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Carvin vs Conklin

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by improvpwnd, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. OK so I probably won't order it for another 8-12 months, but I am in the shopping stage for a custom 6'er. At first I thought I would get a Carvin, just because I've been drooling over thier catologs for years, but now that I found Conklin, I have fell in love once again. Keep in mind I haven't played either and this is a MUST before I buy, but hopefully some of you who have played one or the other (preferably both) could give me some insight on how they compare. I heard Carvin's pickups are kinda iffy... and I know Conklins are a LOT more expensive, but they are also more customable. Is there a real quality difference? Anything I should know about either company? Is "you get what you pay for" true in this case? Thanks guys.
  2. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    My experience is you get LESS than you pay for with Carvin. My B4's neck was impossibly unstable (both of them, the truss rod in the first snapped), the pickups sounded thuddy (in a hollow way, not in a nice p-bass thumpy way), and the customer service was crap. I've heard several Carvin LB series basses in action. I've also played one. All have that signature Carvin crappy sound. The sixers are also extremely difficult on the hands, since the string spacing is impossibly narrow.

    Conklin on the other hand, is a boutique shop, where people actually give a damn about which pieces of wood won't warp and crack, and will actually give you an option in electronics (one of Carvin's worst attitudes is that if you want something other than the Carvin pickup, something is wrong with YOU). A Conklin bass will be better constructed, and will sound better with better woods and electronics. I have one of their Korean-made Groove Tools basses, and even though it is made overseas, it beats the crap out of my old Carvin (now sold).

    If you're even considering Conklin, Carvin just won't measure up at all. There is no contest.
  3. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    I've tried a few Carvins and they all sucked. 5ers and 6ers. Necks were just not up to it, too wide, too thin and twisting and...yuck.
    Never found a Conklin to try out, but never heard any bad rumours about them either.
  4. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    I have 2 Carvins and they're great. My LB70P is my #1 axe, has a very modern tone and can get very agressive sounding. It's excellent for slapping also. On quality issues, the neck (lb70p)seemed to need adjusting more than my other basses at 1st but has since 'settled in'. I did send it back to the factory once cause the frets were poking out a bit on the edges most noticable cause of the clear coat 'blisters' popping out. They fixed that @ no charge 'my cost to ship'(warranty) but it came back with a deep gouge in the edge of the body. :mad: I sent them a pic of it and their response was 'send it back for repair' (my cost again)or get $50 off a merchandise order.
    This really pissed me off. They should have had UPS come pick it up themselves and return it. Anyway,I did nothing about it til almost a year later, I bought a wireless unit,rackmount and cable from their ebay store. They wouldn't honor their $50 off deal on that stuff. :scowl:
    While that left a sour taste in me, it's still a great instrument to play and hear as is the lb75af fretless that I bought used.
    Top notch construction, control cavity is neat,tidy,and well shielded.
    I no nothing of the Conklins. Bill Dickens plays them. Ed Freidland plays Carvins. Both know their stuff.
  5. I've played and owned a great number of Carvins. IMO they're very good basses, but not of course the ultimate. To me they've always been worth what I paid and more, and I've used them with no problems in professional situations. And been complimented on my tone, I might add. I've since moved on to true custom basses, but the Carvins worked fine for me for years. Their customer service has always treated me like a prince and has gone above and beyond for me more than once.

    I'm not a huge fan of the Groove Tools Conklins. Not that they're bad, they're not, just that to me they're not remarkable. From what I've seen, though, the true custom shop Conklins can be absolutely amazing. You can get a crazy amount of customization, and the quality is top notch. These are definitely a level or two up from Carvins IMO, but so is the price.

    I'd say if you can afford it, get a Conklin. If you can't, a Carvin is a very good bass.
  6. T-Funk


    Jul 2, 2005
    I have two Carvin basses, LB75 and LB75F. In my opinion, Carvin basses are very versatile and a good value. I have not experienced one problem with either bass over the past five years.

    Carvin provides plenty of options to suit a players needs, including asymmetrical necks for wider string spacing, and different pick-up types and configurations. Therefore, some of the previous issues mentioned are moot points. Just be sure to order the options that are important to you as a player, and you will be fine.

    Although Carvin electronics are often critized, I love the tones I have been able to produce with both basses, and feel the electronics are on par with most basses in the $1k to $1.5k price range.

    As far as Conklin basses, I have never owned or played one. However, as a boutique manufacture, I would expect the company to produce a better quality and sounding instrument than Carvin. Hence, the higher price tag.

    It's like comparing a Chevrolet Corvette, a very nice car, to Dodge Viper, a dream car. Both cars will get a person to the same place, but with a Dodge Viper a person will definitely arrive at his or her destination in more style and attract alot more attention along the way. :D

  7. Dirty Dave

    Dirty Dave

    Oct 17, 2004
    Boston, MA
    I have no experience with Conklin but all five of my basses are Carvin's so that should say enough about how I feel about them.

    Never had a single technical issue whatsoever with any of them and I have yet to encounter a musician, band member or bar/nightclub patron that has had anything negative to say about my tone. If anything, I usually get compliments on my Carvin's.
  8. mark roberts

    mark roberts Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2004
    Lawrence, KS
    I have had two Conklins. A New Century 7 bolt-on and a Custom Neck-thru 7. Both were killer basses. They were "off the shelf" models, meaning that I took what was available rather than had Bill and Co. build to my preferences.

    There is no comparison between Carvin and custom Conklins. Yes, Conklins are significantly more expensive...but, you will get a VERY good bass.

