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Active basses for recording Condenser Microphones
Old 1st May 2015
  #1
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Active basses for recording

I was reading another thread in which someone said: "Active basses are a receipe for disaster when recording".
While it might not always be true it has been my experience for the most part. Mostly because we often record basses using a DI. Now here is my explanation:
A bass preamp is powered by 9 or 18 Volts and rarely uses high end components or transformers. Consequently, from an audio-engineering perspective, it can never compare to a high end studio preamp using top notch components such as Jensen transformers and powered by 110 or 220 V. The signal basically goes through a low quality preamp before hitting anything else in the signal chain.

Anyone else feel that way? The first person I have ever heard saying that was actually legendary bassist Jonas Hellborg.
Old 1st May 2015
  #2
I believe the person you were referring to was me.

With a few notable exceptions (Phil Lesh and John Entwistle, for example) who have/had the decades of experience needed to avoid getting into trouble and had the budget for Alembic basses, active basses should be avoided for recording like the very plague. HINT - If you're the kind of person who posts gear questions on internet forums you should NOT record with an active bass.

There's nothing the electronics in an active bass can do that can't be done better by your console or DAW and there's a lot of potential for feeding a signal to the recording system that is wrong in ways that will be impossible to correct come mix time.

What active basses are (more or less) useful for is making adjustments to your tone on stage without having to go to your amp. That's it.
Old 1st May 2015
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
active basses should be avoided for recording like the very plague
objection

if you record a passive bass with an active di ..... (which most people do by the way. if the y are recording di with a passive pops) ... That is virtually the same as recording an active bass with a passive di .... except active bass pups have superior frequency response and dynamic range. Passive offer nothing unless of course you like it better. You don't speak for everyone.


John do us all a favor and just state YOU don't like something, no need to make false statements.. you know, as in opinion and not fact. Active basses can sound awesome... If you don't like awesome that is cool.....
Old 1st May 2015
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
"Active basses are a receipe for disaster when recording"
if you don't know how to engineer...sure

Active basses have better frequency range than passive. Better dynamic range as well.... Tighter low end and cleaner less distorted high end. Also they compress differently... If you like muddy, limited frequency range and honky midrange, instead of extended frequency range, clean tight and punchy bass tone then sure Active basses are a recipe for disaster.....

If you want a clear clean punchy bass tone with extended lows then active is the way to go. Just record both and decide which one YOU like. Sometimes passive pickups can sound good in a song, sometimes active pups can sound good in a song.. It's not which is better on the grand scale, it's which is better for a particular production task and for the player.

However a professional audio engineer needs to accommodate all types of instruments and amplifiers that come into his/her room on a daily basis. Additionally, a professional audio engineer has the ability to get a professional sound with any gear. They are just tools, it's an engineer's job to capture them effectively without prejudice . If he can't, perhaps engineering is not his thing?
Old 1st May 2015
  #5
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@ chainrule , as someone who has been playing bass and modifying instruments for 30 years, I can assure you that what is commonly called an "active bass" is simply a passive bass (same pickups) to which someone added an internal preamp. So the point of my thread is "you are adding a weak middle man to your signal chain". A lot of people confuse "active basses with "active pickups" which is something different. Active pickups that you seem to be referring to, are pickups with much less winding (which will give you much more clarity) and in which a little preamp is added to boost the signal. So active pickups have a signature sound different from traditional pickups but that is not what I was talking about in first place.
In fact, active pickups such the ones made by EMG, have totally fallen out of fashion and almost nobody uses them anymore.

I let you post your answer on Talkbass if you are in the mood of getting ripped appart.

Last edited by numero6; 1st May 2015 at 05:56 AM..
Old 1st May 2015
  #6
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My old "work" bass (given to me in 1983) was fitted with one of the early P/J EMG active sets, with their preamp and control set.

It has been on a ton of recordings over the years and has never been given anything but praise from the engineers doing the recording.

And it is still working live, although not as often as back in The Day.

Nothing at all wrong with actives for recording, or EMGs for that matter.
You just have to know what you are doing with them.

