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Active electronics in guitars?

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  • Active electronics in guitars?

    There are a lot of basses (specially 5 string basses) with active electronics. Why aren't there a lot of guitars with active electronics?

  • #2
    I think it's probably because bassists are a lot smarter

    I suspect it might be something to do with the idea of purity of tone. Plus there's inconvenience of having to check and replace the battery regularly.
    Last edited by nickb; 02-17-2021, 07:00 PM.
    Experience is something you get, just after you really needed it.


    • #3
      My guess is that they just don't sell. Three of my buds who had guitars with active electronics sold those guitars and went back to standard... passive pickups.

      I have a a cheapie Ibanez Soundgear bass and would prefer to bypass the onboard preamp and see if the pickups have adequate output to use in a passive mode. There are four pots on the guitar. So it would make for a simple two volume, two tone setup, just like a guitar.


      • #4
        I have only seen one guitar that had active electronics. It was a bandmates Gibson Les Paul. It was also the heaviest guitar I ever played. My buddy sold it.

        BTW, I do get the sense that many bass players are going back to passive pickups without active electronics. Five string bass players do tend to stick with active electronics though. Just my observation.


        • #5
          Its the batteries, they are a PITA because the whole guitar isn't designed to make them easy. A pop open compartment for your one (or WAAY better for EMGs!) two 9V is ok I guess but why in 2021 aren't they LiPo with a wireless charging cradle?? Or if you gotta wire to the guitar maybe include the power in WITH the signal out? And yes its probably because all guitar designs are stuck in 1959...

          Bassists are way more into tech and innovation because they know no one can hear them (or cares)


          • #6
            I was never attracted to EMG humbuckers or similar active pickups. But, I LOVE my Fishman Fluence Greg Koch Gristle-Tone Telecaster pickup set. Noiseless! Sounds like a Tele! has boost option on a switch! Battery lasts months between charges. Excellent.
            I build and repair guitar amps


            • #7
              Originally posted by nickb View Post
              I suspect it might be something to do with the idea of purity of tone.
              I think this is the main concern. "No silicon in the signal path" blah blah (except for my pedal board. )
              Bassists got into SS earlier for the higher power so there is less of an issue with active basses. Also, an active circuit can eliminate the DI box.

              I have a BC Rich Eagle that has an onboard active boost and varitone circuit. Though I hardly ever use the active mode, it's nice to be able to get a boost without needing a pedal.


              • #8
                I had an Ovation Breadwinner back in the 70s, lent it to a friend out of town. One day he calls me up "something wrong with the guitar, won't play through a cord"
                Me: "did you check the battery?"
                Him: "......"
                If it still won't get loud enough, it's probably broken. - Steve Conner
                If the thing works, stop fixing it. - Enzo
                We need more chaos in music, in art... I'm here to make it. - Justin Thomas
                MANY things in human experience can be easily differentiated, yet *impossible* to express as a measurement. - Juan Fahey


                • #9
                  This post inspired me to finish a project that has been on the back burner for a long time. My Ibanez GSR200 Soundgear came with four controls. Since I rarely use this guitar, I couldn't remember or explain the controls to my guest bass players (who used this guitar). So I gutted the preamp board, removed the 500K pots, and installed three 250K pots (leaving one hole unused but I can leave a pot with knob there), and wired up a typical P-J bass configuration. So I now have two volume and one tone control. Works great for a house guitar and I no longer have to deal with the depleted battery!!


                  • #10
                    On the SSGuitar forum, a question was ask about an old Baldwin amp. Some of the inputs use a stereo input jack to apparently supply power to a guitar or some other instrument. Could it have been an active guitar ? Maybe a guitar with lights.


