The Rickenbacker 4003 electric bass has a deep history. Rickenbacker’s original solid-body electric bass was first introduced in the spring of 1957, bringing its own unique style to the Rock and Roll explosion of the early ’60s and ’70s. In the hands of bass-masters including Paul McCartney, Chris Squire, and Geddy Lee, Rickenbacker 4000-series basses forged a solid reputation for distinct tone and comfortable playability. The latest Rickenbacker 4003 bass stays true to its roots, offering these same characteristics to a whole new generation of players.
True pioneers in musical instrument construction, Rickenbacker luthiers were the first to produce a neck-thru-body bass design. A single piece of wood from the headstock to the tailpiece allows string vibration to travel unhindered through the length of the instrument. This results in a clarity of tone and ringing sustain unmatched by bolt-on or set-neck designs. The 4003 uses this same neck-thru principle today. This construction process is too time-consuming for most mass-production brands to implement, but many boutique bass builders are now discovering the benefits of what Rickenbacker has been doing from the beginning. It may take a little longer to build this bass, but Rickenbacker knows it’s worth the wait. Get one in your hands, and you’ll agree.
Balanced sound for diverse musical styles
Some basses offer deep tone at the low end of the spectrum, but the higher notes tend to be a bit thin. The Rickenbacker 4003’s combination bridge/tailpiece assembly reflects more string energy over the pickups for a consistent, balanced sound across the entire fretboard. You get piano-like clarity at the top with plenty of growl down below. This is why Rickenbacker basses are played by such a diverse group of musicians. Lemmy from Motorhead, Andre 3000 from Outkast, Mike Mills from REM, and Chris Ross from Wolfmother are all able to get the tone they need from the same instrument. With so many genres represented, you’re sure to dial in a sound that suits your style.
Fully adjustable saddles on the 4003
Beyond tone, individual string-saddles on the bridge are fully adjustable to fit any playing technique. Slappers, pickers, and fingerstyle players can all set the action to the perfect height for their unique attack. Raise the strings up off the fretboard to really dig in to the groove, or drop them down for a softer touch. Precise control over intonation helps get accurate pitch, everywhere on the neck. You can add tapping, artificial harmonics, and chording to your bag of tricks without having to wonder if the notes will be in tune. With all this versatility, you’ll be ready to sit in with any band and lay down a tight, tasty groove.
Instead of the chunky, bass-heavy designs used by many manufacturers, a slim, streamlined body gives the Rickenbacker 4003 increased treble response and added punch. Both body and neck are made of maple for a full, bright tone with a nice, crisp bite. The rosewood fretboard adds mellow warmth, so notes in the upper register don’t sound harsh or shrill. Any style, any technique, comes through with expressive, dynamic clarity.
All about the neck
The thin, fast neck has become a favorite among progressive-rockers and bass-shredders alike. Check out some of Cliff Burton’s earliest work with Metallica, Chris Squier’s jaw-dropping solos from the 70’s, or any of Geddy Lee’s blistering Rickenbacker riffs. You can play the slickest runs from low to high and back again without getting bogged down like you would on a fat-necked bass. It may be skinny, but it’s also strong and stable thanks to the dual truss rod system. Each neck is designed with a natural curvature, or “neck relief”, to ensure the best possible string/fret contact. If the neck relief changes, you’ll get fret-buzz and even dead spots in extreme cases. The truss rod adds stiffness from inside, maintaining the proper curvature. Neck relief is partially dependent on string tension, so changing to heavier- or lighter-gauge strings can cause problems, along with temperature and humidity fluctuations. In these situations, the dual truss rod system can be tightened or loosened to compensate for the new conditions, letting every note ring out as it should.
Cutting-Edge Production Techniques
At one time, all 4000-series basses were handmade from start to finish. As the demand for their instruments continues to grow, Rickenbacker is constantly searching for hi-tech production techniques that offer faster turnaround time without sacrificing quality. To that end, massive CNC machines were recently installed in their Santa Ana, California factory to speed up some of the more labor-intensive tasks, including rough body- and neck-shaping. The cutting heads on these machines spin at 15,000 RPM, and they are accurate to 0.0001th of an inch. Combined with special reverse-engineering procedures, the designers can perfectly reproduce every curve and swell in the original instruments for an exact match in look and feel. Master craftsmen continue to fine-tune each and every bass, installing frets, adding binding, spraying finish coats, and more in order to maintain the high level of quality Rickenbackers are known for. Bridges and nuts are also hand-set for the best possible intonation. There’s no guessing from one bass to the next; they all play and sound equally amazing.
The Vintage Tone Circuit
Further blending of the old and the new can be seen in the electronics setup on today’s Rickenbacker 4003 basses. Prior to 1984, a special capacitor was used in the bridge-pickup circuit to enhance the treble tone. While this capacitor helped to define Chris Squire’s signature sound, it also lowered the output of the pickup system. Hair-metal was in full swing in the mid-eighties, and guitar pickups were being wound hotter and hotter. Bass players wanted to keep up, so Rickenbacker dropped the capacitor, exchanging treble for volume. Many players missed the traditional sound, though, and would add the capacitor back into the circuit themselves. Rickenbacker got wind of the common modification and offered the Vintage Tone Circuit as an option. In 2006, this circuit again became a standard feature with a push/pull switch in the treble tone-knob. Pull out on the knob, and you’ve got that classic Roundabout sound. Push it back in, and grind through Smoke on the Water with all the earth-shaking volume you can muster, just like Roger Glover.
Rickenbacker continues to give you control over your tone with the famous Rick-O-Sound pickup system. Single-coil bridge- and neck-pickups each have their own separate tone- and volume-controls for building the perfect sonic balance. Two 1/4 inch output jacks allow for a variety of connection options. The standard output jack works like a regular bass output. Plug it into your amp, and thump away. The secondary jack can be used with a stereo Y-cable to route individual pickup outputs to separate sources. Players will often run the neck pickup through a separate EQ for a fatter bottom-end, while adding a chorus or flanger effect to the bridge pickup for swirly highs. The stereo-out is also great for routing the individual pickups to separate recording tracks. This lets you blend them where they sit best in the mix. No post-production wizardry necessary; your tracks will be ready to rock as you lay them down.
Attention to detail and quality components further add to the value of these great basses. Switchcraft jacks and switches are standard, along with custom-made CTS potentiometers. These American-made components provide years of performance and reliability, delivering that legendary Rickenbacker sound, gig after gig. Deluxe Schaller tuning machines prevent gear-slippage, keeping your bass on-pitch, all the time. The included case is custom-molded to fit the 4003, and has additional padding and heavy-duty hardware to keep it safe and secure during transport. With so much history and quality in one design, your new Rickenbacker bass will quickly become the centerpiece of your collection.