Why don’t we like active electronics in a guitar?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by mark1406, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. Dreamdancer

    Dreamdancer Senior Stratmaster

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    Iam not for any kind of batteries but with that thing at least you can estimate the amount of time left and if that is sufficient for a gig or not vs the 9v batteries that you dont.I really have no idea why the 9v batteries are more reliable than this(maybe they are iam not an expert) but if i ever used an active set i would want something like that to power it.
     
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  2. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    Active tone controls have been around a lot longer than the '80's.

    I have a '70's Moonstone with active Bartolini pickups (they made guitar pickups before bass pickups).

    Several of my Carvins from the '80s have an active/passive preamp module that used a four-pot setup. When active (9V battery) the pots became a master volume, master bass, master treble and a blend pot. The tone pots had a detent at the "5" position that produced a result roughly equivalent to a standard pot wide open. But there was an active boost (about 15 dB) and cut above and below the 5 position for both the bass and treble pots. Unlike "roll off" pots, the tone was preserved when you dialed them down. There was a mini switch that threw the pickups out of phase, and the blend pot (blending from "both" toward either pickup) would allow a wide range of tones when the pickups were both in-phase and out of phase with both pickups selected. Some of the active preamps offered stereo or mono output (neck and bridge pickups could be directed to two different outputs, either via a TRS cable or separate output jacks). A lot of guitarists with used gear couldn't be bothered to read the instructions and assumed the guitars were broken, and replaced the stereo and active modules with more mundane items.

    I've got an active sweepable mids boost (about 16 dB) on several of my guitars. These were sold as the Chandler Tone-X, I believe, and utilized their own 9V battery. When activated (mine use a push-pull), they worked much like a cocked wah, emphasizing a mids frequency, depending on where you set the pot. It's *really * useful for popping through a mix for a solo, for example. The mids boost worked on any combination of pickups. If you've got a good modeler (HD500X, Helix, etc.), you can replicate the boost and simply kick it in when you want it.

    There are a lot of OTHER tone controls (what we call a "tone" control is simply a treble roll off pot). My '70's Gibson L6S comes with a passive single frequency mids roll-off pot in addition to the usual treble roll-off. The reissue Gibson put out a few years ago used this pot as a bass roll-off in addition to the treble roll-off. Neal Schon uses a passive *sweepable" frequency cut (not roll-off) on a push-pull on many of his guitars, custom designed for him by Gary Brawer in San Francisco. You can pick the frequency you want cut (the amount is fixed). Really useful.

    A good EQ pedal (or rack-mount) is pretty useful for EQ-ing pickups. Guitar players who use these will usually put EQ pedals at several points within their FX chain. In the first position, immediately after the guitar, it can be used to EQ the pickups. These are more useful if they have narrower frequency splits (some EQ pedals only EQ in one-octave intervals) -- so those of us who had racks back when, had stereo 1/3-band EQ setups (and one was usually positioned immediately after the guitar in the chain). The other side of the stereo setup was positioned after the distortion/fuzz, so that we could EQ that. A third EQ was often inserted in the FX chain, effectively EQ-ing the cabinet. At various times in his career, EVH had all three EQ positions filled. This is as easy to work with on a tele as it is on a strat.
     
  3. Tremdaddy

    Tremdaddy Strat-Talk Member

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    Traditionalists don't like active p/u's and vol and tone controls because they don't sound like what they grew up with and they respond differently than passive. I don't like them but you might love them.
     
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  4. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    Current Variax guitars rely on battery power to run the Variax electronics when the guitar isn't otherwise powered*. But the battery currently used is the kind you'll find on the back of a video camera, and it provides 12-16 hours of continuous power to the guitar's gizmos.

    *Variax guitars also come with a power splitter box that allows you to use a TRS (tip ring sleeve) to power the electronics if you prefer. There's a transformer brick that powers the power splitter box from wall AC.

    In addition, Variax guitars can use a proprietary (but hardened) VDI ethernet cable from the guitar to a Variax-enabled modeler (the Pod XT Live and Pro, HD500X, Helix). Not only does this provide power to the guitar, but also relays signals from their onboard magnetic pickups and (separately) from the Variax firmware. Beyond that, the combination allows you to, among other things, change the guitar parameters (guitar model, alternate tuning) with a single foot switch stomp that can simultaneously change amps/cabs/FX chains on the modeler. In addition, you can assign Helix FX (and other) parameters to the guitar's volume and tone knobs.

