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Considering a Rickenbacker 4003

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by selowitch, Jun 4, 2020.

  1. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    I have never owned a Rick before, but the price on this one seems attractive at $1,350.00:


    The condition seems good, not sure about fretwear. I know I like the sound of Ricks but I am little hesistant about the truss rod system, bridge, and ergonomics.
    nixdad, Loring, G-Z and 8 others like this.

    HELLonWHEELS Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2005
    As the owner of a Ric 4003 I can proudly say it has a flawed designed.

    • The bridge is a nightmare to intonate
    • Dual truss rods makes adjustments unnecessarily difficult
    • Unconquered body can be bothersome to your forearm
    • The bridge cover is directly in the way of the 'sweetspot'

    Having said that, I like my Ric and have no intentions of selling it. It's arguably my best looking bass (Fireglo baby), sounds great and is fun to play, but I would not have it as my only bass.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  3. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    Is this a good price assuming good condition?
  4. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Can’t address the pricing but can agree that it is a high maintenance instrument. Granted I owned one before I started doing my own setups but it was tricky to get it in tune and my guitar tech benefitted. The real problem was the discomfort of the right forearm. Not a comfortable player, these Rics. They’re so good looking though....
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  5. gwangi

    gwangi Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    Forbidden Valley
    If I where you I would check out www.wildwoodguitars.com and you can get a brand new 4003 for maybe roughly $200 more and you'll have a warranty.
  6. I've never owned a Ric, and it's hard for me to comment on pricing outside of Canada, but... I've wanted a Ric for a while now and my experience has been that used Ric prices tend to be higher than I think is reasonable for a used instrument. I will keep looking of course, but I'm starting to think I'd be better of shopping new instruments if I someday buy a Ric. Just my two cents.
  7. It's a polarizing love/hate instrument for some people. I got a used 4001 for my only bass when in high school and loved it and about 12 years ago got a new 4003 that I really enjoy. The ergonomics never was an issue for me.
  8. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Agree with the other guys, the rickenbacker is a terrible design and the ergonomics are even worse. I gigged with 4001/3's for a number of years and they absolutely broke my arms to play on the strap.

    But everyone should have a 4003; you'll love it and never want to get rid of it once you get one. And they hold their value remarkably well.

    If you go with the 4003s, that'll help quite a bit with the sharp edge of the binding on the upper body cutout from digging into your forearm. That part of the body is rounded and more comfortable. And the PU cover over the bridge PU is removable....

  9. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    That's a slightly below average price for that instrument, depending on year and condition. I've owned Rickenbacker basses for quite some time. Adjusting the truss rods is no big deal. There's two instead of one. I'm not sure why some people find that difficult. Yeah, the bridge is a pain to intonate. I swapped that bridge for the Hipshot version on one of mine which is a lot better. The ergonomics always fit me well, but I have heard some complaints about the binding digging into some player's forearm. You may wish to look into a 4003s, which is a similar model with no binding, if it bothers you.
  10. Good price.

    There are idiosyncracies with the 4003, many well-documented here, that either turn you off or you learn to accept and live with them.

    I never considered myself an expert luthier, but I'm pretty sharp with basic set ups on a wide variety of basses and guitars. I do not find the stock Ric bridge that difficult to set up to taste. The only real problem I ever had was with the older black powder coated variety that had some tail lift. The lift settled and the bass set up, intonated, tuned up, and stayed stable as the day is long, but it still bugged me, so I put the Hipshot replacement on it. That bridge has some idiosyncracies of its own with saddles rocking if you don't do it right, so it's only a marginal improvement. Tail lift is a relatively rare thing, and if this bass is more than a few years old and hasn't experienced it, it's probably not going to happen.

    I found the ergonomics a little odd at first, and if you thumb anchor, thumb placement can take a little adjustment. I hunkered down over my first Ric for a good long time before buying it, and I decided I could acclimate to the bass. Best gear decision I ever made.

    Dual rods take a little extra thought, but once you get the hang of it, it's a great design. You can actually get one relief for the bottom string and a slightly different relief for the top string which contributes to a whole lot of stability and accuracy. Again, not that hard IMHO.

