Rickenbacker BassesBuying Guide

A guide to Rickenbacker 4003 basses, 4001 basses, and more.

Rickenbacker basses, like the 4003 and earlier 4001, rank as some of the most iconic and coveted models in this history of the instrument. From Macca to Lemmy, from punk to jazz, these instantly recognizable bass guitars can be heard on a massive range of recordings from virtually every era and genre. Their solid neck-thru builds and balanced playability, combined with a sound that's at once heavy, versatile, and nuanced, have made these instrument perennial favorites for the bass players of the world.

Over the years, Rickenbacker has produced the 4000-style bass in a number of variations with a few spec changes and updates occurring at different points through their long run. There have been a handful of other bass designs to come out of Rickenbacker as well, but a vast majority of the California builders' bass guitars are built around the classic double-cutaway "cresting wave" design that was first introduced as the now-rare 4000 model in mid-'50s.

In the guide that follows, we'll break down the key vintage and modern Rickenbacker bass models currently available on Reverb. Click on the images below to see individual listings for each Rickenbacker model and period.

Recently Listed Rickenbacker Basses

Rickenbacker 4003 & 4001 Basses

Rickenbacker Bass Considerations and Lingo

4001 vs 4003

While the 4003 was positioned as an upgrade or update to the 4001, the two models are actually extremely similar. The main difference is that the 4003 introduced a more modern dual-truss rod system which allowed it better accommodate round-wound strings. There have also been a few internal variations in the electrical components used between the two models, but this is also the case between different eras of production for each model individually.

Limited Edition, Artist, and Reissue Models

Both the 4001 and 4003 have been made in various special editions and signature models over the years. If you see a model with the letter "V" or "C" after the numerical designation, that means that it's a reissue or artist reissue model, while the number after that letter indicates the reissue year. For instance, the discontinued 4001C64S is a replication of Paul McCartney's 4001 from 1964. Beyond these reissues, there have been other artist models from Rickenbacker like the 4004LK "Lemmy Kilmister" and 4001CS "Chris Squier" models.

"S" and "FL"

Any Ric bass with "FL" in the model name indicates that it's a fretless variation. Though Rickenbacker has offered this as an option for decades, fretless 4000-series basses remain relatively scarce on the used market. An "S" in the heading means that the bass is part of a more affordable line of Rickenbacker basses, which keep costs down by dropping body binding and stereo outputs and using dots instead of triangular inlays.

Rare Finishes

The primary finishes for Rickenbacker instruments through the years have been Fireglo, Mapleglo, and Jetglo, which are basically sunburst, natural, and black, respectively. The brand has produced its basses in a number of rare and limited edition finishes, though—such as burgundy or white—which often command higher prices. There have also been years where Rickenbacker has offered all its models in special colors, which you can read more about via this blog post about rare Rickenbacker finishes.

Ric-O-Sound

Most, but not all, modern Rickenbackers are equipped with a unique output system called the "Ric-O-Sound," which is essentially a stereo output option with each channel tied to one of the pickups. If looking at a Rickenbacker listing, you can tell if that particular model is Ric-O-Sound equipped simply by spotting how many output jacks are visible on the instrument. Notably, to use this feature, you need to run the Ric-O-Sound output via a stereo Y-cable or other single splitting devices—it's not just a matter of using both output jacks at once, as many assume.

Other 4003 Models and Eras

Other Rickenbacker Basses

While 4003s and 4001s make up the vast majority of Rickenbacker basses in circulation, the company has also produced a few other models over the years. Most of the models were produced in comparatively limited numbers to the flagship 4001 or 4003 and remain quite rare on the today's market. If you click on the links below, however, you can see if any are currently in stock, and if not, try adding them to your Reverb Feed to get alerted when someone lists a used one for sale.

4002 — The 4002 was a deluxe version of the 4001 that came out in the mid-'70s. This shorter-lived model included an ebony fingerboard, XLR output, and a number of fancier cosmetic appointments.

4004 — The Rickenbacker 4004 line includes a few different models that use the same classic body shape but with fewer bells and whistles and distinct humbucker pickups. These basses also offer a different jewel-toned set of finish options.

4005 — Dating back to the '60s, the hollowbody 4005 model is essentially the bass equivalent to the famous Rickenbacker 360 guitar model. There have also been 5-, 6-, and 8-string versions of this model made over the years—all of which remain extremely rare and desirable instruments.

3001 — In the '70s, Rickenbacker offered a lower-end bass model with an entirely different body shape and style, dubbed the 3001. There was also a short-scale version of this bass, released as the 3000. Both model variations remain good values on the vintage market.