Can't decide between Rickenbacker 4003 vs. 4001

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by EliasMessiah, Apr 14, 2021.

  1. 4003

    29 vote(s)
  2. 4001

    29 vote(s)
  1. EliasMessiah


    Aug 28, 2020
    I played a Rickenbacker 4003 Autumnglo Limited.
    Loved the sound and liked the matte finish, but i found the neck was very chunky (i have smaller hands) which and the overall body balance wasn't that great either. It was rather neck divey. When playing this Bass it felt you had more neck than body. Maybe i can get used to it however, i don't know.

    I heard that Rickenbacker 4001 70s had slimmer necks, smaller headstock, larger and heavier body and therefore better balance and playability. I can imagine that i'm not a big fan of the glossy finish on the neck as well as on the fretboard tho. I sadly never tried one and don't have the ability to do so in the future. I heard some horror stories of neck bends, which make me question if the 4001 really is the right choice.

    Soundwise i heard that some people think that the newer ones are better but then there are as many people saying the old one sounds superior.

    Any suggestions?
  2. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    I like both but if you're looking for a slim neck, the early 70's had very slim necks and they gradually got thicker as the decade went on but not like later ones. I have a 79 4001 and it's comfortable. Now this being said they are not all identical even in the same year. 4001 pickups are wound less and are brighter but less powerful, during the 80's they started winding them more, the early 90's basses I had were very powerful compared to my 4001's. With a 4001 as long as you learn how to adjust the truss rods correctly it won't give you any trouble and you don't want to put super heavy strings on them either. Another thing with 4001's and early 4003's is there is a cap in the bridge pickup circuit that drops all the bottom and lower mids out of it, some people like it most don't. I always bypassed that cap. I like just about any Ric and would be happy with any of them, the necks did seem to get a little thick though early 2000's until early 2010's but they still nice playing. 4001's are a little more delicate. I think the newer 4003's probably have more presence in a band situation and are more easily maintained. Early 70's Rics are expensive now too, actually any 4001 is more expensive than a new 4003. But overall if you're looking for a thinner neck I'd go anywhere from a 4001 up until sometime in the early- mid 90's, just try them out first if you can. I have an 1985 factory fretless neck and it is thinner than my 4001. The early 70's also had smaller headstocks. I have never played a Ric with neck dive though and I've owned a lot of them over the years.
    One Way, Buster Brown and ajkula66 like this.
  3. Please take this as no more than an opinion of someone who's not an expert on Rics, but has owned a late '70s 4001 and played quite a few others...

    These basses are about the only instruments that I would never even dream of purchasing without trying because of the huge variance in the neck profile(s). I've come across several early '70s examples that had huge necks and were complete no-starters for me for that reason alone, as much as I loved their sound. I've never coma across a single 4003 with a neck that I liked.

    Your best bet may be something along the lines of 4001 V63 re-issue, where you'd get a newer instrument based on older specs, but it's not going to be an inexpensive venture.

    I, for one, still have to find a Ric that sports a neck that I like and is for sale at a reasonable price at the same time.

    Hopefully your luck will be better than mine in that respect.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  4. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    The Talkbass approved answer is both, with flats of course.
  5. AtomicPunk

    AtomicPunk Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2007
    Detroit Metro, MI USA
    I think the 1986 4003s had very slim necks, if you can find one of those.
    Blackhawks55 and bobyoung53 like this.
  6. To be honest I think you’ll end up not liking it. The necks do vary from bass to bass and 70’s are slimmer but otherwise your feelings of hesitation are for the same reasons that a lot of others end up not getting along with them. D Neck shape, flat body feel (and binding) and pickup placement seem to be the reasons most mentioned that people end up getting rid of a Ric once they buy one. I’ve has several 4003’s and a 4001 and they keep drawing me in even though I have a love/hate relationship with them.
    bdgotoh, nateh415 and SgtHulka like this.
  7. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    By most metrics, the current 4003 is the better instrument, but I personally prefer the proportions of the 70's era basses.

    In all honesty, if I were in your shoes, I'd pick a current 4003, for the following reasons :

    1) Vintage & modern tone cap options [push/pull tone knob].

    2) New bridge design.

    3) Hard wearing fret wire [70's 4001 had soft fret wire, which necessitated flat wound strings - stainless steel round wounds destroy those frets].

    4) Truss Rods [70's 4001 had the dreaded hair pins].

    5) It's new [70's 4001 has had 40 - 50 years of use : DIY modded treble tone cap, bridge that's lifting at the tail, worn out frets, one hair pin on the verge of snapping, the other on the verge of separating the fret board, cracked binding, scuffed up finish, out of guarantee, and with Grover sealed tuners ready to explode].

    But that's the bass that's right for me.

