On board Active electronics for basses: Yay or Nay?

Discussion in 'The BASS Place' started by Kloun, Mar 30, 2021.

  1. nosuch

    nosuch Friend of Leo's

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    Which tone do you like better: James Jamerson or Marcus Miller?
    A (good) active electronic makes the bass sound more HiFi if you set it up like that (boosted bass and treble), while passive electronics may produce a more retro tone. That said, some passive pickups sound pretty HiFi by themselves.
     
  2. SamClemons

    SamClemons Poster Extraordinaire

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    I am primarily a bass player and have played for 40 years. I have had tons of different basses, started with a vintage P, Jazz, Gibson, etc. The oft mentioned G&L L-2000 has been my go to bass for the last 15 years or so. I have narrowed my stock of basses down to 5 right now. Always sounds good with lots of sustain (Which bass players do need) and variety which is also good if you are playing long sets. I hate it when bands sound exactly the same song after song after song. I play a jazz some and a gibson with flat wounds some when I want that really is thumpy sound, but I can do it all on the G&L. Batteries last forever in the G&L but it has a passive mode and will work without the batteries which is really good.
     
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  3. paulhealey

    paulhealey TDPRI Member

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    I prefer active. I use EMGs with alnico magnets instead of ceramic. Biggest reason for me, is I don’t use effects other than maybe a HPF to tighten things up so I like have the onboard tone shaping options if I want to change it up from song to song.

    As for changing the battery, I unplug my bass when I’m not using it and change the battery when I change strings. Never had an issue.
     
  4. perttime

    perttime Friend of Leo's

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    Clearly, lots of bass players like what active electronics can offer.
    Personally, I gravitate towards gear that is as simple as possible, and perhaps more old-school sounds. Having passed the half century point might, or might not, have something to do with it ;)
     
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  5. glen851

    glen851 TDPRI Member

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    Agreed. Although I had a Fender Powered Jazz bass I used in the early 90s that covered everything from metal to oompah with the twist of the tone control!
     
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  6. ratdoc

    ratdoc TDPRI Member

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    For the music I play, every song used a P bass or would have sounded better using one...
     
  7. DFGuitars

    DFGuitars TDPRI Member

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    My favorite bass is the first one I bought in 1976. I hadn't heard of franken basses back then. It's a 73 p bass body with a 68 neck. When dimarzio came out with p bass pickups in the '80s, I threw a set in with a phase switch. Still own it. Still use it as my primary bass.
    During the years that I owned a guitar store I got to play dozens of different passive and active basses. It's all a matter of taste. Active gives you clear crisp punchy sound, while passive seems to be better for muted and jazz sounds. My favorite active bass is a Sire v7 jazz bass. It has a switch to go between active and passive modes. Both sound awesome and give you a huge range of tonal possibilities. And it costs less than $1,000. JMHO
     
  8. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I only have one bass. I went from a Jazz to a Precision for simplicity. I'm a guitarist so bass is a fun secondary instrument used for recording bass tracks. I always wrestled with the settings of a Jazz. I am a simpleton so it was quite confusing and somewhat frustrating. The P-Bass changed all of that. It's gives me what I want consistency and easy tweaking of the tone control or the location of my attack.
    I am sure more talented bass players can dial in anything they desire and more with an active bass but, as I posted earlier, the majority of music I prefer was played without an active bass.
     
  9. dbamps

    dbamps TDPRI Member

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    I have used active electronics since I built my first preamp in 1976...two band James tone stack. My original purpose was to be able to turn the bass down without the tone changing.

    I haven't used a passive bass in decades. I don't build my own preamps for bass these days, preferring Artec Mt-3 preamps. I change the bass and treble to stacked pots. I often use a stacked pot for volume/midrange as well if it's a two spot bass (P bass.) I like this preamp...clean, quiet and it has adjustable gain, so I can match the volume of my basses. I use a variety of pickups. Some are active, many are passive.

    I check the voltage of the batteries often and have never had a battery die on a gig. I do take a backup bass to every gig...just in case.

    I really have no desire to play a passive bass again. I like bright and clangy and the preamps help get me there.
     
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  10. Spooky88

    Spooky88 Tele-Meister

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    As a previous Fender Jazz and P bass owner/player hers my 2¢. I built a Warmoth Gecko 5 string (I mainly play guitar/keys but sit in with Tenor sax,mandolin and bass in professional situations) as a project (I wanted a Warwick Thumb 5 but couldn't justify the expense) and it turned out to be an unbelievable bass. So much so I got rid of my Fenders and scrapped my plan to build a 5 string P bass. Anyhoo, I put EMG active electronics with the BTC? preamp in it. It rocks along with the Greenboy Fearful 15/6/1 cabinet I built. Pretty awesome! The difference in tone and control with active pickups is huge. There is no "mud" in my bass sound. Very tight. IMO active pickups work well if you have the proper amp/cabinet combo to produce the higher headroom created by active pickups. Not many manufacturers build cabs and amps that can deal with those pickups.
     
