So, all in all you can say that the style in which a bass player wants to be at home is the decisive factor in deciding which pickup (and which type of electronic system) to choose. Whether an active or passive system makes more sense is a question on which even experts disagree. Good passive pickups deliver a convincing analogue sound, irresistibly warm and very dynamic.
Active pickups sound clearer and subjectively cleaner, but often a little clinical, too. Thanks to the active sound controls, however, there are more ways of actively manipulating the performance. But keep in mind that a top-quality passive pickup will always sound cleaner than a low-quality active system. And vice versa: a first-rate active system may sound warmer and richer than shoddy passive pickups.
In general, you can say that passive pickups come into their own with growling rock and soul bass lines and brutal slaps. Very clean sounds, fusion leads and virtuoso slap riffs profit more from an active bass. A six-string e-bass’ more sophisticated frequency response likewise works better with an active system than with a passive one. And those who want both options should choose a bass that can be run both actively and passively. The same, by the way, is also true for the question whether to use single coils or humbuckers. The humbuckers’ sound generally emphasizes the mids more, it is smoother and more powerful, but not quite as brilliant as the single coil sound.
So, the formula also holds in the choice of pickups: bass players who desire as broad as possible a spectrum of sound should definitely opt for a bass with two pickups. And humbuckers featuring a split coil option generate real added sound value.
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