    The older Variax guitars used a half-dozen AA batteries to provide enough long-term power to the electronics when they were used standalone. It could also use a single 9V, but these were only used as a stop-gap or emergency power, because it really only lasted an hour or two.
     
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  5. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    They're active, with an option for passive in case the battery dies. I'm not sure if the guitar with only four knobs has active potential, but the others do.
     
  6. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    The video battery box on the Variax guitars has a button you can push that will let you know how much battery power you have left. The batteries are quickly interchangeable (maybe 15-20 seconds).

    When I have a gig I'm usually tossing whatever 9V batteries are in the guitars and replacing them with new ones beforehand. Cheaper than repairing the dent in my forehead from my facepalms when one dies in the middle of a set or song.
     
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  7. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    9v batteries have proved how reliable they are over several decades of use. However it’s not the reliability of the battery but that they are the standard and have been for a long time. Imagine you have ten cars and they all use the same lug nuts to hold the wheels except that one car that used a different style of lug nut and all of a sudden you have to change the tire and suddenly have to find the special wrench rather than the standard on tha all the others use. Betamax was a better performing format than VHS tape but VHS became universal so in effect became better. The same thing applies here. Needing a phone charging cable and a wall wort to charge your pickups is just plain stupid. Again, having phantom power coming through the cable is a good solution where using a usb charger isn’t.
     
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  8. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    That's changing -- there are a number of acoustic guitars coming on the market that have a built in "thumper" (my term, that will never be used in any marketing brochure, ever). This is a gizmo that listens to the guitar and that turns around and provides reverb and other time-based delays by vibrating the guitar body at the same frequencies. Look for the Yamaha TransAcoustics and others.
     
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  9. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    They must use a super capicator instead of a traditional battery to recharge that fast.
     
  10. dspellman

    dspellman Strat-Talker

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    Not yet, though capacitors are in the works as energy storage for a lot of areas where we use batteries these days.

    The Variax guitars use standard video camera batteries, and these can be interchanged rapidly (as happens on video cameras) and they last longer than 9Vs.
     
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  11. Indiana Mike

    Indiana Mike Strat-Talk Member

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  12. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    That is a better solution than a USB phone charger. It’s not as good as 9v batteries if you ever get in a situation where you need to find a battery an hour before the gig or at midnight. Having a charger with two batteries so one is always charged up that are quick and easy to change is a practical solution as proven out in every cordless drill made.
     
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  13. SkipK

    SkipK New Member!

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    Nobody really wants to deal with batteries - dying, leaking, keeping spares available. If somebody invented active electronics that ran off the amp - like a microphone can get phantom 48v power from a preamp - might be a different story.
     
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  14. gitapik

    gitapik Strat-Talker

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    Great idea
     
  15. gitapik

    gitapik Strat-Talker

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    Saw that coming after this came out:

    https://www.tonewoodamp.com/collect...--Tkz3C56fPy94-ufNryPWH61UMu7rtEaAmNdEALw_wcB

    One thing leads to another...
     
  16. space

    space Strat-O-Master

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    Ibanez did
    [​IMG]
     
  17. fender52

    fender52 Strat-Talk Member

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    I have guitars with stock passive pickups and a Tele with three EMGs (SSH). I just change the 9V Duracell every couple years. No problem and I like the sound of them. One group I was in wouldn't tolerate the hum and buzz, so I put the EMGs in around 1990.
     
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  18. jazzyvee

    jazzyvee Strat-Talk Member

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    I have a strat with active electronics that run off a 9v battery and I change them about twice a year regardless of whether it needs it or not just so that I keep away from that uncertainty of sudden power loss.
    I do have one guitar that has an mains external power supply that it feeds 36v (+/-18vdc) into the bass via a 5pin plug and cable. There are two backup 9vdc batteries if I needed to run it without the psu but I never have.
     
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  19. mark1406

    mark1406 Strat-Talk Member

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    I think if you read most of the threads you will find WE is apt and factual.

    Regards

    Mark
     
  20. lazloryder

    lazloryder Strat-Talker

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    I only have one ax that has active pickups which I don’t play very often. But when I do reach for it, every time the batteries are dead and need replacing :\

    How can I practice my sweeps and fingertaps and become a guitar god when I’m spending all my time running to the store to buy more batteries, and to the electronic waste facility to dispose of all the used batteries.

    It’s madness.