                    Some wireless transmitters have a capacitor across the guitar's output to simulate what a guitar sees when it's plugged into an amp through a cord normally. Some guitars sound crazy bright without it. It's interesting to hear what a variable input capacitance does to a guitar. Almost like a Wah pedal. An old radio tuning capacitor can be 350 pF or more but a long cord could add too much capacitance so it might not be noticeable. A JFET source follower between the guitar and the cable would fix that.
                    WARNING! Musical Instrument amplifiers contain lethal voltages and can retain them even when unplugged. Refer service to qualified personnel.
                    REMEMBER: Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school !


                    • #11
                      Another way to go would be like the phantom mic route. The guitar signal is carried on a low impedance transformer coupled line and the power is connected to the center tap of the transformers at each end. That would require XLR or stereo phone connectors and cable.

                      For a single ended solution, at the amp end you have a resistor to a DC source and a coupling capacitor, on the guitar end, a JFET with a somewhat high Idss is operated sort of like a concertina phase inverter. The Gate picks up the signal with reference to ground and there is enough Source de-generation to control gain and set the operating point of the JFET.

                      Didn't Alembic have some sort of scheme that used a four or five pin XLR connector ?
                      WARNING! Musical Instrument amplifiers contain lethal voltages and can retain them even when unplugged. Refer service to qualified personnel.
                      REMEMBER: Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school !


                      • #12
                        When you play a regular 6-string guitar through a good modern bass amp/speaker setup you realize what a much broader frequency response there is compared to a clean guitar rig - similar to a dedicated acoustic guitar amp but with an extended low-end to get that low B. Active electronics in a bass behave like actives in an acoustic, with much better mid adjustment and the ability to shift the whole sound higher or lower in the range, or top-and-tail it. Regular electric guitar amps tend to have a much narrower range - too much bottom-end sounds flabby, and with a little clipping gives unpleasant intermodulation effects. Too much top-end is sounds harsh, so there's little reason for extreme tonal shift with a guitar. With a bass though, I think of the extremes and the styles of playing. On the one hand there's the bow tie players who want a plummy, deep bass with little or no top-end to give a double bass type sound in maybe a jazz combo. I have a few customers like that who take an electric bass to a show where they would usually play an acoustic double bass. Then I think of the other extreme; that clicky, slap and pop sound that was popular when aluminium coned Hartke speakers were in fashion. Very little bottom end, the mid range shifted upwards and for my ears a top end that could cut glass.

                        Many bass players also don't use effects, other than a little compression, so need the broadest range of tones available from their instrument. It's easy for a guitarist to switch to completely different sounds with the same guitar and its not uncommon to see players who never touch their tone and volume controls and just switch pickups. But if you have to get all the sounds out of a fixed setup, as with many bass players (especially in cover bands), it's handy to have a lot more control over the sound of your instrument.


                        • #13
                          Vox Starstream V269 Guitar (6 string) demonstration of guitar and effects

                          V268/V275 Ultrasonic, V269/V270 Vox Starstream

                          Vox Ultrasonic gut-shots....kinda....

                          Vintage Guitars with built in fuzz

                          Vox On-board/Built-in Effects Schematics

                          Click image for larger version  Name:	fetch?id=837739.jpg Views:	0 Size:	117.0 KB ID:	924932
                          Vox guitars onboard FX MBs - GEO
                          Last edited by vintagekiki; 02-19-2021, 07:11 PM.
                          It's All Over Now


                          • #14
                            I differentiate in my own mind between active electronics which I think of as level and tone controls, and onboard effects. This reminds me - I had a completely rubbish Kay with onboard effects - tremolo, fuzz and maybe a couple of others. I didn't like it much at the time and the fuzz was rasping and really extreme, though these days I quite like that sound. It was convenient having everything to hand rather than using pedals, but man, that guitar was as poor quality as you could find, even if you shopped around.


                            • #15
                              Why aren't there a lot of guitars with active electronics?1)


                              Fender Eric Clapton mid boost Stratocaster
                              Last edited by vintagekiki; 02-19-2021, 09:40 PM. Reason: 1)
                              It's All Over Now