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EricHaven
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PostSubject: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:08 pm

OK, you Guys have all heard me pontificate about how I will never use active pickups ever, right? Well....maybe it's a midlife crisis closing in, but with my recent decision to jump into fiver territory, I find myself considering all sorts of crazy notions.

In using Doug's bass to do our latest recordings, I have to admit that the active EMG he uses in the clean channel is actually pretty rippin'. Doug also told me that he is now getting some monstrous tones out of the bass when he mixes our tunes, and as such, he is now asking me to consider using an active pickup for my clean channel in my new fiver bass that's arriving on Monday.

So I have been scouring the web trying to find out what I can about active pickups, and I made a few discoveries. Remember, I have had zero experience with actives, so I didn't really understand their nature. But what I found out was that there are active pickups that use an outboard preamp/EQ board, and those that have the circuit all tucked neatly inside the pickup. Since I don't use tone controls, I didn't want to have a set of tone knobs sitting on my bass, and it turns out that I don't have to!

Before realizing this, I had asked Andy where the tone controls on Doug's bass had gone, since it only has a volume knob for each pickup. He just looked at me funny, and said "tone controls? What are you talking about?". I had assumed that he bypassed the knobs somehow, but what I discovered was that the EMG didn't come with an outboard preamp to begin with, but rather, has the whole circuit inside the pickup itself. AH-HA! A lightbulb came on! So now I get it! There are actives that simply boost the signal without adding a bunch of tonal color, and that also don't rely on an outboard circuit!

Soooo....now I'm wrestling with possibly going active on my dirt channel as well. This will depend on the overdrive and feedback capabilities of an active pickup, and I will run some tests tonight with Doug's bass by running his clean channel with the EMG through my distortion amp.

Do any of you Guys have any experience or comments about actives? How are the gain characteristics and noise?

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madmike

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:14 pm

i have had bad luck with preamps and active pickups. hum, too much +dB and clip, not enuff, plain old ... just dont work. working from scratch is a bit out of my technical range. this is from mixing and matching parts i had, ones i could afford and the old mad scientist thing seeing what works and what dont. for me ... most mixmatched stuff dont.

i do know that emg's ... work with emg's and trying different brands of preamp / pickup with emg's may or may not work. emg does this on purpose ... because they want you to use emg exclusively ... and thats cool. they sound great.

and in the name of price ... rehabs and builds, i have always just made my life simple with passive pickups. the last build (with split and soapbar humbuckers) i had problems with cut when blending and hum ... and i learned the correct way to do it is with a preamp. (here i go again)

but i do love the tone of an active bass done right. barts, alembics (played one for the first time 2 weeks ago ... omg super sweet), and emg's all seemed decent. ibanez's active system was poo (unless it was bart) and i wasnt too fond of many other stock active systems (fender, wasburn, dean, olp, etc).

i'de like to try a carvin active system sometime ... they seem decent and are competitively priced.

given the choice in a new project, i think i would buy a new, prebuilt, pickup and preamp set to install. bartolini is extremely helpful when you get them on the phone with stuff like this. the bart ststems come with different configurations wether or not you want vol/tone, vol/vol, vol/vol/tone, vol/tone/tone, etc. personally, i dont use tone knobs either, but i do like a tone knob with a push/pull mid sweep.

like i said above about the emg systems and pickups working together. thats interesting what you were saying about the preamp inside the pickup ... i'll have to do some research. i guess the battery would be inline somewhere? emg systems have great tone like the bart, but seem to have a bit more presence to them. maybe thats not the right word. liveliness? where barts sound vintage, emg sounds more modern (to me anyhow). i like both tones eitherway.

i know nothing about semour duncan and/or basslines pickups with their standard "tone control" preamps. never used em.

my experience ... a good preamp and pickups should give you more gain and less noise. most bassists dont use distortion or just want it in certain parts of the Eq range (growl in the mid a - la geddy lee) so this is important. going for one channel distortion ... not so important for that channel, but it will change your distortion tone; maybe you like / maybe not. you will like your clean channel tone more.

with all the butt loads of effects i use, and now splitting the channels, i have had more interest in active systems lately. how would the boosted signal affect a synth effect?
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:14 pm

EricHaven wrote:
Soooo....now I'm wrestling with possibly going active on my dirt channel as well. This will depend on the overdrive and feedback capabilities of an active pickup, and I will run some tests tonight with Doug's bass by running his clean channel with the EMG through my distortion amp.

I wouldn't. Actives are cleaner sounding, plus they don't feedback as easily. You can try it to see how you like the tone, but you'll still probably prefer passives for that. One of the advantages of active pickups (the reason why so many metal guitarists use them) is that you get more clarity at the same level of distortion.
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:35 pm

I think you are spot on, KS. In the time since I did this thread, I have found quite a bit on the web that concurs exactly with what you said.

So I've definitely decided that it's active for the clean/low channel, and passive for the distortion channel. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Fri Oct 15, 2010 4:00 pm

hmmm. interesting point ks.

i must continue researching as well. myself using layer upon layer of effects at times ... whats best?

you wouldn't mind tipping us off where you have gotten good info from ... would you eric???

i have been learning as much as i can lately about the emg's ... since you started it .... Razz

its 1:30 a.m. and i'm still on the internet looking at pickups when amy yells ... "are you ever comming to bed!?!?!"