    That neck PU cover had to go, a common mod for Ric players.

    Once my 4003's are set up, they tend to have the lowest action in my collection, be among my easier players, and they stay stable for years without needing so much as a tweak. If you need help there are tons of videos. If you rely on a tech, make sure you have a RIC EXPERIENCED tech.

    Some of the above is a deal breaker for some bass players, and that's fair. I play a wide variety of brands and configurations, and I wouldn't be without at least one 4003 in my arsenal.
  11. 80jazz


    Jun 28, 2008
    I think he is working on a third prototype, but Jeff Babicz is working on a replacement.
  12. Bassndrums73


    Mar 13, 2018
    I didn’t like the single coil pickup buzz. Drove me nuts. It’s a shame because I always wanted one too.
  13. Rezdog

    Rezdog Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    T.Rez, Canada
    Greetings from the North,

    Hey Selowitch hold off for a 4003S. The body is contoured so you won't have to deal with forearm rub rash and it's usually just a tad lighter in weight. That is of course if you aren't partial to Ric O Sound stereo and shark fin inlays. Other than that they're sonically the same.

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
    selowitch, Shlabotnik and mikewalker like this.
  14. Just say no
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  15. selowitch

    selowitch Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2005
    Rockville MD
    I did say no, ultimately, but I am happy to continue the discussion.
    Wolfhound32 and JeezyMcNuggles like this.
  16. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I've owned 6 Rickenbackers. I don't know what all this maintenance people are talking about is. I had an early 70's that I didn't need to change anything on for 10 years. As far as difficult to set up, if you can read and follow simple instructions, it's not hard.

    Having said that, Rickenbackers are really all over the place in terms of neck size and feel. Of the 6 I owned, I loved 2, 1 was good, the other three were meh. I would NEVER buy a Rickenbacker without trying it out, especially if you haven't owned one before.
  17. Brassmonkey71


    May 1, 2020
    I have played Fender for 35 years (JB mostly), but I have now owned a 4003 for the last few years. Perfect complement as the bridge and bridge+neck sound amazing. The trick is to get used to the straight neck. The quality is amazing. I'd buy the mapleglo, no doubt.
  18. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Agree also about the fretboard. The older 4001's that have been through heck might have a low or high fret here and there, but I was always really pleased by how flat the fingerboards were on my 4003's. You can really set them up with a low action, plus or minus how good the fretwork is on that particular bass. Mine were always really good, though.

    And the baseball bat kind of feel to the neck is offset by the 33" scale which makes it a little to play overall.

    As for the tone, my suggestion would be to get a relatively new 4003 that has the "vintage" switch on the bridge PU. Part of what broke my arms gigging with my 4001 was that capacitor that cuts out all the lows. I just instinctively hammered on the thing so hard to get lows out of it and that's what caused all the cortisone shots and such.

    I'm just real slow, so I didn't learn about the capacitor until long after I quit playing rickenbackers on gigs. But you can clearly hear when it's not in the circuit that you have a lot more power out of the rear PU...

  19. Yeah, the neck profiles are all over the map. It's almost like they re-calibrate them every 7 years or so, or with special/limited finish runs. I don't get along well with Ric's "baseball bat" profile. But when they are more like a typical C, very comfortable.

    I had a gorgeous Metallic Teal 4003, broke my heart to sell it because the neck profile was so much thicker than my other 4003's.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  20. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    High maintenance?
    High maintenance? On my 4002 (yes, "2", not "1" or "3"), which has the old-style truss rods and the older bridge with both sides of the bridge saddle threaded so that you have to set the saddle before tightening down, not use the set screw "Fender style" to adjust the intonation, it took a little bit more time up front to set up everything, then I never had to touch either the bridge or the truss rods for over 20 years, until GHS ceased production of first generation Progressives and I had to get different strings. I am looking forward to Progressives 2.0 so that I can re-set the bass and go another 20+ years without having to touch either the bridge or the truss rods.

    If you change brand/model/gauge of strings often, and don't keep it wiped down between practices and gigs, then yes, all basses will require more maintenance.
    StyleOverShow, GoesThump and ajkula66 like this.

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