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Carvin: What's the verdict?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by HomeBuild, Sep 28, 2004.

  1. HomeBuild


    Sep 28, 2004
    I am thinking of buying a Carvin Rig: R1000, RL210T & RL115. Carvin may be a well known name in the States but are very rare here in England. I am attracted to this setup because of its power coupled with portability (im getting a bit old for lugging large cabs up stairs).

    I have read many reviews about the equipment; most of which are very positive. There appears to be a good range of control and most reviews are complimentary on the sound: this is important as there is only one supplier in the UK and I will not be able to try before I buy.

    On the down side, I have read a number of reports of poor reliability of the R1000 head.

    Are there any views out there?
  2. i used to own a carvin PB300C -- a pro bass 300 head with a 1x15 (+tweeter) cabinet. i ended up selling because i needed to buy a drum kit and didn't have a bass gig lined up at the time.

    my verdict: i really liked the speaker and i didn't much like the amp. the amp wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. this was a generation before the redline heads, so it had neither a valve nor a valve emulation circuit. i wanted a more "lively" tone and ended up finding it with warwick amps.

    the speaker cabinet was very clean and loud and articulate. it compares favorably to my bergantino HT-112. i don't know about the RL 115T in that light, however. i am also not much of a fan of 10s, so i can't even compare the RL 210T to other 210s.

  3. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Carvins amps are a decent deal for the money. Their speakers are a bargain, at US prices that is. The drivers for their speakers are sourced from the same supplier that OEMs 90% of US manufacturers, Eminence. Their cabinets are built with first class materials and according to the same Theile/Small parameters as 100% of the cabinets on the commercial market. I just question how much it will cost you to get them from California to the UK. I understand that you have a local distributor, but he doesn't get them freight free.
  4. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
    I've had a couple of Carvin amps; can't rave about 'em, but can't bash 'em either. They've done the job for me, and I've gotten compliments on the sound at gigs.

    I had a rig similar to the one you've described, using the R600 head. If you order that, one thing you MUST know is that you cannot run it in bridged mode with those two cabs in parallel. It would HAVE to be bi-amped when stacked. Bridged mode minimum impedance for that head is 4 ohms, and if it sees anything less, it will get hot and go into thermal-protect mode QUICKLY.

    In my experience (my own gear and that of acquaintances), the RedLine heads are VERY intolerant of impedance loads below the stated ratings. I'm reaching a little here, but I suspect this has something to do with the reliability issues you mentioned. When properly loaded, mine would work just fine and run cool - but if the connected load was too low, the amp would heat up and lose power rapidly.

    I was fortunate to realize what was happening before I smoked the head; otherwise, I would have been another "poor reliability" story....
  5. Consider also the B1500 head and the BRX speakers. Even more power, probably better speakers ... and of course more $$$!I also owned an R600. I actually liked the tone a lot, but as someone said, in bridged mode it really didn't seem to like loads near its lower limit (i.e., 4 ohms bridged). At 4 ohms a side in stereo, though, mine was happy as a clam.
  6. lucas vigor

    lucas vigor Banned

    Sep 2, 2004
    Orange County, Ca,
    I have a Carvin RC210 combo head with two tens, and a 18 cabinet underneath....the head by itself is extrememly loud!
    However, I have destroyed it, and probably for the reasons that the poster above said...I ran the 2x10 cabinet out the high frequency output, and the 18 out of the low, but rarely used the biamp mode. I hooked up a 2-12 4 ohm to the output of the 18 cabinet (is that what you would call "in series" ?)

    and it worked very well, and very loudly, for about 4 years, no problems..now, however, it has a fuzzy sound which you can hear even with all the volumes off..strange! like my bass is coming thru a telephone, BUT, I can still get full volume...it's not the speakers, they are not blown...but i think by adding the 4 ohm 2x12 cab, I fried it!

    Any ideas why? Anyone?

    The good news is that Carvin told me that it is a flat rate of 175 to repair any amp, no matter the problem....
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Don't be surprised when it goes, bwaaapp fart noise, flap out , on the lower freq's.

    I have a Carvin RL1018 that I use as a back-up and it can't handle any muscle. It's pity-poor when it comes to handling the B string.

    It ain't nearly what I use.
  8. Kelly Lee

    Kelly Lee Yeah, I'm a guy! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Marana, AZ, USA
    I second the BRX series. From what I have heard they have a more Ampeg type tone but with more punch. Take it for what its worth.
  9. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Carvin is good bang-for-buck, but not hi-fi. Kind of boxy sounding. I can I.D. 'em a mile away.
  10. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    My main rig:

    My other rig (ART SGX Nightbass SE is gone. I think I still have the HUSH unit, but I'm not sure where it is.):
    Yes, I had all that stuff before I started working at Carvin.

