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What's the reason for a internal preamp?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by 43apples, May 22, 2005.

  1. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Hey guys, i were just wondering why so many people spend money on active preamps for their basses? What's the big reason?

    You have an EQ on your amp, rigth?

    please don't kill me, im just curious :bag:


  2. I guess some just like the extra flexibility it gives them, any extra control over frequencies not covered by their amp, just like I run an EQ pedal and roll off a LOT of treble on it, but leave my amp flat. Some also use it to make a pickup with a low output "hot" and shape their sound before it hits the amp.

    This is how I look at these preamps, but I just like my passive basses, not as confusing :D
  3. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    It's good for changing the tone of the bass without having to walk up to the amp. I play primarily with a wireless, so it is sometimes hard to run back to the amp every time I want to make an adjustment.
  4. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Another reason is that on-board pre-amps prevent high frequency loss with long cable lengths. Many also prefer the smooth, modern tone created by some active basses.

    I prefer passive all the way, at least in my sub-$1,000 price range. On most actives I've played, I feel like I'm hearing electronics instead of wood, especially with less expensive electronics, and especially in the upper register. There's just something slightly "sterile" about them to me, with the big, big exception of a couple of Foderas I've heard recently. Talk about booty and growl! Liked a Fender American Deluxe Jazz I recently heard too.

    Of course, many disagree...
  5. There's something else too - Until you get into some pretty expensive amplifiers, some of these preamps like the J and U Retros, have features that the front ends on many of the amps don't have. In particular I have a sweepable midrange frequency control along with normal midrange boost and cut. I also like active instruments because no matter if I'm using my large rig or one of my several portable versions I'm am sending each amp the same signal and I seem to get more of the same tone from each setup than I do with my passives - at least without all of the fiddling. Don't get me wrong here - I've got plenty of tone shaping capability on my amp too! Don't wanna get caught with my pants down.

    I'm of the school of thought that solidbody instruments draw their tone less from the woods than from the pickups and electronics. Woods do have an effect but it's not to the extent that they would to an acoustic or semi-acoustic instrument. And that's another reason to use a preamp. With the inherent loss of signal that cords have, a preamp on the front end can preserve much if not all of the character the wood has given the signal before it gets to the amp. We are talking about very subtle nuances of tone here. I would compare it to trying to listen to a CD using a tin can and string - if the fidelity can't be reproduced at the source, it ain't going to be reproduced at the speaker.
  6. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    So the battery can fail at critical moments.

    So you can spend all of your time trying to tweak during songs.

    It provides another method for screwing up your sound and driving the sound guy nuts.

    So you can compete with the guitarist in the high mids.

    (I don't much like 'em. I think I'm in the real minority anymore.)
  7. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Thank goodness someone else also knows this. I was beginning to think I was the only person who doesn't beleive that preamps "suck all the tone out of the bass" (which I've read here so often before).

    Modern wideband pickups and flexible tone shaping give the opportunity to explore a larger palette on the one instrument than simple passive arrangements. The sweepable mid controls you mention are part of it, as are the Alembic/Wal type controls that I've only seen so far outside these onboard pre' in studio(some) rack gear but not on 'instrument' amps. Even then, they can't be used in the same way outboard to get the tonal flexibility they can in these basses, simply because of the way they're integrated with the pickups as a system.
  8. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    I've got to agree with all this. And, if you are really unable to make up your mind, like me, as long as you have passive pickups, you can always do what I do and have an on/off switch for your pre-amp.
  9. EricTheEZ1


    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    I believe that an active preamp gives you much more versatility. 2 pickups with 2 tone knobs gives you limited capabilities. Say you want to go from gritty slap style to a smooth finger tone. You've got to turn both tone knobs all the way down and then walk over to your amp to make appropriate bass, treble, and possibly mid corrections. With onboard EQs, you just flip the treble down, and boost the bass a bit and you're done.

    Just a quick reach down to the bottom of your bass and, if you're good, you don't even have to stop playing. Reaching all the way to your amp can be hard if it's dark or if the face is closer to the ground. And if you use a DI box you have to kneel down to get to it.

    It's just a much more efficient and versatile feature for me.

    However, I am GASing for a vintage style P-Bass, passive all the way, with flatwounds. It all depends on what you need your bass to do.

