Purchased from: eBay
Features — 9
I purchased my RIC 4003 FG 2015 model in the US, from Australia. The same bass retails here for one and a half times this amount in USD, and twice this amount in AUD. So given the original price plus shipping, it was worth the effort. It is a standard 4003, strung with RIC 45-105's, with a 20-fret maple neck through body model with a rosewood fingerboard. It has a 84.5 cm "medium scale." A buying decision for me, was the dual 3/8" truss-rods, which are now standard, since 1975. The fretboard is inlaid with mother of pearl, in truncated triangular fret-markers. The body has a glossy nitro finish over solid maple. The finish easily takes advantage of the maple timber, especially on the back, to highlight the unique grain patterns. The elongated bout body shape with front-edge white binding, is unique to the Rickenbacker 4000 series. The RIC die-cast tailpiece and bridge is unique, but longer and heavier than my all-in-one Gibson EB-3 Bass. The 4003 Bass comes standard with two pickups, two volume and two tone dials, a three-way selector switch, and wiring for Mono and Stereo Rick-O-Sound (post-1971). One of the tone pots is a push-pull selector switch, which gives a choice of vintage or standard tones. It comes equipped with four RIC Schaller Deluxe non-locking machine heads. It also has Schaller straplocks as standard. Comes with a hard case containing a manual, cloth, hex keys, case keys, warranty (US-only) and RIC sticker.
Sound — 9
I have and will continue to play a variety of styles, principally rock, country, traditional, alternative, pop, mixed with rhythm and blues. The tuning, post new gear wear-in, so far, has been solid, even after leaving the guitar neglected for a few days. I can imagine that I could play it to fit into gig and concert performances with a variety of other instruments with the right sounding amp. It sounds quite different from my Fender P-Bass and Gison EB-3, through my Fender Rumble 350 2x10" 350-Watt Bass Combo, plus my Fender Rumble 30 30W 1x10 Bass Combo Amp and my Orange Crush 25BX practice amp. Re pedals, I tend to use my current basic line-up which include a Boss GE-7, TE-2, MT-2, BF-3, CE-5, a Dunlop Fuzzface abd Vox Wah. None of these are bass specific. My AVID "Fast Track Duo" extends it's capabilities even further with a host of tonal and effects options. Absolutely, no hum, it's sharply resonant and distinct tones, care of the two tonal controls, that swim immersively into rich Bass tones, with the right amp. As this a relatively new instrument I haven't taken it into "the farthest reaches" of gigging and recording that I have with my P-Bass, yet. The best depth to push the GAIN on your amp, is achieved at full volume, as these are passive pickups. Although, even at 3/4 volume, it has demonstrated a range so far, that clearly recreates many of my favourite Brit-'60s rock sounds, as keenly as cloning a complex CURE 'Thunderbird' Bassline.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
As with most Rickenbackers, the factory set-up was matchless. The pups were well set-up and the lower pup cover installed. All the timber-work is CNC routed and the body timber is keenly bookmatched. There have been no apparent flaws in any of the materials or finishes. I have not been required to do my usual strip-down to reset the guitar neck (as on the RIC 4003, it's impossible), body and interiors and rebuild it to the manfacturer's specifications, as it's come from the factory, absolutely flawless.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Rock-solid build, as long as look after the neck through body, which is comparable feature to my Gibson EB-3. The hardware is robust. Straplocks match male Schallers. Although, I have thing about using Ernie Balls on Gibson's, due to their locations, it's no problem with the RIC's. I would find it a thoroughly dependable beast, based on my experience with my RIC 360/6, it's a unique tone but you can never overcome the randomness of gig's, as things break, people trip over gear - nightmares do happen! Finish is robust to last with simple TLC and no solvent-based sprays or chemicals near it. I have learnt my "nitro-cellulose" lessons in my youth!
Overall Impression — 9
This will fit most Rock music but my home-made fretless bass will still have a place, for some of those blues and country numbers requiring a slide-approach. I have been playing since my teen years, so that makes this a vintage observation. I have many other guitars (acoustic and electric), basses and ukes, including uke bass gear, which all gets rotated and added onto at miscellaneous junctures. I swotted up before I bought this bass and I highly recommend "The Rickenbacker Electric Bass: 50 Years as Rock's Bottom," Paul D. Boyer, 2013, Hal Leonard Books. If it were stolen, I'd definitely acquire another one, but only if I could get it at the "right AUD price." I love that it doesn't suffer "dropsy" from the headstock, like other basses that... I need to keep-in-check. My favourite feature is the dual tone and volume controls, the purpose built bridge-tailpiece and it's overall styling from the distinct iconic upper bout and headstock silhouettes. These were hallmarks it's predecessor the Rickenbacker 4001's "crested-wave" body shape which was designed by luthier Roger Rossmeisl for Rickenbacker's original model 4000. I have compared the spec's to my existing Fender P-Bass and to my Gibson EB-3, before I bought it and it demonstrably adds a unique range in the Bass Dept. I may wish, in the future, that it comes with locking tuners after a grueling gig, but I haven't reached that hurdle, yet. The only thing that I feel compelled to test out is comparative set of strings, looks like it might be DR "Hall Balls," next?