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Cheap import guitar of the week #3 - Chickenbacker (or Chinabacker) 4003 bass copy

Chickenbacker/Chinabacker 4003

The Chickenbacker (or Chinabacker, if you prefer) is a Rickenbacker 4003 copy. For some, this is the only way to actually afford a bass of this design.

If you want a real Rickenbacker 4003 bass guitar, you're going to pay and pay big. Seriously, see the price for yourself and you'll see what I mean.

Is the 4003 some magical, super-duper-pooper instrument worthy of its price tag? Rickenbacker 4003 owners say it is, but in all honesty, not really. It's a weird bass with a weird feel, weird controls and a weird tone to it. Rick owners love them, but I personally think the tried-and-true Fender Jazz Bass is a much better instrument. The Mexico-made Fender '70s Jazz is a seriously great bass. The Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass '70s is also great. Both are easy players that anyone can pick up and get great bass tones out of.

Or, you can do what I do and get a cheap bass with a P/J pickup layout like the Yamaha RBX170EW I own. (The P/J layout is one of the most versatile as far as passive bass electronics are concerned. Remember, the split-coil P pickup is technically a humbucker, so there's no single-coil noise, and you still get all the great bass tone from it.)

What the 4003 has however over the Fender Jazz is an amazingly cool look to it. The problem is that to get it, you have to pay an insanely high price tag - but not with the Chickenbacker.

Although most bass players won't admit this, they do routinely buy Chickenbacker 4003 copies because they simply can't justify spending one to two grand or more on the real thing.

From what I understand, the Chickenbacker isn't wired like a traditional 4003 at all, and instead has Les Paul style wiring in it. For guitar players, that's actually a bonus because it's a familiar electronics layout which is easy to work on. For bass players on the other hand, not-so much.

You buy a Chickenbacker for one reason. It looks cool. The 4003 style is just a cool looking bass guitar. And since Rickenbacker does not offer import builds as far as I'm aware, the Chickenbacker is your only option for those that want a 4003 for cheap.

Bass players who own real 4003's scoff at Chickenbackers. But you can't deny the very nice price tag, and that's why 4003 copies sell well.

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