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Lets get this straight...Acitve pickups are LOWER OUTPUT!

Discussion in 'The Tone Zone' started by Michael Inglis, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. Michael Inglis

    Michael Inglis Active Member

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    I just read an article about Acitve Guitar pickups that was full of misinformation. The main culprit being "Active pickups are higher output because they have more winds of copper", that statement is completely false (im paraphrasing but the link to the article im referring to is below. That specific false statement is under "High Output").

    Im going to explain something that i think will help every guitar player who either has actives in a guitar currently or tried them in the past and didnt like them. First, as most of us know active pickups like Fishman Fluence's for example are much quieter (less hum at high volumes etc.). That right there is our first evidence for acitves being lower output. The higher the output the more noise conversely the lower the output the less noise. But too low an output produces a thin weak anemic tone thats not desirable. Active pickups are capable of being high output but their winding amounts make them low output. Then why are we always told in marketing for actives about their exceptionally high output?

    PREAMPS

    Active pickups have preamps built in. This gives us the best of both worlds. We have a low output pickup that allows us to avoid the excess noise of high output (high winding) pickups. But we also have a preamp that boosts that weak output considerably. That is why its generally accepted that Acitves are high output. So what does this mean and how can we use it to make actives sound excellent not just for metal but in all sorts of styles?

    Anyone whos owned a guitar with active pickups will agree that when an active pickup is turned up all the way to 10 on the guitar volume you get a much more compressed sound than with a regular passive humbucker. And that compression can be good but not in excess. So heres the key, roll back your guitars volume! Dont roll your eyes and give up now! When this is done correctly it will yeild a perfect tone for any style. Just remember these things. Active pickups can boost as well as cut where passives can only cut. So for the best active pickup tone we want to start at about zero(not boosting the pickups or cutting either). That means rolling back the guitars volume. And yes that is going to make everything sound thin and weak....if you dont do the next most important step.

    When your setting your gain and preamp volume and master volume you want to over do it. I know everyone is telling you less gain is better. And they are right for the most part but its how you get to the lower gain that matters. By dialing in your amp for more preamp gain and volume than is necessary then when you roll back your volume youll be at just the right spot and youll have much more control over getting to the exact spot that you need to be at for whatever tone your after. And better still....YOUR TONE WONT BE OVERLY COMPRESSED!

    The main complaint with actives is that they sound sterile or too compressed. Well if you try to use them like passives then yes they are going to sound sterile and too compressed. In my experience EMG's can be a bit trickier to get versatility out of but they can still sound excellent if you dial them in like acitves should be. Now as far as Fishman Fluence goes the sky is the limit. There isnt a tone Fishmans cant get if your using them right. I personally wire my fishmans for every available option cause they are all good in the right situation. I highly recommend NOT setting any of the options to be hardwired on all the time. They should be switchable as the versatility is what makes them such exceptional pickups among other things. Anyways my phones ringing so i gotta go, i just really needed to get that out.


    Misinformation Article that started this rant: https://tonetopics.com/active-or-pa...your amp, it,, therefore, more gain potential.
     
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  2. SkyMonkey

    SkyMonkey Well-Known Member

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    I always thought actives were basically lower output pickups, but the output deficit is addressed by the active preamp, allowing them to be higher output overall, but with less magnetic string pull issues.
     
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  3. Michael Inglis

    Michael Inglis Active Member

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    Couldnt have said it better myself brother!
     
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  4. South Park

    South Park Well-Known Member

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    You don’t need high out put pick ups with high gain amps . If ever put a duel Chanel scope on the gain stage and see the signal . A wire wound pick ups does things that a battery can’t
     
  5. Bloodrock

    Bloodrock Well-Known Member

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    I’ve tried lots of active pickups. They’re expensive, require mods and batteries, sound unnatural to me. No thanks.
     
  6. Im247frogs

    Im247frogs Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad you got that all off your chest.
    I picked up a ESP strat type w the standard EMG metal set and it sounded like dogshit compared to my MIJ 90's Tele w Duncan Quarter Pounders when I got around to plugging it into the shortly thereafter acquired 100 watt Super Lead. I was unpleasantly surprised. Sold it for what I paid for it.
    I am still interested in a 57/66 set in something I may build in the future, but the clips I've heard of the Duncan Jeff Loomis Blackouts sound quite a bit better. In fact all the comparisons betwen duncan actives and emg's duncans seem a bit better.
     
