NBD - Early/Mid 90s Carvin LB76 quilted maple

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Omega Monkey, Jul 25, 2017.

  1. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Ok,technically it came in last week, but I didn't get a chance to post it until now.

    Picked it up for a pretty reasonable price. Seller said it was "near mint" and I'd say that's fairly accurate. The clear coat finish is in very good shape, no real nicks or dents or anything. Frets are in really good shape. Electronics no problems.

    When it came in, there was way too much relief in the neck and the action was just barely on the edge of playable. I tightened about 3/4 of a turn on the truss rod, lowered each saddle WAY down and kind of got the intonation close. Need to do a pass with a better tuner than my clip on now.

    The tone on this thing is not quite what I was expecting, but it's actually really good. It's got a fairly natural sounding piano tone kind of thing going on. It's actually fairly balanced across the tonal spectrum. So far my favorite is the bridge solo'd with the EQ flat on the bass. Through my Genz Benz 210T it's very modern sounding, but through my EVM 15B Pro (the 400 watt version, with response up to 4 or 5k) it can sound really organic and old school. So it really depends on the midrange EQ you give it. TOTALLY different character than my Yamaha BB415, which is a lot more low midsy, and is overall more in the vintage P/J neighborhood.

    I was worried after I paid for it about the weight, but it turns out to not be particularly heavy, and the long upper horn keeps it nicely balanced and very comfortable overall.

    Anyway, looking on Carvin Museum, this would have been about a $1200 order in 93 or 94 when it was made (including the case). So with inflation that's about $2700 in today's dollar, and that's keeping in mind Carvin's direct pricing. The "compare at" price would have been over $2k back then including the quilted top, which is over $4k now. I don't know if I would say this is a $4000 bass if it was off the rack today, but it still makes me happy that I paid closer to 1/5 of that. I am really digging it so far so I think it's a keeper, once I finish dialing in the setup (which I expect will go fine once I get my hands on a more precise tuner). $2k+ for this thing brand new in 2017 would not be out of line (and lucky for me this one is damn close to new).

    So here it is...


    Oh, and it does have the truss rod cover (plain black), I just still have it off until I finalize the setup. No logo either, and no inlays, so the thing has a really classy, "clean" look to it that I really like. And honestly, I kind of bought the thing on a whim. I've been eyeing 6 strings lately, and had "watched" this one, then saw it was ending and was still a reasonable price. So I said what the hell and bid on it, not expecting anything. But it went up like 10 bucks and I was in the lead and it stayed that way until the end. So I figured I guess I'd better pay for it.

    It amazes me how little these things usually go for. If nobody knew you could buy one brand new in whatever configuration you wanted for (these days) about 2k or less, the used ones would easily go for 50-100% more than they do. A USA made bass, with high end woods, well thought out electronics, very solid hardware (this one was a wilkinson bridge and sperzel locking tuners), for a 6 string you would expect to pay at LEAST a grand from anybody else. But they seem to regularly go for a couple hundred or more less than that.
  2. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    Nice. I have a pair of them from the same era (one I bought new in 94, the other I bought used, and based on features, it is a tad older).

    I think you're in the ballpark for what it would have cost new. Mine in koa was about 1100 with a case, and I think quilt was a little more than that, plus you have the matching headstock

    I go back and forth on the tone on mine. Lately, I'm digging it again. Personally I like it like 60/40 neck/bridge. Both pickups equal is kind of lifeless (and on a J, that's a sound I usually like). I've pondered gutting the electronics, but in the end, I don't think I want to drop another 300 bucks on it.
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  3. tlc1976