..........."sorry honey, its eric's fault"

ha!
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:26 am

I prefer Passive, they seem to work better with effects, external preamps etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Wed Oct 20, 2010 6:27 pm

Knowing what I know now, I totally agree BD. Since my clean channel has no effects on it, and it works so well with the mixing process as well as live playing, it seems like the way to go. On the other side, my distortion channel pickup from Andy is a passive monster! Wink

MadMike, I found several sources on the web about bass actives not being all that great for distortion, but I cannot recall the names of them.

And tell Amy I said "sorry!" Laughing

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 21, 2010 4:28 am

Amy and Mike are on the road today to PIttsburgh for a few days, to go to the AndyWarhol museum up here. He may not be able to reply for a bit. I talked with Mike last night and we are going to a "special" pizza place about 10 minutes from my house on Friday to let them try a "perogie-pizza" I'm gonna give him my pink lefty while he is here to install my humbucker in it when he goes home. I elected to keep the gold kahler off that one because if I ever sell it, it will be more "stock" without it and more valuable because you know how most people think about trems on basses Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 21, 2010 5:38 am

naw ... i'll be around. portable computers rule and wifi is everywhere these days.

eric. my continued research has lead me to the same conclusions ... in general. again, generally we here at btf think outside the box. there are so many setups as far as pickups, active pickups, passive with active electronics, passive with preamp, active with passive and preamp, blah, blah, blah. all my research has shown me that i really cant get any confirmed information from anyone ... because everyone else does what they like and on this lovely world of the internet, theres plenty of people who wanna be right and are willing to wage an internet war over it.

two things i'm gonna do .........

i know there are engineering books out there .... amps, speaker cabinets and guitar electronics. i need to take another look to see whats available. these books are usually pretty expensive and very general (guitar electronics? i play bass.). as always, i just wanna continue to learn more. was looking at the concept of "low output impedance" last night. ??? i definately need to learn more.

as with any endeavor, theres trial and error and a learning curve. both involve me spending money. i think i'm just gonna need to start buying products and trying them out.

again, with the setup i'm using with the layers of effects and processing, i'm sure theres a active or active / passive setup out there (or that i can build) that will give me better sound, output and tone than the just all passive systems i'm using in all my basses.
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:41 am

oh YA internet WARS!!!

my pickups are better than yours why:? because they are mine, not yours ~~ Razz tongue geek

actually in all seriousness, the E5 bass i just got with the p/j dualrails sounds so different than the pole pups in my C5, I'm now on the hunt for jackson OEM/NOS/used p/j dualrails for an experiment on one of my 4stringers. Jackson used duncans on everything but I have no clue who made the rails.

and I didn't think that you were bringing your laptop with you on the trip, between aircards/ using phone as modem and wifi, ya why leave it at home.

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Thu Oct 21, 2010 11:15 pm

If there's one thing I've learned after all of these years, it's that what might not work well for one will work perfectly for another. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:58 am

hey eric? how much time you got? cause i'll tell you about all the stuff that i've found and tried that didnt work.

remember everyone ... if your ever in a situation where you cant figure out why someone did what they did or did it how they did it .... follow the dollar. earning a buck is way more important to most people than how my bass sounds.

so ... what works for one may not work for another? when what works for them doesnt really work but they sell me on it so they can earn a buck ... my first inclination is to either go after them or expose them.

just trying to do my part as a good citizen.

when its something thats done based on ego ... like mike stated ... that just people being stupid.
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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:05 pm

LOL! You would need just as much time for me to tell you all of my horror stories, MadMike! Laughing

The points you raise are all valid, and this is why I have spent so much time experimenting. There simply aren't that many "stock" items that will work for what I do right off the bat. I always end up doing some sort of modifying, as well as putting things together in ways that wasn't in their original design.

Case in point. No one makes a stock bass that specs exactly as I want. If someone were to make a black P/J style bass, alder body, maple neck with rosewood, but also loaded with stereo electronics like what I am using now, and a trem, then that would do it. But no one does this exactly the way I want.

Amplifiers are the same story. For my clean lows, there are a lot of bass amps that will work fine, but, nowadays they come with a gazillion controls. Give me something simple. No graphic EQ, no compressor/limiter, no patch bays, no, no, no! My distortion side is another story. Since bass amps are normally geared towards being really compressed and clean, they don't give me the smoke I am after, so I use guitar amplification for that side. Again, unorthodox, but that's what I have to do.

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PostSubject: Re: Active vs. passive?   Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:41 pm

yeah ... and i was thinking about this today.

i wish i had income to just buy one of everything. then my problem would be finding the time to try it all out!

luxury problems.

truth is i have an income limit (as i believe most of us do). i do research and ask questions to find the products that will fill the "unorthodox" requirements ... but when i get laughed at, sent down the wrong road, my time wasted, blown off or ripped off ... i get a little bent.

again ... i think i've gotten to a technical level where the best place for me to get the best information that i need to get the best products is from engineering books. knowledge is key!
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