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Carvin heads: worthy of a second chance?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bassist4Eris, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    Way back in the early nineties, I purchased my first pro gigging amp, a Carvin ProBass 500 head, with a Carvin 4x10" and a Carvin 1x18". Before long, I noticed that I liked just about everyone else's tone better than mine.

    I also found the 1x18" to be superfluous, so I soon scaled back to a 4x10" half-stack. My drummer at the time was also a bass player, and he purchased the same exact 4x10", but had a Hartke head, and I liked his rig WAY better than mine.

    Through various similar experiences over the years, I have come to determine that I like the sound of my Carvin cab, but I hate that head. I find its tone bland, characterless, and lacking punch. Many years ago, I got a sweet deal on a GK 400RB, and I've loved the tone ever since, although I do find it noisy.

    Lately, however, I've been craving more power, and have started surveying the market. Despite my earlier dissatisfaction, Carvins are tempting due to their relatively low prices.

    I go for a bright, modern tone, with plenty of midrange punch and top end sparkle. Think "fusion". In addition to GK and Hartke, I recently played a backlined SWR that really impressed me. Ampegs don't work for me at all.

    I am still using that Carvin 4x10", rated at 400W/8 ohms. At some point in the future, I may finally drink the Kool Aid and buy a pair of Carvin 2x10"s for vertical stacking purposes; those would also be rated at 400W/8 ohms each.

    So, given all that information, do any of you Carvin owners think I'll find what I'm looking for in one of Carvin's newer offerings? Anyone want to recommend a specific model?
  2. spaz21387


    Feb 25, 2008
    Portland oregon
    So the carvin 210 mbe is perfect for you. I have 2 of them they are 32 pounds 400 watts at 8 ohms and sound great. The heads are pretty good too. The r600 was great. Its the reason next pay day im getting a bx500.
  3. Andy D

    Andy D

    Jun 18, 2011
    Bay Area
    I've got a B2000 2000 watt head and it's everything a bass player could want: loud, punchy, and powerful with a great easy -to-use EQ. Highly recommended!
  4. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Previous (I'll explain why) owner of a BX500

    Yes, the tone on the Carvin I had was pretty much what you described...bland and lacking character. If you had a REALLY aggressive or "outgoing" bass it sounded good, but plug anything passive in there and it was incredibly hard to get a decent sound out of it. I stuck with it for a long time because it was a super high-wattage head and was pretty easy to carry around (two channels was nice as well). Until I had an issue with the power section.

    Power light would flash on and off and the speakers would "pop" loudly, it also did this no matter what was plugged into it, even when it was just the head. Checked all connections and cleaned them like everyone said to try. The inside was immaculate, I couldn't even see any dust, but I cased this head in a bag when I wasn't using it and never went up past 10 o'clock on volume with it. After trying everything I could I thought I'd check with Carvin, I had it for just under 3 years and assumed they'd still cover something like this.

    Customer service had a rather...cut and dry attitude about the whole thing. I explained my problem and wanted to know if there was anything they could do. Well they only cover their stuff for 1 year, and it's a flat rate on the repair (over $200), not to mention I was paying shipping both ways. Since this was nearly the cost of the amp, I appealed to them saying that it's a problem other people have noted, I would be more than happy to relay praise about them to wherever (talkbass, harmony central, etc) and try to counteract the negative vibes they've been getting. I could either pay the money or go pound sand for all they cared.

    On a budget to get a replacement head, I went and bought a GK MB200 on a whim. Let me summarize that purchase by saying "I got VERY lucky with that purchase". I am currently looking at a GK Fusion 550 as my next purchase, all thanks to the MB200. If you like the GK tone, look at the MB line. Plenty of volume and it actually sounds good out the box. Also, GK won't give you the shaft after 1 freakin year. Your money, just letting you know what my experience with Carvin was.
  5. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Camarillo, CA
    The modern Carvin amps are pretty much clean slates - very flat and neutral with everything at noon (except the contour), but with a huge array of EQ options onboard.
  6. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I have owned a Carvin bass and a couple of monitors. I wasn't happy with any of it. I played through a friend's Carvin head and cab and didn't care that either. I know that some people love Carvin but I will never buy another Carvin product.
  7. For a while, I had a Carvin BX1200. It was a great amp, just a little heavy for me (that line of amps is lighter now). Since that amp, I've been through several rigs and combo in the last few years including a couple of Ampeg configs, GK, Genz and TC Electronics.

    I am now back with Carvin using an MB15/115MB stack and could not be happier. I play all 5 strings, mostly with flats, and that little stack makes it all sound tight and great with volume to spare. I loved the way my SVT4-Pro sounded through my 410HLF, but that stuff is too heavy for me to carry around anymore. I didn't care for the 'GK tone' out of my MB200 at all, though some do. That amp lasted the least amount of time.

    The thing with Carvins, IMHO, is that they can seem pretty sterile when set 'flat', and the huge eq section is the key to dialing in what you want. Once you get to fiddling with the knobs, people usually find 'their tone' and more in there somewhere. I've got mine dialed in with my man in bass to a really great, growly vintage-y kinda tone right now and I love it. I really like the way the Carvin stuff lets each individual bass sound come through. I guess that also why it is a commonly used amp when testing/reviewing other basses.

