Price paid: € 1990
Purchased from: Guitar Shop, Barcelona, Catalonia
Sound — 10
This guitar sounds amazing. And there is a first myth to critisize: "Vintage Toasters are a must-have feature with these guitars". Put simply, High Gains sound really like Rickenbacker. And they sound very good. Vintage Toasters can sound a little different when compared side to side with High Gains, but the difference is so little you cannot really tell if you are not told what of those two pickup types is being used in a recording. And the amplifier (or Direct Injection) used can blur the differences even more. The main difference is that High Gains sound really loud, especially given that they are single-coil pickups. Sustain is good (myth #2: "Ricks have poor sustain by themselves"), although I still have to try what happens when playing the guitar through a compressor (Roger McGuinn used a tube one for his classic sound). Although it seems to be important to use good strings on it, to get a good sound (here I am lucky to have the original strings installed, being the first owner of my guitar). That said, the sound is bright and full at the same time: Ricks are known for their ringing treble sound, but lower frequencies are present also (not so as in a Les Paul, of course, but sixties records are a bit deceptive in this respect). Contrast between pickups is good, with the neck pickup sounding notably bassier than the famed bridge pickup. One final note: this guitar is not meant to be played heavily distorted -for one thing, you will lose the 12-string sound-, and I always play it clean for that matter.
Overall Impression — 9
I am a medium-level player, and my style of playing is influenced by my own sound as a composer (I combine classical music with psychedelia, experimental pop and even a bit of country, which results in a very personal sound). My other good guitars are an American Series Fender Stratocaster, a 12-string CIJ Fender Stratocaster XII and a Gibson Les Paul Studio, and my concert amplifier is a Fender Frontman 212R (which sounds pretty decent, given that it is a solid-state, entry level combo; I plan to buy a tube amplifier someday). I have dreamed of this guitar for 18 or 19 years, and finally it is mine, but I am still adjusting to it and beginning to apreciate just how special it is, because the first days of having it I still was trapped into the "vintage toaster" and "too narrow a neck" mithologies and feared of having bought a not good enough instrument. Happily, I realize this Rick meets all my expectations. And remember: it is a mistake to buy one of those beauties only to do covers of Byrds and Beatles material. Ricks sound very much in a certain way, but it is possible to put your stamp on them, to develop your own style when playing them. I believe that this has to be pointed out, because when I watched people playing Rickenbackers in YouTube prior to buy my own one, all most of them seemed to play were "Turn! Turn! Turn!", "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "A Hard Day's Night" endlessly. And to me it is missing the point. Ricks can be very inspiring instruments, very conducive to the creation of new music. Their possibilities have not been fully investigated still. Video from YouTube:
Reliability & Durability — 9
It is an overall reliable guitar that I expect to outlive me. I feared it would be a somewhat fragile instrument because of the semi-hollow construction, but wood is thick enough to give me a good impression. As long as I treat it with care and store it in its original case when not in use, there should be no problem. The only complaint for me are the tuners: most of them work well, but there are one or two of them that don't keep tuning so well as the others. They are adjustable through a screw, so maybe I just need to find their optimum set-up point. I know that a so-good-quality guitar will be made of the best materials and pieces around (and, for the price, it should be!).
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I cannot comment the factory setup because the action was adjusted at the shop just prior to me collecting it (it seemed to be fairly high from the factory, and it was set very low by the salesman; I made a minor adjustment to the bass strings when arriving home). Having played good quality Strats for years, I got surprised by a different neck feel. Now that I have had time to catch up, the neck feels really good (although Strat players need to be warned that Ricks have a shorter scale, which means frets are nearer than in a Strat fretboard). Another feature that surprised me at first was that the fretboard had really low frets. As someone has described it previously, these frets are not so low by themselves, but the glossy neck finish manages to "lower" them. A third myth has to be adressed: "too narrow a fretboard". It is somewhat narrow, but it is perfectly playable, even with twelve strings on it. The myth has been so widely spread that I was expecting real trouble trying to play it with my big workingman fingers. And that's not true, I can play it without difficulty. It may be that I had played other twelve stringers previously, so I know how to play one of them. (One remark: 12-stringers are not the best guitars for string bending activity, and it is no exception, so the "clean" styles of Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty and George Harrison when using them are no accident). Finish, on the other hand, is perfect. Black (Jetglo) should not be as difficult to do as Fireglo, Mapleglo and other sophisticated finishes tried by Rickenbacker during its ongoing history, but even so, pictures don't do it justice, it has impressive looks.
Features — 9
Mine is a 2009 one in Jetglo (black with white double pickguard) with through-neck construction, two High Gain pickups, volume and tone control knobs for each pickup, a three-position pickup selector, a 5th "blend" knob, a 6-saddle bridge with metal cover (a 12-saddle bridge would be better, but in fact I only have trouble with pitch with the 6th pair of strings, and pressing them less forcefully seems to solve the problem), and a 24-fret, 1'63"-wide neck. The 5th knob needs a clarification, because for many players it is so confusing that even specialized writers describe it wrongly. In essence, it is a secondary volume control for the neck pickup, and it works like this: with the neck pickup selected, it controls the final volume of the pickup, from very weak to full-sounding; with the bridge pickup selected, it has no effect whatsoever; but with both pickups selected, you can control the precise balance between them, and it is here where the magic lies. In practical use, I leave this "blend" knob always at full volume. Also, I leave the volume controls always at full volume because there is some loss of treble frequencies when you roll off them. Unlike upper models with Rick-O-Sound stereo output, the 330/12 has mono-only output, which for most players will not be a big deal since very few people seem to experiment with stereo guitars (you have to own two amplifiers, or at least an "Y" cable to DI it into a mixing board).