For grins I did a back-to-back comparison for my drummer, using a Fender Jazz, a Fender Precision and my active bass.

His comments were that he really liked the weight of the Precision, liked the punch of the Jazz but the EMGs seemed to give a good mix of both, only tighter sounding. I am playing the EMGs tomorrow night. Really big venue by our standards, where I need the extra definition.... Just saying.
Old 1st May 2015
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
objection

if you record a passive bass with an active di ..... (which most people do by the way. if the y are recording di with a passive pops) ... That is virtually the same as recording an active bass with a passive di .... except active bass pups have superior frequency response and dynamic range. Passive offer nothing unless of course you like it better. You don't speak for everyone.
No, it's not. Not even close.

It's late and I'm not going into detail now, but using an active DI like a Countryman or Radial is nothing like using an active bass with onboard multiband EQ.

If you're talking about just an active preamp boost, it's useless for recording, it just adds extra (unneeded) gain and detrimental noise - (which a well designed active DI does not do, since it has no gain boost.)

Quote:
John do us all a favor and just state YOU don't like something, no need to make false statements.. you know, as in opinion and not fact. Active basses can sound awesome... If you don't like awesome that is cool.....
I never make false statements, and if I don't like something it's not arbitrary, there's a reason. And I will state the reason.

Active basses may sound "awesome" live, but in almost all cases they suck in the studio - theyt cause more problems than and possible benefit - especiall if you're talking about off the shelf, mass produced instruments.

If you can invest $10,000 in an Alembic and have the experience to know how to use it, that's a different thing.

Everybody is "entitled" to an opinion (they're like assholes, everybody has one). That does not mean that all opinions are created equal or should be given the same weight.

When, for example, Bob Olhsson or William Wittman* say something I'm going to give it a lot more weight than when "Chainrule" or "kiwi" says something. For one thing, I can check the former's discographies.

Not that I'm elevating myself to the status of Bob or William by any means, you understand. But I do know who they are, which I don't know about you. (What I DO know about you is that you don't even know the difference between an active DI and an onboard preamp with active EQ, which is a pretty glaring lack of knowledge.


* - or Kenny Gioia, or Mixerman, or Ken Scott, etc, etc.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 1st May 2015 at 10:47 AM..
Old 1st May 2015
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
if you don't know how to engineer...sure
Wrong. anm active bass takes control away from the engineer and can cause serious problems that are difficult or impossible to correct.

Quote:
Active basses have better frequency range than passive.
Wrong again. The active electronics can't boost anything that isn't present in the output of the pickup - and the electronics in any decent recording console are going to be a hell of a lot better than any active electronics in any off the shelf bass.

Quote:
Better dynamic range as well....
Still wrong. Dynamic range is determined by the source, which is the pickup. All active electronics can add is a gain boost - with the attendant noise.

Quote:
Tighter low end and cleaner less distorted high end.
Nope.

Quote:
Also they compress differently...
You got that right. Active EQ can TOTALLY screw up the action of a compressor. On an instrument like bass, 95% or the time you want to compress before EQ, otherwise some very odd and ugly things can happen.

Compressor behavior is one of the major reasons to avoid active basses. Unless, of course, you want artifacts like huge, uncontrollable woofs and bass "blooming" all out of balance with the mix.

Quote:
If you like muddy, limited frequency range and honky midrange, instead of extended frequency range, clean tight and punchy bass tone then sure Active basses are a recipe for disaster.....
Evidently you don't know how to record bass. All the available frequencies are present, in balance, in the output of a passive pickup. Using Active EQ in the bass destroys the natural balance which makes it much more difficult to get a decent mix in the vast majority of cases. Maybe your idea of a good bass track is woofy mud, blooming all over the mix. Not mine. Or, conversely, a twangy tone with no fundamental that that sounds like a cheap baritone guitar on amphetamines. I've experienced both with active basses.

With a passive bass, recorded with all knobs up, you get a balanced sound you can EQ to whatever is appropriate. You can't do that with some monkey dialing in "his tone" on an active bass and eliminating crucial rages of frequency.

Quote:
If you want a clear clean punchy bass tone with extended lows then active is the way to go. Just record both and decide which one YOU like. Sometimes passive pickups can sound good in a song, sometimes active pups can sound good in a song.. It's not which is better on the grand scale, it's which is better for a particular production task and for the player.
I've encountered far more problems with active basses than passive basses. Probably 98% of all charting records were done with passive basses if not more. And if a player really knows how to work an active bass he's going to bring his own axe to the studio, you don't need to furnish some off the shelf POS. If he DOESN'T know how, the studio is not the place to learn.

The truth is that mass produced "active" basses you buy off the wall at music stores are nothing more than a gimmick, designed to separate the unwary from their cash. There are a few makers of high quality active basses (notably Alembic) but you're not likely to find one at Sam Ash or Guitar Center and they're generally made to order for accomplished basses who know what they want - a very different animal from a mass produced "active bass".

We just did a session with the new bassist in my band. He has an active 5 string jazz bass. When we finally got him to switch the active electronics off (and mostly stay away from the low "B") his tone improved 500%. That's been my experience with the vast majority of bass players. (The previous session we did with him we had to re-record all his tracks.)

Last edited by John Eppstein; 1st May 2015 at 11:27 AM..
Old 1st May 2015
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
@ chainrule , as someone who has been playing bass and modifying instruments for 30 years
lol.. then why are you asking about it? if you have been playing amd modding basses for 30 years you should already know the answer to your question should you not?

As stated previously when people record passive basses via DI they use and active DI... and vise versa for active basses...So when you use a active DI on passive bass you are essentially emulating active pickups (not 100%) . I now what active pickups are... I know how they sound. I will state it again.. Active and passive can both sound great... If an engineer can't a good sound out of an active setup he should think about his career choice...seriously "Active basses are NOT recipe for disaster when recording". To the contrary. I record with a 4001 w/ ceramics... and I have an 80s Spector with actives they both sound great, I am just careful what DIs I use and into what mic pres. Active, passive.... acoustic bass...no problem..I have them all here at the studio. Different bands like different sounds, it's preference..it's not better or worse.


Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
In fact, active pickups such the ones made by EMG, have totally fallen out of fashion and almost nobody uses them anymore.
they were never in fashion


Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
I let you post your answer on Talkbass if you are in the mood of getting ripped appart.
nah
Old 1st May 2015
  #10
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kafka's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
Mostly because we often record basses using a DI. Now here is my explanation:
A bass preamp is powered by 9 or 18 Volts and rarely uses high end components or transformers. Consequently, from an audio-engineering perspective, it can never compare to a high end studio preamp using top notch components such as Jensen transformers and powered by 110 or 220 V. The signal basically goes through a low quality preamp before hitting anything else in the signal chain.
Mostly I don't really think of active controls as necessary, but I'm going to argue the opposite somewhat, because I want to make a particular distinction.

I don't think that instrument tone controls have anywhere near the fidelity requirements of a studio quality EQ.

First, a magnetic pickup is a pretty imperfect transducer already. We're not talking about a feather-weight microphone diaphragm. We're talking about something that's just translating the flux in a magnetic field in a very narrow location. Losses inside the coil, eddy currents, etc., all affect the sound. There's nothing like a cymbal transient that we need to capture accurately. We also have no ambience that we want to pick up, no room reflections, no real polar pattern. Even the vibrations from the body are somewhat isolated due to the pickup mounting springs. In short, we're not talking about as nearly a complex a signal as a microphone output - even a sh**ty microphone.

I think it's entirely possible to mount a boost or EQ inside a bass that's as good as one you'd find on a pedalboard or in the tone stack of an amp, and power it with a battery or two as appropriate.



*Now, as to John's point, if someone is determined to make their tone suck before the signal hits the chain, then yeah, you're not polishing that turd. If a bass player thinks he's going to get an amp tone by going direct and tweaking his tone knobs, he needs some education. That's not an insult. If someone isn't used to recording DI in the studio, then they probably need some help in adjusting.

