Tech Tips: Switching your guitar from active to passive
16th April 2020
Ready to ditch the batteries?
There are a few things which are different between active and passive pickup setups.
Firstly, the spec of the components used is quite specific for each type of setup, so things like pots and capacitors need to be switched out when changing from active to passive. Active setups tend to use volume and tone pots of around 25k ohms resistance, but for a passive humbucker setup, you need at least 500k ohms resistance; that's 20x the resistance! For humbuckers, our 550k custom CTS pots are perfect! If you leave the 25k pots in place, they will work, but the sound will be very dark and muddy. Because we are changing these values so drastically, you'll also need to use a capacitor for the tone control which is a good match to the pots, so that you can get a really good, useable sweep from the tone control. We recommend around 0.022µF and our Jensen PIO caps are fantastic for a master tone control.
Next is the jack socket and how it's connected to the battery. Most active setups use a stereo jack socket and utilise some of the contacts as a breaker switch for the battery connections. This cuts off the battery when you remove the guitar cable to save it from draining. With a passive setup, of course, we don't need any of this, so, you can either remove all of the battery connections from the socket and re-use it,or, our recommendation is that you take the chance to switch out to a mono jack socket, which is really inexpensive and renews your main ground and signal contacts for the guitar.
Finally, there are some differences in the way that the grounding system is set up between active and passive installations. Most importantly, active systems often don't include a ground connection to the bridge of the guitar, but it is required to ensure quiet running in a passive setup. Some active guitars will have a ground wire installed, but not connected (which is ideal!), but, in some cases, you will need to install a wire which connects your bridge to the grounding system of your guitar. How tricky that task is will really depend on the exact layout of your guitar and what type of bridge you have.
I hope that gives you a good idea of what's involved. As always, if you need any further help when converting an active guitar, or you need to know the exact components which will work best in your guitar, please drop us a line!