Rickenbacker 4001 vs 4003: Differences compared!

In this rather straight forward article, we will be comparing Rickenbacker 4001 vs 4003 in terms of neck shape, tone and even pick ups. Guitar players who are thinking of buying this brand tend to be confused about what exactly are their differences so hopefully this article can clear this up.


#1: Pick ups differences

The Rickenbacker 4001 was originally designed to be similar to what Paul McCartney of Beetle fame was using. Hence, horseshoe and toaster pickups were used to create the vintage sound that Paul liked so much. Some guitar players dislike the horseshoe pickup as it can get in the way of their playing hand.

The Rickenbacker 4003 pickup is more modern in design and wouldn’t get in the way of your playing. The picks up are hot high gain pick ups which are mounted higher and are meant to create a more punchy sound.


#2: Neck shape differences

The neck shape difference is pretty big for the Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003. The latter has a much wider and fat neck profile which can be a good and bad thing. Some of you might have difficulty with it if you have short fingers (in which case you need to check out our guide on what guitars are best for short fingers) so the 4001 would actually be a better fit.

It is important to note that there have been complaints about the neck loosening issue for the 4003 on guitar forums. From what we have researched, models that were built prior 2012 seem to have this issue while models created after this year seem to have resolved these issues. In fact, the newly released 4003 models are getting a lot of good feedback for their quality improvements.


#3: Sound difference

Both guitars, due to the different set ups such as strings and pick ups, produce tones that are different. Having said that, if you use the same set up for both, the 4001 and 4003 do sound very similar. In reality though, very few players used the same set up for both guitars.

Most guitar players choose the Rickenbacker 4001 for their vintage sounds via the use of a cap in the circuits. In contrast, most 4003 players don’t set up their bass guitar that way. They cut out the caps out so as to get a brighter and higher tone. Hence, depending on the sound that you want to create, the 4001 and 4003 have their unique offerings.


What other differences

Note that the Rickenbacker 4001 has been discontinued so your only option is either left over stock from retailers or buying a used one via second hand marketplaces such as Ebay or Craiglist. The 4003, on the other hand,  can be easily purchased via the many online music stores or from Rickenbacker itself.

Also, it is important to recognise that guitars produced in different eras have differences to them. For example, the 4001 produced in the 70s had 250k ohm pots while those in the 80s had 500k ohm pots. If you are unsure of what are these differences, do your research before making your purchase.

Finally, do note that the Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003 commands different prices. The 4001 c64 model cost about 1k more than the 4003 while other 4001 models have various degrees of such price variations. This is because the c64 is a special case of 4001 that is meant to replicate the sounds of Paul McCartney’s bass guitar as mentioned above.



Both the Rickenbacker 4001 and 4003 have strong support from the bass guitar community. The 4003 is essentially an upgrade of the 4001 model. Whether these upgrades are valuable to you depends on a number of factors that I have highlighted above. Have fun playing them in stores to see what you really like!


1 Comment Posted

  1. Seeing the photo at the top of this article, one might never guess that it is a comparison of two bass guitars, each with four strings.

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