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Are Rickenbackers more trouble than they're worth?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by HAdam, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. HAdam


    Jun 24, 2016
    Long Island, NY
    Had my eye on a Rickenbacker 4003 or 4003s for a few years now. On the odd occasion I get to play one it love it every time, totally killer rock bass. My concerns lie with its design and maintenance issues. I've heard some pretty negative stuff like: The neck is too flexible, the dual truss rods are a pain, the frets are too small and wear quickly, the bridge pretty much HAS to be replaced, Rick customer service blows and that it's pretty much the worst bass to gig/travel with at all. I understand that modern Rickenbacker's have a much improve design. Any Rick owners out there able to confirm or deny these worries before I drop almost 2k on one of these things? Thanks ya'll!
  2. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Employee
    The neck is too flexible

    Not true

    the dual truss rods are a pain

    Same as adjusting any other bass, only there's two truss rods vs. one. People are scared of them, but it's easy to adjust. You need a special tool to adjust them though.

    the frets are too small and wear quickly
    Not true

    the bridge pretty much HAS to be replaced
    Not at all. It's difficult to work with to set up, but luckily once it's set up it's pretty stable. It's not terribly high maintenance. Is the Hipshot replacement better? In my opinion, yes.

    Rick customer service blows
    Not the best, but not the worst in my experience.

    and that it's pretty much the worst bass to gig/travel with at all

    I would think it's just fine to gig with. My only concern would be the finish. They aren't the most durable finishes in the world in my experience.

    Hope this helps. Also go to Wildwood Guitars if you are looking to purchase. Best price out there.[/QUOTE]
    djaxup, Tbone76, knumbskull and 15 others like this.
  3. Feralhog


    Dec 29, 2014
    Uh oh.....this should be interesting. A re-run, but interesting........
    4001, Ductapeman, fourtet102 and 11 others like this.
  4. farace


    Jul 9, 2016
    Connecticut USA
    Never had an issue, at all. Had many more issues with my old three-bolt Micro-Tilt Fender Tele Bass, to be honest. Damned thing would need constant tweaking. My Rics have been pretty much set-and-forget. Yeah, setting intonation takes a bit more effort than more modern bridges, but I'm not changing gauges all the time (hell, I barely ever change strings), so once it's done, it's done. I think most of the bad rep Rics get stem from the old hairpin-style truss rods, and people that didn't know the right way to adjust them.
    bobyoung53, jamro217 and JMacBass65 like this.
  5. lug


    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    I haven't had to touch my truss rods since the late 90's. I've owned the bass since the 70's. I did however loss the silver inset in one of the control knobs so BEWARE!!!!
    Soltao, djaxup, lazycat93 and 9 others like this.
  6. Anachronism

    Anachronism Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    All false, except possibly the customer service bit. I haven't dealt with that, though, so I can't speak to it personally.
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Yes. This is a re-run, but I'm happy @HAdam asked... as we can all now help him.

    First, you don't have to pay $2000 for a new Ric, so long as you're willing to make a phone call, and be a little patient. Sign up for Musiciansfriend mailing list, and wait for one of their 15% - 20% discount offers. They won't do it via email though, you have to call. Also, they just did a 20% and they only do them once a year now, so you might want to jump on the 15%. I think it this year they actually may have not even offered 20, might have been 18. Anyhow--- do it! And when you go to MF also sign up for their backstage pass program. That will get you an extra 8% store credit back. You can't beat that kind of deal, and it comes out to much MUCH less than the 2 grand you're currently thinking you have to pay. You can finance it interest free for like 32 months, too... but enough about that.

    Second, and more importantly, the vast majority (if not all of) the negative BS you hear about Rics comes from people who never owned Rics. I believed this to be true, and then did my own research right here on Talkbass. See what people who have genuine experience with Rics have to say here:

    For people who own (or have owned) Rics only!
  8. you can avoid the bridge problems & get humbucker output with a 4004

  9. Bikeguy57

    Bikeguy57 Supporting Member

    I did a lot of research before buying mine. Outside of the Ric haters/Fender fanboys on this forum, they are highly regarded and considered well built and durable. Mine is flawless so far, and I couldn't be more satisfied.
  10. Certainly not in my case.

    Not really; if you get a new bass it comes with an instruction book that tells you how to adjust the rods and there is also lots of advice on youtube and here on TB in the Ric club thread.

    The only tricky thing is that you need a 1/4" (I think) nut driver that is as thin as possible, because there isn't much clearance between the truss rod nuts and the wood next to them.

    (NOTE: if you get a vintage Ric with the old hairpin truss rods, seek advice first! The more recent decades are easy)

    Nope. Not on mine, which is now 5 years old, anyway.

