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Old 10-23-2012, 09:23 PM   #1
ZOMG_A_COW
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Tonal Difference Between Active Pickups and Passive Pickups With Gain Boost

Hey guys, I'm sorry if this question has been answered 50505050505034 times in the past, but I've literally googled this question and I couldn't find any good answers, so I thought I'd ask here.

Is there actually a noticeable tonal difference between using active pickups (which already come with their own preamps) and using passive pickups plus a gain booster.

The reason I ask is because of guys like Alexi Laiho, who uses the EMG ALX-ABQ pickup, which is essentially an HZ-H2 with steel/ceramic construction, as opposed to just the ceramic of the original HZ-H2. I find myself asking, "Why does this guy use a passive pickup and a separate MM-04/ABQ or whatever for the gain boost when he can just use an active pickup?" It actually makes no sense to me. Is he just partial to passives+gain boost on his guitar just 'cause?

I actually am just extremely curious about the logic behind this. I will stick with my Seymour Duncan Blackouts. My amp has enough gain as it is (Blackstar Series One 200).

Anyways, any input on this subject would really be appreciated. Thanks!

Last edited by ZOMG_A_COW : 10-23-2012 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:29 PM   #2
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I don't know about Alexi's setup, but a gain boost is literally just increasing the output of the guitar before it goes to the amp.

Actives are low output with an onboard preamp, and they are voiced to sound a certain way.
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:32 PM   #3
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Having the gain boost separate from the pickup itself has the advantage of flexibility over actives that are active permanently as you're given the choice of active/passive.

Tonal differences really depend on specific pickups though.
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:33 PM   #4
ZOMG_A_COW
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Quote:
Originally Posted by W4RP1G
I don't know about Alexi's setup, but a gain boost is literally just increasing the output of the guitar before it goes to the amp.

Actives are low output with an onboard preamp, and they are voiced to sound a certain way.


So does that mean that the passives with the gain boost will still sound different from an active pickup, because of that characteristic "active" sound? Sorry, I just need a little more clarity because I'm still slightly confused. Sorry! I really appreciate you taking the time out to answer me though

Quote:
Originally Posted by T00DEEPBLUE
Having the gain boost separate from the pickup itself has the advantage of flexibility over actives that are active permanently as you're given the choice of active/passive.

Tonal differences really depend on specific pickups though.


Oh what? So does this mean that a passive + gain boost is inherently better than an active then, because of this flexibility? Thanks for the discussion

Last edited by ZOMG_A_COW : 10-23-2012 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ZOMG_A_COW
Oh what? So does this mean that a passive + gain boost is inherently better than an active then, because of this flexibility? Thanks for the discussion

Yes and no. It depends on the active pickup itself because some actives don't have any other modes at all whilst others have a passive mode, others have coil tapping and others have coil splitting that you may or may not have with a passive pickup and a separate pre-amp.

But personally i would just go for the pickups that sound the best to me, even if there may be less flexibility.
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Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE : 10-23-2012 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 10-23-2012, 10:14 PM   #6
W4RP1G
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A passive pickup with a boost will not sound like an active. Like I said, actives are voiced to sound a certain way. And actives are much quieter.
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Old 10-23-2012, 11:06 PM   #7
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the Laiho thing is also because when you put in active pickups you have to hollow out space for the battery and the connections to the pick-up, the more solid the body of your guitar, the more sustain you get, as well as less feedback
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Old 10-23-2012, 11:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Bad Kharmel
the Laiho thing is also because when you put in active pickups you have to hollow out space for the battery and the connections to the pick-up, the more solid the body of your guitar, the more sustain you get, as well as less feedback

That's a bit extreme, and it's very doubtful that is why he doesn't use actives. If that is the reason, then he's an idiot. And you can easily fit a 9v battery into most control cavities.
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Old 10-23-2012, 11:11 PM   #9
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The biggest difference for me is the frequency response. If you like mids go for passive. If you like it a little more even or a little less mids look at actives.

Thats not the whole story though cause obviously you can cut any of these frequencies with your tone controls or an EQ

They're other differences too, I've heard that actives give you longer sustain but I don't know how noticeable that is.
You probably shouldn't look to closely at the technical aspects of anything in music. Just find what sounds right to you
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Old 10-23-2012, 11:20 PM   #10
Bad Kharmel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by W4RP1G
That's a bit extreme, and it's very doubtful that is why he doesn't use actives. If that is the reason, then he's an idiot. And you can easily fit a 9v battery into most control cavities.

Yeah, when he came out with his signature model a few years ago I saw an interview with him, and that's why he said he did it
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