Tuesday, November 9, 2010

About Active Guitar Wirings - Preamps, Buffers, Pickups

I already have few post about active guitar wirings with on-board buffers, but I didn't wrote an article, about reasons of building that stuff and it's benefits. So, here it is.

Some people, who mounted an active wiring with an on-board buffer or a preamp, or have active pickups in their guitars, are saying that this stuff changing the tone dramatically and it's a little bit too bright or less full, smooth sounding. I think, that it comes from some kind of misunderstanding the way how this electronics works.

If you mounted an active wiring, with a completely linear frequency response (for example audio op-amp based), the tone should be much brighter. It's because of transporting a full frequency range. Passive guitar wirings usually cutting off a little bit of treble. Active wirings are usually - like I said before - linear. They will just transport a guitar pickup signal. Thy will not cut anything if you don't want it. It's because of preamp or buffer impedance – high on input, low on output – and characteristic of working with the signal.

Now you can say - „OK, but my tone will be much brighter, I want a warm, smooth tone of my guitar”. That's true, it can be brighter, but you can still cut off some portion of treble to have a warmer tone. You can make it by using a tone control in your amp (equalizer), pedals or by a guitar on-board tone control. It means, that an active circuit will give you full control over your guitar signal - if you have tools like amp/pedal equalizer or an on-board tone control potentiometer. If you are using gear without good tone controlling functions, an active wiring (without tone pots) can be a problem.

Passive circuits are shaping your tone always - but you can control it to some degree. Linear working active wirings can transport a pickup signal without any shaping or with it - but it's your decision.

From the other side, it can be better for you to have that „already seated tone shaping” from passive guitar wiring. It will give you some good tone on the start, without using any knobs.

However, if you like to play with knobs of your amp, pedals and guitar, maybe you should try some active on-board stuff. For example, you can start from making some simple buffer based wiring (I will make some diagram in next few days) - if you like DIY.

I'm not saying that active guitar wirings, like those based on on-board buffers, preamps or active pickups (which also have preamps inside) are usually better than classic passive circuit. It depends on your own taste. Active circuit can give you more tone shaping options, but maybe with a classic wiring you will reach your favourite sound.