The problem with active pickups...

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Caius1991, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Caius1991


    Jan 17, 2013
    Hey there guys, I was wondering if you could help me figure something out. Recently I have bought A Traben Array 4 series bass with active pickups, which I was pleased with and all, as its a very good instrument.

    This however was my first instrument with active pickups but I didn't think it would be an issue when playing live, but I have had it out for its baptism live and when combined with my effects pedals, it seems to override them all.

    Its Ok when im testing it at home on my amp but for some reason when I was playing live it just sounded totally clean, it was a different amp but ive played with my passive basses and effects through both of these amps and never had any issue with effects not sounding right, and no matter how i tweaked it, it still didn't sound right, I was wondering if being active pickups it would mean I have to re-think my pedal set-up, as I was planning on using both active and passive basses live.
  2. hags2k


    Jan 27, 2010
    Some effects, especially overdrive and compression, can behave very differently depending on the frequencies they are fed. Active pickups, in general, have a LOT more content in the high treble frequencies, and I've noticed that with some active instruments, rolling of treble or passive tone controls don't have the same "darkening" effect they do on passive instruments. It's difficult to describe, but it's like there's an "edge" that can't be removed nearly as easily.

    Anyway, it's entirely possible that some effects simply don't mesh well with that signal. I've got a preferred setting on my VT Bass pedal that sounds absolutely great with a passive P-bass (even better with overwound, super-dark sounding pickups), but is decidedly "meh" when I feed it a signal from my active Ibanez and only so-so when I feed it the signal from my Jazz bass.

    Of course, I have no idea what specific effects you are running, these are just some gross generalizations and an anecdote of my personal experience.
  3. Aren't those pickups passive?
  4. I have a traben array limited 5 string and like to use pedals. It's kind of become my backup now but I still take it out from time to time. I find that when I use the traben I usually have to crank the gain a little more on my fuzz and also have to adjust the gain on my amp as well. My traben in particiular has a lower output than most of my other instruments which is odd.. but the same rules apply regardless of what instrument you use.

    I tried looking up your amp listed in your profile to see if it had input gain but I couldn't find anything. Some amps have a gain knob for input and some have a hi/low input. I've found that if you're going to use basses with active electronics, a gain knob makes things a lot easier to manage to get a stable signal without unwanted clipping from the amp. Experiment and you should be able to find a sound you like, expect to do some knob turning when you switch instruments.
  5. Caius1991


    Jan 17, 2013
    Thanks guys, I am running a Boss ODB-3 overdrive Pedal, Jim Dunlop Crybaby Wah and Boss BF-3 flanger as main effects, with electro-harmonix the mole and steel leather running as constant effects
  6. hags2k


    Jan 27, 2010
    A lot of these effects are affected by the gain of the signal they are being fed. Different pickups can have drastically different outputs, so it's very possible that you would get very different results if you swapped instruments but didn't change anything else. You might be getting a lot of harmonic distortion with a really hot output only to hear almost none when switching to a lower-output instrument (with the same settings on the effect).

    Also, with respect to overdive and distortion, the sound of the distortion CAN be affected significantly by the relative "color" of the signal. As an example, a signal with a ton of low end and little or no midrange and treble might result in a more "farty" sound when overdriven, whereas a signal with relatively shy low end but a ton of mids might sound a bit more "wooly" when overdriven. In my experience, I find I get overrdiven tones that are most pleasing when the input signal is strong in the low mids and mids. P-bass with tone rolled-off sounds great overdriven - open-sounding jazz bass with preamp and treble boost? Not so much. Whether the sound is "good" or not, though, is entirely a matter of preference.
  7. hags2k


    Jan 27, 2010
    Great point - if the effects are in the effects loop of the amp and you have a gain knob on your amp, you can normalize things quite a bit simply by adjusting the gain knob when switching instruments - it's a lot easier to turn one knob than turn the knobs on all the pedals.

    This won't help if you don't like the way the effects sound with your instrument, but at least it will get them on even footing so you can tell if it's tone problem or just a level problem.

    A guitarist friend of mine puts a volume pedal and boost pedal at the beginning of his signal chain to help a when switching guitars on the fly.
  8. F-Clef-Jef


    Nov 13, 2006
    Neenah, WI
    seems to be a common misconception that active pickups and active pre-amp are the same thing...

    I think that bass has an active pre-amp, not active pick-ups.