Actives are powered electronic circuits, and mostly sound like sh!t, so you're right to dislike them. (For the record I cannot stand active pups, especially EMG's.)
Magnetic pickups work as a transducer converting magnetic string vibrations into electrical signals.
But concerning the Pantera's pickups, from our website:
The term “active pickups” used above is a bit misleading. The X350MA’s were actually were equipped with an active EQ (tone) control. The pickups themselves are passive. In addition, not all the 350’s came with that feature.
Having said all that I do not own a Pantera so I can't comment on the pickup's tone.
"A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants." -Chuckles the Clown
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The potentiometer (volume + tone) value used also affects the output.
Swapping a high output coil from a 500K pot setup to a 10K pot will have serious side effects.
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The higher you go the more trebles you let through.