The Bass-ment

NTBD, or Today I Am a Man, or Just how much SHOULD this thing buzz?…

1

Where "T" probably means "temporary."

I've wanted a Rick 4001 or 4003 bass for at least as long as I've wanted a Rick 4001 or 4003 bass.

Today that long-deferred dream came true, promptly shading into the usual fabulous disappointment I invariably experience with Rickenbackers.

The bass is a used 2012; it's a bit more used than the Reverb description let on, and more used than the seller assured me in messages it was. Still, the cosmetic flaws are small chips and dings. Disappointing - and likely grounds for return - but not deal-killers.

The more significant issue is that the sumbit buzzes like a friggin' cresting wave sitar, pretty much all over the neck. I get that a certain amount of buzz under heavy thumpage is part of the Ric bass texture, OK. That's not what we have here.

The neck sights "dead straight," as Rick bass setup lore insists it should be - with maybe the teensiest mid-neck rise on the bass side, and a correspondingly teeny weeny relief on the treble side. I adjusted the dual truss rods (because, for whatever reason, Ric couldn't get it right with just one like everyone else in the industry), and it's helped a little. And I've raised the bridge till the buzz is just bearable.

But my action at the 12th is about twice what Ric enthusiasts claim they're getting on their basses. I won't embarrass and abuse 64ths by expressing the height in that popular unit. We're going to have to use 32nds. Three of them on the G, and five on the E. 5mm. Fellers are saying they get 3. That their action is so low it "plays itself."

How does it sound? Who cares, when it plays like a Hondo?

Still, I'm not giving up yet. Never having owned a Ric bass, I have no personal experience with what I should reasonably expect. If anyone has specific knowledge of Ric 4003 setup, and can proffer some guidance, I'm all ears.

But if this is what many of my favert bassists have been contending with for decades, I guess I'll go back to being a boy. Four Rickenbackers I've owned. One has been good enough to keep. You'd think I'd learn.

2

(Just asking so I can say I did)...

Are you sure it’s fret buzz and not the bridge? If so, is it buzzing more beyond a certain fret?

I’d be curious as to how Curt would put out the fire. She sure is purtiful.

I bought a brand new 4003 last year and I was able to get the action down stupid/low. If you have neck rise at all on the bass side, I’d back that rod down some. That’s the gamble with used Ricks. If a gomer got at those dual rods, no telling what silliness could have been injected.

I’ve heard about tail-lift after a time on these basses and that can contribute to the buzzing, if internet lore rings true in this instances. I HAVE seen lots of pics of tail-lift on older basses FWIW.

I’m really curious to hear what the culprit in your instance turns out to be.

3

I'd get some decently hi frets put on that thing. My Rick rule is maple boards only.

4

It's definitely fret buzz. It's strings buzzing against frets.

What does tail-lift LOOK like? This one has some finish ... irregularities... right up next to the bridge, on both sides. Like the finish is "torn."

I can slide a business card under the back end of the bridge. Goes in maybe half an inch on the bass side, less on the treble side. If that's tail lift, I don't see how it could be resolved. There are no screws at the back of the base to hold it any downer than it is. Does the whole bridge bend?

5

Thus.

DC, I'm not inclined to refret a bass whose frets are in new condition, and presumably at factory spec.

Is that really what you have to do?

6

Is that bridge base stamped instead of cast? That might be the issue. It could be bending under the tension of the strings. Not much for it but to replace it. I'd talk to the nice folks at Rickenbacker.

7

I believe they're all cast, but the issue seems to be what they're cast of. The design is famous for bending, but the worst culprits are the black anodized versions. (Oh the warm rush of deja vu: the black anodized R-tailpiece on my 360-12 snapped years ago.)

Hipshot makes the best-reviewed replacement for the bass bridge, hewed out of solid billet, I believe; newer Ric bridges may or may not be made of sterner stuff than this 2012 bridge.

I got a very fair price on the bass, but it was advertised as being right, not as a project. If I knew a bridge would resolve it, I might keep the bass. But I guess I don't know that.

Bridges. Why are bridges such a problem?

8

And isn't it a yummy irony that Ric basses have wider string spacing than most basses, and the guitars...well, we know. The guitars don't.

9

I have had some incredibly cool looking Rickenbackers. And I flung every last one of them over “technical” issues.

Sigh.

10

Notoriously bad bridges. The castings fracture. Regularly replaced with a Badass bridge (Geddy did). Well worth the trouble. Nothing sounds like a Rick bass.

11

Seems silly that a “high end” guitar would need some fancy after market bridge to make it play proper! Right?

12

The neck sights "dead straight," as Rick bass setup lore insists it should be...

That is the most maddeningly absurd claim that Rickenbacker makes, and there are a few of them. Why on earth would physics not apply to Rickenbacker basses the same way they do to every other guitar? The strings are fixed at the bridge and nut and vibrate in-between. And they vibrate the most in the middle, hence relief. If the frets are uniformly level and the truss rods are working, then there's no good reason any guitar can't be setup to eliminate most buzz.

If a gomer got at those dual rods, no telling what silliness could have been injected.

