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Rickenbacker 73, a good year

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by alansan, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. alansan


    Mar 12, 2004
    Dublin, Ireland
    Hi everybody, I'm a forum newbie typing all the way from Dublin Ireland. Hmm you people are probably in bed...

    I have a question about Rickenbacker basses. I'm considering buyng one and was wondering if they have suffered the same reduced quality due to corporate corner-cutting and marketing complacency over the years.

    For example are Rickies from the 70s/80s built to a higher standard than today? Are the up-dated pick-ups on modern Rickies still capable of that charactaristic sound? Any opinions backed up by experience would be appreciated.

    By the way I play a four string fretted and a five string fretless Zoot bass built by Mike Walsh of Iceni music.
  2. RIC's dont suffer from quality control issues...they just suffer from a bad service dept.(from what i hear)
    I have talked to alot of RIC owners and it is very rare that something slips up with them quality wise.
    Vintage RIC's are fine to buy, you just have to inspect the neck cause older models were sometimes prone to neck problems.
  3. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    You forget that Ricks from the 70's-80's were 4001's, while today (since the mid-80's) we've had 4003's. They are both different animals, though they look the same. Different controls, tone, neck, saddle construction, pickups, etc.
  4. Thornton Davis

    Thornton Davis

    Dec 11, 1999
    1973 for the 4001 Rickenbacker bass is known as the "transition year". Up until May of 73 all 4001 Ric basses had most of the 60's vintage features on them. That means these basses were factory fitted with checkered binding, full width mother of pearl neck inlays, split tailpiece, toaster neck pick-up positioned 1/2" from the neck as well as Grover box tuners.

    Between May and Sept of 73 these features were replaced by todays current binding, tailpiece, tuners etc. But some of the basses made during this time were fitted with old and new components. It's not uncommon to find a 73 4001 bass with checkered binding and a toaster neck pickup but lacking the split tailpiece or full width neck inlays.

    You will also find 4001 basses that were made in late 73 that have none of the vintage features except perhaps Grover box tuners. The new solid white binding replaced the checkered binding, the toaster pickup was changed to the high gain bobbin style pickup and relocated back 1" from the neck and the tailpiece no longer had the split. The neck inlays no longer reached from side to side full width, but were 1/8" shorter on each side of the neck.

    As for quality of Rickenbackers of the 70's & 80's compared to todays Rickenbackers, there is no difference in quality. John Hall's number one priority has been to ensure that each instrument produced is of the highest quality possible. The Vintage, Limited Edition and C-Series are proof of this.

    Today's Rickenbackers are outstanding in everyway and ooze quality.

    As for that Rickenbacker tone and pickups, todays stock 4003 sounds more like a Precision than the 4001. But if you want that famous RIC growl, you can buy a 4001C64, 4001C64S, 4001v63 or 4001CS. With the latter two being only available used now that they have been discontinued. Or you can order vintage reissue pickups and install them in a 4003 which has become more and more popular.

    I've been a 4001 owner for the past 35 years. Like anything, if you take care of the instrument, it will give you back years of pleasure. I personally love Rickenbacker instruments and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to experience their unique charm.

  5. alansan


    Mar 12, 2004
    Dublin, Ireland
    Thanks for the sound advice everybody, especially Thornton. Could anyone possibley expand further on the diffrerences between the 4001 and the newer 4003 models? How are they different and why has the sound changed? They seem to be identically priced.
  6. Thornton Davis

    Thornton Davis

    Dec 11, 1999
    The 4001 and 4003 are pretty much the same instruments. The primary difference between them is the truss rods.

    The rods in the 4001 were designed to accomodate flat wound strings. During the mid to late 70's round wound strings became very popular. The additional tension that they put on the rods (when using heavy gauge strings) would sometimes force the fretboard to pop off the neck. Seeing that Rickenbacker did not recommend heavy gauge round wound strings be put on their 4001, they would not repair the fretboard under warranty. The owner would have to cover the cost of the repair. I've used medium-lite gauge round wound strings on my 73 4001 for years and never had a problem.

    A redesign of the rods and material quickly solved this problem.
    In order not to confuse anyone, Rickenbacker desided to rename the bass. It became the 4003.

    If you look at a number of 4001 and 4003 basses together that span twenty to thirty years in age, you will see a number of minor differences in them. The differences are slight, but they are there. If you played these same basses, you will find that the 4001 basses made throughout the 70's have a faster slimmer profile neck compared to the neck on todays 4003 which are a bit chunky and wider.

    As for sound, the pickups of today are much hotter than those made 30 plus years ago. They look the same because of the outside pickup cover, but underneath they are quite different. That in turn effects the sound of the instrument.

