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what's the difference between active and passive style pickups

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by goblue29, Apr 28, 2004.

  1. goblue29


    Apr 19, 2004
    what's the difference between active and style pickups and what bands or groups use which?

  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Active Pickups - have a small preamp inside them, will not work w/o batteries

    Passive Pickups - run of the mill pickup, doesn't require batteries to function

    Les Claypool CT's - Active EMGs
    Steve Harris' P - Passive SD

    Active and Passive controls are different. Passive - Fender (Vol, Blend, Tone) Active - anything with an eqs (Vol, Lows, Mids, Highs, Tone, etc)
  3. si-fidelity


    Apr 13, 2004
    A mistake ooh so many of us make too often. Pickups are passive (that is the conventional magnet and coil), every last one of them. What the difference really is, is passive or active electronics aka a pre amp. A passive circuit is a "cut only" situation and does not require any external power. lets take the Precision bass. two knobs. one that's a volume and a tone knob. the volume knob is fairly self explanatory, think of it like a gate. the more you turn it up, the more signal you let through, the more you turn in down, the more signal you CUT. the tone knob is to simply put is, like a treble cut. if you open up your bass and have a peep , there's a little thing called a capacitor soldered onto the tone knob... this determines which frequency centre you are cutting at. works on the same principle as the volume "gate" theory.

    Active electronics normally allow you to BOOST and CUT volume levels. because of this extra boost, it requires power, normally from one or more 9 volt batteries (thus the name "active"). Another feature is that you can BOOST or CUT bass, mid and treble frequencies (depending on your bass). There are passive basses with supposed "bass cut" as well as the standared "tone" aka "treble cut" however they are not very effective, and thus not widely used. The active electronics therefore allow you to scuplt your sound on the instrument as well as amplifier. Whereas Passive basses leave all the tone sculpting to the amplifier (or to be more specific, the preamp of you amplifier).

    Advantages to having active electronics is that you can change your sound on the fly, without having to stop the band and reach down to you amp. fidelity accross longer cable lengths is also improved (because of the boost properties of the volume knob), opposed to passive basses where fidelity in the low and high end can be lost. disadvantages is having to replace the battery every so often (normally a year or 6 months, depending on how much you play). you can overdrive active electronics, like any amp when you have it up too loud. this normally happens if you boost everything (this is a very un pleasent harsh sound). whereas a passive circuit is impossible to overdrive. Some cheaper active electronic pre amps are just that, cheap. they can be noisy and sound like crap. however the better ones can sound great and reduce a lot of noise.

    overall it's a decision about tone. one that will come with experience of owning gear... i'm now a passive player, after playing actives for so long, i've personally found i prefer the warmer and more complex tones of good passive instruments.

    on your last question... lots of bands use both. Flea- he uses active electronics and passive. Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam is an all passive man, same as the guy from coldplay. the other guys i know in detail you wouldn't know... hope this helps.
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY