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

Andrew Wasson

Senior Stratmaster
Nov 6, 2018
Vancouver, Canada
I think I may have that magazine, it has the burnt Hendrix Strat and Zappa is wearing tight yellow lace up trousers. I remember trying to build that circuit and I couldn’t get it to work. Could you post the circuit or send it to me to see if it’s the same one?

Thanks for your reply and assistance.



I found it in my junk box… some pots are missing and it hasn’t aged well over the last 40 years….

View attachment 512059 View attachment 512060

My Google Fu is strong today. I found the schematic online: https://music-electronics-forum.com...er-pre-amp-craig-anderton?p=554657#post554657

I can’t figure out whether the OP Amp is a 741 or TL071. @Electgumbo, what chip did you use?


The Pink Bunnyman Frankenstein
Silver Member
Dec 27, 2016
I have actives in several of my guitars and love them. I use EMG,
Seymour Duncan and the Clapton Mid Boost. They all are great but different from each other as much as they are from passive electronics.
As for the batteries, I use lithium batteries and they last forever. I have one guitar (Olic) that is going on 9 years on a pair of 9 volt batteries that I have set up to switch from 9 to 18 volts. It's still going strong believe it or not.

John C

Most Honored Senior Member
Silver Member
Jul 17, 2012
Kansas City
Just regular curiosity.

I have a Strat with an S1 switch, powered w/ 9v. Wondered if that counted as active.

People don't seem too fond of the S1. One guy in here told me he skipped his over a pond.

Second thought, there's some level of "anti tone knob" and "anti pedals" among us. I would guess that those guys would hate active controls on-board.

I've never really given any of this much thought or felt the need. It's all witchcraft to me.

The S-1 is just a switch; in most of Fender's uses of the S-1 it is a passive control - changes wiring on some, on others it just adds the neck and bridge pickup together, on some HSS models it splits the humbucker. It sounds like you might have a Deluxe Roadhouse Strat where the S-1 turns the active circuit on and off - but that is the only Fender guitar where the S-1 functions with an active circuit.


Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 5, 2016
Denver, CO
ahh, spoken by someone that apparently never knew Bill...

If there was ANYTHING that would advance pickup sonics, Bill was on it like a barnyard fly on a cow pie .. and if by chance anyone doesn't buy in to that... Note, Bill's pickups are among the lest costly quality professionally used pickups on the market... a point I and a few other rather notable contributors to the world of guitars suggested he may want to reconsider since the "you only get what ya pay for" mentality was soaking the guitar dialogue.

He absolutely bristled at the then average cost of around 80.00 each for pickups.. pointing out to me, Arlo West and a number of others gathered around him at a Summer NAMM, a decade ago... the actual cost of the components to make a pickup, when purchased in the volume a serious manufacturer must, is only a few bux a pop..

Further, Bill freely gave away his expertise, often purchasing other's pickups, reverse engineering them, then contacting the maker to freely share how they might improve them.

As one that was a beneficiary to Bill's unsolicited assistance, I mean, it was he that called me the first time around... I can only say, To suggest that Bill might "sit on" advancements in pickup technology because he was "slave to the bottom line" . . that he sought the mighty $$ over al other considerations, is patently offensive.

To ALL you guys.. next time your standing there with an electric guitar, Any Damn electric guitar, strapped around your shoulders.. look down at those pickups.. I don't care who made them or or of what technology they incorporate.... Bill's influence and many of his designs are present and residing within them...

Further, few realize, as a 20 something year old "wiz kid", Bill would "Hang" with Leo, working with him to develop those early pickups so many lust for today...

While Bill is gone, he lives on in the sounds our guitar's make... For me.. He stands with Leo and Les as Icons in the world of the Electric guitar..

Rock on Old Maestro, Many of us still miss you dearly..


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Thanks for filling out all of what I did not when responding to mark1406. Bill's motivations were never about money and R&D based on building the best pickups he possibly could was his life's work. He is The Godfather of Replacement Pickups.


Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 5, 2016
Denver, CO
Interesting thread with some interesting points of view and approaches.

In the end we should play what WE like not what someone else tries to convince us we SHOULD like. Personally I'm just old enough and stubborn enough to prefer it that way.

I've owned several basses with 18v active systems which I do enjoy and two with 9v active systems I did not. One that I own now has an active 18v system and I like the more nuanced control I can get over my signal with that bass when I need that. But I don't always need or even want that. My PBass straight in is exactly what I want too.

I've never used an active system in my guitars and have never missed it. There are a myriad of other ways of getting what I'm after both internally and externally of the guitar itself. But for those who do benefit from active electronics go for it. Your sound should be exactly what you want it to be. If active electronics help with that just do it.