Last edited by kafka; 1st May 2015 at 08:22 PM..
Old 2nd May 2015
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
We just did a session with the new bassist in my band.
look forward to hearing it.... post a a link to the video.. I assume this is going to be on a major label??

personally I find the sloppier the bass player is the more he benefits from passive... Polished bass players generally lean towards the active since the extend frequency range and dynamic range
is not doing to cover anything up... I find bass players who are not very solid sound better on passive since the bandwidth and dynamics are limited and don't reveal as many mistakes in a mix . Generally the passive sits behind everything and sort of hides itself better. you brought up Entwistle earlier, he is a prime example of a super polished player who is not afraid to dominate a mix
another is Victor Wooten.


The thing with active vs passive is often misunderstood... A lot has to do with how the bass is going to be tracked and how it is going to interact with the chain... One could make an argument that a fender bass through a old SVT amp is very pure and natural.... However a passive bass through a hottrded "active" solid state bass amp is really not much different result than an active bass through a old school SVT... It comes down to where are you going to process the sound?? it's very often is going to processed with eq somewhere, it's going to be compressed more often than not... Someone can make a purist argument that they are going to go pbass->svt->re20->micpre- with no eq or compression... hats off to one if he can get a good bass tone to tape with no eq or compression... It's easy with a great bass player it's virtually impossible with a sloppy player..... But lets face it reality and be honest with ourselves, it's contradictory to put down active basses when someone is plugging a passive bass into an active DI and using a compressor and eq on a mic pre... Let's be adults here.. No competent engineer is going to go passive bass and passive DI with no eq or compression while he is tracking a sloppy bass player... To the contrary it's pretty easy to get a great bass with any gear if the player is highlevel.

Let's not contradict yourselves a passive bass through a active solid state amp eq and compressed to tape... well... that is active. Unless you record a pbass into an svt miced with a dynamic mic and not using eq or compression , then in fact you are using an "active" signal chain... The reason why most bass players use solid state "active" amps is because of the limited frequency rand and dynamic range of passive pups.. So it's very contradictory to claim passive sound better unless you are using a complete passive chain with no processing.

john can't wait to hear your new album... Will it be on itunes for purchase? or only through amazon or best buy?
Old 2nd May 2015
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
look forward to hearing it.... post a a link to the video..
Why would I post a video of a recording session of an unreleased song on the internet?

Quote:

personally I find the sloppier the bass player is the more he benefits from passive...
Right. "Sloppy" players like Oh, let me think of some passive bass players.... Jamerson, Dunn, Radle, Bruce..... you mean like those guys? Is that your idea od some "sloppy"bass players?

Do tell.

Quote:
Polished bass players generally lean towards the active since the extend frequency range and dynamic range is not doing to cover anything up...
Wrong. If you're talking about standard, mass produced "active" basses - which are what gets discussed around here there is no extended frequency rang or dynamic range because you can't get something that isn't in the signal from the pickup. Those basses are nothing more that passive basses with a cheap preamp and active EQ added on.

If you're talking EMG active pickups, those have a bit lower noise floor but that's about it.

We can ignore Alembic because guys in that class don't need to ask questions on audio forums. To talk about that sort of thing to some guy looking at, e.g. an "active" Fender Jazz Bass is to be deliberately (or ignorantly, take your pick) misleading at best.
Old 2nd May 2015
  #13
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filipv's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
active basses should be avoided for recording like the very plague.
This is makes absolutely no sense, both from technical and from artistic standpoint.

I record an active bass directly into the mixer for almost 10 years and it gives beautifully clean and volumenous sound that I can easily process wit compressors etc.

OP: try it your self before blindly accepting whatever "authorities" say. If it sounds good - it is good. I use a cheap-ish Washburn Force 5 active bass with excellent results.
Old 2nd May 2015
  #14
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Quoting J.E.

I never make false statements, and if I don't like something it's not arbitrary, there's a reason. And I will state the reason.

Active basses may sound "awesome" live, but in almost all cases they suck in the studio - theyt cause more problems than and possible benefit - especiall if you're talking about off the shelf, mass produced instruments.


John, you are confusing what you and your buddies prefer with what is happening out there in the real world.