    Correct. The R600 and R1000 can run as low as 2 ohms per channel or 4 ohms bridged. Nothing unusual about that. You should never run any amplifier at an impedece lower than it's rated. The RL210T and RL115 are both 4-ohm cabs. If you daisy chain them together, that's a 2-ohm load. You can't bridge those amps into 2 ohms.

    Not necessarily. You should use the two seperate High and Low outputs, but these can be run in either bi-amp or full range. I actually prefer that particular setup in full range mode.

    The bridge switch should be off when running these two cabs together. If you run one cab on each side of the amp, you get 350 watts per cab, for a total of 700w, whether biamped or full range. If you daisy chain the cabs and run them both off one side of the amp, you get 500 watts. I don't really see any reason to do that since it's less power than you get the other way. If you run either one of these 4-ohm cabs, then you can bridge the amp into it for 1000 watts. That's more power than either of those cabs is rated at, but it shouldn't hurt if you're not pushing the amp into clipping. But it will probably be as loud if not louder with two cabs and 700 watts than one cab and 1000 watts.

    As it should. An amplifier's protection circuits are designed to protect it from damage. They shut it down before it can burn itself up.

    I don't know of any amp that likes to be run below it's rated impedence. Expecting it to do so is unrealistic. Sometimes you'll get away with it. But when you start pushing the amp, it'll most likely shut down.
  11. ihixulu

    ihixulu Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2000
    South Shore MA
    Hey mgood,

    What's your take on the 1500? Can you compare it to some other heads out there for us?
  12. slinkp


    Aug 29, 2003
    brooklyn, NY, USA
    No, it would almost definitely be parallel, which means
    you lowered your impedance, to either 2 or 2.6666 ohms depending on whether the 18" cab was 4 or 8 ohms. Not surprising the amp isn't happy with that. I'd disconnect either the 2-12 or the 118 cab. If you need more lows than you're getting with just one of those cabs, you either need more power or a more efficient driver/cabinet or both. Piling on drivers in parallel is asking for amp death.
  13. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    The B1500 is a very straightforeward amp. Very few bells and whistles. It's a single-channel amp with no crossover, no noise gate, no compressor, no tube emulation (although the DRIVE control will fuzz-up the sound a bit if you crank it), no sonic maximizer or aural enhancer. Just brute solid state power. It's extremely clean and uncolored. There is no built-in "tone shaping". It's more like a PA power amp in that regard - what goes in is what comes out, just louder. The tone controls are simple, flexible, and work extremely well. SUB BASS, BASS, LOW MID, MID, HI MID, and TREBLE are +/-12dB at 50Hz, 100Hz, 300Hz, 1KHz, 3KHz, and 10KHz respectively. These make it very easy do dial in a variety of sounds. And you can definately feel it when you twist the SUB BASS and/or BASS controls. Or you can use them to get rid of the rumble in a room that's too bass heavy.

    This thing is night and day different from the R600/R1000. For one thing, they were built with a larger budget, for bassists willing to spend a bit more. The Red Line Series, like most amps, were designed along the lines of "what's the best amp you can build for this amount of money?" And the B1500/B500 and the BRX cabs were built more along the line of "build the best amp you can and then we'll talk about what it costs." It's by far the most high-end bass amp Carvin has ever produced. Also, it's different from the Red Line amps in function, as I mentioned the simplicity compared to the hundred gizmos built into the R1000/R600. And the sound is a completely different aproach. More of a classic tone. One of the engineers I spoke to said he grew up playing SVT's and was going for something closer to that sound. I've heard others say it's more like ampeg also. I'm not sure I completely agree with that, but I see where they get the comparison.

    I haven't seriously auditioned any non-Carvin heads in a couple years. I'm going to be at Bass Alone this afternoon. I might try a couple of amps there to see what I can compare it to and get back to you this evening.
  14. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    You're right about the load and about piling on more drivers. But that amp should run just fine at 2 ohms per channel. If it didn't, there's something wrong with it, or something else was wrong with the setup that caused the problem.
  15. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA
    mgood -

    No technical disagreement here with anything you said.

    Where the logic falls down, however, is in the fact that Carvin sells these as packaged "stacks" (RedLine head and 2 cabs), and it isn't immediately apparent from the catalog that the package cannot be run in the head's bridged mode.

    Case in point: From your website. Nowhere on this page is it made apparent that this rig cannot run in bridged mode, and the head has the feature.