    With regard to customer service, I had a great experience with them on the one time I had to deal with them (due to a sales issue, actually). They have always answered e-mails and phone calls. They may not have the longest warranty in the business (I think it should be at least 2 years on amps), but don't expect them or anyone to fix well-out-of-warranty items for free….

    They have come along way since your first Carvin amp and they seem to have also made great progress since rolling out this new generation of amps. So obviously I'd say 'yes', jot's worth a 2nd shot. You have 10 days to return it anyway...
  8. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    I went to see some friends of mine after my gig yesterday, and the bass player was using one of the newer Carvin MB210 combos plus a 2x10 extension vertically stacked. Sounded wonderful up front.

    NOTE: He had FOH support so he only needed to fill the stage.
  9. I love the fact that a Carvin amp doesn't seem to color the sound.
  10. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    I am getting the sense here that what some people hear as bland, others hear as transparent. And while it sounds like I might be able to dial in what I want out of the EQ, the truth is that I can set everything flat on a GK and be very happy.

    Of course, the thread is still young, and I'm still convincible. But I think I'm going to keep an eye out for a more powerful GK. There are also a couple of used SWRs in a shop near me that bear checking out. My thanks to all who posted, and I look forward to reading any further thoughts.
  11. Which, IMHO, beats the heck out of a situation where one might be able to dial something out of the eq...

    It sounds like you like the 'GK tone', so why not just go for a more powerful version of that? That seems to be the sure thing for you.
  12. hopturn


    Sep 19, 2010
    Charleston, SC
    I had a Carvin BR1200 watt amp and 4x10 Neo cab for a couple years. I thought it was a good value, but it had some limitations. I liked the fact that I could abuse it without feeling too guilty (I'd NEVER leave my Fender Super Bassman in the car overnight!!!) strangely, even at 1200 watts I feel my Fender SB hits way harder.
  13. jeff7bass


    Apr 9, 2009
    I played GK's for the better part of 20 years and now play through a Carvin BX1200 in bi-amp mode through a pair of DRB cabs and couldn't be happier. The difference between the old heads and new are night and day. I take with a grain of salt any "endorsing artists" who say bad things about the new Carvins. Most haven't tried them and others simply don't know their way around an EQ section that isn't dead simple. Carvin makes heads for them also like the B1000 and B2000 anyway, not to mention the most powerful head Bass Gear every tested (at the time), the B1500.

    The BX heads seem complicated until you spend time with them. When you do you realize they are simply more flexible and have more features than standard type heads. There are reasons why a lot of high-end cab makers/buyers like these BX heads like the BX1500. They're powerful, clean, versatile, and feature-laden for great prices. By versatile I mean you can get full-thick tones out of them as well as clear punchy tones. Take into account you get a defeatable graphic EQ as well as a semi-parametric EQ, along with compression and an active crossover, pretty tough to beat.
  14. jeff7bass


    Apr 9, 2009
    What cab are you playing the Fender through? Also the limitations are likely more with the 410 and not the head. If you bridged that head into say, a pair of fEarfuls you would likely think otherwise.
    lazarusdoom likes this.
  15. hopturn


    Sep 19, 2010
    Charleston, SC

    I definitely liked the head a lot better than the cab...like I said, I thought it was a great deal. Had a good tone overall, and lots of cool features. It was transparent, but I liked my Genz Benz better so I sold it. Lots of power for sure.

    My Fender goes through a matching Fender Neo 4x10. I'd would've went with the 6x10, but it's heavier and bulkier and more expensive.
  16. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    OK. Full stop. All I had to see was "ProBass", and I already knew what's going on. If your idea of the sound of current Carvin amps is based on what you heard from the ProBass series (or even the Redline series), then just forget all that stuff, abandon all your preconceived notions, and consider them with a fresh set of ears. :eyebrow:

    If you can't find someone local who'll allow you to check out his Carvin amp hands on, then order one from the factory. If it doesn't work for you, you get your money back. What's to lose...other than a few bucks in shipping costs?

  17. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    I had a Carvin BX600 115 combo for a couple years and never bonded with it. It was just too "sterile" for me. No matter how I fiddled with the EQ I just couldn't find any decent tones for my liking. Plenty of power, but no girth, IMO. I really tried to like it, but alas it was just too blah. I recently picked up a Genz Benz Contour 500 115 combo, and it slays that ol' Carvin in every imaginable way. Maybe if I was more into active basses and wasn't looking for a nice round sound I would've felt different about the BX600. Just wasn't my cup of tea.
  18. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    To cover the topic of EQability for the Carvin heads, it's the same reason why I no longer own a GT-6B or have any desire for a "digital modeling" head like a Kemper or Axe-FX. Sure, it is robust and has options, but having more options doesn't always make something a better product. There are variable mid sweeps on the BX500, but how broad is the band for the semi-para EQ? Both it and most GKs are 4-band EQs, but I'd say I can tweak a lot less with the GK and get a solid tone for my needs in several different applications/situations.

    Just like with 5 string vs 4 string, it has nothing to do with abilities, it's just what you're comfortable with that's important.
  19. hopturn


    Sep 19, 2010
    Charleston, SC
    I agree with BassDaddy. TONS of power, but strangely un-girthy. But it was still a great value, overall.
  20. bassinflorida

    bassinflorida turn that dang thing down Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Tampa, FL
    If:bassist: you think the MB200 was cool check out the MB800. Be afraid, very afraid. Not sure if the extra parts in the Fusion are worth the risk though. Good Luck!