    Aug 2, 2016
    Nice. I was getting the Carvin catalogs in the early 90s and really liked the quilted maple LB76. I had gathered that they were designed more for balance and function rather than to be flashy and exotic. I did use the LB76 pickups and nut when I built my 6 string. They seemed very quiet and balanced, but I made mine passive and the locations are totally different.
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  4. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Now I've had a little more time with this thing and had a chance to get the setup 98% of the way dialed in (tonight actually, because I borrowed a really nice "orchestral" tuner). I ended up bringing all the saddles about a 1/4" towards the nut from where they were and that made a huge difference. Also dialed in the string heights a bit more and I'm pretty happy with them (lower is always good but unfortunately I might be at about the physical limits of the bass at this point). I meant to just get it dialed in and then play for a few minutes and it ended up being an hour or more. Everything is very even feeling now and through a good amp and cab it just calls out to be played. And it's very responsive to am EQ. With the bridge soloed it's got a great burpy J tone, mids in just the right places. Neck soloed it's like depth city. It's almost TOO thumpy like that (with the tone controls flat). In the middle obviously it's more of a balance between the 2.

    The only thing I'm worried about is the neck width/string spacing. It's quite a workout compared to my Yamaha BB 5 string (which feels like a 4 string J after playing the 6. I'm hoping that I'll adjust to it over the next few weeks as I play it more, but the left handis definitely getting more than it bargained for right now.

    But otherwise I'm super happy with this thing.
  5. JGBassmann


    Oct 3, 2018
    I've just bought the same model, very satisfied, but wonder if anyone could help me clearify what the tone controls are.
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  6. Keith Guitars

    Keith Guitars Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 25, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    Builder: Martin Keith Guitars
    Nice! My first 6 was an early '90s LB76f (fretless) and I really liked it.

    Though I ended up selling mine a while back, I just bought a fretted twin as a knockaround/backup bass and I'm really enjoying it.
    It plays great and sounds surprisingly good. I agree that these things have tremendous value for the price, especially used.

    The controls are Volume / Blend / Bass / Treble. The Carvin preamp is funny in that the Blend control works "backwards" from most other makes -
    if you picture it with a numbered Strat-style knob, then turning it up to 10 is full-bridge, and down to 0 is full neck. Most basses are the other way.
    Also, the EQ knob for the bass is the lower one closest to the neck, and treble is closest to the bridge. Again, somehow counter intuitive IMO.

    The only thing to watch on these is the truss rods - Carvin went through a couple of truss rod designs in the '90s, and they were both lousy.
    Mine had a broken rod when I bought it, which I replaced with a modern two-way rod with excellent results.
    I am actually doing the same truss rod upgrade in an LB70 for another TBer right now.
    It's not that bad a job and can be done almost invisibly if you're careful (it involves pulling the fingerboard and routing out the channel, then regluing the board.)

    Cheers - enjoy the bass!
    bholder, JGBassmann and Omega Monkey like this.
  7. JGBassmann


    Oct 3, 2018
    Thanks for you quick reply, I had my suspicions about the blend knob. In addition it seems that the bass knob has a volume element added to the mere bass control, i.e. full bass = max volume, I don't know if you can confirm that.
    Re your comment on the truss rod: I felt I had to turn the nut a lot more than I am used to in order to get the right bow of the neck. May be this is the same weakness as you mentioned. However the result is now just perfect, and I hope it keeps that way at least for some time. So far I'm very happy with the quality of this instrument. The condition is as new, and I paid around the equivalent of USD 600.
    I'm going to use the Carvin as a back-up and supplement to my favorite 6 string which is a headless handmade instrument of about the same age (left picture). The necks and string spacings are almost identical, so change between the two feels seamless. Thanks again for your response. Great site this that can offer this kind of insight from competent people like yourself.
  8. Keith Guitars

    Keith Guitars Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 25, 2004
    Woodstock, NY
    Builder: Martin Keith Guitars
    Good to hear. My original LB76 fretless never once needed a truss rod adjustment, so sometimes they work fine and just stay put.
    Interestingly enough, of the two very similar Carvins I've worked on this month, one had steel reinforcement bars and a one-way rod, and the other had carbon hollow/round tubes and a two-way rod. Despite the differences, both rods failed and require replacement. The one with carbon has the Hipshot bridge and 3-band EQ, so it would most likely be a newer instrument...the older one has the Wilkinson/Sperzel setup and 2-band EQ like yours, so yours is probably the 1-way rod also.
    As long as it doesn't break, it should be more than enough - on these thin 1-piece necks, the tension of 6 strings will pretty much always pull the neck forward, so you shouldn't ever need more than the one-way adjustment to correct that.

