4003 review by Rickenbacker

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  • Features: 10
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 6
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.3 (103 votes)
Rickenbacker: 4003

Price paid: £ 1500

Purchased from: eBay

Features — 10
This bass has a 1 piece neck and a 3 piece body (one of those body pieces is the neck piece). The bridge is really, very big. I've not seen a bigger stock bridge before. The pickups are 2 single coils which have no noticeable hum even at when driven. The pickup protector above the bridge pickup may be annoying if you play with a pick. I personally prefer to slap or finger, so it made a good place to rest my thumb or palm. 3 way pickup selector, with separate volume and tone controls for each pickup. Also the infamous "Rick-o-sound" stereo output jack allows for plugging each pickup into a separate am or effects loop. Something I've found myself using quite a bit. Mine came with a hardcase, which was great considering the price I paid! It was brand new in mint condition. Came set up well with a set of 45-105 strings (my favourite!). This bass was pretty much perfect for me out of the box!

Sound — 9
The 4003 is a very distinctive sound. Before purchasing this one, I had played 3. 2 in shops and one that belonged to a fellow bassist. The reason I bring this up is to do with the unique, distinctive "ricky" sound. The 3 I had played prior to this, all sound COMPLETELY different. The first one I played sounded more like a P-bass. It had a very loud neck pickup and a much quiter bridge pickup. The next one I played had roughly the same volume between the pickups, but still didn't have the mid-heavy sound you'd expect. The 3rd one did have the mid heavy sound, but the neck was louder than the bridge again.

So, what does my one sound like? It sounds closest to the 3rd one, though still quite different. Unlike the previous 3, it has a much louder bridge than neck. When I first got it, I was thinking of getting them leveled out. I can quite clearly see the the bridge pickup is slightly higher at the bottom than the top. However, I do really dig the tone it gives off. It's got that "ricky" tone, but with a slightly funky twist. It sounds really nice slapped. Which is something I've always used my P-bass for. I've rambled a bit here, but hopefully I've alerted you to the fact that the sound you get is kind-of pot luck. It makes it a bit hard to rate this section. Mine sounds great, but the others, while also good, varied a bit. Seeing as this is a review of the one I got, I'm going to rate it based on that. It sounds great, though the volume difference is a slight annoyance.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
My god! The sustaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain! I did touch on this briefly in the "features" section. This bass came set up pretty much perfectly. The action is low enough so that it doesn't slow down my playing, but high enough so I can get distinct dynamics out of it without fret-buzz. The strings it came with were 45-105s which are the gauge I like. They suit the bass very well, though I wouldn't blame you if you went for 40-100s. All the frets were flawless! Easily the best finish on frets I've seen from a box fresh bass. All the electronics are really nice and well done. Silent pickup selector (I didn't even know that was possible!). Really nothing I can fault here. Though, as I said in the sound section, there might be a bit of pot luck here. Mine was nice so I will rate it accordingly.

Reliability & Durability — 6
Very well built bass. Surprisingly heavy. This is the first time I've stood up and played one. I couldn't believe that something with such a thin body could be this heavy. It's a lot heavier than my P-bass. The only bass I've ever owned that was heavier was an Epiphone Thunderbird. I do tend to op for lighter instruments due to my skinny physique and disproportionate height (6' 6"/200cm), so I may be exaggerating the weight. It's not a huge issue. But something to aware of. 

This brings me on to this basses only major problem. The strap buttons. They are pathetic. The strap will not stay on for love-nor-money. I regularly switch between various techniques (finger/slap/tapping etc.). Switching between these techniques requires a slight (VERY slight) movement of the neck. The strap falls of every time without fail. This has made it impossible to use live to date. I am going to get strap locks fitted which is relatively inexpensive. So why is it such a problem? 

The reason is this bass is expensive. Really f--king expensive. So when I paid this amount of money, I expected nothing short of perfection. I could drip gold while I play and I would still question the justification of that price. Maybe I'm just cheap and being a overly critical. So you may disregard my score for this section if you so wish. But it is a major issue that will need to be fixed if you by this bass.

Overall Impression — 9
I'm not of the opinion that one bass can do everything. This bass certainly can't do everything. But what it does, it does VERY well. No bass I've played to date an make the transition from fingering to slapping mid-song sound so good, while falling from off of your shoulders at the same time. Joking aside, this is a bass I would recommend to someone who is willing to spend £1600 on a bass. I would question their sanity (I'm still questioning my own). But it is a good bass... That repeatedly ejects itself from your hands... If you buy this bass, make sure you have a decent set of straplocks waiting when it arrives. Otherwise, you could end up dropping it. Then you will cry and most probably end up hanging yourself with the E string.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I have Rickenbacker 4003 the new one. Stronger neck, push/pull tone control = vintage and modern sound. Perfect for all genres.