I've noticed if I have my bass guitar's volume and bass EQ knobs turned all the way up, it sounds like the speaker is clipping. If I then turn the volume and bass down on the guitar while turning the volume and bass on the amplifier up to the same volume, I get no speaker clipping/distortion.

Would the problem be in the pickups, or the knobs? It's a cheap bass with active electronics, so I could see either one being the culprit.

My short-term fix has been to leave the controls dialed down a little on the guitar, but I'd like to know I'm not gonna kill my speakers if I accidentally turn a knob a too far.

3 Answers 3


The pickups could be clipping the input gain stage of your amplifier. I doubt it has anything to do with the knobs, since active electronics can give out a very hot signal. Can you give us more information on what you're using for an amplifier? What active electronics are you using, specifically?

I doubt you'll kill the speakers if it is input clipping since it's hitting that the hardest, first.

However, what you'll probably have to do is plug into the padded input (usually marked something like hi or -10) which will pad the hot pickups down to a more reasonable volume; if you have such an input on your bass amplifier. Otherwise, you could use an EQ pedal and manually adjust the level so that the entire signal is dropped a bit before hitting the amplifier.

A more long-term solution would be upgrading your amp to an amp that allows input gain adjustment, and possibly even higher-efficiency speakers that may tolerate the hot signal better.

  • The amp is a Kustom KB200H and I've got it going into a backline 410-blx. I'm plugging into the padded input (-6db), but even when I turn the amp gain down and the guitar up I get more clipping than if I turn the amp gain up and the guitar down.As far as what kind of active electronics I'm not positive. It's just a cheap Johnson Bass so I'm sure they're nothing fancy. Would upgrading the pick-ups smooth the output out at higher volumes?
    – E-Rock
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 0:42
  • Could be pickups then. Also try other answer, maybe a finnicky battery too.
    – user6164
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 4:28
  • I did turn the gain almost all the way down and the other amp controls up which cleaned up the sound nicely, I guess I was mostly fiddling with the volume and EQ controls before. Thank you sir, I'll probably look at some new pick-ups, as the Johnson's output still feels more 'jagged' than my active Ibanez's on the same equipment.
    – E-Rock
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 15:07
  • Could be, EMG makes some nice pickups that are active if you'd like to stick with those. However, there are plenty of beautiful sounding passive pickups out there to check out too. Depending on who you choose, they may be less expensive than EMGs.
    – user6164
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 23:58
  • If your speaker cabinet includes tweeters (high-frequency drivers), these can be damaged by clipping even at power levels far below the rated maximum for the cabinet - a clipped signal contains a much higher proportion of high frequencies meaning much more power than usual will be going into the tweeter.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 8:02

If you're using active electronics, as silly as this sounds, verify that the battery isn't dead. I had a similar issue with my first bass, and it turned out to be the 5 dollar 9-volt battery-swap fix. After verifying that, as stated in the previous answer, see if you can pad the input somehow to make sure that you're not slamming the preamp.

  • Replaced the battery just for grins, no improvement. Went with the gain adjustment suggested in Shawn's answer
    – E-Rock
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 15:05

Sounds like you are overloading the pre amp.Just as a guitarist would when turning up the pre-gain.To clean up that sound, he would turn the volume down at the guitar.At that point, the guitar volume pot. becomes a sort of distortion control. What's wrong with leaving the bass guitar volume down enough to achieve a clean sound, and turning up the amp? On my active basses, dead battery = no sound at all.

  • I guess it just irks me on some level, not having the full range of control at the guitar. Also I use several basses, so once I've found a happy medium between them in the amp controls, I try to leave it alone as much as possible. The Johnson for some reason just comes in hotter than the rest.
    – E-Rock
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 15:00
  • Can you clear up a point ? Does this phenomenon occur on only the Johnson bass, or all of them?
    – Tim
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 17:34
  • Only the Johnson, the other basses have a smoother feel to the output at their highest volumes. It's that last centimeter of a turn on the Johnson's volume that kills it. I'm not sure if the volume pot controls the pre-amp's gain or just dampens the signal coming out of the pre-amp, but it feels to me like too much gain or just a crummy signal to begin with. So that kinda narrows it down to pick-ups vs. pre-amp I guess.
    – E-Rock
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 20:26
  • The vol. pot on guitars and basses cut down the signal to the pre-amp.Sounds like the bass is at fault, if the same thing doesn't happen with other basses.
    – Tim
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 6:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.