Pros and cons of an onboard preamp

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Jerry J, Dec 31, 2000.

  1. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    What would be the pros and cons of having an onboard preamp over something like the Sadowsky OBP-1 or the Aguilar outboard preamp?

    Also, can a preamp like the Aguilar be added to a bass that doesn't already have an onboard preamp?
  2. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Most of my bass ( and lead) guitars have on-board preamps, so I guess I am biased towards them. First of all, not all the setups are the same. Some instruments (such as Alembic) won't work at all without an onboard amp. Some others, such as G&L allow you to switch the amp on or off.

    As far as the sound is concerned, I think that the onboard is better than an external preamp because the low-level signal out of the pickups doesn't have to travel far. The longer the distance, the more chance that the preamp will pick up noise and that the signal will get attenuated.

    The main disadvantages of onboard preamps are that on some basses you loose all sound if battery dies, and that you need a preamp for each bass that you own. If you have an external preamp, you can use it with many different basses.

    As far as adding an onboard, yes, you can do that with most instruments. If you have one of the 'standard; bass guitars, such as Fender Jazz, you can usually do this without any mods at all. Hope this helps
  3. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    One can be put on any bass. Having to keep track of the juice in the battery is a drawback but a switch can be installed to bypass the preamp so as to keep you playing passively if the battery dies. For some things you may want passive. The main drawback is that it can only be used with the one bass.

    The only real advantage to going onboard as opposed to outboard is having the knobs a little closer. I use both outboard and onboard preamps and if I had to choose just one it would definitely be outboard. The shorter signal path of onboard might make some difference but keeping yer cords reasonably short it's not likely you'd notice it in a live situation. Any attenuation of the signal might actually improve the sound to yer ears... ya never know. It's all a crapshoot and ya won't really have the answer 'till ya go for it.
  4. All of the advice so far is right on and should be very helpful. I would only add that a preamp will definitely alter the tone of your bass. If the preamp isn't selected by it's particular characteristics, it could alter your tone to where you never get it to sound to your liking. There are some very good ones out there and the two that you have mentioned are some of the best. The Seymour Duncan 3 band preamp seems to get some rave reviews when it is discussed also. Another thing to think about is matching your pickup selection to the preamp. For instance if you've got some pups that have a good mid-rangey growl and you add a preamp that is biased to those frequencies you may wind up with too much of a good thing. Get the specs of your pups and the preamps you are considering and do some comparison to make sure you're getting what you want.
  5. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    Another angle: when you say "preamp", are you speaking only of preamps with onboard eq? Lots of players use the term interchangeably; when they say preamp, they mean eq automatically. However, there are preamps that only provide gain, like the 1x1AC and 2x1ACs that Lane Poor built for a while. I had one in a Modulus that sounded fabulous (also had two of his humbuckers installed). It really changed the tone very little from passive to active mode. If you only want gain, it'd be worth your time to track one down. Since Lane is apparently outta business, though, it'd most likely be tough to get someone to let it go. Wish I still had mine!
  6. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    These are very good replies. I appreciate all the information here. Thanks.

    I am specifically refering to the Aguilar OBP-1 as opposed to the Aguilar DB-924, which is the stand-alone unit.

    The reason that I'm asking is because I'm contemplating a purchase of a used bass that is without the OBP-1 (onboard preamp). If I were to get a new one from the factory I could get it with the preamp already installed. I already have a DB-924.