    But it can't:


    Many of your customers are well versed in ohms and amplifier loading - but others aren't. I was initially unaware, until the R600 got hot and I stopped to think about what I was doing. And many of the others are going to be surprised when they try to run the packaged "stack" in bridged mode, using the "bridge mode" feature it came with, and it overheats on them. They figure they bought the whole rig from Carvin, and it has this feature, so they use it. They then become your detractors, your service department's headaches, and your "reliability issues".

    Which is exactly why I pointed it out to the originator of this thread.

    You guys would do yourselves a favor if you made this more clear in both your catalogs and in the documentation included with your products. You could also offer 8-ohm versions of your cabs, and players who want to run bridged/parallel can simply order a pair of 8-ohm cabs for their stack. BTW, you aren't the first Carvin employee I've made these comments to.

    As I stated in my prior post, it's a decent, serviceable amp when used with a correct speaker load, and a very nice bang-for-the-buck factor, IMHO.

  16. I have a PB500 and the thing about the PB series and the RL series is that they really aren't comparable at all. The PB was really dry and difficult to get a good sound out of. The RL is more like an SWR and had I not bought an SWR before the RLs had come out, I would have one of them. Their sound is excellent and their reliability is excellent as well, I have not heard anything negative in that regard. What could present a problem is that service almost needs to be done at the factory. Carvin uses a lot of modular parts so it might be possible to get local service in the UK... but I don't know if it would be likely.
    Regardless, the RL series amps are great all around bass rigs with lots of power and a serious amount of control... not to mention the tone.
  17. good thing i went warwick/crest, then -- i really don't like SWR at all!

    thanks for the heads up, though. i figured they'd be different, since the PB series had the "mud-cut" circuit that ended up making everything sound a little thin, and since the RL series initially had a valve (and later a valve emulation circuit). either way, i don't have anything against carvin products. like most manufacturers, i've found products i like and products i dislike.

    there are many products for which i'd consider carvin, which is about as a good a verdict as any company can get from me.

  18. Now you are taking me too literally. I said it sounds more like an SWR because the SWR that I have has a good ability to get an excellent sound. You can get "the tone" from some of SWR/s amps. I am not a fan of all the SWR stuff, but I do like the SWR Silverado Special that I have (that was discontinued about 2 years ago). I have not really found one of their large heads I care for a bunch.
    Bottom line, the Carvin gives a lot of flexibility in tone and sounds great, not to mention it doesn't cost an arm and a leg like some of the "premium" rigs.
  19. I have a B1500, as it happens. Since I bought it, though, I've only done a couple of gigs where I needed something that big, so I don't have a huge volume of gig experience with it. Almost everything I've done in the last year has been with my EA iAmp 500 and my Acme Low B-2. I have played the B1500 quite a bit in the apartment, though, albeit at low volumes. And I did take it to a couple of outdoor gigs around Labor Day with no PA support, using an Acme Low B-4.

    I can't really hear the Ampeg comparison either. The B1500 sounds flatter, cleaner, and more accurate to me than the Ampegs with which I'm familiar, with a much more extended high end. I don't think I've ever heard a basic all-in-one amp head that had a more extended and, for lack of a better word, "pro" sounding high end. I'm talking about settings that use the drive knob minimally if at all, as that's not really my thing. The drive does seem to change the tonal balance at higher settings. If you go light on the drive, it's really not a particularly "colored" amp at all. Some people will like that, others won't.

    Haven't really compared it to a high-end preamp/power amp combo, but that might not be either relevant or fair anyway.
  20. HomeBuild


    Sep 28, 2004

    I didn't expect this level or responce to the thread.

    There appears to be a wide range of opinion about my proposed rig.

    What have I got from all of this.

    1) Portability is important to me but so is power and tone. The R1000 + RL210T + RL115 is a small rig to pack 700W. My current Rig only gives me 500W and is twice the weight.

    2) I was attracted to the R1000 because of its bi-amp capability. I like the full range sound that I can get from a bi-amped setup so no bridged mode is not an issue.

    3) Reliability problems appear to derive only from overloading the amp.

    4) Servicing is a big unknown in the UK. I assume that the single supplier provides a full aftersales service.

    5) Prices in the UK are higher than in the States but that goes for all manufacturers: even British ones.

    6) The UK supplier does not sell a packaged rig. I have to order each unit separately (no discount for the full purchase) and I have several weeks to wait as there are no cabs in stock at present.

    I am still unsure. As much as this is not the most expensive rig, I am still looking to fork out over £1100. This is a lot of cash, if I don't like the sound when the rig gers delivered. I shall ponder a little while, at least until the suppliers have all the units in stock.