    Only you can decide which bass is right for you.
  8. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    Try a 4003S if the flat body bothers you, I went from a P bass to a Ric when I was young and it took some getting used to the Rick for me but I stuck it out and like them just as much as Fenders and Gibsons now. They're different than a Fender but have a lot of positives also.
    lizardking837, ajkula66 and EagleMoon like this.
  9. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    You are REALLY generalizing. I've owned conservatively 30 Ricks over the years, both 4001's and 4003's and have never had tail lift that has hurt the bass in any way on any of them, my 79 has virtually none. I like the hairpin truss rods. The fretboard separates from the neck on 4001's because some people didn't know how to set them up properly, they just don't do that by themselves. Rotosounds which is what everyone used in the 70's destroyed the frets on a 66 jazz bass frets in a couple of years that I had, they are very harsh, but sound good. I have had no problem with the older bridges, you just need to do it correctly. If you get a 4001 in good shape they are excellent basses. 4003's are easier to maintain though, that I agree with.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
    Wood and Wire and ajkula66 like this.
  10. EliasMessiah


    Aug 28, 2020
    Interesting thoughts. I could get my hands on a Rickenbacker 4001 79 too and it seems to be in a good shape:

    egynwydklidro6duve.jpeg blue bass.jpeg nnprhngxprqjzqnggpbe.jpeg yugwdidhv2doq8klvxud.jpeg xcmdhrxelnaishfpyoz9.jpeg
    I'm completely aware that bass will cost quite a bit more than a 4003 but i'm looking for a bass for life.

    On the other hand this would be the 4003 i could get:

    IMG_0484 (1).jpg

    Would it be possible and a good idea to grind the neck, so it's thinner?
  11. It's not a good idea whatsoever, IMO/IME. I'd sell the bass or a guitar that doesn't have a neck that works for my needs instead. Not to mention that doing something like that on a vintage instrument affects the value quite significantly and not in a good way.
  12. I voted 4003S mainly because I prefer what I hear as a thicker sound which gives great flexibility for all kinds of music...I can play even get away with reggae on this bass. The neck on my 2018 is thick but it still plays very fast. I like the S series because I much prefer the smooth edging.
  13. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    My first bass was a 70s era 4001. I bought it used in the early 80s. I played quite a few other Rics and I agree with the poster who said you need to try various basses and find one you like. Before I bought my bass, I had borrowed a bass that looked almost exactly like it and played and sounded even better. All of the other Rics I tried in stores were pretty much dogs and played awful (brand new instruments).

    I knew a guy who bought a 4003 a few years after I bought my bass and it played great. There are really great Rics out there, but IMHO you need to hunt them down.

    My 4001 had pretty significant neck dive. It's a Frankenbacker now with Alembic pickups and active electronics. I also had a 2-Tek bridge installed which is super heavy and corrected the neck dive. Arguably it's a better bass now, but it no longer really sounds like a Ric :bawl:. If I could go back in time I would slap myself and yell, "Leave it stock!" The bass was not cheap. I spent more in mods than I paid for the bass. The value of the bass now is probably <1/3 of what it would be if I had left it stock. I doubt I will ever mod a bass again :(.

    I never had any trouble with the original bridge, but the E-string was a bit card-boardy or wooly sounding. The neck never needs adjusting but it's always been sort of a limp noodle. Because of this, if I gig the bass I have to tune every couple of songs. I suspect the floppy neck was a factor in the card-boardy E-string. As others have said, it's not really designed for high tension strings.

    The Ric was my #1 for about 15 years; including my first couple of years as a pro. After that I moved to a Yamaha BB5000 for a few years before settling in with my current #1, a Yamaha TRB6P.
  14. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    I've always found Ric's to be very well balanced on a strap. Never had an experience of neck dive on one anyway.
    bobyoung53, StereoPlayer and JoshS like this.
  15. SgtHulka

    SgtHulka Inactive

    Mar 29, 2019
    Ricks are not lifetime basses. They are poorly built, terribly uncomfortable and rely on their old school reputation for their inflated pricing.
    Tvrtko and Rabidhamster like this.
  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I’d look for an early 4003, maybe ‘81 or ‘82. The ones I’ve played have thin necks and they are cheaper than the 4001s.

    Don’t listen to the haters, they are just regurgitating what they’ve heard from other haters.
  17. Stewie


    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    Buy the blue one. If you're going to look cool, you ought to look REALLY cool!
  18. roswell1965


    Mar 5, 2002
    Exactly. Whenever you see a "laundry list" of grievances you know you're hearing from someone with zero first-hand experience.
  19. VitoMB


    Sep 28, 2019
    Quebec, Canada
    I just bought a 4003 Jetglo 2020 that I very like the design and the tone from my Ampeg rig. Since 2019, it has a much better bridge than the previous one and it can play fast as well, no worries. However, i would use it on 2-3 songs max during a gig. Whatever the year it was made Ric basses are not the most comfortable for playing a whole long night gig. YMMV.
  20. Relsom


    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    As one who has ranted occasionally about the usual dislikes about them, I've learned to embrace those things that give RICs their *ahem* charm. I currently have 4 4003s in the stable. I'd still like to find a '76 ~ '90 in good condition as I've yet to find a modern 4003 with a truly comfortable neck. If that blue one has a nice neck and isn't hiding any bugaboos, that's what I'd go with.
    AND, if the blue one checks out and you STILL get the 4003 PM me with the details on the '79.
    EliasMessiah and bobyoung53 like this.