And your opinion is just that, especially when it flies so completely in the face of that of other equally experienced folk.

Lets agree to differ. You know a bunch of guys who dont like to record active basses, for whatever reason. I - and apparently I am not alone - have the exact opposite experience.

FWIW I made my first commercially released recording in 1963, using a 1962 Precision. Last one was made in the early 2000s, again a commercial release produced by the guy who did all the Undertones recordings.
I was dubbing new parts on an album where the bass player in the band couldnt cut it. Engineer & producer were happy, I got paid.
Old 2nd May 2015
  #15
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I agree with the idea that active EQ should be avoided for the most part when recording bass, but I've found that active pickups like EMG's etc. record nicely. That's what Lee Sklar spec'ed for his signature Gibson bass (two EMG P-bass pickups), and is presumably what he's been using in the studio for quite some time.
Old 2nd May 2015
  #16
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active bass guitars get a bad rap because so many of them (and the ones you see most often) are simply BAD active basses.

the good ones can be truly great.

my Status-Graphite doesn't sound "like an active bass'; it just sounds like a great bass.


I'm reminded a bit of the "I need a good condenser mic for $700..." threads.
You can get a great moving coil dynamic mic in that price range, but you can;t get an even passable condenser.

and it's exactly the same with basses.
There are some VERY decent passive basses for $700.
my Status is in the $4000 range.

the $700 active bases are simply uniformly awful. So if that's what you're hearing, and what the local bands are bringing in, then it's only natural to conclude that "active basses are no good"
Old 2nd May 2015
  #17
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I must restate that my initial idea was not to debate active vs passive in general. I own a Stingray and an Am Jazz Bass Deluxe too and they sound pretty nice once plugged into an amp.

Again my statement had to do with the fact that it not possible to create an onboard preamp powered by 9 or 18V that can keep up with the quality of an Avalon VT737 or any high end preamp in terms of headroom and transients performance. It is just technically not possible so why keeping this weak link in your signal chain WHEN RECORDING WITH A DI?

Now I must say that in my experience I tend to agree with William Wittman in that there are many bad active basses out there. Many bass onboard preamps seem to unnaturally compress the signal or create some kind of fuzzy phase-distortion but indeed, the preamp of an Alembic or Status is going to be vastly superior and it can also be part of the signature sound of a bass like the FET
preamp in a Stingray.

Last edited by numero6; 2nd May 2015 at 10:03 PM..
Old 3rd May 2015
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I agree with the idea that active EQ should be avoided for the most part when recording bass, but I've found that active pickups like EMG's etc. record nicely. That's what Lee Sklar spec'ed for his signature Gibson bass (two EMG P-bass pickups), and is presumably what he's been using in the studio for quite some time.
Yes. It's not active pickups that are the problem - it's the EQ (and also the poor headroom of the cheap electronics in most "active basses". (Oddly enough, although I detest active EMG pickups for most guitar applications, I don't mind them so much for bass, depending on the kind of music.)

The EQ can get you into territory that causes serious and often uncorrectable problems come mix time especially in the hands of a person unused to recording with active EQ.

That makes an active bass unsuitable for a studio (owned) instrument - that is, an instrument to be used by musicians visiting the studio who lack a recording quality instrument of their own. A player who is experienced in the use of an bass with active electronics for recording is almost certainly going to have his own - he doesn't need one from the studio. And he certainly won't need a cheap off the shelf, mass produced "active bass".

Let's put it this way - a 19 year old kid comes to you in need of a car to commute to school with who has never driven anything better than an old Ford Pinto - are you really going to hand him the keys to a Ferrari? Or even a hopped up Honda street racer?
Old 3rd May 2015
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivansc View Post
John, you are confusing what you and your buddies prefer with what is happening out there in the real world.
No, either you have extremely poor reading comprehension or you're not bothering to read or think about what I'm actually saying.

Quote:

And your opinion is just that, especially when it flies so completely in the face of that of other equally experienced folk.

