I had been auditioning a Golden Tube SE-40 tube amp with their active pre and the pre sounded terrible. I ended up using the computer volume as the pre took away the dynamics of the amp. I have no problem using the digital volume of the Hilo and Darryl's pre is spotless with his F1J. It seems to be a hit or miss option with pre's as some are color free and have no impact on the signal and others just kill the dynamics. Perhaps that negative influence is caused by passive preamps but I've used passive volume controls with no noticeable sonic impact. I understand the argument that anything passive is bad but I think that's dependent on the quality of the components.
No, it's actually the opposite. Theoretically a passive will be better, so long as the design is well-executed. An active has greater ability to alter the signal and introduce noise and unwanted gain stages.