    But, rest assured that if it does go south, it's repairable and will still keep the total investment under $1k, which remains a great price for what the bass has to offer.
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  9. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Wow, I can't believe I've had this thing 2 years already. Crazy. On the last set of strings I had (a custom ordered balanced DAddario set, 28, 40, 55, 75, 100, 130), I had the action and relief and intonation REALLY dialed in and the thing just played amazingly and sounded killer. Then I had a gig coming up and ordered the same string set (except went to a non-tapered B), and UPS completely boned up the order and they had the box AT MY APARTMENT DOOR (on Friday, before my Saturday gig) and decided NOT to leave it (inside my secured building with only 12 units). So since they refused to deliver it on saturday even though they screwed up, I had to scramble and find a halfway decent string set the day of the gig (the current strings were pretty dead). Which meant driving about 50 miles round trip to the only decent music store in the entire area, and I ended up with a LaBella set (with tapered B, E, and A I think). And then I didn't even have time to put them on before the gig. So the gauges were slightly better than the off the rack crap at GC, and I do like the sound in some ways better than the DAddarios, but the playability/feel is just not there any more, I had to completely nuke my previous setup, and the B string is a total piece of mushy garbage now that I basically hate. But I can't afford to just scrap them and go to the DAddarios (which finally came in on that monday), nor will my New Yorker environmentalism allow me to throw them out before their time.

    And I find the setup really affects the tone on this thing. It needs to have just a little bit of clank to really sound its best.

    Anyway, I had no idea I had put 3/4 of a turn on the truss rod when I got this thing. I've probably put at least another half turn since then (1/4 with the last set of DAddarios, and then another 1/8th or 1/4 for the LaBellas). I haven't had any issues with it, but I also had watched this video before the last couple adjustments. I forget the guy's name, but he shows how to adjust the truss rod on a bass, as he's got an old 70s Tele bass that is completely out of whack. And he takes the tension off the neck, and said something that really stuck, which is that you don't want the truss rod to have to put the neck where it needs to be, you just want it to be holding it there. So that really stuck with me and I always loosen the strings before an adjustment, and then let the neck settle for a while afterwards before tuning back to pitch.

    At any rate, once I had gotten the first set of the balanced DAddarios on and dialed in the setup some more (about 5 or 6 months into owning it) the thing became overall a really fantastic bass, and it's been my main bass since then, and my poor Yamaha gets mostly neglected (it needs new strings at the moment which doesn't help).

    And yes, if you have the 2 band preamp (4 knobs as opposed to 5), the controls are as stated by Keith. BUT, at least according to Carvin literature, and my own experience and fooling around seems to support this, the "claim to fame" of this preamp was that the EQ was supposed to be volume neutral. Which means you could make about any EQ adjustment you wanted and the overall volume was supposed to stay pretty close to the same. I don't remember where I rear that, but it was probably Carvin Museum, either in the catalog itself or the commentary. Carvin Museum is a great resource at least for sales and marketing side of Carvin gear. Kind of a weird concept for a "museum" to be based mainly on the catalogs, rather than say "real life" pictures of instruments (either now or back in the day), stories from people involved, etc...
    JGBassmann and mikewalker like this.
  10. JGBassmann


    Oct 3, 2018
    I have played my LB76 today with the fresh knowledge I got from you guys, and I must say I really got a new grip on the tone adjustment. And I reckon that this instrument is going to be my favorite. Fantastic tone, sustain, feel, balance and playability, and now also a setup and EQ adjustments that suits me very well. Thanks a lot for your contribution.
    Omega Monkey likes this.