Active or Passive Pickups
Is there a difference? Which one should I choose?
Yes there is a difference between Active and Passive. The most notable difference is that active pickups use a battery and Passive pickups do not. Of course this is not the only difference.
Well what exactly is a pickup anyway? A pickup is a transducer which basically means it converts one type of energy to another type of energy. The strings vibration sends signals to your amp or recording or broadcast device. Which in turn creates the sounds that you hear.
Passive pickups use magnets to convert string vibrations into audio signals. These are the most common of pickups and have been around the longest. They can lose some of their output along the way and this can make for interference and overall signal degradation. Which is why some people choose not to use them.
Active pickups also use magnets but much smaller magnets and use power from a 9 volt battery to produce sound through a preamp before it reaches your amp. This generally provides more output and sustain. The 9 volt battery powers the signal all the way to your amp producing little or not signal loss, but it also makes for a different sound as well. That sound is why some people choose not to use active pickups.
Actives are great for low frequencies such as a bass guitar, but some guitarists like the way they sound with high frequencies as well. A lot of metal guitarist use actives for this reason. In the end it is all just a matter of opinion and what sound you want from your instrument.
I prefer Passive pickups because of their warmer sound, but again it is just a matter of opinion. The best way to find out which one you like better is to just try them both. Don't just choose a pickup because your favorite guitarist is using it. Always do your own testing and make your own judgements on such an important piece of your sound.
In Summary Active Pickups are Powered and Passive pickups are not. Neither one is truly better than the other one and if anyone says differently then this is just their own opinion and it shouldn't affect yours. Test them out yourself and see which one is best for you and your sound. Make your own opinion on this and don't just try and clone another guitar players rig. Their is always room for diversity in the world of music.