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What's the difference between active and passive pickups???

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by jameson>~+, Aug 22, 2007.


  1. jameson>~+

    jameson>~+

    Aug 22, 2007
    Alberta
    LOL...i realize i must sound like a complete idiot, but i have no idea what the difference is between active and passive pickups?
     
  2. as far as I know its not pickups that are active its weather or not there is a preamp that makes it active/passive.

    Active basses need a power supply (usually 9v or 18v) that amplifies the magnetic feild of the pickups and has tone shaping capabilities (EQ)

    thats as much as I know...
     
  3. jameson>~+

    jameson>~+

    Aug 22, 2007
    Alberta
    cool thanx...
    my bass needs a 9 volt battery so that means that it's actvie, right?
     
  4. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    an active pup has a built-in preamp a passive pup does not. Any active I've seen have a seperate, insulated, small (typically red) lead that goes from the pup and ties into the battery positive. Most active basses have passive pickups with an onboard preamp so if the bass has a passive mode, it can't have active pickups.

    Any bass with an onboard pre (wherever located) is an active bass. And I know of no other reason for a bass to have a 9v battery if it's not active.

    You'd be surprised at how many players don't know the difference between an active and passive pup.

    Skimming FAQ to see what's there could save you a lot of time and grief. All the basic stuff is covered there and most of the rest that's common.
     
  5. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    +1, that's what I know too. I thought I caught a gist somewhere that in some active basses, there can be either passive pickups with a preamp (and EQ, and battery) or also active pickups with a preamp and EQ and battery. Not sure if I understood that correctly and if I did what it would mean.

    All my basses are passive. I'm not biased against active basses, I just haven't played that many, and the ones that I have played I didn't like. It may be BS, but it *seems* like there's something unnatural about the tone. Probably just a case of what I am used to.
     
  6. so....

    active bass has either
    1) active pups with a preamp already in them
    2) active pups and a seperate preamp
    3) passive pups and a seperate preamp - this options allows for passive/active use
     
  7. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    Hmmm - do you mean the bass has an onboard pre-amp (which is my understanding) or that the pickup has an onboard pre-amp? In other words do all active *basses* have passive pickups attached to a pre-amp?
     
  8. both
     
  9. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Not all active basses have active pickups. The pickups can be active, the bass can have an active EQ, or both. From what I gather the impedance on active pickups is different so they require a basic preamp (that's generally small enough to fit in the pickup housing) to work like normal pickups in a bass, and for this reason the preamp section of active pickups cannot simply be bypassed for passive operation. Active pickups also have less powerful magnets (if I remember right) which is one of the reasons they're so popular with metal guitarists that use 8's.

    *** I could be wrong and often am btw
     
  10. A bass with active pickups (like EMGs) is a different thing from a bass with passive pickups and a preamp. Active pickups are designed to have a wider frequency response (more high frequencies, hi fi). To do this that need to use coils with less output. To compensate they add a small preamp inside the pickup to boost the signal to a level similar to that of passive pickups. The preamp needs a battery for power.

    There really is a third type of pickup that includes Dark Stars and Q-Tuners. They are passive pickups but they have a broader frequency response more like that of active pickups.
     
  11. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I like his answer much better than mine!
     
  12. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    Good post! That nails it for me, now it is all clear! :)
     
  13. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FAQ will answer most basic questions - including these.

    Built-in to the pup as in internal - like a computer chip. So all active basses have preamps, not necessarily passive pups. You can have a set of active EMGs with a passive harness (volume/tone pots) and you've got an active bass.

    As Rick Turner has posted, basically all amplified instruments are active, it's simply a matter of where the preamp is - including in an amphead.

    I'm not a techhead so the internal workings of the stuff I don't get into but I've had some 100 sets of pups and active pups can vary in frequency response just as passives do so there are some passives with broader frequency response than some actives. Also in recall Davidravenmoon stated the coils in an active EMG he dismembered actually were as hi output (DCR) as typical passive pups.
     

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