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Old 10-12-2010, 06:27 AM
Wadcutter Wadcutter is offline
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Default "Active" vs "Passive" Pickups

Yes, it's yours truly again trying to get a handle on all this plugged in lingo. Man this is getting complicated! Now what the heck do people mean when they talk about an "active" pickup or a "passive" pickup. No sexual innuendoes please.
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Old 10-12-2010, 07:30 AM
Turp Turp is offline
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Active means the pickup has and powered (usually by battery) preamp that boosts the signal from the pickup.

Passive means the response from the pickup is not boosted which often requires some external boosting before amplifying through a powered preamp.

Regardless of the type system, an external preamp gives better control over a pickup's tone.

Here's another explanation:http://www.elevation-music.com/guqu.html
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Old 10-12-2010, 08:23 AM
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Think of a microphone. It converts sound into a very weak signal that needs to be boosted by a preamplifier before it can be fully amplified. Pickups often require a preamplifier also. The question is do you want the preamplifier in your guitar, where it can boost the signal before additional noise is introduced through the guitar cord (plus provide tone controls that can cut or boost frequency bands) or do you want to use a preamplifier in the PA mixer or guitar amplifier which will boost the signal and boost the noise added by the guitar cable? Passive pickups, if they have any tone control at all, will only attenuate certain frequencies, they can't boost them. So passive pickups may be noisier (some more than others depending on how strong their output) and offer little or no control over the sound making it necessary to walk over to the guitar amplifier or PA mixer for any adjustments but they don't require batteries.
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Old 10-12-2010, 09:45 AM
guitararmy guitararmy is offline
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Traditionally, active pu's like EMG were nice with a lot of processing, though I like their clean tone--slightly compressed with a mid range scoop.
They're great overdriven--many heavy metal players use them.
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:11 AM
Mike_A Mike_A is offline
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im not sure if this is always true, but from my experience passive pickups also have high impedance whereas active pickups have lower impedance. this is important because a high impedance passive pickup sounds really tinny when plugged into an input jack that can not handle high impedance or high Z. most mixing board line-ins will require a preamp or DI in between. whereas, an active pickup with its low "Z" you can plug in just about anywhere.

to the experts, please cmiiw...thanks
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Old 10-12-2010, 10:16 AM
Duncan121 Duncan121 is offline
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To over simplify....

- If you want a hotter signal and a bit more tonal options at the guitar you go Active. When you do so, you accept that you'll have a battery in the guitar and have to change it out. Some also believe that the weight of the battery pack in the guitar has a negative impact on tone by keeping the top from vibrating like it should. There are other creative active pickups that don't use battery packs but most do....

-If you want a cleaner install without periodic battery changes Go passive. Some believe you get a cleaner tone and its far less complicated. However your need for tone shaping and signal boost are a must with passive systems.

My response if ofcourse overly simplified and woefully uneducated. But.... hopefully it helps...
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:12 AM
Soli Deo Gloria Soli Deo Gloria is offline
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Question:

If you have a active pickup, how would it work with a preamp system like the D-TAR Solstice?

I have a Para DI but have heard so many good things about the D-TAR system, thinking of upgrading but I have a Baggs Element active in my guitar.

Thanks!
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Old 01-12-2011, 11:15 AM
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El Conquistador El Conquistador is offline
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After being stranded at a gig by a dead battery in my soundhole pu, I was very attracted to the idea of having no batteries anywhere in my signal chain. After a great deal of research, I ended up going with the K&K passive pu with a Red Eye pre-amp using the XLR connection to the phantom power in my SA200.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Turp View Post
This would have me believe that one gives up full spectrum tone with a passive pu like the K&K. However, the K&K gets tons of rave reviews citing its "natural sound". So, if your goal is to have your amplified guitar sound as much like your your guitar unplugged, this certainly would not be a good thing? So, what do we all think about this assertion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herb Hunter View Post
The question is do you want the preamplifier in your guitar, where it can boost the signal before additional noise is introduced through the guitar cord (plus provide tone controls that can cut or boost frequency bands) or do you want to use a preamplifier in the PA mixer or guitar amplifier which will boost the signal and boost the noise added by the guitar cable? Passive pickups, if they have any tone control at all, will only attenuate certain frequencies, they can't boost them.
I am not overly experienced with these, but, I have seen very little "tone controls" on any after market guitar pu, active or passive, mostly just volume control. So, how big a deal is this? Also, how big of an issue are we talking about with the "cord noise" assertion here? I either don't have this issue with my K&K, or I have missed it. Should I be listening more closely for it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan121 View Post
Some believe you get a cleaner tone and its far less complicated.
.
Going by the first quote, an active pu has a more complete tonal spectrum, so, how do you differentiate cleaner tone from more complete tone?
Steve
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Old 01-12-2011, 11:44 AM
philjs philjs is offline
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If you gig extensively then the batteries in most active pickups are a real pain in the butt. Every time the guitar is plugged in, it's drawing down the battery and signal degradation from a declining battery, and the need to detune (or at worst remove) the strings to change the battery, is a real issue. They always go bad at the worst possible time...

I gig with at least one guitar, often two when the baritone is needed, and a "bouzar" (a tenor guitar-shaped Irish bouzouki) and being able to set each of 'em up, get the levels set at sound check, and then just leave 'em all/both plugged in for as long as they need to be, without worry, is a real benefit of passive pickups.

And I agree with an earlier poster that external preamps--note that you can also change preamps more readily when they're not built into your pickup--give you a LOT more control over your sound...buy quality cables and noise is NOT an issue.

Phil
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Old 01-12-2011, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Conquistador View Post
... I am not overly experienced with these, but, I have seen very little "tone controls" on any after market guitar pu, active or passive, mostly just volume control. So, how big a deal is this?
To some people it is a big deal. I'd be happy with the bootst/cut bass and treble controls of the Expression System. The active pickup in my guitar has neither tone controls nor a volume control.

Here is an onboard preamp with a 4-band equalizer:



Quote:
Also, how big of an issue are we talking about with the "cord noise" assertion here?
It depends on several factors such as pickup output and cable length. It can be a significant issue or not.

Quote:
I either don't have this issue with my K&K, or I have missed it. Should I be listening more closely for it?
No. If you have been happy with your setup, why go looking for trouble? The K&K Pure Western Mini has a high-output pickup so noise is less of an issue with it.
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