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How does Carvin do it???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mstott25, Nov 17, 2010.

  1. mstott25


    Aug 26, 2005
    Guntersville, AL
    I'm curious as to how Carvin can make such a decent instrument for 1/3 the cost of similar basses?

    I'm just looking at how much it would cost me personally to build a bass and assemble it from parts...without including labor (I won't charge myself) I'll still spend more than I would for a brand new Carvin.

    I think the prices for a Valenti, Nordstrand, Sadowsky et al are all pretty equivalent. For a decent brand new 5 string jazz style bass you're looking at around $2500 give or take. I don't think Carey, Nino or Roger have garages full of porsches either, they're doing just enough to make a quality product and feed their staff.

    So how in the heck does Carvin cut costs so much?

    I'm thinking *speculating here* that it's because they are a larger company they probably have more CNC machines paid off in their factory than the other builders even have on credit right now. I'm also assuming that they get their wood from different supplier(s) and have a pretty good system going. Other than that, I just don't get it :confused:

    Now before this thread goes downhill or anybody wants to talk about basses being overpriced, please don't. I'm really just curious as to how Carvin is producing basses that are as hyped as the new SB series at such low costs while still making profit. I know a lot of you are more savvy than I about the bass building business, so how in the heck is it done?

    Are they cutting any corners that the other builders are not?
  2. Because they sell factory direct for one thing. When you walk into a Guitar Center, all those guitars come from companies that pay a substantial amountto have their guitars sold through GC, and the cost gets passed on to you. With Carvin, there is no middle man to pay, hence cheaper gear.
  3. Winnb


    Nov 4, 2010
    They buy bulk or make their own. Electronics, wood, metals, etc. And they've spent years figuring out how to be as efficient as possible.
  4. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    They have low overhead costs... They only build what they can sell... They don't pay much or offer much in the way of benefits (according to the Carvin folks I've met here in SD). And not everyone loves their gear - I have yet to play a Carvin amp that I liked, for example.

    That's why I think the SB series may be the perfect thing for them: It's cheaper to make than their neck-thru basses - and more importantly, it's easier to make *well*, so it's getting market traction.
  5. mstott25


    Aug 26, 2005
    Guntersville, AL
    Yeah...good points. Kind of obvious ones I guess too :smug: Good thing I'm not in the bass building business...

    I guess I never realized how large Carvin is. When I think of Nino Valenti making a bass, it's a one man operation and he's not getting any spectacular discounts on the supplies he's purchasing.

    So I guess Carvin would compare more closely to Fender who can also churn out instruments much cheaper, but then I'm sure those dealer discounts on the Fenders are pretty substantial.

    So I guess another advantage of Carvin in not being quite as large as Fender is the control they have over the instruments being put out.

    It seems like they're in a really good position and now that they're producing instruments I'm actually interested in, they have my attention.

    I guess I just had a hunch that they were cutting corners here or there, but the reviews and sounds all seem pretty legit.
  6. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Unlike most of the other manufacturers, Carvin is family owned and family operated. That gives them more focus, I think, than on the MBA-run companies. No offense to MBAs, but being a highly trained executive ain't the same as having grown up in an artisan craft shop.

    They also have a large supply of good wood, the result of years of hands-on selection and buying. The CNC gear helps (they were early adopters) and they are also the beneficiary of some pretty good design talent. You'll notice they don't stick their necks out, preferring to follow industry trends: when pointy guitars were popular in the '80s, Carvin made pointy guitars. When 7-strings became popular, guess what appeared in their catalogs?

    I bought my first Carvin stuff in 1974 (it was a single-coil pickup and some electronic parts -- Carvin being the only source for a lot of that back then) and, since, have had a guitar amp, a couple of stereo power amps (have one right now in my rack), several monitor and main speakers, and an LB20 bass. The only problem I ever had was with a monitor speaker that failed; the only dissatisfaction I had was with the bass, which was ergonomically not what I was comfortable with. In other words, good quality gear, for good prices. Not cutting-edge, but reliable and functional.

    And Carvin occasionally hits a home run: last summer I had new SH550 electric guitar here for evaluation, and it's a killer. A playing partner ended up buying it, and he loves it to death.
  7. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire

    I don't think the no middle man set up helps that much. Sadowsky NYCs are sold direct but they're not cheap.
  8. True, but Sadowsky sets their prices that high, not because an extra percentage is added to be a vendor at a chain store. Big difference.
  9. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    So IOW it is not necessarily the lack of a middle man that results in lower prices but the price point set by the maker. Okay.
  10. One of my first basses was a Carvin I bought new from their tiny showroom in Escondido, back in around 1971 I think. I really liked it, natural hardrock maple. It was stolen after a year or so. Never got another Carvin after that.

  11. I have played 3 carvin basses
    all anemic and lifeless. No soul to be found anywhere.
    dunno why.

    I have played two amps.
    one was a big stack red line i think it was
    and the other was a combo newer.

    both sucked balls.
    as in no balls.

