Whast the big deal with active basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MCBTunes, Mar 3, 2005.

  1. Why is an onboard pre-amp so huge? I mean, couldnt you just use a regular out of the bass pre-amp and voila? Or is it just because there are more shiny knobs on the bass? :)

    I ask this because people in my neighborhood are bashing a Fender American because its passive.... I mean, just get a preamp right?

    What am I missing, it cant be that simple :)
  2. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN
    well I'm sure this has been discussed plenty, but, an active pre doesn't have to have any more knobs than a passive pre. An active just allows you to boost frequencies, and signals, rather than just attenuate them. The main reason for having something like this on a bass, instead of outboard, is because alot of people want to have as much control as possible without having to walk over to their amp. It's especially nice for people like me who play in real tight spaces which causes me to have my amp a ways way, and I also play many different styles in one setting. So basically it's all about convenience. (besides just having an overall different sound, obviously)
  3. bass-shy


    Jan 11, 2005
    Well put, friend.
  4. Don't_Fret

    Don't_Fret Justin Schornstein

    Dec 10, 2003
    East Coast, US
    Eh, to me it doesn't really matter. Passive and active basses sound just as good. For me it's sometimes just a matter of adjusting for acoustics or blending better that makes active my choice. I didn't believe it at first, but for the most part the tone really is in your hands.
  5. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    He means to say he's lazy :)

    There are a lot of controls you can have passive. There are a lot you can have active. Sometimes all the active controls can't be seen (have to open the control cover)

    Basically, there is no big deal. If you find something you like, and it sounds great, go for it.
  6. nastyn8c


    Feb 7, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    I play actives just for the same reason as paintandsk8. I play really different stuff song after song, and I need to change stuff up. Also, I find that an active helps a low B sound better than passive, but that might just be the passive 5's I've tried (MIM Fenders)
  7. so the only difference between an onboard pre-amp is convienience?
    and perhaps the B string.
  8. Roundwound


    May 13, 2004
    Peoria, IL
    Agree. I've played passive basses for 20 years and recently aquired my first active bass...During bar gigs I play in tight spaces, and if I want to make a simple amp eq adjustment the guitarist has to move for me each trip. During songs he's a spaz and we've collided a few times. Although I only have bass and treble adjustments on my bass, it has cut down on those trips back to the amp. It's all based on personal need and choice, not what's the most popular thing to do. I think your neighborhood friends need to open their minds and mature their attitudes. If you cave in, buy an outboard preamp (sansamp, Hartke Bass Attack, etc.) that you can stomp. Keep the Fender, it will always be a bass of choice, passive or active.
  9. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    I like shiny knobs... Thats why I have active preamps in my basses..

  10. Skerik1


    Sep 21, 2002
    Saint Paul, MN
    Ditto from what all the other guys said: I just like to have as much controll over my sound as possible on my bass. Convenience. I usually just set my EQ on my amp flat (or maybe a boost in the bass or mids), and controll everything on the bass itself. Too much treble? Just reach down and turn a knob. Want more mids? You get the idea.

  11. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    Don't worry about musician peer groups who pick at other peoples' gear; they're almost always cretins with too much time on their hands and haven't the faintest idea what they're talking about.

    At least in theory you can get more extremes out of some active circuits, but I have to say that I've never really found active basses worth the extra battery hassle and I'm not looking for gee-whiz sounds out of a bass anyway. The technical advantages - such as they are, real and imaginary - just aren't significant to me or the way I play.

    Keeping things simple and foolproof suits me fine. After having forgotten to pull a cable out and therefore leaving myself with a dead battery in a pinch, I've ever left the house with an active bass since, though I have three or four someplace around here.

    The one exception to this is piezo basses like the Ashbory. You have to go active there, whether you like it or not.
  12. mrbungle


    Nov 13, 2000
    tampere, finland
    Actually the most important reason (IMHO) of active electronics, is that the boosted signal doesn't degrade on the way to the amp. You experience high frequency loss, and more noise with passive electronics and long cables.
  13. Sane


    Dec 4, 2004
    Melbourne Fl
    Besides... I look important and like I know what im doing when im turning knobs, especially during songs:cool:
  14. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN

    I prefer the term "efficient". :D
  15. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    I like being able to boost or subtract during rests in songs. With active you have more of a range thats all.
  16. Toasted


    May 26, 2003
    Leeds, UK
    Yup. When im buying a new bass the

    Number of knobs : overall impressiveness

    Ratio MUST be high...
  17. SteveC


    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have active preamps - with passive bypass - on my 2 basses. I like the variety of sounds. I like knobs. My fretless 6 has 5 knobs and 2 toggles, my fretted 5 has 5 knobs and 1 toggle.

    Seriously, I am currently lusting for a plain old passive "P" bass. Sometimes it's nice to just go simple.
  18. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk

    Actually, while that is what's commonly believed; it is not accurate. I have a passive peizo equipped bass that sounds great...none of that "clank". You can hear it at:

    No commercial interest with the guy, I just think he's on to something cool.
  19. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    You're not missing anything, it is that simple.
  20. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I like mine for the simple reason of versatility that's been discussed thus far. However, in addition to the bass and treble adjustments I've also added active/passive and series/parallel. With these additions I've been content to run bass in passive mode 90% of the time and simply toggle between series and parallel for versatility.

    I have my active EQ setup more as a treble boost than anything. When I want that in your face pick tone I just click it over to active mode (I have the gain on my Bartolini NTBT set so there is no noticeable volume jump when engaging active mode).