Carvin RL series II vs. series III comments???

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by KB, Jan 25, 2001.

  1. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Has anyone tried the new RL Series III from Carvin? I was getting very close to buying the RL600 with the 2x10 and the 1x15 stack, but now that they have switched to the "tube emulator" instead of the real tube preamp I have put on the breaks until I get more reviews of the series III. Has anyone compared the 2 to see how the sound compares? Does anyone own the new series III? If so how does it sound. I have read a little on the carvin board (on Carvin's website), but I feel as though that board may be biased. Please let me know what you think. I just want as many view and reviews as possible before I sink $1100 into a stack that has been "downgraded" (for lack of a better term)

  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I haven't A/B'd them. Kind of hard to do from a direct order maker. A couple of guys I saw today raved about their Series III but that may be sort of self-fulfilling prophecy effect. However, I have read posts where people are explicitly specifying the Series II head on their orders since I guess Carvin is still setting on an inventory of them. I share the same trepidation because I don't see other makes that marry the tube preamp with the solid state power amp like the Series II, messing with this tube circuit emulator technology. Then, again Carvin is often quick to get hip with good, newer amp tech, like the Toroid transformer, (they ARE Californian, woo-woo). Perhaps MikeyD, whom I consider a real heavy duty tech pro who doesn't BS around, will jump in here. He usually does since he blows through Carvins.

    Yeah, their website preaches to the choir a lot. The moderators obviously know who signs their checks. But what can we expect? Very few people at any maker's site/BBB are going to post, "I bought this friggin thing and I still don't sound like (insert endorser's name here). I'm a
    dumb#@$%!" But there are some serious recording artists and recording engineers who post there.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    A better question might be why Carvin ditched the tube in the first place.

    They have a long history with tube amps (been making 'em since the late 40s) so i'd be curious why they made the switch.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    That's true, brian. My kneejerk thinking is the usual- they make more money off of it because it's cheaper. But Carvin is one of those manufacturers who usually thinks long-term and often goes with what is better than more cost-effective, e.g., ebony fingerboards, thorough copper shielding, et al.

    I'd ask Dr. Sound but I figure I'd just get the party line if I got any response at all, which isn't likely based on past performance.

    [Edited by rickbass1 on 01-25-2001 at 02:42 PM]
  5. KB,It's hard to tell someone how to spend their money but if the Tube Emulator was the only thing holding me back from buying RL600 III, I would go for it. I Have the RL600II and its the best amp I have ever owned. I like the direct out level on the III that the II does not have but they moved the phone/tuner input to the back of the amp for some reason on the III. It was the hardest thing for me to order an amp without hearing it first but I wish I had done it long ago. If you can afford it just order both amps and A/B them with your speakers and send the one you dont like back. They say no questions asked. If they can send it to you for$19.95 you should be able to send it back to them for the same price. Just a thought.
  6. MikeyD


    Sep 9, 2000
    rickbass1, thanks very much for your extremely kind comments about me! :) And so here I jump in.... I do not have experience with the Series III equipment, but I do have both the R600 and R1000 heads (Series II versions). I looked at the web site and most recent catalog. Seems like the biggest noticeable differences are:
    _ (1) the single tube preamp (mix) replaced with a tube emulator;
    _ (2) the phone/tuner jack moved to rear of cabinet;
    _ (3) a level control added for the direct out;
    _ (4) separate amp send/return patching jacks replaced with "stereo" (I think) send/return in same jack;
    _ (5) Twist-Lok speaker connectors added.

    I'll make a few comments about these. First of all, I'm going to say I'm not much of a "tube dude". Maybe Psycho and/or Joris are the persons to talk to about tubes. These Carvin heads are the first I've ever owned with a tube in them. I played with the tube-SS mix on these heads, and I haven't found the tube sound to be preferable. I mix a bit in, but it seems to be weak in the low bass or something, so I guess I have mostly a solid-state sound. I play passive basses, and have the gain knob on 0 (12:00 position) and the tube blend typically at 12:00 to maybe 2:00 at most.

    Keeping in mind I'm not much of a tube buff (nor do I know a lot technically), it seems possible that one could design a tube emulator that would sound good. Bob Carver had the idea that it boiled down to "transfer function": if one could replicate the transfer function of a tube with a solid-state circuit, then you'd have the sound. I have a lot of respect for Carver (no relation to Carvin that I know of), and my technical background allows credibility to this emulator concept. I can't really say in Carvin's case whether their tube emulator is good - it only seems very possible in my mind. Look at the aftermarket amp emulators (SansAmp, Bass POD, and others): there must be some level of authenticity to the sound.

    Now, on item (2), I would prefer the headphone jack in front, because I don't run a rack system. However, I could see if one has a 19" rack-mount tuner in the same case as the Carvin amp, the rear jack might be an advantage.

    On item (3), Carvin must've been reading my rants about this! ;) A level control is very much needed, since the Series II direct outs are very hot and can easily overdrive the input stage of a mixer. I don't know what range the control has, but the idea is right. Before I bought my R1000, I was seriously considering the Ampeg B4R - partially because it had such a level control on the back.

