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Question about active basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Contrapuntal, Oct 24, 2004.


  1. Contrapuntal

    Contrapuntal

    Mar 1, 2004
    Toronto
    I don't have much experience playing basses with pre-amps, but I was wondering why active basses are able to "dial up" tones that passive basses can't? Are the electronics in an onboard pre-amp able to do something that a typical amp head can't do for a passive bass?

    Thanks...
     
  2. pyrohr

    pyrohr

    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    Active basses have a circuit that Boost or cut certain signals. These signals whether they are boosted or cut will give the user more tonal options than just a passive tone control that just rolls of treble. With active basses you can have a bass boost/cut, a treble boost/cut and with a three band eq a mid boost/cut switch. Active basses also give you more headroom as they tend to fill the tonal spectrum of the bass especially
    when boosted.

    On the other hand passive basses give you more of a natural sound with the ability to hear more or the "wood" and less of the electronics of an active bass.

    Active electronics= you hear more of the electronics
    passive= you hear more of the wood
    Both have there place with the active bass being more convienent to the user (no trips back and forth to the amp to boost or cut any signal). All that can be done from the bass itself.
     
  3. Active basses actually have limited headroom. That's why 18v preamps are better than 9v preamps. Passive basses have unlimited headroom.
     
  4. I don't like active basses. I don't like the sound of battery operated preamps that are totally redundant of the regular preamp. There are only a few sounds that I like on the bass the require active pickups. But if you like clickety typewriter Fieldy bass, then you need active. If you like powerful bright metallic-sounding bass tones, you need active.

    If you like organinc, warm spine-tingling bass and relaibility and a clean signal path, then you DONT want active.

    Sure there are great basses with active. But a passive bass with a nice preamp is going to be maintance free and more improtantly, sound better.
     
  5. From personal experience, I think it depends on the kind of music and the band you're playin' with. A loud hard rock band or funk sound with slappin' & poppin', go with active, if you want to cut through the mix. Otherwise passive will work just fine, (with a good amp). ;)
     
  6. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    That's not really true.

    It is possible to saturate magnetic pickups and at some point the only way to get more signal would be to have much greater string motion (i.e. VERY high action and really pound on that string). So in practice, the "infinite" headroom of passive pickups is pretty finite.

    Back to the first post:

    Active systems buffer the pickups from the amplifier input so the output response of the pickup is no longer affected by which amp input you use, what cable you use, etc.

    Just because a knob says "bass" or "treble" doesn't mean the voicing of the EQ is the same, so onboard EQ may color the tone in a different way than your amp's EQ.

    On the other hand, passive EQ has a different sound than most active EQ circuits. Possibly the best setup is to have BOTH, as on recent Sadowsky basses which run the pickups through a passive tone control then into a 2-band boost only EQ.
     
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I never understood how an ELECTRIC instrument could sound "organic". We need to come up with a better adjective here, guys :bag:
     
  8. annannienann

    annannienann

    Aug 7, 2004
    I am very new here but I know my bass electronics.

    The definitions.

    Active Bass:
    A bass with the ability to add and remove energy to/from a singal.

    Passive Bass:
    A bass with the ability to remove energy from a singal.

    This mean that an "active bass" can increase the volume of all or areas of a singal. Anyone having a brief understanding of physics will know that if you want to add energy to soming you have to take it away from something else. In most cases this is a 9V battery, but it can easily be increased by using "big" preamp thrus draw more power needing a bigger batter.

    The elctronic in the back of your "active bass" are, proable, a preamp. This is the clever stuff that does the increasing in volume, this is more complicated than decreasing volume. For that all you need is a pot that increases and decreases in restistons when you turn it.

    A "passive bass" can only remove energy from the singal, in practise decreasing the volume of all or areas of the singal.

    passive basses are good for everything, but active basses are better. All this talk about passive bass been more organic is crap.

    ok, almost finished just to make sure everyone understand the difference between active and passive.

    Active bass:

    In

    Teble 2
    Mid 1
    Bass -1

    Overall Vol. 2

    Out

    Teble 0
    Mid 0
    Bass 0

    Overall Vol. 0


    A perfectly balanced sound, see how the active bass can cut (remove energy) to bring the teble and mid down, but increases (adds energy) the bass.


    Passive bass:

    In

    Teble 2
    Mid 1
    Bass -1

    Overall Vol. 2

    Out

    Teble 0
    Mid 0
    Bass -1

    Overall Vol. -1

    See here how the passive cant increase the bass leaving it unbalanced.

    (by the way the number mean nothing they are just an idea of what a active bass can do that a passive cant)

    PS when you see bass boost on a passive bass it real means teble cut.
     
  9. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    Ellenwood,Ga.
    It really doesn't matter if you use active or passive.I don't think one is any better than the other.Set your tone at the amp,or preamp,and use the tone controls on the bass for small adjustments.I play both active and passive, and never use the tone controls on the bass.I just got a brand new custom 5 string(MPG Level5) that has an active/passive select on the volume control. I will be using it in passive mode.So, I guess just find a bass you like,and don't worry about active or passive.Set everything at the amp, and go.
     
  10. . . .inject noise and alter natural harmonics. It's not just about adding energy. Tru, active electronics can drive a long cable with less signal loss. It is also tru that hotter preamp signals are ideal. Having played both types, I just developed a preference.

    Many people prefer clean signal paths, a signal that sees less circuits. But to each his own. . .
     
  11. annannienann

    annannienann

    Aug 7, 2004
    The only problem with that is playing live. One of the advantages of active is the ability to boost the whole volume, i was playing a couple of days ago. i was strate on after the ast band on time to set stuff up at the amp it was "plug-and-play" the volume for my bass was miles to low, the last guy hand been slapping, with a passive bass i would have been stuffed but with active i was able to boost my volume into a evenly balanced performance.
     
  12. annannienann

    annannienann

    Aug 7, 2004
    This is true but if you get a good preamp you with get no noise and i think about 0.06% harmonic distortion.