  11. nobis17

    nobis17 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    The last 4 basses I've owned have been active - I like having an onboard EQ.

    First one was a MIM Jazz, that I replaced the pups with Barts and installed the onboard eq. it was great! the next two were two different Ibanez SRs (an 800 & a 900). and now I currently own an EBMM Stingray Special. Those 4 basses have spanned 27 years for me.
     
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  12. CRMCRM

    CRMCRM Tele-Meister

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    You have to listen. For me (Jazz & Blues guitar player who dinks around on bass) the P-Bass sounds exactly like I want a bass to sound like. That is just me. Real bass players know way more than I do and you should listen to them.
     
  13. Monte Allums

    Monte Allums TDPRI Member

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    Active electronics get an, IMVHO, unwarranted bad rap. I never tried them until we had a noise issue at one of our rehearsal venues. That venue had a power transformer outside right behind the stages back wall. The noise was terrible. So I decide to try a set of EMGs in one of my Strats.

    I’ve been a fan ever since. There are numerous advantages and IMO they outweigh the negatives. The extended frequency response, super cleans, and ability to run the pups closer to the strings renders much better sustain. So it really depends what your requirements are. The only downside is they can be a pain to install.

    I’ve had to reroute almost every guitar to make room for the electronics. If you’re not handy with a Dremel or installing electronics that can be a problem. The so-called harshness can be EQ’d out. But I love the full-bodied tone they give me.
     
  14. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Active Bass guitars are like Active Lead guitars ... Same reasons for and against.

    Avoid the battery problem and go passive.
    Get a P-bass or PJ-bass as most recording studio leads want the P-bass sound. I've heard they will send players home who show up with everything except a P-pickup and call the next musician on their list.

    .
     
  15. Ron C

    Ron C Tele-Holic

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    Slightly off topic: That looks cool, and I love tape wounds on a bass!

    And after decades of only playing Fender style basses, I tried a couple of Ibanez...wow. Don't own a bass now, but if I buy one I'm looking at Ibanez first.
     
  16. oregomike

    oregomike Tele-Meister

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    Agree 100%. I’m all about simplicity with my gear and there just isn’t enough payoff (for me) with active pups.
     
  17. Supereditor

    Supereditor TDPRI Member

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    I’m a guitar player ... so you’ll get better answers from bass players. But ... I have a variety of guitars that all sound different. As I understand it, active electronics on a bass gets you a different sound. I’d pick the sound I prefer ... or maybe have one of each. That said, batteries are a hassle. Always have to make sure you have a good one before going on stage because it sounds terrible when they die mid-performance.
     
  18. Frank-n-Furter

    Frank-n-Furter TDPRI Member

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    For basses, it‘s always yay for me... 18v for more headroom. I don‘t like the sound of many Precision Bass PUs farting out when you hit the low notes heavily... My main is a 1st generation P-Bass Special with all EMG PUs and 3-band EQ with parametric mids... you can dial in any sound within seconds on stage - from dirty retro to super HiFi...
     
  19. Vermoulian

    Vermoulian Tele-Meister

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    As someone who has been predominantly a bassist in my gigging life for over a decade now, my conclusion is: it doesn't matter. Active electronics give you options you may not have on your bass without them but at the end of the day it's rarely if ever something you can't do with a regular amp---an active preamp on the bass allows for changes on the fly without walking over to your amp, but in my experience that is a theoretical more than actual benefit. How many times do you fundamentally change your bass tone at a typical gig? And, it's in the nature of bass players to assume that people notice or care about the subtleties of their tone a lot more than they actually do. Beyond just laying down a solid foundation (which can be done with the world's simplest passive P-bass) all subtleties of tone will be lost as soon as your first bandmate starts playing.

    If you love a bass that's active, great; I wouldn't avoid a nice Stingray or L2000 just because it had active electronics. But I also would not invest a bunch of money into putting an active circuit in a regular Jazz or Precision or something. I don't think the return justifies the expenditure. Opinions will of course differ on this.

    Disclosure: out of about a dozen basses, I've got two that are active. They were basses I liked that just happened to come with active electronics. No complaints, but not the greatest thing since sliced bread either.
     
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  20. ggiacomini

    ggiacomini TDPRI Member Ad Free Member

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    I think like that, too. And I play mostly bass nowadays, rotating between my 3 passive electrics. Sometimes one of them stays in its case for a couple months until I take it out to play, so it's nice to just grab it and not to worry about a dead battery...
     
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