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 Post subject: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 1:18 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:50 am
Posts: 2
Location: Michigan
So, all of my recent adult life I've wanted a 381JK and 370RM. Within a couple of months, both came to me. The 370RM is as amazing as I'd dared to hope. But the 381JK... am I doing something wrong? This thing takes so much work and I still can't make it sound like anything better than a cat in heat. Humbuckers, for Pete's sake? Shame, shame. Whoever made that call needed more caffeine on decision day and probably needs reschooling. I also have a 381/6V69 that plays and sounds incredible. Why mess with something that good? That 381JK is a HUGE let down. What a boat anchor and waste of money. I'd give it to my kid when he turns 5 to bang around on, but I'm afraid he'd never pick up another guitar. Anyone else?


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 2:54 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:21 am
Posts: 544
Quote:
So, all of my recent adult life I've wanted a 381JK and 370RM. Within a couple of months, both came to me. The 370RM is as amazing as I'd dared to hope. But the 381JK... am I doing something wrong? This thing takes so much work and I still can't make it sound like anything better than a cat in heat. Humbuckers, for Pete's sake? Shame, shame. Whoever made that call needed more caffeine on decision day and probably needs reschooling. I also have a 381/6V69 that plays and sounds incredible. Why mess with something that good? That 381JK is a HUGE let down. What a boat anchor and waste of money. I'd give it to my kid when he turns 5 to bang around on, but I'm afraid he'd never pick up another guitar. Anyone else?


While I am not an authority on the 381JK, I doubt few people other than John Kay, who is the model's namesake, made the design decisions regarding his signature model. Rickenbacker usually has made its limited edtion signature models based on the artist's requests and requirements.

There are some touches to this model that make it different than any other Rick guitar in terms of sound shaping capabilities. To quote the product announcement, it has in addition to the humbuckers, "active and passive modes, lead phase switch and a four position rotary switch which offers various combinations of single coil and humbucking pickup configurations."

Since it has active electronics, the fix to your problem could be as simple as replacing the battery that powers the electronics. Also, getting a better understanding of the electronics and the different functions could lead to crafting a sound that you might like. I am not sure if you have the owner's manual, but you might be able to get a copy of one that is specific to that model from Rickenbacker.

If you have little luck there, maybe you can contact another owner or even try to get in touch with John Kay himself.

Regards,

Koose


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:00 am 
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Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:00 pm
Posts: 160
Location: Santa Ana, Ca
You can view the owner's manual here.


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:26 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:21 am
Posts: 544
Thanks, Richard. I knew you guys would have the manual available. I didn't really look. I tried to help this guy as much as I could since he seemed to be pretty frustrated.

One thing is for certain, the 381JK is different than any other RIC guitar out there and it doesn't work like any other RIC as well. I think this can create confusion for those who aren't original owners and just expect it to work the same.

One thing I want to add about the battery for NewbyRic: Make sure to check it right away. It could be that it is long dead. And, if it is, it might be leaking all over the place. So, be careful when changing it!!! I had a friend who bought an active/passive bass from someone who had a dead battery issue. Apparently, the battery had not been changed in a long time and was operating in passive mode. When my friend opened up the battery compartment, there was acid and corrosion EVERYWHERE. He had to replace the battery lead and connector. Needless to say, he had choice words for the previous owner.

Regards,

Koose


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:07 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:50 am
Posts: 2
Location: Michigan
Thanks for the suggestions, Koose. I'm fairly certain the problem isn't the battery (new) or my lack of familiarity (it came with the manual). I think what I was trying to say was that this guitar clearly isn't what John Kay played and although it is pretty, it sounds ugly. It seems to me that in designing this, Kay just started throwing things on that he thought would be cool to have and the result is bad. A friend of mine said he recently heard the JK described as a Ferrari with a Pontiac engine. I know it's not cool to criticize John Hall, but I think he should've cleaned this thing up before producing and releasing it, and I can't imagine why he let it go out this way.


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:57 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:21 am
Posts: 544
Well, if the electronics don't suit you, then maybe you should replace the pickups with two toasters (or Hi-Gains) and get the standard five control wiring harness along with its needed control plate and whatever knobs you might need. I recommend this as an option as it would be a shame to let an otherwise beautiful guitar go to waste.

