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What is the difference between active and a preamp?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Jerry J, Mar 3, 2001.

  1. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    What is the difference between active pickups and passive pickup with an onboard preamp?

    If you take an American Standard Jazz bass and install an Aguilar onboard preamp does that bass become "active" with the stock pickups? Or do you have to install "active" pickups?
  2. My understanding of this - i could be wrong, i was told when making enquiries in a repair shop - is that active pickups have a built-in EQ or other circuitry which shapes the sound, whereas a preamp does the same thing a little later down the line (and gives you more control over the sound).
  3. Randy Payne

    Randy Payne

    Jan 1, 2001
    An active pickup is really built like a passive pickup (it has a magnet and a coil), but it has a small preamp built into it. Whether or not the preamp has any EQ in it, is probably dependent on the particular brand.

    One advantage of active pickups, is the magnet doesn't have to be so strong, because the preamp can make up for the loss of gain. This helps reduce string "pull" from the magnet. For instance, EMG Selects (passive) have much stronger magnets in them than the regular EMG active pickups, yet the EMG active has more output. Also in an active pickup, since the preamp can provide the gain, the coil can be wound with fewer turns, which will raise the resonant frequency, and increase the high end response.

    Another advantage to active's is that you can get more output without having to add an onboard preamp, so it costs less than a passive with preamp. (Course most preamps also have tone controls)

  4. Thanks for clearing that up randy :)
  5. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    Randy I see that you have knowledge on this, here is another cuestion.

    If you have an active bass with an active preamp. Which one has more weight when it comes to the sound?

    I mean if you want to improve the sound which one is best to replace first?


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