Andrew Wasson

Senior Stratmaster
Nov 6, 2018
Vancouver, Canada
@Andrew Wasson
I’ll have to go back out and find it again. I just know I used the 18v. one. One chip ran on 9volts and the other ran on 18volts. I wanted the bigger clean head room…. It was loud!!! Louder then a Les Paul!!! Oh here is the chip…

View attachment 512205
I just had a look at the data sheet on that chip. I’ll bet it was loud. I read Craig Anderton’s column in GP magazine. It was one of the highlights of the magazine. I might just have to build one of these.


Senior Stratmaster
Sep 11, 2012
Sounds like the OP had too much dog in the fight initially......kinda like he was trying to squash any contrary opinion.

Actives pickups have their place, but I'm not so sure on the active eq.....I've never fired up a guitar and wanted more treble. Especially on the bridge pickup - even with humbuckers. And unless you've got a dedicated active eq for every pickup then you're worse off than with passive.
Plus you can do no-load tone, or add the tone control only to the bridge/middle if you want, as well a different K rated pots that will take your tone to bitey city and beyond.

I do wonder if those wanting so much more treble actually play in front of an audience - you'll take people's heads off with that sort of tone, not to mention making them as deaf to high end as you clearly are.

Mr Jagsquire

Sep 26, 2020
I built a Clapton preamp and put it in my Telecaster. I like it. I installed an S-1 switch to pull it in and out of the circuit.

I put one in my Telecaster, another in my Strat and finally one in my Jaguar. I like the extra range of sounds it gives me and that I can roll back the volume without losing treble (and I can use the tone control if I want to smooth off the treble anyway).

The Jaguar has a bypass switch, that puts the pickups direct to the jack, but the Tele and Strat don't have a bypass...I just keep the battery charged up, usually swapping it over every 3-4 string changes. Even that is probably more often than really necessary, but just for peace of mind when I'm gigging.

Put me in the 'do like' camp. :)

Mid 3.jpg

The knob below the neck pickup is the mid boost and the switch is the bypass. I later striped and refinished it in CAR:
CAR & Marshall 1.jpg

Jimi Lightning

Most Honored Senior Member
Dec 21, 2016
Ontario, Canada
I'm weird and can't stand the thought of my guitar being battery powered.

Not weird… I feel the same as I don't want to be dependant on batteries.
I have one guitar with active pickups (it came with them) and they will be traded out and sold as soon as I can find a set of humbuckers I like.


Jun 5, 2021
Palm Coast, FL
I'm just over battery operated solutions to save the planet. That's all I need is another device that needs a battery or needs to have me tethered to a wall socket somewhere. I miss the days of a phone that lasted 3-5 days. Where are all these 9 volt batteries going and I'm not paying $ 10 for a rechargeable 9V battery that degrades and won't hold a charge either.


Most Honored Senior Member
May 26, 2006
Jacksonville, FL
to keep things concurrent with today's thinking.. the goop etc., used to make batteries is nasty stuff and no good for the planet.. I mean, just read the "proper disposal" instructions that come with the batteries... Jeez... so why doesn't someone come out with a Solar or Wind powered active electronics guitar...

You could have like a little windmill cranking out the juice as all the hot air from guys hitting on the girls keeps the blades turning... Or a Solar panel situated to catch the rays radiating at 1 million Kelvin off that totally hot blond in the black leather mini with the million dollar legs that go all the way up to her, Ummm, . her.. uh.. her. well all the way anyway..

Oh never mind.. she'd totally fry the panel ... Phew...

Lucius Paisley

Jul 14, 2021
Sydney, Australia
For the right guitar, they're fine. Like in ESP/LTD guitars, because that brand has got SFA else going for them :p

Also, I find it weird when I read "I love active pickups" and that same person somewhere else is complaining (usually about Ibanez) "the pickups are too hot".

Doesn't happen often, but happens enough for me to comment upon it here.


The Pink Bunnyman Frankenstein
Silver Member
Dec 27, 2016
Until recently, especially on humbucker equipped guitars, I played actives pretty much exclusively. I couldn't find any passive that could get the sound I was looking for. The hot ones were too shrill for me and the the less hot ones seemed muddy and garbled to my ear. Once I found my EVH Wolfgang with the Wolfgang pickups I was completely blown away by the sounds my rig made. It was almost like my active guitars but a little warmer yet.
My favorite combination of active pickups are the EMG 85 in the bridge. It can pull out the midrange compression that I like really well and give singing to screaming highs and still clean up for the lows. I also like the EMG 60 in the neck position for the same reasons yet is a bit smoother due to the position. It's still a ceramic magnet like the 81 but it isn't quite as hot and doesn't sound as mechanical to my ear. I know that most people like the 81/85 combo but I can't seem to get the sound I like from an 81. EVER!
I also know that the 85 is "supposed" to be a neck pickup but the great thing about this is that there really aren't any rules. Tone and what you hear are purely subjective.
I also have a couple others. A Jackson Dinky with the 89 (splitable 85) and 2 SA singles and a strat with an 89 and one SA. All of my active guitars are wonderful sounding to me.


Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Oct 19, 2019
To many outboard pedal options these days like a quiet Eq pedal comes to mind...