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The Mystery of the "Active" Pickups


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So I've dug out the old Carlo Robelli 5-String Bass I've had since I was about 14 in order to lay down some bass parts for a new project I'm working on with a friend of mine. I actually sort of love the way it sounds. I'm able to get a junky sort of Deerhoof-esque bass sound out of it which works really well for this particular project.

 

Anyway, so I had been having some problems with the jack. The jack on this thing has never been quite right (even after it was replaced once) and I sometimes get a nasty pop if I bump my input cable. So I take the little backplate off to see if I can spot a problem with it and find, to my surprise, that the thing has active pickups. So, I look at the battery and see that it's been expired since 2005 and decide to replace it. Why not, right? So I put in a new battery and it sounds pretty much the same, to me. Now, I start to wonder, "How exactly was this thing functioning if it has active pickups and a dead battery?" So I take out the battery to see if it makes any difference whatsoever. It does not. The instrument sounds exactly the same with or without battery.

 

I test this a few more times thinking, "Surely my ears must deceive me!" They do not. And in the process of taking out the battery again to make sure, one of the little connectors on the battery plug snaps off. Still works exactly as before, no battery at all.

 

So, this leads me to believe that the "active" component of these pickups does nothing at all. Why put a battery in it in the first place, then?

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Active pickups or active preamp?


I don't know {censored} about any of that, so feel free to ignore my post.

 

 

That's a good question. I clearly don't know {censored} about it either, though. If it's an active preamp, it doesn't seem to do anything either.

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... Paging... Kindness? Or maybe... Guttermouth?


Both for good measure?


It sounds like, maybe, that setup approach was bypassed. I have no clue. Do you know what the control setup seems to be? Like... Volume/volume/tone or volume/bass/treble or whatever?

 

 

It's a 4-knob setup. One Knob is obviously volume, one (I think) is a blend knob between the two pickups (this one clicks in the middle), another is a tone (rolls off treble). I have never been able to figure out what the last one does. As far as I can tell it's never done anything in particular. Maybe this is supposed to be a preamp and is bypassed? It seems to be connected to something, though, and the pot is a 500k if that tells anyone anything.

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Sounds like you've got an active preamp to me...the knobs are most likely


volume-->blend-->treble-->bass


Most basses don't have active pickups...unless they are EMG's


Where in CT are you from?

 

 

Hey, fellow CT resident. I'm from Meriden, but currently living in Tolland due to being a grad student at UConn.

 

Yeah these are definitely not EMGs. I'm just mystified as to what this battery was doing since it doesn't seem to affect anything. I do get a slight clicking sound if I touch a battery to the remains of the contacts, so it must me connected to something.

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Yeah, but he said he removed the battery with no change...

 

 

Yeah. Active pickups usually don't make a sound without a battery. I've got a set of EMG's in my Les Paul, and when they die...it's all over. Active preamps usually still produce sound even with the battery removed. You just don't have the tone shaping capabilities.

 

It does sound like there is more of a problem going on. Perhaps a bad solder joint or a bad preamp

 

I'm in Waterbury. I know a few people that went to/go to UCONN...but that was a while ago. I think I know two people there right now...

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Yeah. Active pickups usually don't make a sound without a battery. I've got a set of EMG's in my Les Paul, and when they die...it's all over. Active preamps usually still produce sound even with the battery removed. You just don't have the tone shaping capabilities.


It does sound like there is more of a problem going on. Perhaps a bad solder joint or a bad preamp


I'm in Waterbury. I know a few people that went to/go to UCONN...but that was a while ago. I think I know two people there right now...

 

 

Ok, so my tone controls should probably do more than they currently do. I guess it's sort of a useless point since I don't especially want the sound to change, anyway. The odd thing is, since I removed the battery, the bass stopped making a horrible crackling sound when I move it around.

 

Yeah Waterbury is not so far from my hometown. Maybe 20 minutes. I'm in the English dept at UConn right now.

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