Lets agree to differ. You know a bunch of guys who dont like to record active basses, for whatever reason. I - and apparently I am not alone - have the exact opposite experience.
Who said that? Not me. If you can walk in and get a great sound I don't give a damn what you play. It could be a tea chest for all I care. Unfortunately most of the people I encounter with typical off the shelf active basses can't do that*.

What I said is that an active bass is unsuitable for a "studio instrument" - meaning an instrument intended for use by whoever walks into the studio lacking a decent instrument to play. (Or, conversely, an instrument for the home studio to be used by somebody just learning to play and record.)

Such a person isn't going to be a highly experienced, tech savvy player. He may very well be, OTOH, the kind of person who goes to town with all the extra "options" and comes up with a sound that he loves but records horribly. Furthermore, somebody just getting into recording and asking questions on a gear forum such as this one is also not going to have the experience to know how to use such an instrument wisely. Therefore it's a BAD SUGGESTION to make to such a person.

Get your ego out of the discussion and look at it objectively.

Quote:
FWIW I made my first commercially released recording in 1963, using a 1962 Precision. Last one was made in the early 2000s, again a commercial release produced by the guy who did all the Undertones recordings.
I was dubbing new parts on an album where the bass player in the band couldnt cut it. Engineer & producer were happy, I got paid.
Good for you.

Do you think the bass player who couldn't cut it would have done any better with an active bass?

Did you need the studio to furnish you an off the shelf Fender "active" bass? Or even a Musicman? (or any other common brand you care to name?)

I doubt it - you brought your own, didn't you? And instrument you were familiar with and knew how to use.

The people here making inquiries about basses for their "studio" are not asking about esoteric, expensive professional quality instruments that cost thousands of dollars. They're generally asking about mass produced instruments from outlets like Guitar Center or Thomann. OTHERWISE THEY WOULDN'T BE ASKING QUESTIONS ON GEAR SITES - they'd know what's good for them.

And they don't have the experience either as recordists or as players to know what not to do.

You have to think about what is appropriate.

I'm not saying that John Entwistle, Phil Lesh, or Lee Sklar (or you, for that matter) shouldn't use an active instrument. You can use what you want - presumably you have the experience to know how to use it. But I don't think you need advice on your choices from an internet forum - and those who do have different needs.

When somebody asks me what the best mic to get would be I don't tell them to run out and buy a Telefunken U-47. It's not appropriate. I also don't tell them to run out and buy a Chinese clone from MXL of a U-47 because not only is it inappropriate, it's also junk. I tell them to get something that will give good results and not waste their money like an EV RE-20 or an SE-4400.

Same thing with recording basses.



* - That's not to say that they necessarily get a great sound with a passive bass either, but at least the problems are easier to deal with.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 3rd May 2015 at 07:14 AM..
Old 3rd May 2015
  #20
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OK I will pack up my massive ego and leave you to bask in the knowledge that ALL your opinions are fact.

Quoting JE:
That's not to say that they necessarily get a great sound with a passive bass either, but at least the problems are easier to deal with.


Again in YOUR opinion.

Bye.
Old 3rd May 2015
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Yes. It's not active pickups that are the problem - it's the EQ (and also the poor headroom of the cheap electronics in most "active basses". (Oddly enough, although I detest active EMG pickups for most guitar applications, I don't mind them so much for bass, depending on the kind of music.)

The EQ can get you into territory that causes serious and often uncorrectable problems come mix time especially in the hands of a person unused to recording with active EQ.

That makes an active bass unsuitable for a studio (owned) instrument - that is, an instrument to be used by musicians visiting the studio who lack a recording quality instrument of their own. A player who is experienced in the use of an bass with active electronics for recording is almost certainly going to have his own - he doesn't need one from the studio. And he certainly won't need a cheap off the shelf, mass produced "active bass".

Let's put it this way - a 19 year old kid comes to you in need of a car to commute to school with who has never driven anything better than an old Ford Pinto - are you really going to hand him the keys to a Ferrari? Or even a hopped up Honda street racer?
I agree with all of this, and I also detest EMG's in guitars (for most applications), but I know from personal experience that EMG bass pickups work great in the studio.

