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Rickenbacker 4003 replacements: SD or Bartolini?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by nouveau, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. nouveau


    Jan 30, 2005
    I recently purchased a steinberger l2 series bass that immediately replaced my rickenbacker as my weapon of choice, due to its tonal versatility. However for rock gigs, I still would like to use the ric, but I dislike the stock pickups these days. Although I love it's growl and attitude, I could use more clarity, definition, variety, and etc. (ex.- it's never been much of a slapper. Anyone who owns one will tell you this.) I also hate the hum that it is so prone to... thus I was looking at replacement pickups for it. I've only seen Seymour Duncans and Bartolinis, and I was wondering what would be a better choice. I love EMG's, however I don't think they manufacture replacements for ric. Are there any other options? Any opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I'd consider trying an outboard preamp to give your existing Ric pickups more bite and punch. Test-drive one at a store to see what it does for you, before you go switching out pickups. It won't help you get a terrific slap tone, but it will change your sound and give you more options, without removing the classic Ric sound from your bass.

    I have a @1980s Ric 4003 and a 1988 Steinberger XL-2 w/active EMGs. The Steinberger plays more easily and has more tonal versatility, but a huge part of the Ric growl comes from those pickups, and you might regret changing them out and losing the classic sound. That Ric bite (I call it the "hide the children" sound :D ) isn't really available from any other bass; you'll miss it if it's gone. Adding different pickups may give you more tone options, but it may also make your Ric sound generic, or lose some of it's character.

    The Steinberger, while I love it dearly, doesn't have a heck of a lot of personality; it's versatile, but doesn't have as much "character" in some way I can't put my finger on. :meh: That's why I'm currently in the market for a Jazz-type bass, though I've told my wife that I'll get rid of my 'berger when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. :D :D

    Another option would be to try to get a used Music Man or Jazz bass for slapping; though I wouldn't tell Rick James (if he were still alive) that you can't get a good slap tone out of a Ric!! ;) :) Nevertheless, a maple fretboard sounds particularly good in slapping; while I can get a decent tone slapping the 'berger, it's a far cry from the sound one gets playing something like a Musicman or Jazz bass. :bassist:

    Good luck in your quest. If you DO change out the pickups, I'd at least keep the stock ones in case you change your mind later. :)
  3. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    I agree with BartmanPDX - I think an outboard preamp would be a good idea. I put Seymour Duncan's in my '76 4001, and took them out within a couple of days. Of course, YRMV, but try a preamp! I've got a Fodera Model 2000 (bought used for $100) that does wonders! By boosting the bass and the treble I got a wonderful deep tone - with both pickups on it was not unlike a Jazz. Plus, you can use it with all your basses, not just the Ric.

    I can't help with the hum problem though.
  4. nouveau


    Jan 30, 2005
    Thanks for the advice, guys. I suppose I didn't fully realize that the trademark ric bite (hide the children!) would be gone if I replaced the stock pickups. The other companies seem to suggest that with their replacements, the bite is preserved along with added versatility, however, that sound is inherent in the rickenbacker pickups, so it's just common sense. I will definitely investigate preamp options, and I don't think I'm too hot on replacing the pickups anymore... heh.

    BTW: I love maple necks. I don't own one, but they're definitely my favorite...
  5. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Another vote for the general consensus here. I believe much of what makes a 4003's sound unique is in the stock pups! :cool:
  6. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Back in the 1980s I replaced my 4003's stock p/us with the first generation SD replacements. They were absolutely terrible. I no longer entertain replacing mine. I think Alembic also makes Ric replacement p/us, don't they? Anyway, stay with the factory components and go with an outboard tone-shaper.
  7. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    There was a recent article in Bass Player Magazine with Rick James' bass player, I can't recall his name right off hand. Rick James only donned that Rickenbacker bass on the cover "because it looked cool", cooler than a guitar. He didn't even play bass on the album, though he DID right the bass part to Superfreak. James also used the other bass player for live shows.

    If you think Rick James slapped those tunes on a Rickenbacker, you're a victim of visual marketing hype . . .
  8. Rick might not have really slapped a Ric...but this guy sure has!

    Attached Files:

  9. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    You may be right, but this guy says otherwise:

    Rick James article

    "The classic "Rick James sound"—new-wavey synths spread over a barely discernible rock foundation (he shared bandspace with Neil Young early in his career and played a Rickenbacker bass more often adopted by rockers like Paul McCartney than funksters)—was just one color in his sonic palette."

    Bill Leigh of Bass Player magazine is similarly under the impression that Rick played a Ric:
    "For a vintage-instrument buff, an invitation to visit Santa Ana, California's Rickenbacker factory-normally closed to the public-is like finding a golden ticket to a chocolate dreamland. It's not simply that the venerable Orange County company's distinctive instruments-like its classic 4001 bass-have been held in the hands of such players as Chris Squire, Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, and Rick James."
    Inside Rickenbacker: Factory Tour

    You may be right, but evidently I'm not the only one who's been fooled. :D I can get a decent slap tone out of my Ric, though it's a LOT easier with a Jazz bass or Musicman.
  10. Bill Leigh

    Bill Leigh Editor In Chief, Bass Player Magazine

    Apr 8, 2003
    On the contrary, I wrote that the Rick had been in the hands of, not necessarily played by, Rick James. At the time I wrote that article (late 2001 for the February 2002 issue of BP, Dirk Lance cover), I was aware of Oscar Alston, having done research for a Rick James interview years earlier (which ultimately never happened). But I was unsure of who played what and how much, which we later learned when we tracked Oscar down for our more recent article (November issue of BP, Kim Deal cover). I doubted Rick James recorded his Rickenbacker much, but I knew he liked to be associated with it. That's why I worded that sentence that way.

    Bill Leigh
    Editor in Chief, Bass Player
  11. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Hi, Bill!
    Nice to know you are lurking about!
  12. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I've got Barts in my Rick. Overall the instrument sounds similar to when it had the stock pickups in, but it now has a more refined, Bart-ish vibe to it. I've got their mute compartment add-on pickup in there too, which adds some modern zing to the tone when it's dialed in. Overall, I dig it. Very quiet too (they're humbuckers).

    That said, I do miss the stock pickups and their raw power sometimes! I guess there's only one solution: get a second Rick. ;)