  10. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass aka Mac Daddy Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    +1 I'm wichu, actually. After having many basses both active and passive over the years, I feel they each have their place, but passive, to me, records better and just feels more like a bass should. And I can get so much EQ variation just between my fingers and the passive controls, I can't imagine having to rely on more than that. I suppose it's totally a personal choice, though.

    I figure if you like the sound of your bass, go passive; if you like the sound of a certain preamp, use that preamp. But for purity of tone, if you're into that kinda thing, you're better off not using an inferior preamp inside your bass when you can use a much better one outside of it. (Ever go into a studio and look in their racks of gear and see a little J-Retro sitting in there? :) Nothing against the J-Retro, as it's great at what it does, but there's a reason for this...)
  11. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    I've never been a fan of active basses until...last week I played a Mike Lull J with Fralins and an Ag OBP-1. Gotta tell you I was impressed. It still sounded like a Jazz but it had good tone shaping and, with 18 volts, signal degradation with long cables would be thing of the past. Great sounding bass and now I've got something else to think about spending money on. It never stops, does it.
  12. EricTheEZ1


    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    Passives give you only so much tonal possibilities. Active, especially with coil taps, gives you practically every tone you can think of. That's why I go active.

    Also, battery failure is EXTREMELY rare. If you don't leave your bass plugged in overnight all the time, a single battery should last 6 months MINIMUM. I replaced my battery when I went to 18V because you need 2 fresh batteries. The old (9 months, at least) battery still had a lot of zing and could easily be used for something else.

  13. I have always been a passive biggot. That having been said, I played a Lakland Skyline last Friday and am now faced with the dilemma of cahnging my mind. That was the best feeling bass to me that I have ever played and now I want one, way bad. GAS beyond control. I wonder why and if I can get a truly passive tone or if it is needed.

    Wesley R.
  14. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass aka Mac Daddy Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    I'm curious, for those who prefer active: do you feel the additional tonal possibilities you get are better than the tonal possibilities you could get with a quality outboard preamp? Or do you just want the knobs on your bass?
  15. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    OK, I'll explain my situation. I play a lot of gigs round the NYC clubs. A decent amount of venues have house rigs, and indeed won't let you bring your own gear since it cuts into setup/changeover time between bands.
    So, I generally run the house amp eq flat and eq on my bass to suit my tastes.
  16. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass aka Mac Daddy Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    That makes sense, for sure.
  17. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I love my internal preamp. I keep my amp settings pretty much flat and use the pre on my bass. If u get a simple, good sounding pre you'll love it. I use Sadowsky pre's. Boost only and they have a wonderful, "musical" tone in all settings.

  18. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Just thought I'd quote myself to elaborate on this, and see what you think. I've concluded that active isn't worth it unless you go to the upper middle class of instruments -- like Fender American Deluxe, Lakland Skyline, or better -- or are willing to spend for a good pre on the aftermarket.

    I think many who have a negative reaction to active basses have only tried instruments in the $300-$800 range, and how good can the preamp be at that price? No wonder those basses sound "sterile" and noisy if you're used to good passive basses. The electronics cannot possibly resemble those in the boutique basses, whose pres on the aftermarket cost upwards of $200, and are specifically tailored to the instrument. I notice many here on TB who prefer active have higher end instruments, or aftermarket pres like J-Retros and Aguilars, which is no surprise to me.

    So even though I prefer passive for now, I regularly test active models, because one just might do it for me. And if it happens to be a Fodera, I guess that's okay. ;)
  19. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    If you stand by a decent amp and play, you don't need an onboard preamp. But it depends on what works for you.

    I have no onboard controls and run pups into seperate channels of the amp, which is basically like having on onboard pre for each pup - plus the amp has tweeter switching and other options I wouldn't get onboard. And that works for me.

    Fundamentally what matters is whether you get the tone and response that you want from your gear not whether the bass has an oboard preamp or not. Most anybody that goes through enough basses (and is honest about it) will find both passive and basses with pre's that will work for them.
  20. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I don't have any preamps in my instruments, but that's pretty much only because I play 99.9% of the time in a controlled environment (ie, the studio environment) where I already have tone shaping gear and preamps at my disposal. If I were in a situation like davidmwilson, I would have onboard preamps installed in a heartbeat.

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