Regarding active EQ, In my opinion, it should be used sparingly or not at all when recording, even if it is a high quality circuit. It might add something while you're in the same room with the amp, but it may not translate well on playback, and it may prove difficult to un-EQ whatever frequencies have been boosted or cut. Therefore it's usually best to make these adjustments on the amp.
Old 3rd May 2015
  #22
What about recording an active bass with passive mode (American Deluxe J Bass)?
Old 3rd May 2015
  #23
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman View Post
active bass guitars get a bad rap because so many of them (and the ones you see most often) are simply BAD active basses.

the good ones can be truly great.

my Status-Graphite doesn't sound "like an active bass'; it just sounds like a great bass.
Add to that, that the person with the cheap active bass probably bought it because it was louder in the store, and it had "value added." Two bad reasons, indicating an inexperienced player.
Old 3rd May 2015
  #24
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In the end it's all about the sound, and in the case of Marcus Miller, one of the busiest studio bassist for a good long period, he got his signature sound because of the his 'active' instrument.

I believe his was a J-bass modded by Roger Sadowsky with a Stars Guitar preamp.
Old 4th May 2015
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Stardust View Post
What about recording an active bass with passive mode (American Deluxe J Bass)?
Well, then It's not an active bass, is it? And you might as well have saved the extra money you wasted on the active circuit, unless you're also using it live, where the active tone controls might be useful.

Just make sure that the active circuitry is disabled.
Old 4th May 2015
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman View Post
active bass guitars get a bad rap because so many of them (and the ones you see most often) are simply BAD active basses.

the good ones can be truly great.

my Status-Graphite doesn't sound "like an active bass'; it just sounds like a great bass.


I'm reminded a bit of the "I need a good condenser mic for $700..." threads.
You can get a great moving coil dynamic mic in that price range, but you can;t get an even passable condenser.

and it's exactly the same with basses.
There are some VERY decent passive basses for $700.
my Status is in the $4000 range.

the $700 active bases are simply uniformly awful. So if that's what you're hearing, and what the local bands are bringing in, then it's only natural to conclude that "active basses are no good"
Absolutely no argument there.

A great (and expensive) active bass in the hands of a great player is great.

But that's really not the situation that gets brought up here.

I wish that people would pay attention to what I'm saying and not get stuck on what they THINK I SHOULD BE saying so they can argue.
Old 4th May 2015
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by numero6 View Post
I must restate that my initial idea was not to debate active vs passive in general. I own a Stingray and an Am Jazz Bass Deluxe too and they sound pretty nice once plugged into an amp.
.
Into an amp, sure, ok.

Recording is a very different thing.

Unless I'm working with a guy with a ****load of recording experience (WW, I wish!) I DO NOT WANT the bassist to have the option of using active controls to create drastic EQ on the bass track before it gets to tape. This is because although maybe it sounds good to HIS ear, coming out of HIS amp or headphone mix that DOES NOT mean it's going to sit well in a mixed track.

I do not want a bassist who loves a trebly, twangy sound to be able to filter out all the low end. I do not want a guy who loves a fat, muffled bass sound that sounds like it's filtered through a pile of wet wool blankets to destroy all the presence in the signal before it gets to tape.

I want a balanced bass sound to hit the tape machine (or DAW if I'm going low rent.)

I also don't want to have to do a lot of remedial "fixes" during mixdown because the bassist screwed up the sound with his onboard electronics.

Unless you're working with star level talent (and occasionally sometimes then) they're not going to understand what might be needed in the final mix and I don't want them screwing things up with (poorly designed and implemented) onboard active EQ.

It should be noted that in the case of most EMG active bass pickup setups the controls are actually PASSIVE, unlike most off the shelf "active" basses that have passive pickups feeding a ****ty active preamp with crappy onboard EQ. Withe the EMG you just have the bassist keep his tone control wide open and you have the full range of the pickup to work with. That's what I want - the full range of the pickup. Then I can do what the mix requires.
Old 4th May 2015
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by 12tone View Post
In the end it's all about the sound, and in the case of Marcus Miller, one of the busiest studio bassist for a good long period, he got his signature sound because of the his 'active' instrument.

