1983 Rickenbacker 4003 pick-up question

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Diamond Mind, Jan 28, 2023.

  1. Diamond Mind

    Diamond Mind

    Jan 28, 2023
    Hey all!

    First time posting so if this isn't allowed I do apologize.

    Looking for pick-up options for my '83 4003. Currently has original pick-ups which seem very quiet compared to other basses here. Not sure what's up.

    I would love to keep the look of the original but maybe something a bit louder. A bit of research led me to high gain Ric pickups but I'm having trouble finding them.

    Maybe I should have these re-wound?

    Any thoughts would be great!
    Auspuff likes this.
  2. blastoff99

    blastoff99 Moderators Local A440 Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2011
    Under the flight path
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  3. JC BASS 91

    JC BASS 91

    Oct 22, 2021
    SW Missouri
    There is a company called RetroVibe in the UK that makes reproduction pickups for Ric basses and offer some of them in two different resistance ratings.

    Pickups | Retrovibe

    Maybe they will provide what you are seeking?
  4. Diamond Mind

    Diamond Mind

    Jan 28, 2023
    Those look great!! Thanks for the tip!

    JC BASS 91 likes this.
  5. Diamond Mind

    Diamond Mind

    Jan 28, 2023
    Thank you so much!

    blastoff99 likes this.
  6. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    The "Hi-Gains" are just Rickenbacker's name for the stock pickups in your bass (relatively weak ceramic bar magnets on the bottom, 4 polepieces right under the strings). Different eras did have different amounts of wind on the coil which does affect output, and the modern versions are some of the hottest ones with early 70s versions having the lightest winds- yours would have been on the lighter side in the early 80s. Even modern Ricks don't have particularly high-output pickups in my experience compared to even passive Fenders.

    From the factory your bass would have had a capacitor hardwired to the treble pickup part of the circuit that cuts out bass and alot of the output of the bridge pickup to better blend with the neck pickup (part of the "signature" vintage Rickenbacker tone). Modern 4003 basses put this capacitor on a switch and call it the "vintage tone", but up through the mid or late 80s it was hardwired into the circuit. The neck pickup in a Rick has a much smaller magnet than the bridge, so with the "vintage capacitor" on the bridge pickup the two pickups have a fairly balanced output with each other while in modern Ricks without that capacitor the bridge pickup usually overpowers the neck significantly. It is pretty easy to bypass this capacitor on your bass if you want to see if it improves things to your liking (assuming it hasn't already been removed or bypassed)- just solder a wire across the capacitor to bypass it.

    If you do feel the need to swap pickups, Seymour Duncan, Bartolini and Joe Barden make replacement humbuckers with higher output than the stock pickups with the Bardens apparently sounding closest to the stock pickups. Rickenbacker also makes a humbucking pickup that is louder than the Hi-Gains called the HB-1. If you want a single coil set then Classic Amplification makes killer Rickenbacker pickups with stronger ceramic magnets that are a bit higher in output and you can get them wound to taste (I have these in two different Ricks)- he is retiring later this year so will only be an option for a little longer.

    You could also try swapping in stronger magnets in your current pickups- a number of people have done this to the neck pickups in their Ricks using thin neodymium bar magnets, and you could do the same on a bridge pickup either adding to the current magnet or replacing it entirely.

    I wouldn't bother rewinding the pickups unless they don't sound good to you- the magnets are the main culprit in the low output and adding more wire will also change the tone significantly.
  7. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    You will lose the signature tone of the bass if you change the pickups. If they don't have enough output, crank the pre-gain on your amp.
  8. SulzerType2


    Jun 10, 2022

    I disagree. A lot of the Rickenbacker tone is derived from the design of the bass. Changing pickups alters the seasoning at best. A 4003 with Bartolini pickups is still 90% classic Ricky tone.

    Classic Amplification make replacement Ricky bass pickups that capture the original tone but are much much better made than Rickenbacker pickups.
    GtenderG likes this.
  9. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Disagree as you will. My comment is from experience. I had a '76 4001 which I played in college jazz band and for other bands after graduation until I sold it in the early 90's to get my 4002 (yes, "2," not "1" or "3"), which I still have, totally stock, and have not only gigged, but recorded with it. So I speak from when my 4001 was a fairly new bass, and I also speak about the subsequent decades of perspective about all the wannabe pickups that have come and gone over the decades, but always fall short, as I have been privileged to play one with all its signature tone and presence, not beat up after decades of use and abuse where all the aftermarket pickups can approach an abused 4001, but only merely echo a 4001 in all its glory. I maintain my position.
  10. GtenderG

    GtenderG Supporting Member

    Feb 29, 2008
    I put a set from Classic Amplification on my 1990 4003 and haven't looked back. I chose them because I wanted to keep the 'Ric sound' and they were recomended specifically for that. I didn't lose the Ric sound at all. Both CA pickups sound like the original they replaced only better. By 'better' I mean more output and quieter. The original pickups gave off quite a bit of hum from lights and other RF sources.
    SulzerType2 likes this.
  11. SulzerType2


    Jun 10, 2022

    So your data here is from a single bass you sold over thirty years ago, and somehow this gives you enough information to write off every aftermarket Rickenbacker-compatible pickup, including those wound to identical specs?
  12. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Yes. I stand by my comments. This includes at least a half-dozen other 4003 basses, new and used, I have helped friends set up and play over the years, including their experiments with pickups and tailpieces, and including one incident that got back to me that one of my friends took his 4003 into a local reputable music store to show them, and everyone in the store, including all the staff, sat down to play it and remarked it was the best set up 4003 they had ever played. He finally told them I did the set up, and they were amazed.
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2023
  13. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I think pickup swaps do make a big difference in a Rick, but definitely wouldn’t go as far as saying they will erase the signature tone of the instrument. If that was the case then modern Ricks wouldn’t sound like Ricks either as they use pickups wound much hotter than the vintage specs and with smaller values potentiometers. I’m not a fan of the modern pickups, but the Ricks I’ve owned with them still sounded like Ricks just darker and more saturated. They still sound like Ricks with HB-1 humbuckers and Classic Amplification singles as well. I’ve unwound some modern Hi-Gains to vintage specs and they do get much closer to the vintage Rick tone, though not perfect (my theory is the modern bobbins with adjustable polepieces use different metal for the poles and possibly additional metal that affects the inductance). The Classic Amplification Hi-Gains seem to get closest to the tone of the bridge pickup of the ‘73 4001 I had (of course comparing the Toaster in the neck of the ‘73 with the neck Hi-Gain is a different story), though the different magnets likely change things a bit apart from just adding output.

    In any case, I think the reality rests somewhere in between your two statements. It really depends on subjective judgements of what parts of the tone of the bass are the “signature” (for me it is the clear and snappy top end paired with woody midrange I hear in Chris Squire recordings, for someone else it might be the fat woodiness of Paul McCartney or gritty saturation of Al Cisneros, etc). If the latter two were the ideal then pickup type would likely matter less than with the first example.
    GtenderG and Engle like this.
  14. Diamond Mind

    Diamond Mind

    Jan 28, 2023
    Thanks for all the info everyone. I'll likely keep it as-is for the moment.