But then there's the question of the truss rods. This is one that beggars belief, but I've heard it from guys who specialize in Rickenbackers, so I assume it's not a myth. Apparently the "right" way to adjust a Rickenbacker neck is to loosen the truss rod nut, then manually (as in push down on the middle of the neck while you've got the guitar resting on a couple of good books) then tighten the truss rod nut to lock it in place. Seems crazy, but I guess that's how it's done.

What does tail-lift LOOK like?

Your bass doesn't have tail-lift. None of them sit perfectly snug to the body at the back. This would qualify as tail-lift:

And then there's tail-launch:

I have had some incredibly cool looking Rickenbackers. And I flung every last one of them over “technical” issues.

Same here. Plus they (the six strings) just don't hold a candle to a Gretsch tone-wise, at least to my ears. But I want to like them and I don't learn. So, another one will be moving in with me again shortly.

13

@Afire- Supposedly, models made after June of '84 do not have to be adjusted"manually".

14

I am blessed with a stable 4001, with no buzz and rather low action, despite a tail lift akin to the first pic in Afire's post. If the neck is reasonably straight (a little bit of relief can't be a bad thing, can it?), and the nut is not cut to low (did you check that?), then all you can do is check for other causes for buzz (I feel silly writing this, cause YOU know better than me how to identify fret buzz from other buzzes...), but anyway, likely culprits for buzz : the mute system on the bridge (mine came off), the pickup-hiding plastic thingy (has to come off too), and the truss rods themselves (I heard that recent ric rods are adjusted "normally" whereas vintage-y ones are per Afire's instructions, wouldn't know about a 2012). When it doesn't act out, a ric bass has a nice, different tone, that I like (not as useful as a P, but still an icon of a sound). Plus I suspect you to want to play with Ric-o-sound!

15

Okay, I'll take everybody's word on the newer truss rods.

16

One of the better diagrams I've found for the pre-'84 Rickenbacker "Bowing Block" truss rods can be found here. Those do take two people to adjust; one to lean on the front side of the neck to bend it to the right relief, and one to lock down the tension on the bowing block with the truss rod nut. It was common on the 4001 until the middle of 1984, and has the advantage of being fairly temperature-stable once set. I have a special set of cradles that I made from 2X4s just for this job.

I've always wished that Ric would adopt a 'dual action' truss rod, similar to the Fender Bi-Flex truss rods, as being able to adjust in only one direction is sometimes an issue with their basses.

17

In case this helps, mine’s a 2017 4003, pretty much as I bought it, except I’ve raised the action a bit, I had a bit of buzzing when I played notes between the 3rd and 7th frets. Neck has slight relief, about 1 to 1.5mm. The main concern I had about buying a Ric was tail lift, but what you see here is common with every Ric I’ve seen.

19

String height at 12th fret

20

While I’m at it, I replaced the bridge pickup cover with a Treble Bezel, designed to hide the gaping that’s left when the cover is removed.

Also, not sure what gauge strings are on yours, I use Ric’s 45-55-75-105. Shouldn’t really be a problem though if they’re different and it’s been set up correctly.

21

What units on the ruler, Rusty?

22

I replaced the bridge pickup cover with a Treble Bezel,

Pickup cover? Sure, that’s cause Ric hadn’t made a real horseshoe pickup since ‘69(?) Lollar makes a proper horseshoe but they ain’t cheap.

23

I replaced the bridge pickup cover with a Treble Bezel,

Pickup cover? Sure, that’s cause Ric hadn’t made a real horseshoe pickup since ‘69(?) Lollar makes a proper horseshoe but they ain’t cheap.

– Charlie Vegas

Not even McCartney's still has the horseshoe pickup any more. Poor idea, with poorer execution. The Rickenbacker hallmark.

The six string guitars play crappy, sound crappy, and have quality issues. I don't know what they will do once the Beatle guys are all gone.

And John Hall is not worthy leader.

24

My '82 or '83 4001S model bass. Played like a turd. Had all the tone of a wet cardboard box.

25

Played like a turd. Had all the tone of a wet cardboard box.

So...it had everything going for it!

I've been delving deep into Ric bass lore; more than one guy who played Chris Squire's 4001 reported it had atrocious action which took Chris's enormous paws to man-handle - AND it had more fret rattle than you'd think a fella would put up with.

So really, mine's probably right.

The recognizable and "iconic" Ric bass tone is a matter of personal taste; some guys despise it, some guys worship it. I quite like it - in its place and when used in a manner befitting its character. The instrument is, of course, capable of tones other than that, so it's not a one-trick pony. But that trick is definitely the calling card.

I A-B-C-D'd it with my other basses last night, and while they all have their own distinctive range of lovable virtues, the Ric is unquestionably the only one that does that Ric thing. Which I want to have at my disposal, to help with the disposition of my utterly disposable songs.

So I'll persevere in some manner, with this or another.

But man. I keep giving Rickenbacker chances to redeem their mediocrity of execution, to produce fully functional examples of the Legend which will provide playing satisfaction as well as the nebulous (and fragile) "pride of ownership."

And Rickenbacker keeps blowing it, time after time. Unless I just have "bad luck"...over and over. But that hasn't been my experience with any other brand, cheap or spensive.


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