    I would want either.

    however the PA gear (speakers, subs, board, snake, etc)
    that one band i was in had sounded great and worked wonderfully.
  12. Art Araya

    Art Araya

    May 29, 2006
    Palm Coast, FL
    owned a Carvin bass and a two Carvin power amps and a Carvin guitar amp. All decent but nothing mind-blowing.

    The Carvin bass could have been pretty good but couldn't keep the action from moving. Back in the days before I knew how to do my own setups I was going broke having the Carvin constantly re-setup. But other than that she was made well and sounded nice. I mod'ed her with some Lane Poor pickups and got an amazing sound...
  13. mstott25


    Aug 26, 2005
    Guntersville, AL
    This was always my experience with Carvin's as well. When I was in college I was really into Abraham Laboriel and he would play Carvins on some of his albums. I lived right by a Carvin shop so I went there to check out all of their basses and they just were not my thing...at all. I was playing a Fender Jazz bass and just felt like the Carvin didn't capture the growl or the slap sound of my jazz bass.

    But the SB series seems legit. Darryl Williams and Carl Carter are no slouches and they seem to really like the new SB basses, every time I've heard them they have a nice sound.

    I think this makes more of a difference when you compare Carvin to Fender or Musicman. Let's take the new Fender American Deluxe 5 and compare it to the SB5000. The SB5000 will cost you probably around $1500 with the blocks and binding and the Fender will cost you about $1700. I'm sure a dealer is paying what, 2/3 of that price? Either way those companies are still making money off of their basses and I think they can make them cheaper (and sell them cheaper) just because of the size of their operations.

    But I agree with what you said about Sadowsky and that goes for most of the jazz bass builders. Nordstrand you buy direct, Valenti you buy direct, Alleva Coppollo you buy direct....but I know those guys would lose their companies if they were selling their basses for $1500 each.

    I guess the difference between Carvin and these other companies is that it actually does cost Roger Sadowsky more money to make a bass than it does Carvin all things considered.
  14. honest abe

    honest abe Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2009
    Weslaco TX
    Audio Engineer for Marcos Witt
    Sadowsky, Fodera, Alleva Coppolo, set their prices high because they can. The market determines the price and they are savy enough to charge as high as possible while still maintaining a high demand for their product. It is highly a luxury market.
    Carvin is also smart enough to know that if they charged twice as much for their products they'd go out of business in a few months... I'm not saying that they are not a good value. They are just in a different market segment. They make many more products at a much lower cost to the customer.
  15. smcd

    smcd Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    I bought this '79 Carvin last year.


    The high build quality of this bass blew me away. It sounds great, has some incredibly clever features, and plays like a dream.
  16. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    Because they make lots of basses. You're looking at making one bass.

    Economies of scale, I believe is the term
  17. They spend a lot of time with each instrument. Carvin is more about production while all of the aforementioned companies invest a lot in making something with painstaking efforts and lots of labor. Carvin is alright, but comparing them to Fodera is far from an apples to apples comparison.
  18. Crabby


    Dec 22, 2004
    I bought a top of the line koa wood Carvin guitar back in the early nineties. Paid a lot for it at the time and was really disappointed. It was lifeless and had really bad sounding pickups. I lost a fortune (to me) on it as I kept trying to upgrade it by buying new pickups etc but just never liked it despite how nice it looked.

    Last year I bought a use LB75p fretless 5 string and just could not get into it. It looked great, had nice build quality and even a pretty good tone but there was no mojo to it if that makes any sense. i sold her off and have no regrets.
  19. jimbilly


    Apr 19, 2006
    I seem to remember a principle from marketing class; cost has NO relationship to price, other than you have to make a profit to stay in business. Their prices would be higher if they thought they could sell for higher prices.
    Their marketing plan seems to work for them, - they must be doing something right to still be in business.
  20. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    I used to think Carvin was a really good deal. Better prices then the competition in the 1970's. Theyre prices where much lower in comparrison back then. 1970 and early 80's. Ive one one of their 5 string basses and my brother had one of the 4 string basses. Anymore I concider them overpriced compared to the mid and upper end imports by various companies. I never concidered them on par with the likes of Sadowski and Lackland. Those imo are better basses. Carvins one diff is the large variety of options for finishes and woods. I learned early on that theyre bass necks, the one peice not 5 peice are weak, and where prone to truss rod problems because of that, esp with the 5 string basses. As result Id never reccomend anything but their 5 peice necks, the std necks arent good enough strength wise to me. Late 80's and early 90's timeframe for when I & brother had one and found lotsa others had same neck problems with truss rods unable to accomodate. This may have changed. But due to the prices they charge now compared to competition in very nice imports, and bad experience with their necks in the past. I wont own one nor reccomend them. I am happy for those whove had a great carvin bass or guitar they thought worth the cost though.

    I do kinda like their bass combo amps though. And getting their catalogs back in the 70's was a treat. Where else could you find pics of PA systems meant for very large venues or even outdoor concerts for sale mail order? LMAO. Eye candy galore for sure back then both in the instruments and PA gear.

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