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Tell me about Rickenbackers.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jarrah, Apr 2, 2013.

  1. jarrah


    Feb 1, 2013
    Looking at getting a Ric, they're pretty expensive here so I'm going slowly with my research. A little background, I play mostly heavy stoner rock sort of stuff, some prog (the Tool sound) and I do like to be able to experiment with different styles, cool/funky sounds etc. I have a Markbass head and SWR cab, looking at getting an Ampeg or Orange rig but that's another story. I tend to prefer lighter basses with somewhat thinner necks, my basses up until now have been an Ibanez Soundgear and Ibanez ATK (love both of them).
    So is a Rickenbacker worth the $2000+ price tag I'll have to pay in Australia? Pros? Cons? Would the money be better spent on a good P Bass?

    I haven't actually had a chance to play a Ric yet...that's how hard to get they are here. Playing one will be the true test I know.
  2. blmeier7

    blmeier7 Supporting Member

    May 7, 2006
    Amarillo, TX
    IMO and IME Ricks look really cool but if your looking for a thin neck I would say that Ricks aren't some of the thinner necks, they feel pretty chunky and slow to me. They are lighter than they look though, and there are some after market bridges that can lighten them up even more.

    A lot of people really like Ricks but they aren't very comfortable to play IME. I would definitely play before buying.
  3. greggster59


    Oct 31, 2006
    New Jersey
    If you get a good, that is, one with a straight neck, minimal tail lift and a consistent finish, they are a lot of fun to play and more versatile than their detractors claim.

    Depending on the strings you put on them you can get everything from a Chris Squire growl to a Paul McCartney thump and its sustain lasts for days

    Some people find the the sharp edged binding makes playing uncomfortable after a while and the stock pick up cover gets in the way but that is removable.

    Above all, make sure you try it before you buy. Among the most common issues can be a warped neck, wood finish inconsistencies and flaws, tail lift at the bridge and few others I can't think of right now. Inconsistent Q/C by Rickenbacker, like any mass production bass, is not uncommon.
  4. baddarryl

    baddarryl Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2008
    Cape Fear!
    I loved mine and regret selling it. Some love them, some don't.
  5. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    I gigged with a pair of Ricks for many years and, well, these days I try not to list the cons too much (it's a long long list) because it just starts too many fights. So you'll have to try one and see if you can discover any of the cons for yourself.

    So for the pros, my list would be:
    - appearance. I've always loved the way they look.
    - resale. You won't lose much of your investment even if you buy new. If you get a used one, the chances are good you'll get most if not all of your money back at resale.
    - built-in mute. My current 4003 actually has a working mute in it (my gigging ricks didn't) which I finally discovered the other day. Here's a bad recording of the result:
    The mute is a bit of a one-trick-pony, but it is a kind of neat sound that is possibly useable for certain applications. Though possibly different than what you're looking for.
    - really good build quality. There are rumors out there about varying quality control in recent years, but they're still largely hand-made instruments. And I've always found them to be really well made with good woodworking and etc.
    - for a solid maple bass, they only weigh about 1 ton as opposed to 3 or 4 tons of most other all-maple basses.
    - fretted ones intonate really well. Once you set the intonation at the bridge, it's remarkably in-tune all over the neck (except the low B-flat, B and C on the G string, where it's always a little bit flat). I think this is because the string spacing at the nut is closer to what it is at the bridge, so you don't have that "flaring" string spacing as you go up the neck like on a lot of other basses. Eg. fretted jazz basses just sound awful once you get past the 12th fret, but the Rick is really nice in the upper registers.

    Again I'm not going to list the cons other than to say I don't play mine anymore except for curiosities like the above where I was just messing around.

    But you definitely want to either try before you buy or make sure you can resell it easily in case it doesn't agree with you. Their resale is pretty good, though, so that probably wouldn't be too big of a deal...

  6. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    They are not really lightweight basses , and the neck profiles have varied over the years . They are quite versatile .

    There are those that don't like them , and those that do , so try one first if that's possible . There must be someone in your area with one .
  7. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    The "newer" Rics, from the last 5 years or so, have pretty nice necks. My 88 had a thick neck with no taper, same width from body to nut. My 09 has an awesome neck, not quite as thin as some Jazz's but close. And yes alot of people find them uncomfortable to play because of the hard edges/body biding. I never had a problem but that was me. They are alot more versatile tone-wise than they get credit for, but definitely dont expect to just pick one up and sound just like (early) Tool/Yes/Rush...I have two and was initially let down but I have my own tone going with them.
  8. RSNG


    Sep 6, 2010
    It's a good idea to try out a Ric before buying. Be sure to play it standing up, with a strap.

    My main bass is a Fender Aerodyne Jazz. It's light weight, has a nice slim Jazz style neck, and makes nice "Fendery" sounds. It balances well, and doesn't wear me out during a 4 hour gig.

    I also have a Ric 4003. It's absolutely beautiful, sounds good, and is fun to play. But, it feels pretty heavy, the neck is pretty big, and it balances differently than a Fender.
  9. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I got to have one myself it's on my list.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Definitely try before you buy. They're not quite a love/hate thing to me, but they are to many.

    I wouldn't say the neck is thin, but you then asked about getting a P bass...which aren't known for having a thin neck either. For the Ric, it depends on the year. I've played some with very thin necks and some with huge chunky necks. Mine (an 08') has the thinnest neck of the newer Ric's I've played, and that was a big reason why I bought it.
  11. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.

