Will an active bass work without the battery in it?
I have an active bass and it will not work without batteries.
Pure active basses will generally not work without the batteries. Basses with an active/passive switch should (when switched to passive). Active/passive switch is a nice feature.
Active/passive switch is a pretty common feature on midrange and high end basses, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Yamaha TRBX504 and 604, BB734, and others; Ibanez SR650, newer model SR500 and others; etc.
There is no on/off switch so is it just drawing power from the battery even when not in use?
Yes, unfortunately. You have to unplug it (at the bass) every time you are done playing! However, then the battery/batteries should last you for many weeks!
Ugh. So should I find 9v rechargeables or just use regular 9v. Any opinion on which ones have the longest life?
I have had a Stingray, which is active, for over a year and a half and have only had to change batteries once. And I play it almost every day. Just be sure to unplug the instrument cable when you’re done playing and you’ll be fine.
+1 to what @rolltide1966 said - just make sure to ALWAYS have a spare battery around in the house, and ESPECIALLY in your gigbag
To be clear - it will only draw power while a cable is plugged in. Unplug the cable and it’s “off”.
Will it still draw power if the cable is plugged in but the amp is powered off?
Yes. The cable needs to be unplugged.
With my Active’s, I always unplug at the bass. Actually, I’ve just gotten into the habit of unplugging all my instruments before I put them down.
Yes, unplug on the bass end of the cable when you’re not playing. If you put decent batteries in, you should get multiple months of regular use out of a set, I use Duracell Procells in my Cirrus and I change them very infrequently.
What is the difference between an active and a passive besides the battery? What’s the point of active?
Active gives you a preamp on the bass itself, almost always with an equalizer to boost or cut bass, treble, and often midrange levels. Basically, it gives you more tone control on the bass itself than passive basses do, which for tone shaping usually just have a tone knob (which is basically a low-pass filter and not an EQ).
Using my bass as an example, it’s got five knobs and a switch. The switch is an active/passive control. One knob is volume and another is pickup blend. The other three knobs are bass, midrange, and treble boost/cut while it is active. When it is passive, the treble control becomes a tone knob and the bass/midrange knobs do nothing.
The advantage of active over passive is the increased tone control on the bass. The disadvantages are the battery, and also potentially noise from the preamp (though with good basses this is usually not an issue.)
Some basses also have additional piezo pickups in the bridge (this is usually only used as a boost and for giving more mids/treble in connection with playing a solo) - these need power from the battery as well, but (as far as I know) they don’t drain the battery when not used.