    One very important reason for the sound difference between a 4001 and 4003 is that the 4001 has one additional capacitor in it. It is the .0047 cap that is wired to the bridge pick-up. It effectively removes 50% of the output of the pickup. The result is the creation of that thin growling sound that can be heard on most Yes and Rush recordings.
    The 4003 has a shunt installed where the .0047 cap originally was. The shunt permits the bridge pickup to output to its maximum thus creating a fuller fatter sound compared to the 4001.
    A simple bypass wire placed to eliminate the .0047 cap in the 4001 doubles the bridge pickups output. The result is amazing.
    Some 4001 owners install a push/pull pot in one of the tone knobs to permit the bypassing of the cap with the pull of the knob.
    For the most part, that is pretty much it. Except for todays modern vintage re-issue basses. They have the features of the 60's basses but utilize the new 4003 truss rods. You can put what ever type of strings on them that you want.
  7. 1973ric4001


    Apr 27, 2005
    i just played a new rick 4003=p.o.s
    in comparison to the quality of a '73 4001 that is. the neck was one piece (i think, dont remember it 2 well), the sound wasnt as thundering as my 73. also it felt light and flimsy, and cheep :spit: also it had a fatter headstock with the scroll all fat and ungly. my opinion is, rickenbackers (as the majority of all guitars) has decreased in quality since the 70's and really aren't worth the $1,500 price tag.
  8. Ive a Ric 4001 '77 and i did the cap mod. But im really after that Geddy sound, do you advice me to undo the cap mod.? Thanks.
  9. Bob the Bass

    Bob the Bass

    Aug 13, 2004
    "Corporate corner-cutting" is not in the Rickenbacker vocabulary. It is a familly owned & run firm, for whom quality & craftsmanship are cornerstones.
  10. I've played a friend's 2005 Ric several times and have no problem coaxing a Geddy Lee sound out of it. And I'm a bit of a rush obsessive so I'm very particular about the tone too. It took some jiggling but it's there.
    The current hi-gain pickups have been described as 'hotter' than the old ones, but the Ric tone I love and grew up with is still there in spades I think. I certainly wouldn't describe it as Precision like.
  11. That's very harsh! your 73's going to have a worn in, vintage feel, something a brand spanking new instrument won't have. But I agree, the current headstock is too fat. :crying:
  12. Yup!

    The newer necks are stronger, and more resilient than the old ones too(albeit, with a little less speed...)

    Go to their new and improved website, and you'll find a factory tour there....and yes, your vintage Rick is going to have something special about it...as will my 03' 4003 in thirty-three years..

    ....something about the old wood is really special..
  13. Thornton Davis

    Thornton Davis

    Dec 11, 1999

    If you want the "Geddy sound" leave the cap un-bypassed. So undo the bypass mod.

    You'll also have to learn how to "attack" the strings to get his sound. It's not just one thing you need to do to achieve his sound, but rather a number of things.

  14. MikeM


    Apr 21, 2004
    LMAO .. I don't even need to check your profile to know you were not around in the 70s
  15. and the price is 1k
    not 1500.
  16. Well im think I almost now uses the same technique/attack as Geddy and I have the RBI now. So Im going to try with the cap mod. off. Thanks for your information!
  17. GSRLessard14

    GSRLessard14 All-Things-Claypool Enthusiast

    Jun 23, 2005
    Newington, CT
    Great thread, this is just the kind of info I need. :)

    So, there's no like "bad year" of basses that I should steer clear from? It's not like "'84 was a bad year for the 4003," or "90's 4001's aren't very good." Right?
  18. Thornton Davis

    Thornton Davis

    Dec 11, 1999

    You will find different neck profiles throughout the years on the 4001 and 4003, but from a quality point of view, Rickenbacker has never had a "bad year". That's due to their high standards of quality control, and a management who demands nothing less.

  19. Rickenbacker has some of the highest quality standards available in a production instrument.
    the 1973 Model 4001 has a current street value of,
    prices are listed low, to high, excellent condition.
    $1,800 - $1,900 (usd). :cool:
  20. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    +1 to both of Kink Rimson's posts (except the headstock bit... I actually like it).

    Rick quality is nothing short of first class, always has been. Yes, there are variations over the years (neck profile, pickups...) but these are relatively minor design changes rather than quality issues.

    I have a 2003 4003 (if you follow) and the neck is a bit chunkier than the Ricks I remember from way back. But the tone is still all Rick - perhaps the only sound on Earth that sings and grunts at the same time :D

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