    However, there are other builders out there, too. May I suggest that you check out Chris Stambaugh at Stambaugh Designs?


    I have two basses now and he is finishing a third for me right now. There are some threads on TB that also have more info...just do a search.

    Having a custom bass made for you is a great experience...the best of luck to you.

  9. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Go with Conklin. I owned an LB75P for about a week that I bought from the In-Stock Archive on the Carvin site. It was a gorgeous Koa/Koa/BEM it was constructed beautiful from an aestethic point of view. Playability it was a different story. While the neck felt comfy for a 5, it had more relief than an alkeselzer commercial and would not straighten out at all. The electronics, as someone said before were very hollow sounding and lifeless. There was a severe grounding problem and the bass buzzed like a chainsaw unless I was touching something metal on the bass. The bass pot was sticky, and the treble pot was staticky.

    I can understand that almost every company can have a bad one slip through, but after all the hype and lunacy about Carvin that I got from their forums, this bass was a huge let down. I wound up returning it.
  10. I have 2 Carvins, a Fretless B4 and a Fretless LB76 that I bought used. I havent had too much playing time on the LB76 (its been in the middle of a repair by my uncle for several months now. Needed a new preamp) but I absolutely Love my B4. I dont understand the person who said they were unstable. My B4 is a solid as a rock. And maybe its just me, but I love the tone I get from the stock pickups, and I've had bunch of compliments on the sound of it.
  11. i had a carvin lb70{i think}...hated it...thinnest mick mouse sounding bass ive ever played....but it was feather, light ill give it credit for that

  12. :meh: Here Here! I have 3 Carvin's, and can't recommend them strongly enough. They are a great value and unlike one of the prior posters, I would say you get WAY more than you pay for.
    The only weakness I can see with Carvin would be the pickups. I have replaced mine with Bartolini which made them sound quite a bit crisper. Otherwise IMHO they are one of the best buys in the bass market.
    I have played Conklin and am less than impressed, especially at the $7,700 7 string I played at the Dallas Guitar Show a few years back. I walked away thinking I had a far better bass for about 1/6th the cash.
    Oh well, to each his own. :meh:
  13. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    My Carvin is great. It's been a year and 4 months since I've had it and only in the past weeks has the neck started to bow. Yeah the headstocks are ugly, I've gotten over it. playability is great and the sound is pretty good. I admit The J pickup sounds pretty hollow, I can't really say anything bad about the Humbucker.

  14. One of my Carvin's has the MM style Humbucker and J combo the other two had the H50N stacked humbuckers and the Barts really spiffed them up.
    The single J pickup on my LB76W was also replaced with a Bart, but the MM Humbucker sounds great to me as well, so if it ain't broke... :D
  15. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    If you have the dough to get the Conklin-do it. I haven't played either brands [the catch], but based off of what i have read here the past cough cough 5.5 years cough cough, Carvin's typically are a love/hate thing-no middle ground, either someone loves theirs and doesn't have any problems, or they have been having problems since day 1. Conklin on the other hand-haven't read any bad things about them beyond some people might not dig the body shape or a specific wood combination.

    That's all
  16. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    My fretless, which I put together from a Carvin kit, has been totally solid so far. I haven't had to adjust the truss rod since I built it last May (now I've jinxed it and the neck will bow overnight!)

    I also used to own an LB76, but the neck on that one did move around a bit more compared to everything else I've owned.

    Never played a Conklin, though the Groove Tools 7 stringers were tempting me for awhile.
  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, i've played a few carvins and i thought they were all pretty nice instruments, especially for the cost. a few had neck issues, but they were minor and probably easily rectified. in short, i think you get what you pay for, maybe a bit more even.

    on the other hand, i own 10 custom shop conklins. :). comparing the two is not really fair. conklins are substantially more expensive than carvins, but they are completely hand made, customized to your specifications. of my 11 necks-worth (9 singlenecks, 1 doubleneck) of extended range conklins, none has ever given me any trouble whatsoever in the neck department, and only one ever needed any adjustment, in over a decade for some of them.

    i just recently played one of my conklin 7 strings that i haven't played in about a year. hey, i got 10, some of them don't get that much mileage :). anyway, i picked it up, plugged it in, and it was still in tune and sounded great. that says a lot for the stability of a neck. made me feel guilty heh. sitting there in the stand for a year, just waiting for me to play it so that it could sound awesome again heh.

    here again, i think you get what you pay for - a boutique hand-made bass. i have never played a better bass than my favorite conklins, although i have played some that were in the same league (like my ritter, for example heh).
  18. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    Even that can be changed, my Conklin had a modified sidewinder design already used on a previous bass, it ended up becoming a brand new shape because of the neck specs (original bass had 30 frets, mine has 24)

    If you go Conklin I can only advise you on one thing, be prepared to wait, I'm on my 14th month, this last year they had a lot of work so they say.
  19. I ordered a Carvin Bunny Brunel last year and it arrived here in winter, from southern California, in tune and with a nice low, buzz free action (might have been the 5 piece laminated neck for extra stability). Played great, was well made and looked beautiful. Wasn't my cup of tea tonally but that's a chance you take ordering sight unseen. I can't comment on long-term neck stability but the fact that I received it without any neck issues makes me confident.

    I may order a Carvin 4 string some time. They just came out with a new model called the Icon. Looks nice!

    I have no experience with Conklins but they are in a different league.

    Carvin is a good value. The only thing they messed up from a customer service perspective was sending me a set of strings and not charging me for them. :)
  20. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, they have been really swamped with orders. shoot, i had to wait 2 years for my 8 string fretted. bill goes as fast as he can.