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Musicman or Carvin. Which do you prefer?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by wmikew, Oct 9, 2005.

  1. wmikew


    Oct 2, 2005
    Hey everyone, recently I've been searching websites, reviews, and everything I can to help me decide if I should order a Carvin LB70P or a MusicMan Bongo. I like everything I've heard on both of them, and it seems like both of them are very good basses. I also like the futuristic look on the Bongo, but really I am concerned with how good the bass sounds. I play for a church and a small rock band, so I need a nice growl and a strong punch. Im looking to spend about $900-$1200.

    Anyone have any reviews, pictures, praises, or complaints about either of these guitars that could help me make my decision? I hope this thread will also help others who are in the same boat trying to make a decision...

    Thank you.
  2. Don't know about the Carvin but I'll say the Bongo owners swear by them. I just can't get past the look.......

    Check the EB Musicman bass forums for more info. Ask for "Bovinehost".....
  3. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    I've owned both (5 string). They are radically different basses! If you go the Carvin route, buy used. The Carvins have great punch, while the growl is somewhat subjective, depending how you EQ them. The necks are thinner than the Music Man necks. If you get the Carvin, go for the humbucker in the bridge position. Carvin quality is outstanding.

    As far as the Bongo goes, their EQ section is superb. Absolutely go for the dual humbucker, as this will yield the greatest tonal palette for you. The Bongo electronics are far more flexible than the Carvin electronics in terms of dialing in different tones. I've found that most players will find a tone that they like, and simply stick with it, maybe tweaking it to accommodate the room you may be in. The necks have more of a "baseball bat" profile, but these basses are also a joy to play. The looks are very subjective. Some love em, some don't. The only thing that really matters is whether or not YOU like it.

    As far as the fretboards go, I personally love the feel of the Carvin ebony over the rosewood offered on the Bongo. Again that's my opinion; others may disagree.

    If you are going to play in a curch gig, you should consider going the 5 string route. A lot of the music you will be playing is written in Eb, and will utilize those lower notes! Learning 5 string will make you more versatile as well (I know, I know, Jaco only needed four strings....)

    I hope this helps!
  4. I actually prefered the sound of the MM Sterling over the Bongos that I tried. I also felt it played better and "faster". The Bongos felt dead - but if they have been played a lot in-store, then the strings were probably just dead.

    I absolutely agree with Commreman about the Eb - when playing with Piano/Organ you'll see lots of it. If you're playing mostly with other guitarists - or if the guitar is leading, then Eb won't be as much of an issue. If you don't want to go the 5-string route than you could live with a high Eb or just tune down your E.

    I've never tried a Carvin, but the LB70P was definately in my front running as well due to its strong standing in Bass Player's "Bass Gear" of 2000 and various reviews around the net. Nice looking guitar too.

    In the end I bought the Sterling since it just wants to be played. The neck is a thing of beauty, plays evenly (volume-wise) across all strings. Its been many years since I had so much trouble tearing myself away from practice. I don't mind the way the Bongos look - my wife even likes it, but I couldn't get past the neck - which I absolutely hated. Although the Bongo has the best slap sound I've come across.

    - Andrew
  5. I've owned a number of Carvin and a single Musicman Sterling for quite some time now... and... well... I've been through an LB75, BB70P, and a BB75, all of them now gone. All I have left is an LB70PF.

    Basically, the Carvin instruments are very utilitarian and they really have no true tonal character. I know, I know, the character is in the instrumentalist, blah, blah, blah, but if you were to put it next to a Bongo lets say, I can nearly promise that the Bongo will have a bit more depth and complexity to its palette, and that's NOT to knock Carvin's.

    I really love my Carvin LB70PF, the mids on it are exquisite and it plays like an upright, not to mention the craftsmanship is flawless (the tung oil neck is astounding) but all of the other (fretted) Carvin's I've played were all too bland for my liking...

    Nevertheless, I say you should try both, but if you go the Carvin route, buy it USED. It will sound just as good as a new one and you'll get it for much, much less.
  6. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I think Bongos sound great, and personally that's what I'd go with.

  7. cheezewiz

    cheezewiz Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    Not even close. Musicman in a landslide. Carvin's weakest points are the electronics, which are Musicmans strongest feature.
  8. w. edgar evans

    w. edgar evans

    Jan 21, 2004
    I just got a Carvin that I've been using for an odd mixture of praise and worship music and classic rock. It's a LB76P, fretted, walnut body. What I've discovered is that it sounds great through a full range speaker system or descent montiors, or through a more "modern" sounding bass amp (like SWR), but certain rigs (ampegs, peavey combos, most 1x15"s, Behringers :crying: ) just don't sound good with it, IMO. Dual humbuckers and two coil taps are nice for a variety of sounds. Used ones are a steal on eBay.

