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Rickenbacker Hi Gain or Toaster?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by hotrodjohn, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. hotrodjohn

    hotrodjohn Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2009
    Thinking of replacing the neck pickup in a 70's Ric 4001. The bridge pickup is loud and has the cap bypassed, so the neck pickup has less volume by comparison. The neck pickup is as high as it can go. Would a new Ric neck pickup even out the volume output? Which would be better choice, a hi gain or toaster? Thanks.

    P.S. Can anyone diagram or describe for me an easy way to check the current neck and bridge pickups, i.e. where to place the contacts of an ohm meter? Thanks.
  2. The easiest way to check the ohms would be to put a regular cable in the output jack (use the mono one for this). Then touch one lead of the multimeter to the tip of the cable, the other on the sleeve. You can then use the pickup selector switch to check the differences. The neck will probably be around 8, bridge a little more, and combined about 4.

    This will give slightly different readings than going to the pickups directly, but your signal passes through the pots anyway so its more representative of what goes into your amp.
  3. hotrodjohn

    hotrodjohn Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2009
    Thanks. I tried that method just now. The neck pickup reads 7.8. The bridge pickup reads about 100! I remembered about 30 years ago I got the bridge pickup rewound by a Japanese fellow at Alex Music on 48th St. in NYC. Would the rewind, combined with bypassing the cap, account for that value?
  4. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I remember when people were having their Rick pickups rewound by Alex! Alex had those cool Alex Axe guitars.

    That bridge pickup can't be 100k. maybe it's 10k?

    Try this for the toaster; there are 4 screws and nuts in the corners holding the cover on. If you remove them, and just use the two high adjustment screws, you can get the pickup all the way up as high as it goes. You also have to remove the two black rubber grommets if they are on the screws. That's what I used to do on my 4001. It got the pickup higher so it was louder.

    The hi-gains are louder, but they are also muddy sounding. They lack that 4001 tone. But you might like them better if you want a bassy tone.

    I recently rewound one of them to closer to vintage specs and put a better magnet on it to get a brighter tone, while still being louder.
  5. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    It's gotta be 10K. Just dial the bridge volume back a bit. That's what I do.
  6. hotrodjohn

    hotrodjohn Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2009
    Yeah I've tried dialing back the bridge pickup volume but I prefer the tone when it is dimed. I'm gonna try yanking the screws on the neck pup a la SGD and raise it up and see how that works. I'll also take pix of the multimeter readings so y'all can see what I'm talking about.
  7. The hi gains are louder than toasters in just about all cases. The vintage hi gains are weaker than newer ones, but they sound better. The newer ones are muddy as David noted above....partly due to the higher amount of wire on them (they are often 14k and up) but partly the muddiness is also due to the modern molded bobbin that moves the wire out further from the polepieces. Your older pickup is just a better sounding pickup. Most of the older pickups are going to be from about 7k to 9k with the more usual amount being in the 7's. Tee bridge higain pickups are often from around 8k to 10k or so, with the average being in the 8's. I had one rewound on my old '73 by TVJones to about 9.5k and it was a badass sound. I would have kept it but the buyer insisted on it if he was going to buy the bass. The newer higains in the bridge position are wound with a lot of wire and are darker and less aggressive than they should be. The horseshoes are even hotter than the higains too. You also have to consider the spacing difference....the neck pickup spacing on the older instruments was 1/2" while the newer ones are 1" and that makes a difference in the sound. I think the modern pickups work better for the 1" spacing than the 1/2" spacing.

  8. gidbass

    gidbass Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Which is why i replaced mine...i have a 2010 4003, and my advice, is lower the bridge pickup, and raise the neck as much as you can....

    I still opted for a pickup from SGD and it is awesome...the output is still lower than my bridge pickup but the clarity dwarf's the stock hi gain by an order of magnitude.

    By lowering the bridge pickup and raising my neck, i found a sweet spot that is oh so sweet...

    I do agree that the new hi-gain neck pickups sound muddy (due to the overwinding as i understand it...)