I believe his was a J-bass modded by Roger Sadowsky with a Stars Guitar preamp.
You're not Marcus Miller. Neither is anybody who's likely to walk into your studio needing to use a bass.

And if Marcus Miller walks into your studio I doubt that he would need or want to use any bass you might have, if you're soliciting bass recommendations on Gearslutz. At least not unless you have a crapload of money and are only listening to guys like William for your suggestions.

BTW I'd like to point out that the production Fender "Marcus Miller Jazz Bass" bears only a cursory resemblance to the instrument that Miller actually plays. Miller's bass uses a Bartolini active pickup and custom electronics, the Fender uses so-called "vintage style" Fender (passive) pickups and a cheap-ass off the shelf preamp that bears no real resemblance to what MM really uses.

FWIW, I've been familiar with Bartolini's (rather stellar) products since I moved to the Bay Area in the early '70s. The is nothing from an "off the shelf" manufacturer that even comes remotely close. And I'm VERY familiar with the Stars guitars active preamps, which used a fully parametric EQ of studio quality that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the electronics Fender is palming off on the public. None. And since the Stars electronics were epoxy potted in a sealed module you're not likely to find a real copy, either.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 4th May 2015 at 05:48 AM..
Old 4th May 2015
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
(...)

BTW I'd like to point out that the production Fender "Marcus Miller Jazz Bass" bears only a cursory resemblance to the instrument that Miller actually plays. Miller's bass uses a Bartolini active pickup and custom electronics, the Fender uses so-called "vintage style" Fender (passive) pickups and a cheap-ass off the shelf preamp that bears no real resemblance to what MM really uses.

FWIW, I've been familiar with Bartolini's (rather stellar) products since I moved to the Bay Area in the early '70s. The is nothing from an "off the shelf" manufacturer that even comes remotely close. And I'm VERY familiar with the Stars guitars active preamps, which used a fully parametric EQ of studio quality that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the electronics Fender is palming off on the public. None. And since the Stars electronics were epoxy potted in a sealed module you're not likely to find a real copy, either.


Miller's Jazz (the 1977 one) doesn't have "Stars guitars electronics".

I guess Miller once installed a Stars preamp in his bass but it was blown and Roger Sadowsky installed a standard Bartolini CTC-preamp in his Fender. Not sure about the pickups but I guess they have to be passive to work with this preamp.

BTW MusicMan does this epoxy thing too!
Old 4th May 2015
  #30
Lives for gear
Hey guys, this has been my job for years, and while I get what John is saying, he is also wrong about how bass is being recorded now at many studios.

Let me put it like this - been a passive bass guy forever on sessions. And here is the thing - an active bass with a crappy pre will suck to record. So if you get an active bass, be prepared to shell out some dough or don't buy one.

The argument is that a studio preamp is way nicer than a bass preamp. Thats cool, but not the point of the bass pre. A good bass pre is tuned up for a bass guitar, noiseless and is best to be thought of as a pre EQ. Now if you want to pretend that guitar players don't run through $100-$200 pedals before hitting tape than you can live in that world. But most of us know that many, many players (including guys like Rhodes and EVH) Pre-EQ through pedals and use TS808s to tighten up their tones. A quality bass pre is as good as any of these pedals.

The trend in some studios I have been in has moved to active basses. Not always, it matters the song. But I am seeing these basses used on major releases - Spector Euro, Peavey Cirrus, Ibanez Prestige, Sadowsky, Warwicks are very common now too.

The reason for this is that a lot of music is tuned lower, people are using 7 string guitars, and 5 string basses. Producers and engineers are getting better and better at handling those frequencies and more comfortable with active basses with extended range.

Its just how it is. I'm coming from the experience of doing this now for years, and being in studios for years making modern music. If you want to play blues rock or something classic, then I'd suggest bringing a P with flats or something like that. But if you are making modern R&B, Technical Metal, Hip Hop, EDM, Pop, and even more modern country, than you definitely CAN use an active bass if you are a good player.
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