#1
I was going to buy a guitar with some active pickups but I've read recently in some guitar forums that they don't sound too good with just any amp, which confuses me.
I've read a couple articles on the internet about active pickups but haven't really found any information on which amps they pair up best with.

So my question is, what type of amp do they sound excellent in, and how do I go about identifying them?
#2
what they mean is that active pickups really work best with an amp with a "lo" input or also known as -20db input. and lastly an amp with a master volume is best for them, too.

For some reason they sound "flat" on a non-master vol. amp. (IMO)
#3
They have a very hot output, which will push the front end of the amp you plug into. So, if you`re using a smaller amp, you won't have much of a clean tone.
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#4
active pickups are typically designed to have a very high output (think metal). that, plus a number of other contributing factors lead to poor cleans. active pickups also tend to give the guitar more of a sterile sound and have poor dynamics.

they have gotten a lot better since i have been into them though, then it was just EMG.

i would look into the EMG X series and the SD blackouts, they are supposedly better.
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#5
Quote by charles_ebarb
what they mean is that active pickups really work best with an amp with a "lo" input or also known as -20db input. and lastly an amp with a master volume is best for them, too.

For some reason they sound "flat" on a non-master vol. amp. (IMO)


don't wanna pick at ya, but active pups have an onboard preamp, hence the battery. so if you pad them (-20 dB) then what is the point of having the preamp in the pickup? so you can just cut the input?

alright TS, i am not a knowledgeable person. so i couldn't necessarily explain all these physics things, but an active pickup uses an onboard preamp powered by a battery (or 2). this allows for the use of weaker magnets (cuz the preamp will boost the signal substantially and there is not need for the extra output a more powerful magnetic field supplies). this weaker magnetic field has less drag on the strings, so you should get more sustain. since the field is weaker you can also run the pups closer to the strings for even more output. also (although i am not 100%), the slightly amplified signal from the pickup should have less attenuation from the resistance of the patch cord (one of the reasons for the 'tight' sound i believe as attenuation occurs unevenly across the frequency spectrum)

so now the signal will go to the amp. the amp's preamp is divided into gain stages, increasing the input signal will drive the V1a stage a little more and give a bit more gain (similar to a boost pedal) and tightness with a saturated preamp. with a clean preamp, it should sound a bit more tight (as well as sterile).

as far as i can tell, that is why people run these pickups.

what amps sound good with them? personal preference, but the genre they are popular in seems to be metal, so a high gain amp like diezel, bugera, mesa, etc.

when would it not sound good? when you don't want the signal so tight and you want a bit more color from the input.

btw, if you want actives for high gain, you may want to look into the 18V mod, wherein the add another battery to boost the preamps output even more (which drives the V1a gain stage more).

edit: i know not of the 'poor cleans' everyone talks about, when i had my emg81 it sounded just fine clean. also, there are really good videos on youtube for the 18V mod, this should be a hotter signal and cleans still sound good and tight.
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Last edited by gumbilicious at Sep 22, 2010,
#6
they should sound better trough a tube amp a solid state one would sound like shite
#7
Quote by supersac
they should sound better trough a tube amp a solid state one would sound like shite


why is that? i also have heard to this phenomenon, but really haven't heard any evidence just people keep stating it.

will it drive the first gain stage in the SS amp? sure. will it sound like shit? not from my experience, i played my actives through a hybrid with SS preamp, didn't sound like shite. some people might not like the sound, but far from shite.
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#8
Quote by gumbilicious
]also (although i am not 100%), the slightly amplified signal from the pickup should have less attenuation from the resistance of the patch cord (one of the reasons for the 'tight' sound i believe as attenuation occurs unevenly across the frequency spectrum)


It's still affected by the voltage drop across the cable. But that's so insignificant it can be ignored for all purposes. The main advantage is that the low output impedance of the pups isn't loaded down as much by the input stage so the input circuit attenuates less highs. So you can turn the treble down on the amp and eliminate a bit of noise in the high end. Also, active pickups are shielded so they have even less noise. EMG's were originally developed for studio musicians so they wouldn't have to deal with all sorts of noise ruining a take.

And 'tightness' isn't really something I get when listening to and playing active pickups anymore so than passives. That's more to do with the rest of the signal path. We might have different ideas of what that means though.
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#9
Quote by mmolteratx
It's still affected by the voltage drop across the cable. But that's so insignificant it can be ignored for all purposes. The main advantage is that the low output impedance of the pups isn't loaded down as much by the input stage so the input circuit attenuates less highs. So you can turn the treble down on the amp and eliminate a bit of noise in the high end. Also, active pickups are shielded so they have even less noise. EMG's were originally developed for studio musicians so they wouldn't have to deal with all sorts of noise ruining a take.

And 'tightness' isn't really something I get when listening to and playing active pickups anymore so than passives. That's more to do with the rest of the signal path. We might have different ideas of what that means though.


i remember the attenuation thing, just couldn't remember why. and i totally forgot about the quiet operation.

maybe tightness is the wrong word, more punch or attack might be a better phrasing?

thx matt
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Last edited by gumbilicious at Sep 22, 2010,
#10
Yea, that'd be more in line with my observations. Active pups definitely have a more prominent/immediate attack that lends itself to punchy rhythm tones. This reminds me I never finished that pup write up I was gonna do. So much to do right now.
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#11
They sound best in tube amps. Period. Even then you may not like them.

The reason they sound best in tube amps is because the higher output causes the preamp in your amp to breakup and clip. Now when tubes break up you get overdrive and distortion, it is a desirable thing. However when solid state components get pushed too hard you simply get a fizzy sound. Solid State clipping is not pleasant at all to the ears.
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#12
Quote by Talentless
They sound best in tube amps. Period. Even then you may not like them.


great, now that we have that settled, there is no more room for opinions. thank god that is that last word there.

if anyone happens to disagree, what would you say to them? that their opinion is wrong? just a little interested.

backed it up with all the technical jargon too.
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