    Good Luck!
  9. Its the overwinding, and its also the use of the modern molded bobbins, instead of the older style bobbins with a separate top and bottom piece. The molded bobbins move the wire out further from the polepieces which raises the AC resistance and contributes to the muddy sounds.

  10. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Sorry, but this incorrect. Didn't we have this discussion at the pickup makers forum?

    The neck pickups always used plastic bobbins. The bobbins are the same as in the toaster pickups. The toaster was introduced in 1956. Before the toaster they had another "intermediate" single coil pickup. The main pickup used in Rickenbckers going back to when they were Ro-Pat-In (in 1931), and then Electro-string, was the horseshoe pickup. Generally Rickenbackers only had a horseshoe pickup, and no neck pickup. George Beauchamp invented and patented the horseshoe pickup. Even though the company was named after Adolph Rickenbacker, Beauchamp started it.

    Here's the evolution of Rickenbacker pickups:


    Left to right it the horseshoe, intermediate single-coil, classic "Toaster" and modern hi-gain. The toaster and hi-gain use the same bobbin and bezel size.

    They have used the same molded plastic bobbin since then. When they switched to the Hi-Gain pickups they used the same bobbin, but drill it out for the four rivets and stuck a rubber magnet on the bottom. The toasters had six long (or short) alnico rod magnets).

    Here's a modern high-gain showing the toaster bobbin with the two toaster "slots" molded into the plastic bobbin. Same as they were in 1956.



    The problem with the Hi-Gain neck pickup is the magnet is too weak, and the coil is over wound. This makes the pickup sound dark. Just sicking a stronger magnet will brighten up, as will winding it with less wire.

    The bridge pickups, which replaced the toaster, used FR-4 for flatwork, with rivets as pole pieces. But even then, the wire does not touch the poles. if it did, it would probably short out on them, since the poles have a spiral thread on them. So they wrap the poles with foam rubber and then masking tape, and then wind the coil. So they are spaced about as far as on the plastic bobbin.


    Moving the wire farther from the poles or magnets does not increase the AC resistance. It will probably lower the inductance, and decrease some capacitance of the poles are grounded.
  11. My '03 4003's Hi Gains don't sound muddy. They are pretty bright, but I also put a no-load tone pot and a 750K volume pot on the bridge pickup. It has glassy highs that cut through well, even with 4 year old Lo-Riders. It seems the bright maple on this particular bass makes up for it as well(?)
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    The newer pickups are wound a lot hotter. The older hi-gains were not bad sounding.

    I prefer the toasters, but they are a little on the weak side when it came to low end. But when you combine them with the bridge pickup with the bass cut cap in place, you get that classic Rick tone.
  13. You mean new new? Mine isn't exactly "old" but it's not exactly "new" either with it's slightly yellowed binding:)

    So we're on the same page, here's a recording of it going through a Tech21 Oxford, slightly "dirty" with those 4 year old strings. The Oxford has a slightly darker voice, so maybe it sounds like a Ric/P hybrid? I can definitely hear the Ric's clanky character through that though:


    (It sounds much more aggressive going through a brighter preamp and overdrive, such as the Microtubes B3K, btw)
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    The bridge pickup on a Rick will be louder because the magnet is bigger.

    For a 70s 4001 try a neck toaster.

    Also turn all of your knobs to 10 then roll off the neck vol to 7-9 range and find the sweet spot and leave it there for your best tone.
  15. The older hi gain pickups didn't always use the molded bobbin David. I have some at home that have separate flatwork with the magnet on the bottom, and they are wound with less wire and the wire that is on there is further in closer to the polepieces. I never said the wire was wound directly on the polepieces...obviously you would have to have something in there to space it so the winds won't short out. I was only talking about the higains and not the toasters. Some of these old hi gains had flatwork that was green but was painted black. They didn't have the raised slots to fit into a toaster cover seamlessly like a toaster bobbin or the modern hi gain bobbins do. Take a look at this thread for pictures. http://www.rickresource.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=388236

  16. Fuzzbassian


    Jan 12, 2012
    I have a '79 4001 with a toaster put in the neck by a previous owner.I replaced it with a seymour duncan neck pick for the rick.Plenty of juice.

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