quickie carvin BB70 review

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by twiz, Jul 6, 2003.

  1. twiz


    Jun 4, 2003
    Los Angeles
    i've been on a bit of a buying spree lately...started about two months ago when i picked up a fender p-bass lyte deluxe off ebay, ordered a carvin BB70...and started waiting...

    (at some point during that wait, i got bored and bought a sadowsky...shame on me!)

    but anyway the carvin arrived and here's the review

    custom bb70 4 string bunny brunel bass
    koa sides,
    maple neck through w/ flat wounds installed
    single coil neck
    humbucking bridge
    3 band eq
    some tap split switch
    all tung oil everything (no laquer for me, thanks!)
    total price, approx $1050
    wait, about 5 weeks

    first thoughts...pretty much dead on with what i expected...certainly not overwhelmed, comfortably pleased

    koa was reasonably grained, certainly nothing great, but not bad either...

    bass felt a bit heavier than i thought it would be. i was told it should come in around 8.25 lbs and 8.5 lbs and it's closer to 9.5 lbs, speaking of which, while i'm on the subject of confusion, i should mention that my experience with the carvin salesfolk was a bit more confusing than others -- some said the bass won't weigh more because of koa, others said 2 pounds, etc etc. i also special ordered a no signature headstock, which one salesman said, no big deal to, another screamed at me for taking the "artist's name off a painting"...anyway...

    fit and finish was absolutely immaculate, i mean 100% perfect. in fact i'm comfortable saying that it's probably pretty darn hard to physically put the pieces together than these guys do. wiring was nice, all parts in tight and solid.

    and now...the scary part...well if you've heard anything about carvin that's bad it either's the post-sales service or the sound...unfortunately my story is the same...

    even through my polytone combo 15" amp with some serious eq tweaking, the bass just did not have the warmth of the mahog fender (and not even close to the sad, but i would argue that's no where near a fair comparison). best way i can describe the tone is: "bright, techy, flash-bass sounding." now don't get me wrong, if this were it, i'd just chalk it up to my inexperience with the bass, eq, etc...but what has pushed me over the edge is this...the neck of that bass is just a bit wider than i'd like. the string spcing is quite difficult to get used to...

    it's an "ok" bass, would i recommend it? doubt it. as i suspected, carvin's are a darn fine $5-700 instrument and most purchases that i'd recommend from their catalog are in that price range. i'd imagine spending $500 or so on a nice bolt on bass, swapping the neck pickup for a duncan or something with more tone in it, swapping some thomastiks in there and playing the heck out of it...for $1000+ though, i personally feel it doesn't do it for me...

    now...don't get me wrong, i can see how that bass may be the holy grail for some, and sheesh with the fit and finish it must be...heck maybe some people LOVE those wide string spacings for popping and slapping madness, but i think it's hard to argue with the electronics needing at least some minor form of upgrading...perhaps a nice duncan neck or something to get the "flashy" brite tone out of it...hrmph

    anyway, flame away!
  2. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    Sorry to hear that there were some disapointments.

    Koa varies a lot in both color and weight. If you tell the sales rep "I want dark koa" or whatever, they will try to accomodate you. If you find a pic of one you like on their Basses in Stock page, or have a pic that used to be on the Basses in Stock, you can give them the serial number and they will try to find something in the woodpile with a similar grain and color. There are no gaurantees there, but they usually get pretty close.

    Lots of people are not thrilled with the pickups/electronics. There are some that have bought a Carvin and swapped pickups and/or pre-amp and been extremely happy with the sound.

    I've bought four Carvin basses. I still have three of them and wish I still had the other one. They are my thing, until I find something I like better, which I've been unable to do in 18 or so years of shopping. But probably not for everyone. Different strokes you know?

    I love the string spacing on my Carvin four-strings. I found it difficult to play five-strings because the strings were so close together compared to what I'm used to. But when I discovered wide-necked fives, I decided I needed one. My hands are not large, rather average or a little smaller than average. And I don't do much slapping. But for some reason, that's just what I'm comfortable with. I think the neck is what I like most about them.

    Bottom line is, if you don't like it, send it back. Yeah, it'll cost you shipping. But it would be hard to rent a bass for ten days for what that shipping costs.

    I've got a 1989.5 LB70, a 2003 BB75P, and a 2002 BB70WP. My first bass was a 1987 V440T. They are the only electric basses I've ever owned. (I had a Martin acoustic bass guitar for a while.) I bought all of them new except the BB70WP (my avatar) which I got slightly used (about six or seven months old when I bought it). My next two or three basses will probably be Carvin.