  7. ampeq

    ampeq Well-Known Member

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    I can't stand them either, who wants a battery in their guitar. Carvin had them waaaay back when, way over powered and sounded best when you took the battery out. Just another thing in the signal chain to color the tone, I'll stick with DiMarzio.
     
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  8. SkyMonkey

    SkyMonkey Well-Known Member

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    I must admit to having one active guitar!
    It's a 4-string Stingray bass copy with a Bartolini onboard.
    I made it as my 1st year project at Luthier College as a youth.
    But I have no passive comparison to make though, it's always had the Bartolini.
     
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  9. Michael Inglis

    Michael Inglis Active Member

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    I highly recommend an implore you to get a fishman set if you end up doing that build. They executed active pickups much better than EMG. The fishmans whether it be classics, moderns etc. are much more versatile. Now that I have my modern equipt guitar set up right it has become the guitar I instinctively pick up and play the most. EMG's are seriously one trick ponys and it's not even a great trick at that. The fishman are everything people say about them but you will have to learn how to use them to get the most out of them but I found that all the headaches figuring out how to get them to work for me was absolutely 100% worth it. Now I can confidently pick up my Ltd with moderns in it and know that they are going to sound excellent every single time I play through them but it wasn't that way at first. Anyways just wanted to save you the trouble. If you want actives as we've known them to be, in a word mediocre, then EMG'S are the ticket. But if you want something new that takes full advantage of the active formula and actually will net you better results in many ways then the best passive pickups then it has got to be Fishmans. At least for the time being.
     
  10. Michael Inglis

    Michael Inglis Active Member

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    No you don't need them but your making an incorrect assumption that people who like high gain amps with high gain pickups are using them in the way you would use a vintage output pickup with a high gain amp. It's not about diming the gain on the amp and guitar. It's about being able to have a greater sweep from the guitars controls alone. And with Fishmans you can boost without having to use a pedal. I'm a huge advocate for whatever sounds good and feels good to play is good. There's many more routes to good tone then some people would have you believe. I personally get the same exciting feeling when I get a great tone with my jb/59 loaded guitars as I do with my fishman loaded guitars. But they are very different tones. Anyways my only reason for commenting was to say that having high output or low output pickups is less about the tone differences an more about the operational differences/feel differences for lots of people. If theyve lasted on the market this long then there's plenty of people getting excellent results with them (referring to high output pickups into modern amps with much more gain/more gain stages). The Marshall I use (DSL100HR) has more gain then you'll likely ever need but there's different settings that take advantage of more or less gain stages. I actually prefer the sound of less amp gain (clean or crunch channel) with the Fishmans cause it allows me to boost the pickups at the guitar volume and get a great articulate dirt tone. And if I need to change the amount of gain for a solo, rhythm, or clean part it's as simple as rolling the volume control of the guitar up or down. But with passives I like getting my dirt from the amp without having to use a boost unless I intentionally want more pronounced mids (tube screamer) or high end (treble boost) or low end (klon). So again it's just a different way of arriving at a similar destination.
     
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  11. South Park

    South Park Well-Known Member

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    Good post the gain stages in high gain amps are not the same . And matching up the right pick ups can be job .
     
  12. chromeboy

    chromeboy Well-Known Member

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    I always knew this. Was told by an guitar tech that toured with the band I was in at the time. As far as time goes, well that is subjective as what sounds good to me may not sound good to you . There is no such thing as perfect tone as it is and has always been a personal preference thing. Personally I turn my actives all the way up for solos and roll them back just a bit for rhythm.
     
  13. South Park

    South Park Well-Known Member

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    When you rap wire around magnets to make a sound wave and hook to a grid going to ground thar is a lot going on in how it works . I just don’t think active pick ups have the same things going on . A lot has to do with the preamp circuit .
     
  14. Lance Chambers

    Lance Chambers Well-Known Member

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    The key is in the guitar setup. Due to the lower string pull an active pickup should be as close to the strings as feasibly possible.

    :drunk:
     

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