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Advice on whether to buy a new fretless or defret a used rickenbacker 4003

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by GingerConor, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. GingerConor


    May 2, 2008
    Hi, so there's a 4003 being sold locally here, its an '89, with a redone paint job. As much as I'd love a rick, I really want a fretless, so I was wondering if you guys would recommend I defret the rick or just play it safe and buy a new fretless, I have a tech that I could bring it to who specialises in bass so I think he'd be able to do a good job on the de-fretting.

    Anyone have any good sound clips of fretless 4003's?

    Any help is appreciated,

  2. Bassisgood4U

    Bassisgood4U Banned

    Jan 30, 2014
    My thinking on this is, why defret the bass that's known for it's guitar chord capabilities? There are some things you can play on a 4001-4003 that you can't get away with doing on most other basses.
  3. bass_case

    bass_case Maintain low tones. Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2013
    Miami, FL
    Buy a fretless, if for no other reason that you can actually play it before you buy it. You don't really know what you'll end up with once you start yanking the frets off. Could be good, maybe not.
  4. GingerConor


    May 2, 2008
    Ye, that's an interesting point. I mean, I guess it just depends on the price/how I like the sound/feel in person. The new fretless I was looking at costs around 1300. I think I could potentially get the rick for like 1000, then maybe another 200 for the defretting with a full set up.

  5. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I love my fretless Ric, but it's an odd beast. The sounds you get from a fretless Ricky are not like those you'd get from a fretless Fender - or any other fretless I've owned for that matter. The neck p'up is really hollow sounding and the bridge p'up honks like a goose.
    Although I really enjoy playing mine, I wouldn't want it to be my only fretless. If I were youy, I'd just buy a fretless. Fretless Rics take a bit of getting used to. Very cool, but very weird.
    Besides, why defret a perfectly good fretted bass if you don't need to?
  6. copacetic


    May 23, 2007
    Besides the cost of defretting and fill ins is going to run you about $400. for a good job and you definitly want the job to be done expertly esp on the Rick fingerboard.
  7. miner


    Oct 26, 2008
    I would get a new fretless for sure. Ricks have a unique sound that I don't think quite sounds what you would be thinking of when you think fretless. And if you defret the rick and don't like it, you've pretty much ruined the resale value of the bass, so you won't get your money back.
  8. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    So for $1300 you could get a fretless you know you like, and for $1200 you might get a fretless that you might or might not like (with some possibility of screwing it up).

    If it were me, the $100 to cover "no risk" would be well worth it.
  9. boristhespider9


    Sep 9, 2008
    I built/ordered a NICE fretless Carvin PB4 (with a traditional headstock) for $843. Hard to beat that.
  10. Gaolee

    Gaolee Outta my way! I'm caffeinated! Supporting Member

    I defretted a Thunderbird. That's another oddity, and I love it. A fretless Ric would be an interesting beast.
  11. MD


    Nov 7, 2000
    Marin Co. CA.
    I always suggest that new fretless players not dump a lot of money into their first one. If it turns out to not be your thing, you're not out a lot of coin. There's a lot of entry level FL's out there.
  12. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    There's several things to consider around defretting.
    First, and obviously, the resell value plummets, no matter how professionaly the job.
    Second, the position markers on the top of the neck will be in an unusual location. Most factory fretless basses have the dots on the neck where the fret would be, whereas on fretted the dot is inbetween the frets. This may or may not be a big deal, depening on how much you "need" those dots and how you use them.
    Another thing; a number of bass players "acquire" (one way or another) a fretless and decide it's not for them. This is entirely understandable, but if you're dropping $1200 on it, and at best I'm thinking you'd get $700 or so back out of it, is $500 worth chancing? If you want a fretless and also want a Ric, I'd say buy a cheap SX/Brice fretless and a Ric. If you decide fretless is something you'll really use, then go ahead and buy a higher end fretless at that point.
  13. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Defretting a bass is rarely a good way to spend money. There are cheaper and more direct routes to fretless bliss.
  14. GingerConor


    May 2, 2008
    Thanks for the replies guys. Invaluable advice. Does anyone know what the possibility of getting a fretless neck for my Sandberg VT4 would be? As in, do you think I could get a fretless neck for that and just swap it out to see if I like fretless?
  15. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    For that bass, I'd guess it would be a long shot to get a fretless neck. If you did though, with a good setup it would be a decent way to get into it also.
  16. bassplace

    bassplace Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2009
    Annapolis, MD
    Buy the Rick and a $300 fret less. If you find you like fret less you get a nicer one later. You could even go for a fret less rick
  17. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I kinda wonder about how the shark fin inlays would sound as opposed to the wood fretboard.

    Personally, I wouldn't do it, but I do love my Ric.
  18. BawanaRik


    Mar 6, 2012
    New Jersey
    I can't recall seeing many fretless Rics.

    There might be a reason for that.

    A fretless Roundabout?
  19. bassplace

    bassplace Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2009
    Annapolis, MD
    Don't defret unless you're already familiar with the bass and have some idea how it will turn out. I just made the switch on a P bass by replacing the neck and was surprised by the tonal change. The combination of string type and whether it's hitting frets or naked board can be dramatic.
  20. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    I don't know about the Sandberg, but I do own 2 Ricks-both fretted. My advice, if you're sure you want a fretless Rick, would be to hold out for a real one. If you simply must have this one, get it; but don't try defretting it. Find a luthier who really knows his way around this kind of thing, and have the fretboard replaced with a proper ebony one. Rick fretboards aren't terribly hard to get off; lots of people have done it unintentionally, trying to adjust a 4001's truss rods incorrectly. ;) Fretless instruments have ebony fingerboards for good reasons; the Bubinga on a fretted Rick looks nice, but won't work nearly as well, and the cast-in-place plastic sharkfin markers will be a disaster. And, which would you rather do; destroy the neck binding getting the frets out, or destroy the fretboard trying to save the binding? Your choice. Personally, I think I'd wait for a proper one. It might take a while, but not as long as it would for me; I'm a lefty! :D