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Sadowsky preamp bypassed vs active

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by gimmeagig, Jan 16, 2012.

  1. I've got a couple of J basses with the Sadowsky preamp in it.Have not owned or played a passive bass in many years.I never turn the preamp off.
    Recently a recording engineer in a studio did ask me to turn off the preamp and in the studio the resulting sound was fine. But when I listened to the final mix on a different sound system, the bass sounded really dull and lifeless. I regretted switching off the preamp for the recording.
    So at home I did this test. Going through my board and my studio monitors, I turned bass and treble to zero and compared the active to the passive sound of both basses (Atelier Z and 74 Fender, Nordie and Ultra Jazz pickups) and there was a huge difference. It sounds like turning the pre off is not a bypass but it actually degrades the sound of the pickups to the point that there's a real drop in volume and all the overtones and some of the lows are missing.
    Is that possible or am I just so used to hearing the preamp that the real tone of the pickups sounds bad to me? Or does the preamp improve the sound even when it is set to zero?
  2. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    What it means is that the preamp is not sonically neutral and is imparting its own voicing even before any EQ is added. You are correct in pointing out that your ears have become accustomed to this particular preamp voicing. It's just a design choice. Some preamps try to maintain the passive tone only louder while others aim to "improve" the passive sound.

    In the case of the Sadowsky preamp, the voicing is really, really good.
  3. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Generally yes. The reason is that when you play a bass passively, the resistance of the volume and tone controls, along with the capacitance of the cable going to the amp, and any other things in your signal path load down the pickups.

    This causes the resonant frequency of the pickup to lower, and flatten out and you lose high end. Adding a preamp, even with the tone controls set flat (in the case of the Sadowsky, the controls only boost), you will still hear a brighter tone because the preamp is buffering the pickups from the cable. So this is the true tone of the pickups.

    To some people it's too bright, because they are used to the darker tone from a passive bass. But the passive is actually degraded from the active buffered tone. But it's a tone we have gotten used to hearing.
    Nomogram likes this.
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    ^^^ That's exactly it.
  5. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    ive never really been happy with the sound of a pre bypassed vs the tone of a passive setup. if ive got a pre in there ive got to want to use it.
  6. Thanks for that explanation, even though I'm not that knowledgeable with electronics, I can understand that, and I suppose my preamp is working like it should.
  7. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    You should also take into account that louder usually sounds 'better'. I mean, record your bass with the pre engaged and then record it in passive mode. Set the meters to be at the same level and then listen back. that would be a more fair comparison.
  8. Jacques


    Feb 20, 2003
    CEO Ruppert Musical Instruments
  9. Green Lantern

    Green Lantern

    Nov 3, 2011
    My son has a Fender Squire Jazz bass. I am thinking about buying him this pre amp box, or get the Aguilar Hammer. My understanding is the Sadowsky has a little more character and the Augilar is more neutral. Is this correct? I heard some clips on Youtube on both and that is the general feeling I got.
  10. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Preamps do not always make the bass louder, unless you are boosting the bass and treble. And you can always turn the volume down on the bass to make them match.

    Here's an example.

    In this bass I had an EMG BTC preamp.

    Passive/Active neos

    First you hear the bass passive. The preamp has been bypassed and the volume and blend pots are going directly to the jack. The preamp is totally out of the circuit. I cycle through the pickups; first you hear both, the bridge, and then the neck. At 31 seconds I switch in the preamp. I'm still on the neck pickup, but you can hear the change in tone. The tone controls are set flat. What you hear is that the resonant peak of the pickups has now gotten higher, and then sound crisper and brighter. I cycle through the pickups again, and then I boost the highs and lows a little. The rest of the clip has some permutations of the tone controls to illustrate the different tones possible. The bass was recorded direct.

    So you can hear that there was not a level increase, but the tone did change. If you like a brighter, or more flexible tone, than you will find that having a preamp will sound better. If you like a darker tone, then it wont. People that dial in one tone and never change it probably don't need a preamp. I'm one of those people that changes my tone to fit the music.

    Louder does often sound better, unless it's a bad tone, and then it's just a loud bad tone!
  11. gillento


    Oct 15, 2005
    Luxembourg, Europe
    Nordstrand pickups

    With my Sadowsky NYC I really like the active pre. But when I want a passive "sound" with a bit of a tweak, this is my kind of preamp I am using:
    RMI Basswitch!
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    OK, but when the pre is bypassed the bass is exactly the same as passive. So probably you didn't like the passive tone of that particular bass' pickups?
  13. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    while theoretically they should be the same, every time ive yanked a pre and put in a passive harness, it sounds different. sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle.
  14. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    OK I see what you are saying... if you are "putting in a passive harness" that would imply that the active system didn't have a volumes before the preamp? And it probably wouldn't have a tone control. That would make a difference because of the loading on the pickups.

    But that's two different wiring setups.

    You like a darker loaded tone.
  15. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    if anything, the pre bypassed ime has usually sounded darker. almost as if either extreme of the bandwidth was cut off and i was left with something narrow and midrangey.
  16. NOLA Bass

    NOLA Bass Mr. Worst Case Scenario Man Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    New Orleans LA
    I have two Sadowskys and always play them in active mode. When I want to go more old school, I use the VTC. That way I still have the slight bass boost I always dial in and the sound of the pre. However, the VTC really takes away that bright top end that is often associated with active basses.

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