What are active pickups and what are the advantages and drawbacks? An active pickup is one that uses electronics to enhance or modify the signal from the guitar’s strings. Unlike passive pickups that are constructed of wire wound around a magnet, active pickups require an external power source to operate. Along with the external power source active pickups also include a preamp, active filters, active EQ and other tone shaping features.

One of the main reasons for using active pickups in your guitar is that they are virtually noise free. In many situations, particularly clubs with neon signs and light dimmers, this is a great advantage. Another reason is that they can give a much higher output than passive pickups and are less affected by long guitar cables. This retains the guitars signal integrity if you are using many effect pedals or large rack system. There is no ground wiring connected to ground which can prevent a guitar player from being injured from electrical shock. Because there is a preamp and active EQ controls there is a wide range of control over the tone of the guitar. They are commonly used on bass guitars, because of their solid tone and now most high-end bass guitars feature an active pickup system.

The drawbacks of active pickups are the need for a power supply which is usually a 9 volt battery. On some guitars there may not be room for the battery and added electronics so routing and/or modification to the guitar may be necessary. Another point that some players debate over is their tone. Some feel that the active pickups sound a little sterile and lack personality. They also feel that their dynamic range is somewhat narrow as compared to a passive pickup. Each individual player has their own taste and these are just opinions or views.  The most popular active pickup manufacturer is EMG started in 1974 and located in Santa Rosa, California. EMG is an acronym for Electro Magnetic Generator. Other companies that have active pickups in their product lines are Seymour Duncan & Bartolini.

300Guitars Shop

My shop is located at 1 Executive Dr Unit L Toms River, NJ 08755 Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or are in need of some tech work.
  • Monday: 10am - 5pm
  • Tuesday: 10am - 5pm
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 10am - 5pm
  • Friday: 10am - 5pm
  • Saturday 10am - 2pm. (I am in every other Saturday).
I am also an Eminence, Mercury Magnetics, Mojo Musical Supply dealer. I do all the tech work myself so you deal directly with me. I am a one man shop and my hours can vary so please contact me to confirm that I will be open. Email me: billy@300guitars.com Call or text me: 848-218-0362 Shipping Info for all repair work: Please ship all repairs to: 1 Executive Dr Unit L Toms River, NJ 08755
I am currently offering all phases of guitar work which includes:
  • Set-ups
  • Fret dressing
  • Re-fretting
  • New hand cut custom bone nuts & saddles
  • Electronics work
And amplifier work which includes:
  • Basic maintenance
  • Bias adjustment
  • Repairs and restorations
  • Modifications
  • And more....
David Nicholas - The 20watt amp is sounding fantastic! Delivered the goods at the gig and I'm finding cool tones all over the place with it. Love the cab w Emenince Tonkerlites too- perfect for my sounds! Makes the 12 string sound like a grand piano!
Peter Lacis - I had an audition for something recently that was all about Led Zeppelin I -- my custom Pennalizer BLEW THE MINDS of the guys I was playing with. They couldn't believe the sounds coming out of that amp. That album was never in my mind when I came up with the idea....so that's yet another testament to the amazing work that you do.
Scott Goldberg - I am very satisfied with the set-up, and the fast turn around.  With the "lower" action it feels easier to play.  I will definitely spread the word.