    Regarding item (4), I initially thought they had eliminated the amp returns, but from the picture in my newest catalog, it appears they combined them with the preamp sends - probably using stereo jacks. So it looks like the Series III retains the awesome flexibility of the Series II - probably more than almost any other head on the market, as far as I know - relative to preamp-amp patching.

    On item (5), I have never used Twist-lok connectors, but they seem to be the choice for professional sound reinforcement applications, and I have read that they have distinct advantages over 1/4" connectors with respect to contact area, locking, immunity from vibration, etc.

    Okay. That's my two cents. Sorry I can't provide better comments on the tube emulator. If the tube emulator is good, and if Carvin has not downgraded anything else, then it seems that Series III might be a serious improvement over its predecessor.

    - Mike

    P.S.: On the subject of long-term thinking (see rickbass1), does anyone know if Carvin is publicly traded or remains a privately-held company? If the latter, I could definitely understand such thinking. I have a theory that most publicly traded companies tend not to worry about their long-term viability.
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    MikeyD- I looked for them at the best source I know of,, and they don't appear. However, Carvin, (the Carvin we're dealing with; there are others), does have a Dun & Bradstreet number. So I deduce they are privately held and traded.

    Your "theory" about publicly vs privately held co.'s is true in my experience. I worked in the offices of 3 Fortune 25 org.'s and the urgency was, "How do we remain profitable through lunch?" My sweetie's family has owned a large electronics company for gernerations. They are privately held and they are extremely customer focused and worry about long haul even if it costs $$$ today.

    As it stands, I guess I'll have to wait for another suck-up review in Bass Player/Gig/Bassics. Wish I had the bucks to start a "Consumers Report" for gear heads like me.

    PS/FYI - Lowell Kiesel is still listed as the CEO. I guess his sons, CARson and gaVIN haven't officially seized the reigns yet.

    [Edited by rickbass1 on 01-26-2001 at 11:41 AM]
  8. MikeyD


    Sep 9, 2000
    Hi rickbass1, thanks for looking into it - the D&B was a good idea. I was just curious. Your comments about short-term vs. long-term are 100% aligned with my thinking on the subject. About a Bass "Consumer's Report", I agree - I'm going to subscribe to BP for awhile, but I don't expect a lot of in-depth testing. I agree with previous posters that much of it is personal preference, etc., but I still think there may be a way to come up with 10 or 20 benchmarks to rate how an amp sounds. One could simply make a CD with 20 tracks of bass lines from different genres, convert it to an amp input-level signal, then run it through various amp and speaker combinations. The reviewers could then compare the resulting sound, I suppose. Maybe there are better ways than this. I'm recalling the audio magazines' reviews of speakers - they would do all kinds of testing, then subject the speakers to listening tests with particular kinds of music. I doubt it will ever be totally quantifiable, but it would give bassists something like a "consumer's report".

    Another good example I can think of is in farm tractors. A long time ago, tractor manufacturers rated the power and hauling ability of their tractors in whatever way they wanted. Finally, farmers got tired of exaggerated claims, and legislation got passed in Nebraska so that the "Nebraska Tests" were born. Univ. of Nebraska set up a testing lab with standardized tests for the equipment to verify claims, etc. Now, I know tractors aren't bass amps - although I've made subtle suggestions to that effect in other posts! ;) But there could be a way to quantify most of the things that are quantifiable and then have a trustworthy panel of bassists give their (ideally unbiased) views of how an amp sounds for particular kinds of music. It will never be a perfect system, but it would be an improvement over what we seem to have now. Such an organization could also poll their members about reliability and customer service, then tally the results.

    Anyway, another long-winded message - and perhaps getting a little off-topic.

    - Mike
  9. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    There was some guitar magazine my friend subscribed to that came with a cd with recordings of all the gear that was tested in that issue. If Bass Player and other magazines would do the same it would be alot easier for readers to tell what certain equipment sounds like. Of course the price would go up too but oh well. Bass Player is kind of going in that direction by including some sound samples on their website, but I'd like to see them take it further.
  10. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    any more comments? I really wonder about how a tube emulator can sound like a tube? does it add a little overdrive?

    I think the series III direct out level control is a good thing. I just want to be sure before I sink the money into the stack. So far I am impressed with Carvin's gear. I have an LB-70 bass plus an older Carvin PA setup (12-channel mixer, 1000W amp, 2 monitors, 2 speakers, and stands). I feel like if I get the amp and cabinets I should become a spokesperson for Carvin :p

  11. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    KB - I was exchanging e-mails with jvtwin today about Carvins. He's a fellow road dog who lives in LA, so he did an A/B with Eden and is leaning towards the Carvin. But he is going to check out a couple others. He is e-mail enabled in his profile if you want his impressions.

    One thing I noticed in the Carvin catalog- "The Series III is still referred to as "Red Line Tube Bass Amplifiers." I hope that was a proof reading error for their sake.
  12. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    One more bump for a few more opinions. I do think I am leaning towards going ahead and getting the RL600 series III head with the 2x10 and 1x15 stack. ButI still want more comments on the series II vs. the series III or just on the series III.