    Interesting that you just bought a Precision Light. The only two Fenders I've ever played that I could tolerate were P-Lights. I almost bought one of them.
  3. Yeah, let me apoligize in advance to those who favor Carvin electronics. I know there are more thana few here! Here's my take. I used to work at the factory and the buzz from both customers as well as endorsees is that the electronics needed upgraded. I mean heck if Fender can put Seymour Duncans a bottom of the line bass $300-$400 (Mark Hopcus?) model how much extra would it cost Carvin. Considering all the great basses on the market right now for about a grand that use name brand electronics it just seems to make sense to stay competitive. They have upgraded in the last few years but I still think they're noisy and I have a hard time getting a tone I like. Trust me I live right by their factory and I've spent more than a few hours in their showroom trying to convince myself that "for the money" I can't afford not to buy a Carvin. But for some reason I never pull the trigger on buying one. I will say that the wood makes a huge difference in the tone with their basses. Hope that Sadowsky treats you well. I know there's one on my 5 year goal list!
  4. Sorry to hear about your disappointment. As Mgood says, you can send it back for a full refund, minus shipping.

    I play a Carvin LB70. It's been my main player for the past five years. During that time I also purchased a Fender American Deluxe Jazz and a G&L 2000. Try as I might to play these basses, I always go back to my Carvin. My band plays small to medium clubs 6 to 8 times a month and I can't even begin to count the times I've received positive comments regarding my "tone".

    I don't do much slapping and have always used flatwound strings. Carvin strings are, uh, well, they leave a lot to be desired. When I changed them over to the D'Addario Chrome Flats it made all the difference in the world regarding the tone this baby puts out.

    In fact, I just purchased another Carvin this past week. It's another LB70 with a 5 piece Koa neck/two maple stripes, Koa body with rounded edges, finished in tung oil, with the bridge humbucker option. When it arrives this week, the first thing I will do is replace the strings with the D'Addarios. Can't wait to play it at our two gigs this weekend.

    Good luck with yours. . .
  5. how the hell did you get no sig. headstock? i asked about that they basically said no due to contracts with the artist. damn it it's a conspiracy! also how much did that option cost?
  6. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    twiz, sorry you didn't like it, but I'll add to the chorus: if it's not happening for you, send it right back. That's one of the good things about dealing with Carvin--you can do that, with no questions asked.
  7. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    I would say swap out the pickups, but since you don't like the string spacing, send it back like everyone says. Thanks for the review!

    BTW I agree with RSmith that they should offer brand name electronics as options....that would be killer and would increase sales.

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    My LB75P comes this week I hope i got it right with this 5 string. I am using an Ampeg B 100 R right now, I wonder if this would componsate for the lack of warmth that i a hearing about with their pick ups.
  9. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    If I can make a suggestion, don't get too hung up on preconceptions. Specifically, the preconception that you'll likely have a tonal problem *before you even play the bass*. With your particular style, playing your music, through your gear, you may find you like your new bass just fine the way it is. Or, of course, you may not like it at all.

    I've played Carvin basses for years and never felt I had a warmth problem. Plenty of people have had experiences similar to mine, just as plenty have had experiences similar to RSmith and others. You don't know yet which way your experience is gonna go. Just don't assume things are gonna be one way or the other, then give the bass a good honest workout. If you just don't like the bass, or at least don't like enough things about it to want to work on it, send it straight back to Carvin. Don't delay, and don't try to talk yourself into liking it just because some of us Carvin fans are vocal about how we like our basses. If you like most things about the bass but think changing the PUs/electronics could help it be better, there are a lot of folks here who could give you great advice on what you might try. (Dimarzio Ultra Jazz, Barts, and Bill lawrence J-45s come to mind.)

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks Richard, I already tried a higher up 5 and sent it back that is why i am very concernd about getting another bass with a problem.
  11. Schwinn


    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    Well put Richard. I never felt my bass sounded bad, although the G string could sound a little sweeter than it does. You have to let your own ears decide and not be biased before you even hit the first note. I think I am going to experiment a little with the neck pickup in mine just to see what the difference might be (getting a Bart 59J-L). The only reason I'm doing this is because my Carvin looks and feels perfect (to me) and I want to make sure the tone is the best it can be and that I'm not missing something.

    Tone is a subjective experience...we all have different ears!
  12. twiz


    Jun 4, 2003
    Los Angeles
    i really didn't mean this to sound like a negative experience...thanks to carvin's OUTSTANDING return policy, this is a no harm no foul type of situation...

    i tried it, offered a review and decided it wasn't for me...

    believe me, if this had been a 1k bass on ebay bought with buyer beware, it'd be an entirely different experience

    fyi the no-logo headstock was not at any additional cost...odd, eh?

