Thursday, March 3, 2016

2015 Rickenbacker 4003 Bass Review


Today we are looking at my third Rickenbacker bass: a brand new 4003 model I picked up recently.

The 4003 model bass was introduced in 1981, with many of the same features of the 4001 as well as a few improvements, including:

A. An improved truss rod system. The 4003 still uses dual truss rods, but now has nuts at both ends of the neck.

B. The 4003 has no capacitor on the bridge pickup. This allows full tone from the bridge pickup, which is rather tinny on 4001 bases.

Other these changes, the 4003 has all of the usual 4000-series bass features.

The 4003 has a bound neck-thru body, and a has a bound neck with the curlicue headstock tip. Other distinctive Rickenbacker features are the signature triangular fretboard inlays and wacky trussrod cover. They also have the dual trussrod system “for added strength and adjustability” and Schaller tuners. I am still not a fan of the thick clear finish that coats the rosewood fretboard on these.

The electronics need a little explaining. There are two pretty hot single coil pickups, a selector switch, two volume and two tone knobs. But, the way they are wired is kind of whacky. Rickenbacker installs a push/pull pot that routes the bridge pickup signal through a capacitor to suck out the bass tone, and I guess the idea of this is to make better use of the Rick-O-Sound feature.

Rick-O-Sound is a stereo output effect that allows the player to divide the pickup signals and send them two different amps. Ideally this would send the bridge signal to a guitar amp and the neck signal to a bass amp. The output jack plate on these basses has a jack for a stereo guitar cord (for "Rick-O-Sound"), and a jack for normal mono output. Meh.

This one is a 2015 model, finished in Jetglo (black). which is a little disappointing. The quality of the finish is not great, with a light orange peel over the whole thing, and it is not lustrous and rich. This is a brand new bass, and it should be beautiful, but they missed the mark. It showed up with a surprisingly good set-up, and plays better than any Rickenbacker bass I have ever tried. The neck is dead straight with a low action and no lift to the bridge (yet). The pickups have even output, though the pickup cover is a bit of a hindrance to my playing style.

This 4003 is pretty light for a neck-through bass, coming in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces.

There are no playability or sound problems with this bass at all, but I am really not a Rickenbacker guy yet. The ergonomics are still awkward for me, but I am not surprised or disappointed, as this is what I have found before. After I am done with school I am going to get back into playing more and will try to make this one work for me.

These basses are not cheap, but then again they are made right here in sunny Southern California so they are paying higher labor costs. The 4003 has a street price of $2159 so they do not come cheap, but some online dealers do close them for quite a bit less. Make sure you shop around a bit. For that price, it does come with a hardshell case, but it is a flimsy plastic affair with latches that do not exactly want to hold well. They definitely could have done better.

Anyway, if you decide you want a Rickenbacker bass, and if you are not be hung up on getting a vintage 4001, you should pick up a 4003 instead as it is a more versatile and better built instrument. But really, you should try one out before you buy, as it may not be your cup of tea.



  1. Great review. I had the use of a 4000 I think it was with a single pickup back in the 70s. My regular bass was a Jazz Bass. The Fender was much more robust. So the Rickenbacker wasn't my cup of tea as you say, at least not that model. I always felt like I was going to break it. A really pretty bass though.


  2. Did you return it because of the orange peel? I just took delivery and have the same issue.