13, 2002.

  1. Darrelpr


    Feb 2, 2002
    Texas, USA
    Ford or Chevy?

    Britney or Christina?

    Boxers or Briefs?

    Active or Passive?

    Why do most higher end (and almost all 5-string) basses have active electronics? Personally, I've always preferred the simplicity of passive (although I admit that the electronics on the Cirrus are sweeeeeet).

    I'm looking at a Modulus Q5 w/dual Bart soapbars but passive (volume/volume/tone) electronics. With a graphite neck, composite FB and passive electronics, I would think this would be the most solid, maintenance-free bass made this side of a p-bass. However, I have no way of knowing what this would sound like "raw". I'd probably end up using a Sadowsky outboard preamp but I'm curious as what others might think the Q5 would sound like with this particular pickup configuration.



    P.S. Christina.
  2. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I don't know why you'd really want a passive bass. Essentially it's just an active bass with 1/2 of the treble band, and a master volume control.

    Passive to Active isn't really much of a difference as far as any "loss" would be.

    It's subjective, but I'd prefer an active bass any day of the week. :)
  3. I don't discern. If the bass sounds good who cares if it's active or passive? Whether the bass is active or passive is the least of my concerns as long as any active systems are reliable. In that spirit, I own one of each. :D
  4. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    I prefer active. I haven't found an all-passive bass yet that really does it for me. So I will continue to buy active basses.

    As far as the Modulus with passive electronics, I have no idea. I know I love the way my Modulus with active electronics sounds, so I have never thought about a passive Quantum or how it would sound. Nor will I.:D
  5. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    When looking at basses, the thing I care about the most is pure output. I want the highest output bass that I can afford.

    Since active electronics prevent a signal from degrading on its way to the amp, I prefer active.

    It's mostly personal preference.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Same here. To me it's like getting hung up on what type of straplock is on the bass.

    If it sounds good... it is good.
  7. Passive pickups with an active John East preamp. I have a J-Retro going into my RB5, and thoughts about putting his BTB into my P-bass.

    The active circuits completely isolate each pickup, and prevent tone degradation from impedance loading by volume and tone controls. The preamp presents a consistent high impedance load to the pickup, which is where it develops its best tone.

    Batteries are a pain in the butt, but the Retros will go passive in the event of battery failure.
  8. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I play a few active and a few passive basses. I like them both for their differences, and it almost just depends on what mood I'm in as to which I play. My favorite bass (Streamer Stage I) just happens to be active/passive. Not only for it's tone, but for its ease of play. I love my Stingray actives though, as I love my Fender and Ric passives. Life is good.
  9. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    Same here.
  10. I still prefer passive.
  11. timre


    Jul 9, 2001
    Vancouver, BC
    I installed this mod last year and I love the sound changes I can get now. The one thing that I was lacking in the Modulus was a way of getting an old sound. I know, it's not what the Q6 is about, but when you're gigging, the last thing you want to do is bring 50 different basses! I have a Jazz with flats but since I put a passive switch in my Modulus, I don't bring it to the gigs; it just isn't different enough of a sound for the audience to hear. I also like the fact that I have a parachute if my battery goes t**s up! I use my Jazz bass with a dance band where the money I make doesn't warrant killing a set of strings on the Modulus. The flats in that case are a good deal since I just leave them on.
  12. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    I can switch into either passive or active mode on my bass without any volume change.
    I hardly ever use the passive mode though, sounds like there's a blanket on the speakers.

    Active has the advantage that it puts out a low impedance signal which will loose less highs in the cable to your amp. So the bass will sound more open.

    If you don't like active because of experiences with e.g. Ibanez basses - then it's Ibanez's fault, and not because the concept of active basses is bad.
  13. LarryJ

    LarryJ banned

    Dec 12, 1999
    Encino, CA (LA)
    I got both- My MM Sterling has a great 3-band preamp and produces a wide range of tones, from
    a rich deep color for jazz to an attack for slap that will knock you on 'yo *ss!
    Now, my '69 P-Bass is the sheeet! All I can do is roll off the treble, but I wouldn't want it any other
    way!! It's the WOOD! I wouldn't touch this slab with any electronic hot-rodding for a million bucks!
    It's organic- it's simple- it's funky & pure- it's ....
    a P-BASS! The motha of 'em all.

    And that is my view on active-vs. passive bass-
    Now , as to straplocks....:D
  14. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Most any bassist who's been around a while and has done a variety of different gigs will tell you that sooner or later, you'll play a gig (live or studio) where you just can't get an active bass to punch through (at the proper volume). You can go through a truck load of high-end actives and it just won't sit right, no matter what.

    Pull out that Fender and "BAM", there it is..... It's happened to me many times. It's wise to have a passive bass in your arsenal, even if you prefer actives.
  15. I don't see what the big argument is that always seems to eventually come out in threads like these. (Not yet but it seems to be coming :eek: )

    Why would an active bass not cut through as well as a passive bass. Are active circuits designed to omit the frequencies that are unique to the bass? I can say that the NTMB in my bass sounds the same in active or passive, the difference being tone shaping in the active mode.

    I really don't care if a bass is active or passive. I have played active and passive basses that sounded great.

    As for why most high end basses have active preamps? It can probably be attributed to several factors. To many people active seems to imply better. It is convenient to have highly versatile tone shaping ability right on the bass. Active preamps can also provide more headroom for the amplifier, giving it a "hotter" signal. There are also many other factors.

  16. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    In my case, I always discern a distinct compressed feel with active electronics...especially with neck-through basses. Less so with bolt-ons. This isn't necessarily a bad thing at all times, but I have seen rooms where this little bit of compression or transparency was enough to make it tough to be as present as I'd like. These are the places where a passive bass works well, usually. There are other times where a passive bass has way too much presence. All depends on a combo of factors.

    There are also a ton of studio engineers that can't seem to make good use of either a modern active bass tone or a passive, traditional one. It's always a good idea to hedge your bets and have both on hand.

    I don't have a preference either way. Different tools for different jobs.
  17. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    i prefer passive. i play classic rock music and i don't necessary need a tone shaping onboard preamp. i love the classic sound of my precision and my rickenbacker. i can consider in the future a mix between old and new, a passive bass with onboard bypassable active electronics.
  18. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta / Macon (sigh)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Studio: passive
    Stage: active
  19. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    Well, I'm suprised no one has brought this up yet, but Modulus is now offering the Villex system, which is supposed to be a real groovy passive system that has the output and some of the flexibility of an active system. I'ts mentioned on the Modulus site. I'm sure Modulus would do a retrofit to an existing instrument.

    p.s. cha-ching..
  20. Darrelpr


    Feb 2, 2002
    Texas, USA
    Unfortunately, the Villex option is only available for the Flea J and Genesis line - not available for the Quantum.