    The up side
    - They look beautiful.
    - Tone, nothing sounds quite like a Ric.
    - The scale is about 3/4" shorter than a Fender making it easier to play.
    - The neck is narrower at the body making it easier to play farther up the neck.
    - Very loud and clear for a passive bass.
    - Sounds good with distortion.

    The down side.
    - Binding. While it looks pretty it is not comfortable.
    - The neck is fatter at the nut.
    - Single coil hum.
    - Pickup covers and mechanical mutes make it harder to play.
    - The bridge is a pain to adjust.
    - It is almost impossible to palm mute.
    - They cost a lot.
  12. Kingbreaker


    Feb 12, 2013
    If you aren't hung up on the vintage looks, seriously consider a 4004.

    1) No binding! --> ergonomic improvement

    2) Humbuckers! --> LOTS of power.

    3) Modern schaller bridge. --> easier to palm mute and intonate. Doesn't look the same though.

    4) Price: about $200 to $300 more than a new 4003. Which is weird, because the design is simpler and the demand is lower :confused:

    5) I forgot to mention: the cheyenne II model has an unfinished fretboard, which is different for a rick. The laredo model fretboard is finished, like normal. They (supposedly) sound brighter than the cii.

    The necks on new 4004s are the same as the 4003. Wider than a J at the nut, narrower toward the body. Moderately thin front-to-back.
  13. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Agreed, since getting my first 4004Cii, I gave up playing the 4003. I kinda still want another 4003 though, (my 5th) just for the tone.
  14. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    I love mine (2011/4003)...but play a few if you can before you buy. For some reason the Ric seems to bring out the extreme's (Love or Hate)...Not too many tweeners
  15. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    This pretty much sums it up objectively, though some of the pros/cons are personal preference issues, so you really MUST play a Rick before making your own decision.
    I own 4 and love 'em, some hate 'em.

    Edit: I see you're in Australia, so yeah, that's going to be difficult to find one to try out.
    The neck is closer to a P neck than a Jazz, mainly at the nut though, yet stays a fairly consistent width all the way to the body: there is little taper compared to most other basses.
    Output/resonance is very even across and up the neck, where usually a J will thin out sonically higher up the neck on the D and especially the G string.
    Weight of the newer 4003s is usually around 9-9.5 lbs, and well balanced.
  16. I think Rics are cool but they are sorta overrated like Stingrays (and hey I'll admit, I have a Ray34 so I'm kinda sounding like a hypocrite) or the modern Fender basses. Just to let you know TC, you're not going to sound like early Tool just because you decide to go with a Ric. Paul (the bassist on Undertow album which the Ric was used) played a special kind of Ric that costs well over 5 grand on market value today, it was the Chris Squire signature 4001 series and apparently it gives the meanest growl out of any Ric out there and I heard none of the other models really come close to getting that sound. I'm sure you can get creative and find ways to cop it, but you'll need to invest in some sort of pre amp or pedal atleast. I can tell you now that a Ric and a regular amp setup won't get you that sound. If I was you I'd invest in something like an Ovation Magnum bass if "old Tool" suits your fancy. Paul used one on their EP album which came out a year before Undertow when he switched to the Ric. They are rare these days but I usually see them floating around online for half the price of a Ric and they are just as awesome sounding in my opinion. Here's my favorite example of an Ovation bass...

  17. My first bass was a Rick 4000 made in 1974. I still have it and still love it. I have owned a 4003, and two 4001C64 basses, and all were great, but in the end none had the tonal bite of the 4000 and had subtle differences that just weren't for me. I sold those and will keep the 4000 for decades to come.
  18. BrandonBass


    May 29, 2006
    To put it short:

    - unique looking, compared to the dime a dozen jazz and pbasses
    - got its own sound going on(not to say you cant get close with a p bass or jazz)

    - price
    - chunky lacquered necks(personal preference, but its a con for me)
    - useless pickup cover which when removed requires a mod(treble bezel) to cover the cavity
    - a bridge that restricts palm muting

    Imo, a rick is very much a tbird. Cool looking bass with interesting sound, but lacking in the playability department. Maybe its a personal thing, Im sure there are lots of folks out there who shred a rick no prob but if Im playing a more technical gig Ill prolly just bring my stingray

    I have a rick 4003 and I intend to keep it, since its such a cool wall decor and it inspires me in a different way when compared to fenders.

    Id recommend you get a fender jazz, you really cant go wrong with that one.
  19. jarrah


    Feb 1, 2013
    Thanks for the in-depth answers to my questions, food for thought :)
    There is a couple of Rickenbackers for sale in Melbourne right now on Ebay and Gumtree, I'm going to email the sellers and ask if I can try before I buy this weekend.

    Just a note on the "Tool sound", it's not something I'm totally trying to emulate, until reading through the replies I wasn't even aware Paul D'armour played a Ric! I like the bass tone/sound on all the Tool albums, and I'm a big fan of the band. If anything I've been trying to get Scott Reeder's (Kyuss) sound recently and I can get a decent approximation with my Ibanez ATK, pretty versatile bass. I'm searching for MY sound I suppose :bassist:
  20. The video was a three-minute waste of time. I was hoping to see someone play the Magnum. Call me old-fashioned. in any case. how do you know what bass that player was playing?

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