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sound difference between outboard and onboard version of the same pre?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by narud, Sep 28, 2009.

  1. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    so would using the onboard version of say a sadowsky pre give you a different sound compared to the stompbox since the pickups are wired directly to the pre?
  2. JonesKY


    Sep 28, 2009
    In theory, no, if it's the same preamp. However, if you're using passive pickups, then the type of cable will alter the tone before it gets to the outboard preamp (where it's then buffered). Use a good quality cable & you probably won't notice a difference.
  3. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Don't forget the passive tone control, though. Most passive basses have one but most basses with onboard preamps do away with it (I know it's an optional "upgrade" on the Sadowskys - not sure where they put it in the signal path).

    Also the master volume. You could wire it low-impedance AFTER the onboard preamp. One less pot loading down the passive signal. (On a single-pickup bass that could make zero.)

    I'm guessing these variances would be subtle but not negligible. Haven't really tested it, though. :meh:
  4. volume pot will load the pickups...
    tone pot will load the pickups...
    cable will load the pickups...

    not much, but a little...all these generally work together to rob a little bit of treble...

    so use a quality low-capacitance cable and keep your knobs on full and you shouldn't hear much difference at all.
  5. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    ok just did the testing myself and there was a pretty big difference between onboard and outboard.
    Frenchy-Lefty likes this.
  6. koobie


    Jul 11, 2007
    Portland OR
    Tell us more. Identical controls on each preamp? Was each preamp powered by a single 9v battery?
    How long was the cable between your bass and the outboard preamp?
  7. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california

    same pre. wired up in the bass and then later wired up with some jacks to be run outboard. its an alleva coppolo preamp. if you listen with headphones or crank it through a stereo, the difference is pretty noticeable. its very noticeable through an amp. same 9v and when run outboard the addition of a 3 or 4 foot cable.
  8. the difference is exactly as expected...the cable is loading the pickups...I suspect that you also have at least one potentiometer (if not two) loading the pickups, as well...
    the net effect is a bit of a low-pass filter...so the signal sounds a little bassier and less "open"...

    is the difference noticeable? yes...is it enough to worry about? again, no...

    can that difference be compensated for? quite easily
  9. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    theres one additional 250k pot for the tone control in the outboard clip. in both cases, i was running two 250k volume pots. the difference through an amp was much more noticable than whats heard on these clips. so much so that i wont use the pre onboard. i hated the sound. very wide with super extended clicky highs. i couldnt boost the treble at all and get anything useable. wired up outboard, i had some useful boost that sounded good and the bass boost didnt feel as deep. i already have an enclosure on the way to turn the pre into a pedal.

    doing this made me realize why pickup makers wind j's hotter than the typical old fender pickup. on onboard preamp just makes them sound too hifi.
  10. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    I like the second one much better...very interesting. Thanks Joe.
  11. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Interesting to hear what difference one tone pot and a few feet of cord will make. TFS!
  12. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    when i told jimmy what my experiences were and how i went from hating it and wanting to sell it to wanting to keep the pre and make a pedal out of it, he thought it was strange. i didnt think there would be that much of a difference at all.

    it really made me appreciate when companies wind their pickups to complement their electronics to achieve a specific sound. mixing and matching stock parts and pres like lull is kind of a crapshoot.
  13. tdogg


    Jan 17, 2001
    Brooklyn Park, MN
    i actually just found myself wondering about this same thing. i have several modified basses that are currently wired straight to the jack, no volume pot/pre/tone/etc. i was thinking of buying one preamp and making a stompbox or rackmount unit out of it so i could use it for all the basses. would the "loading" issue be less of a problem with no tone pots in the way?
  14. it's amazing...because you can completely change the character of an instrument with a properly-placed shunt capacitor...

    but the rule of thumb, for me is this: always begin with a sound that has more overtones than you need...it's much easier to "tame" an instrument than to "inject character" into it...

    give me a bright sounding bass any day...I'll make it work for me :)

    loading is a cumulative thing...it's like putting bricks in your wheel barrow...every one counts...by having a no-pot bass with a short, lo-cap cable to an outboard, the difference is LESS than by moving a preamp to outboard and then putting in tone pots, volume pots, etc...

    another alternative is to put the passive parts in, but have a switch that bypasses the lot when you're going to use an outboard.
    Frenchy-Lefty likes this.
  15. Interesting thread. I've been toying around the idea of building both my Delano Sonar 3 and Nordstrand 3 band preamps into a dual channel preamp (rackmount or stompbox) so I can utilize each preamp with every one of my basses. Not sure if there's any technical reason why I shouldn't or what I might need to do differently though... Any advise?
  16. dex

    dex Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2002
    Vancouver, Canada
    I had the same experience with my Sadowsky NYC. Bypassed onboard going through engaged Sadowsky outboard set flat was noticeably different than engaged onboard set flat going through bypassed outboard.
  17. Well the idea I was toying around with was to build both my Delano Sonar 3 and my soon to arrive Nordstrand 3 band pres each into their own box, pick up a rapidfire with master bypass kit from Road Rage and be able to utilize either the Delano or Nordy pres with all of my passive basses. Any thoughts? Tips? Comments? Concerns? I don't know much about electronics, but I can follow a basic wiring diagram and can solder fairly well.
  18. damos


    Feb 6, 2006

    So the solution with a preamp is to take pickups with less winding or a more hotter ?
    Please explain me how its interact ?
    Its very interesting


  19. wojcik0602


    Mar 27, 2015
    I know it's an old topic, but I'm really courious about that comparison, and the 1st link doesn't work...Is there an option to reupload it? Or is there any other good comparison of same preamps, onboard vs outboard?
  20. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    It makes a substantial difference. The EQ on an active bass isnt really what matters. The buffer is what gives it that active sound.

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