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thanks Guys, I am very aware tone is subject to personal taste but buying an instrument sight unseen and have never played the brand i think you can understand my concern. Like all things their are pros and cons but i recall reading more in the side of lack of tone on this one. I called carvin today it looks more like next week for the bass. California to New York is going to take 5 days at best. Till then all i can do is wait. Thanks for the tips guys:)
  14. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    I bought an all Koa LB75P a few months ago, and just like the poster, I wasn't too impressed. Yes, it was a gorgeous bass. I couldn't stop looking at it. But, what good is a bass that looks great if it doesn't play well enough to live up to that? The neck had a TON of bow in it, on arrival, the volume pot had a lot of static, the bass pot was stiff and the electronics had a SERIOUS grounding problem.

    The tone..I can't comment. I didn't play the bass long enough and I'm not as experienced to make a judgement call on that. I had never played a Koa bass before, so the tone could've just been the nature of the wood. It was good, but not my cup 'o tea. End of story, I sent the bass back, minus the shipping..yay.. I was more disappointed with them after reading all the glowing reviews from people on the Carvin BBS.
  15. I too have spent many a day in the showroom (I buy my strings there) and I am always dazzled by the finish and look of the basses.And the prices! But when I play one they just don't have the sound down. In my circle of friends it's an overwhelming opinion that the Carvin electronics are just not up to par.

    I've purchased a bass without playing it first once. I probably won't do that gain. I think you gotta play it first. No two guitars are the same. Two basses made on the same day with the same materials won't play or sound the same. I've played some cheap guitars that were amazing and some very expensive designer ones that were crap. So the fun is going into every little music store and picking up every bass and giving it a ride. Thats how you find those "finds" and it's not always the ones you expect.

  16. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    I played a Carvin LB76 exclusively for about four years and it served me well during that time. I agree with the comments in this thread about the tone. I felt that the tone was warm enough but I felt that the tone lacked high end detail and it was not as articulate a tone as I would prefer. There was more grounding noise than I thought there should have been and the neck had some serious warpage issues that Mike Lull fixed for me (for a hefty price);) All in all I would get another but probably a lower end bolt on fretless.
  17. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Sorry to hear about the warping issues. As someone who's dealt with Carvin a lot, though, let me say this about this kind of situation, for the benefit of possible future buyers. If you have a problem like the serious neck warpage problem, CALL UP CARVIN EVEN IF YOU'RE PAST THE APPROVAL PERIOD. It's always a good idea to talk to somebody and see what they can do for you. You might be surprised. A neck that can't hold an adjustment is a manufacturing defect, and they should--and IME will--repair or replace it. That happened to me once, and they took care of me. In fact, the bass I called them about was out of the warranty period. I should have called them during the warranty period, as the problem was clear, but I was a lazy dork. Regardless, they took back the bass and built me a new one for a negligible price--a couple hundred, for a bass that normally cost > $900. If you catch the problem during the warranty period, you won't even have to pay that much. Beats paying Mike Lull a hefty sum for repairs. (Nothing against Mike Lull, but who among us would pay a ton for repairs if it wasn't necessary?)
  18. ganttbos

    ganttbos The Professor Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2001
    New Orleans area
    I bought an LB75 in Oct 1993. It was a koa body koa neckthrough. I played the bass for over a year during which time I had repeated problems with the neck. I never sent it back but spoke to Carvin repeatedly and they assured me they would remedy the situation, even after the warranty period. So I finally shipped it back and they sent me a new bass no charge, after the warranty was up! I can't complain about the service. I was happy with the sound and electronics until I heard some of the other stuff that's out there. Anyway Carvin is top notch IMO for what they are. Most of these post reveal what they are not.
  19. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    Although I pointed out the things that were not perfect about the bass I want to emphasize that the bass did serve me well and I would buy another. There were also alot of things right about the bass as well. Those things have been detailed in other posts and I agree with them as well. Please don't take this as a flame job against Carvin, they are a good company.
  20. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    IMHO, I think Carvin has always provided great bang for the buck. However, things get sticky when folks go overboard with the custom options. I would not blow over a grand on a Carvin. The basic stock options with say a humbucker in the bridge or say strap locks; stuff like that is definately worth the money. But when we get into pricey koa wood, quilted maple tops, etc. etc; you're asking for trouble. Carvins rarely keep much resale value. I say, keep it farly straight up and perhaps upgrade the pickups down the road if needed. Besides, the standard models are pretty darn good anyway.