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Many bass players dream of owning a Rickenbacker bass, an iconic musical instrument that has been played by some of the most legendary bassists since the 1970s. Rickenbacker basses are highly coveted and often seen as a holy, beautiful, one-of-a-kind bass with a unique and legendary tone.
Rickenbacker basses don’t come in cheap, and is only worth the price if you’re heavily into prog/classic/metal rock, or if you’re obsessed with the legendary Rickenbacker tone. If you’re looking for a highly playable and versatile bass for all situations, a high-end Fender Jazz bass might be a better choice.
How much do Rickenbacker basses cost?
New Rickenbacker basses are typically priced between $1,700 and $2,200 – the list price on a new 4003 is $2249 – though they often retail lower, sometimes as low as $1500-1600.
So the price range is roughly comparable to high-end basses such as Music Man U.S. Stingrays, U.S. Fenders, or Jackson USA basses ($2000+).
In Europe, the average price of a new Rickenbacker is a lot higher than in the U.S. at 2200-2600 euros – about $2400-2850. Quite pricey for a mass-produced bass.
Rickenbacker worth the money?
Rickenbacker bass fans see it as a great instrument with a pretty unique sound that is very reliable and more versatile than people think, with a high “wow factor”.
Others feel Rics are not worth the price and that high-end customs are better options for the budget. They point out the Rickenbacker has important ergonomic flaws, a difficult to adjust mute, and variable quality control.
Detractors also point out the Rickenbacker’s impractical truss rod and bad bridge design, the need for a pro setup twice a year to keep the neck straight, the old-fashioned hardware, and the mediocre customer service from the factory.
Rickenbacker basses are love or hate. For some, it’s their dream bass. For people who are really into them, these basses are worth every penny.
Owning a rickenbacker bass kit is often compared to owning a classic Italian sports car – pricey and impractical but with a unique feel, especially if you know how to drive/play it.
Although Rickenbacker bass owners (particular vintage ones) generally cherish their instrument and would not part with it, because of its utterly specific character it may not be the best guitar for those who own only one bass.
Rickenbacker bass sound: what goes?
Rickenbacker basses have their own character that can’t be easily duplicated. They have two pickups, two volumes, and two tones. Newer basses have a vintage/modern switch that gives them added versatility without losing their recognizable tone.
Most bassists agree the Rickenbacker has a specialized rock sound and produces some of the best tones for rock and metal. For psychedelic and progressive rock bands, nothing comes close to the Ric’s mid/treble rich tone, especially for solos enhanced with delays and other effects.
The Rickenbacker is not really an all-purpose bass. It takes a lot of EQ tweaking e.g. to get a boomy P-bass type sound for Reggae or Motown R&B. The very mids and highs-focused tone it’s famous for isn’t best-suited for modern tones. Achieving a completely different sound is not so easy.
Some bassists, however, find the Rickenbacker to be a quite versatile bass if you know how to use its capabilities. One of the reasons people generally think it’s very specialized is that they don’t produce the Fender tone everyone has come to expect.
The Rickenbacker’s unique tone also fits best in a mix that includes old-school instruments, another reason why some musicians have mixed feeling about these basses.
For these reasons, freelance bassists tend to choose a jazz bass over a Rickenbacker as a single bass for both studio and live sessions.
One great feature of the Rickenbacker is the ric-o-sound stereo output. Using two different amplifiers or DI setups allows you to get incredible sounds out of the bass.
For all the special tone they offer, the Rickenbacker vintage pickups do come with their quirks, including some noise due to both being wired in the same direction. This can be an issue for getting a clean signal when recording. In contrast, on a Fender Jazz, using the two pickups together tends to cancel the hum.
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