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Why don't my active basses work?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by cfsporn, Nov 29, 2012.

  1. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    I own several active basses, all of them high end (USA Spector, Status Graphite, Alembic, MIJ ESP), and the preamps in all of them (except the Alembic) never seem to work. It is obvious that something I am doing is causing this, but for the life of me, I don't know what it is. It could be that I leave them unplugged and with the battery in most of the time, but that doesn't seem likely. Any ideas on how I could be killing my actives so quickly? I am almost about to go all passive!
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Most active basses don't drain the battery when unplugged. Also, some batteries suck for things like active electronics, wirelesses and such. Someone with more knowledge than me will make a good battery suggestion any second now. So, answer a few more questions for us.

    What kind of batteries?
    How often do you play them?
    Do you ever leave them plugged in for long periods?
    Have you opened up the back and checked the simple things (like a possible short or some broken strands in the battery connection wires)?
    Quite often the input jack is the "switch" that makes the connection to "turn on" the active pre. If you have messed up your input jacks, or possibly used some of the rumored "too big" connector cables, the active pre might be staying on even if you have left the basses unplugged. (BTW I have no idea if there's anything to the "too big" connector cables. But many have claimed that they messed up their input jacks.)
  3. Yeah I've never had a problem with any of my actives. I always leave the batteries in them and always unplug when not in use.
  4. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Based on what you've said it doesn't sound like you're abusing or even mistreating your instruments. But to be clear, are you actually frying preamps or is it something less serious like bad output jacks?
  5. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    And what do you mean by "not working"?
  6. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    been playing active basses only since 92. Never any problems unless I left one plugged in for a few days.
  7. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    By chance are you using Monster Cable Bass Cables?

    Seems odd that all of them don't work! I'd have a competent tech have a look see! Could be bad jacks. Loose wires.... Do you get any sound at all?
  8. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    What do you mean by not working?
  9. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    So... either all of your basses use mono jacks or have faulty wiring on the stereo jacks (battery ground connected to tip or sleeve instead of ring), you're using a stereo cable (will not connect the battery properly because of the extra contact, might be a non-issue on the Alembic if they have a switching stereo jack) or all of your basses somehow have blown preamps or preamp ICs.
  10. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Some details of "not working" would help in trouble-shooting.

    I would suspect bad batteries (my experience being that only Duracells or Procells are consistently reliable), or perhaps you routinely plug or unplug the cord from the bass while the other end is connected to a powered up amp, or effects. That might possibly cause a spike that cooks the IC.

  11. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Yeah, early 90s for me, too - other than having to replace a jack or two due to normal "wear and tear", no problems with actives for me, either...

    - georgestrings
  12. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    I usually use Duracell batteries, but I sometimes use Energizers.

    I almost never plug in my basses, let alone leave them plugged in. Since I don't gig, most of my playing is done in my bedroom or dining room unplugged.

    I couldn't see any obvious shorts or cold solders, but I will check again later tonight. I can also post high res pictures of the control cavities if that will help.

    I doubt I have messed up the jacks, but anything is possible. How can I check this?
  13. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    On my Status, I get very little output, and it always sounds weird. It is difficult to describe, but I will try to post some soundclips tonight.

    On my Spector, I get no sound at all. When I first got the bass (used from GC, they said it was in perfect working condition), the sound cut out whenever I dimed the midrange, that evolved into no sound at all.

    On my ESP, I get this very distorted sound, and the knobs are for decorative purposes only.
  14. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    Hmmm, one of my favorite cables is a stereo 1/4" to mono 1/8". I am 99% sure I have tried with other cables, but this could be the problem. Tonight, I will swing by my local Radio Shack and get a true mono-mono cable.

    I don't think my Alembic has a stereo jack. It only has one pickup.
  15. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    Nope. I can't afford them!
  16. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    Have you tried different cords?

    I see you answered while I was writing.
  17. cfsporn


    Aug 20, 2011
    New York City
    How would I be able to tell?
  18. JTE


    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The jacks are "stereo", technically tip/ring/sleeve so that when you plug in a mono plug, the ring and sleeve connectors short together and act as a switch. Has NOTHING to do with number of PUPs, nor any kind of stereo output.

    You have to use a mono 1/4" plug to make them work, and make sure it's plugged in all the way.

  19. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Start with picking up the right cable, just a standard instrument cable.
  20. steamthief


    Jan 25, 2006
    Mentone Beach
    :) :D