My other recommendation is to find other owners of the 381JK who are absolutely delighted with their purchase and find out what they have done to get the sounds they like. Also, I can't imagine Rickenbacker marketing and pushing a guitar out the door without extensive testing. From my understanding, John Hall is also the head of R&D. I am sure he has the final say in all design decisions. However, in terms of most of the limited edition models (I say most because the John Lennon model obviously doesn't apply), RIC does work extensively with the artist to realize their vision of their signature guitar.

Like I said before, the 381JK is not standard Rickenbacker fare and so it is to be expected to sound different than any other RIC guitar made - given its custom electronics and HB-1 pickups. Also, if you have acquired the guitar recently, it could be possible that there is a preexisting problem with the circuit board where it would affect the sound. I had a circuit board failure on one of my non-RIC basses that had a rather adverse effect on its sound. Unfortunately, if there is a problem with the circuit board, I am not sure there is a way to replace it. But maybe, some electronics whiz could fix the board.

Unfortunately, I am actually quite limited in my knowledge of the 381JK, especially in its use and operation. I have never hefted one. I have only admired them from afar. Sorry I am not able to help you more.

Regards,

Koose



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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 12:52 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 15, 2007 6:33 am
Posts: 31
Location: canada
Hey there Newby RIC you can always sell it either on ebay or wherever you will get your money back and then some if you are not happy with it.I have a 381v69 WITH humbuckers and I love the deeper sound you get from them..of course I dont have the jk circuit with it.You might want to just remove the circuit and use the humbuckers by themselves if you can.There is quite a noticeable sound difference with hummers on it.I had toasters on my 381 originally but just found it way too thin especially overdriven thru my fuzz box.A few more options for you anyway before your son gets to bang around on it.....regards jeff


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:31 am 
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Uh, with due respect, the 381JK is exactly what John Kay has played on stage since the model came out. I forget where I read it, but before his last "retirement" tour, he even took them back to RIC to have them refurbished one last time.

Not all people get along with all models of guitars. I can't stand bone stock Strats. I sound thin and lifeless on them, as I have a very clean style from all my other classical (piano and horns) music training.

Part of the problem is that there are settings on the JK that are purposely out of phase or one coil of each pickup to get some variety of tones not normally associated with a RIC instrument. I encourage you to digest the owners manual carefully to see what settings might work for you.


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:47 am 
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Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:00 pm
Posts: 2962
Location: Scotland
I have also tried the John Kay electrics and found them very odd - I did manage to find what I considered a 'good' sound, but I definitely found most of the options not to my liking. The wiring is very unusual, the humbuckers are not wired in a conventional way and don't give 'normal' humbucker tones. They are certainly not standard Rickenbacker (or any other company for that matter), but I have no doubt that they work for John Kay.

What I would suggest if you can't get along with them is to remove the entire circuit board and store it somewhere safely, and have a standard wiring setup fitted using all the proper RIC parts. You could use the small switch (you'd need a new one) to coil-split both pickups, which would give an extra useful sound. The 381 is a great guitar and the humbuckers are good pickups, I don't think they're the problem.

I've also tried a humbucker on my 381, and it sounded fine - although in the end I settled on a pair of 80s High-Gains. (Like 3ricks I found the stock Toasters a bit too thin, especially with distortion.)


By the way, as I'm typing this I'm listening to my iTunes on random shuffle as usual, and out of almost 12,000 songs it could have picked, it's playing 'Born To Be Wild', which is the only Steppenwolf song I have... spooky!


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 Post subject: Re: What's wrong with the 381JK
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 04, 2008 6:06 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 23, 2007 1:37 am
Posts: 138
Location: San Jose, CA
NewbyRic,

I'd also recommend keeping an eye on the 9-volt battery inside your 370/12 RM. When the onboard compressor is used, the battery, if low on charge, can cause crackling noises and/or the sound can cut off and on.

If you can find one, a lithium 9-volt battery lasts a lot longer.

keep on jangling...Ron


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