    Not at all. adjusting the intonation is a pain, but once done it's not a problem. TB and other online sites might fool you; I suspect most of us Ric owners never change our bridges.

    Can't help you there; never called or dealt with them. Heard lots of negative stories, and their warranty is kind of lame, though. But at least they are not a fly-by-night flakeout job like some companies.

    If you get it through a reputable dealer with a customer service policy you should be okay.

    I gig mine all the time, I have no idea what clown ever said such BS. Hell, I want to gig my other basses, but the Ric is too addictive. Sounds great and the look turns heads every time. Traveling with it is no different than any other good bass. Use a good case and don't be stupid with the instrument. As someone said, the finish is a bit easy to scratch IMO but after 5 years mine's in decent shape playing the local joints.

    The body binding irritates some people, if you want smooth contouring get a 4003S model, although they don't run in stereo like the 4003 does.
    Kombo, byoung93888, Gizmot and 2 others like this.
  11. HAdam


    Jun 24, 2016
    Long Island, NY
    Ok, this all sounds quite reassuring! Thanks! One more question, any opinions on the 4003 vs 4003s bass? Is it worth the extra cash to get the 4003 over the 4003s?
  12. I think willsellout nailed it.

    Only thing I'd disagree with is the Hipshot bridge being better.

    The saddles move unless you use threadlocker on 'em, and it's really frustrating. I also have trouble intonating it with the included screws.

    I've had my Ric for about 6 years.

    I don't treat it particularly well. I've flown with it as a carry-on in a flimsy gig bag a few times to pretty extreme climate shifts.

    It barely goes out of tune. The neck is super stable and I find setting it up to be easy.

    I replaced the pickups with classic amplification pickups and highly recommend them.

    I have a 4003, but thats because the 4003s wasnt available at the time. I'd get a 4003s if I was buying new. I like the look better, and the lack binding is a bit more comfy (though it never bothers me).

    I'd rather not pay a premium for cosmetic upgrades alone.
  13. Anachronism

    Anachronism Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    The 4003 offers stereo, body binding and fretboard inlays. The 4003S is cheaper and some find the body contours more comfortable. Which is better depends on the player.
  14. Guitars and basses are fussy high-maintenance instruments. Sometimes I wish I had taken up the horn, or piano.

    I play a wide variety of bass brands, and I see idiosyncrasies in almost all of them ranging from mild to extreme PITA.

    I put the Ric somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, and they are worth every bit of the effort for me.

    I think only the individual player could make that call, it's very subjective. A lot of those details provided in the OP sound way overblown to me, but then again, that's just me.
    woodyng2 and willsellout like this.
  15. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Employee
    Oh that's right, I forgot about that. Yeah that is an annoyance.

    I went with the 4003S because the body is more comfortable and I would never use the Ric O' Sound. I'm not in love with the binding and inlays enough to deal with the uncomfortable edges on the 4003.
    woodyng2 and bwoodman like this.
  16. SactoBass

    SactoBass A retired civil engineer who likes all-tube amps! Supporting Member

    What a beauty!!! ;)
  17. Tim1


    Sep 9, 2005
    New Zealand
    I have owned my 4003 for about five years with absolutely zero issues. Neck totally stable, action consistent, frets wear as little or as much as any other bass I have owned. Don't know what else I can say.
  18. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone Banned

    Feb 23, 2011
    The only complain I had when I did own a Rickenbacker 4003, although it was a major one, was that I hated to play it since it, for me, was the the bass with the worst playabillity I ever owned.

    The neck felt oddly clunky to me.

    Now this has pr see nothing to do with the quality of the bass, but rather how I prefer a bass neck to be and my hands physiology.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the points you mentioned before acquiring one, other than maybe the customer service, which I haven't had any experience with, but hear is pretty bad.

    I would however make sure to play one first, to ensure you actually like playing it, but seems like you got that point covered.
    willsellout likes this.
  19. willsellout

    willsellout Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2002
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Sweetwater Employee
    I was about to say the same thing. Such a great piece of maple.
    SactoBass and Jeff Scott like this.
  20. CGremlin

    CGremlin Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2014
    I bought a Jetglo 4003 new in the late '80s and owned it until 2003, and I've had a 4003W since 2014. No problems at all with either instrument, and my old 4003 always had Swing 66's on it with no notable fret wear. The new one hasn't shown any signs of fret wear either.

    That's not to say that other owners haven't had problems, and the older 4001 did require some special attention/procedures for adjusting the truss rods, but I've yet to experience issues regarding build quality or durability of either of my Ricks. There are a couple of ergonomic aspects that some find annoying (you could possibly cut glass with the binding on the upper bout), but that's part of the nature of these quirky beasts, and I've never found them to be a problem for me.

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