    I've never played a Bongo, so I can't comment. I've liked the Stingray's I've played, but they do have a totally different neck than the Carvin (I like Carvin's better), so personal preference plays a large role in this. I would +1 the recommendation for dual humbuckers here as well.

    Not to add to the issue, but I've also liked the G&L's I've played, and they are somewhat musicmanesque...

  9. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    I just bought a Bongo 5, and since She Who Must Be Obeyed hath decreed that I may own only one fretted bass at a time, my Carvin LB75A is for sale on The Bay as this is being written.

    The Bongo is a whole different animal from the Carvin. It's VERY aggressive. If you're looking for subtle, muted and vintage, it's not for you. I'm sure those tones are in there somewhere, but it just begs to be played hard and loud. It's like a wild animal, it is.

    I replaced the stock electronics in my Carvin with Bartolini pickups and an Aguilar OBP-3 preamp, which improved its tone dramatically IMHO. Great sound, fantastic range. The Bongo is STILL more aggressive. It's just totally IN YOUR FACE, M'KAY????

    I love my Carvin, especially after the electronics upgrade. But da Bongo just suits my style better, so the Carvin goes. I really wish I could keep both.

    Forum rules prevent me from posting direct ads here...but you've got enough keywords to find the bass on the Bay if you're interested. She's a sweet one.
  10. Commreman

    Commreman Faith, Family, Fitness, and Frets Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    New Jersey
    Oh boy, the old Carvin electronics issue! I've owned both basses. I still have the Carvin. BTW, I recently tried different pickups (without naming names, a holy grail brand around here) for three gigs, and had the Carvin J99's put back in.

    If the electronics are not your "cup 'o tea", it doesn't mean they suck. It means that your ears prefer something else. Geeeeeeze!
  11. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    Ive never played a Bongo, but I own a a Stingray 4 and a Sterling 4 fretless. I like them a lot...
  12. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Agreed...the stock Carvin electronics are just fine, but they're not to everyone's liking. I decided to upgrade mine, and I'm glad I did...the Aguilar preamp and Bartolinis have a much more punchy, present vibe than the stock stuff IMHO.

    The stock electronics are perfectly adequate...they're just not outstanding IMO. Everything else about the bass is great.

    Playability: 10
    Workmanship: 9 - 10
    Materials (wood): 9-10...really beautiful
    Stock electronics: 7-8
    Design: 7-8 (not bad, but dated and not quite classic)
    Value: 10++++ (especially with upgraded electronics)
  13. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh (MM)
  14. John Coxtosen

    John Coxtosen Music Geek/Bass Nerd

    May 25, 2005
    Duluth, MN
    I'm not impressed with Carvin basses. I've played a handfull of them and thought that they must have been kind of an aquired taste. Boxy, lifeless sound in my opinion.

    I've played many MM basses and have never been disapointed. I see myself picking up a Sterling 5 as soon as they ship.
    I played my first Bongo 5 a couple weeks ago and had a blast. More snot than anyone would ever need. And that 4 band EQ is great. In combination with 2 pickups the variety was very impressive. Not too crazy about the looks, but they are super comfy to play. I WILL say that it looked better in person to me. I love that Rolls Burgundy color.
  15. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    See what I mean, Mike? ;)
  16. wmikew


    Oct 2, 2005
    Thank you all for your input. I think I'll look into the MusicMans a little more now... :smug:

    Just one more question. I have heard that MM's (the Bongo in particular) have a very thick "baseball bat" neck that make it hard to play on. I don't think something like this would deter me from ordering one, but I'm curious if that is true, and if so, how much does it really affect you?

    Thanks again.
  17. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Hey Mike! :)

    That may be true for StingRays, but not for the Bongo IMO. I don't feel it like a "baseball bat". The Carvin BB75 has an assymetrical neck (thinner in the treble side and thicker in the bass side) which is really nice, but Bongo's neck isn't thick at all.
  18. wmikew


    Oct 2, 2005
    Thanks Alvaro :)
    And yes, you were the main reason I started this post, and when I started to ask around I realized how correct you were. You probably saved me a thousand dollars, heh.

    Now I just have to start calling around and see which stores have these bongos... I'm excited to try one :hyper: :hyper:
  19. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    New York, NY
    This one is sooo easy.

    Musicman. Take it from a Carvin owner.
  20. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    He he... I'm following Bovinehost's steps. skullgrin.