Ca. 1950 Rickenbacker A-25

Rickenbacker steels from any era are high-quality instruments, and those with horseshoe-type pickups (which is most of them) are considered among the best-sounding steels ever made. There are some who feel that the pre-War pickups have some tonal advantage over the later ones, but I and many others have concluded that there is very little difference in tone between them. The earlier pickups are simply more iconic in appearance because they are a quarter-inch wider than their successors and are mounted differently to the bodies, but in practice there are other factors in construction (not to mention the aging process) that have a far greater effect on sound.

As I have determined from comparing this steel to my other Model A, one of those factors is scale. This 25” steel has a substantially different tone than its 22.5” predecessor: it’s brighter and snappier, to the point that it sounds like a completely different instrument. The sustain isn’t much different, but then both have among the longest sustain of any steel I’ve played. The difference in bridge – metal vs Bakelite – probably makes some contribution as well.

The A-25 actually predated the A-22 by a few months in 1932, though the longer-scale steel was rarely if ever featured in company literature. I can find no catalogs at all from the 1930s or 1950s that even mention the longer scale length option. While the A-22 was offered with a seventh string, it appears that A-25s were only built in a 6-string configuration. Both scale lengths were built in small numbers after 1935 when the Bakelite and stamped-metal steels were introduced, but both survived into the 1950s. The A-25 is rarer than the A-22 from any era, probably because it wasn’t advertised at all.

The instrument pictured above appears to be a late 1940s or early 1950s example; it has the post-War pickup and decal logo, plus a factory-original tone control, but it lacks the Lucite fingerboard shown in catalogs starting in 1953 or earlier. It has a Bakelite cover on the back of the body, which allows for easy access to the pickup and controls. The pickup has been rebuilt; the coil has been re-wound and the magnets recharged. The tuners have also been changed (I have the originals, but the plastic knobs have decayed to the point that they are no longer usable).