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Should I buy a Carvin ICW5 with soapbars?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by javadog, Nov 16, 2013.

  1. javadog


    Mar 13, 2010
    I am wondering about buying a used Carvin Icon ICW5 bass with the stock soapbars. What do those pickups sound like? I doubt that I have ever heard them. I am looking for a fat, fairly vintage fingerstyle sound. How does that sound compare to the stock set up on the LB75? I would be buying this sight unseen so I would need a little reassurance before I pulled the trigger, especially since I have heard less than rave reviews about the Carvin stock electronics. Thanks
  2. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC

    I bought one in 2009; I still regret it.
    It was like weak soup. Bass broth.

    I decided that, rather than replacing the pups and preamp, I would just trade it. Best decision I ever made.
  3. Quackhead


    Jan 17, 2012
    Elk Grove, CA
    I personally don't have any experience with the Icon, but the other model's electronics are adequate and the SB series sound amazing.

    If you can get a good deal on the Icon and save up to upgrade the pickups and electronics, you'd likely be in the price range of a new Icon and you'd have upgraded electronics. But if you'd rather not deal with it, then look elsewhere.
  4. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC
    I would avoid the Icon altogether; Carvin has NO good soapbar pickup options. Plus, IMHO, the piezo sounds terrible.
    For the cost of an Icon + replacing all the electronics (the piezo complicates this - makes it more $$$), you can get several other brands that sound MUCH better.
    Look in the classifieds on here, there are a dozen Spectors for sale, some of which as 5ers. There are some Warwicks, and other great brands, too. I'd take any of them over a Carvin.
  5. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    That is an opinion. I think their piezos sound fantastic, so do other industry professionals I have shown my LB76 to, one of which is a name you would know. The piezo is the highlight of the Carvin electronics.

    I cannot speak for J99A's (probably what your looking at) but the HB2's (Bromberg's radiused humbuckers) I have in my Carvin are fine, they just lack character. Something Spector and Warwick have in oodles. I like another TBers description of them as being "too perfect". Personally, it is not my favourite bass but when you run it in the studio or through a flat response cabinet is when they truly shine.

    OP, corner Roy Vogt in a thread and ask him some opinions of Carvin stuff, I got his opinion on the couple pickups I was looking at. He is a Carvin artist so he has seen quite a bit of their gear.
  6. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    Well, if you've actually tried all the soapbars and the piezo and that's your opinion, I can't argue with an opinion. ;)

    OP, the standard soapbars are very far from a vintage style, so I don't really think this is the bass you are looking for. The soapbars are very "polite" and mellow. It's hard to get much high end out of them, but the bass fundamental is very strong.

    Carvin does offer their J99 single coil pickups housed in the soapbar sized pickup cases. So, you could change out pickups. These are a classic single coil, Jazz bass kind of tone that a lot of people think highly of. Look at Carvin SB series reviews for more info, since the J99 is the standard pickup on those basses.

    If you don't want to mess with pickup swaps, I'd look at a Carvin with J99s or a totally different bass.
  7. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC
    I love how everyone on here is crying about an opinion being voiced. This entire website is nothing but opinions. This includes "the piezo sounds good".
    I would NEVER buy a bass that has pickups which "sound good but lack character". That's like buying a car that "runs good, but won't go over 35 mph".
  8. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC

    Actually, I did try both flavors. I had the J99As in it starting out, and I didn't like the sound, so I took my Icon to San Diego and had them install the DCs.
    They were no better. I went so far as to go to L.A. and play through a Glockenklang Heart Rock II, just to see if I could pinpoint the issue. It was just a dull, wimpy sound with no punch, no grind, no nothing.
    I was on the verge of getting a quote for an EMG swapout, when I learned that the piezo has a separate preamp, and it would cost a fortune, if/when I found a piezo I liked. That's when I traded it for a Spector Euro 5. I was very happy with my decision.
    Incidentally, I paid $1800 for the Icon IC5, which wasn't that great of a value. The whole experience was rather disappointing.
  9. javadog


    Mar 13, 2010
    I am suffering (just a little) right now not knowing exactly what I want in terms of tone and what pickups it would take to get me there. I am just not that familiar with the typical tone that the various pickups make and it has been difficult finding good, clean, clear sound clips of many of them. Plus it is very time consuming and I can't devote hours every day researching pickups. I was hoping to get a used bass with reasonable action and fat, massive tone for under $1000 (that is why I was considering buying the Carvin ICW5). That number is probably unrealistic. I will need to travel and listen to a lot more pickups, then save up some more money. Maybe I'll take a ride down to Atlanta Bass Gallery next month.
  10. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA

    You don't necessarily need to spend a ton of money to get a particular tone. Fat, massive tone will mean different things to different people. A pickup with "character" to one person might have an annoying tone that another bassist can't live with. The best thing you can do is go to a few different music stores and play everything you can get your hands on.
  11. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC

    You can get the action with a Carvin, but not fat, massive tone. I would hold off and play/listen to several basses before making a decision.
    There are TONS of YouTube videos with bass demos. If you can't find one to play, I'd use those as a way to gauge sound vs. what you want.
    Note: Atlanta Bass Gallery carries high-end basses. Most are quite expensive. Not the best place for a random sampling of what is out there.
    The classifieds on TB are the best place to find a great deal on a 5-string, after you find your tone.
  12. Bassmunnky


    Jul 3, 2004
    New York and Philadelphia
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    Good lord...Research is as easy as good headphones....

    Check out Bromberg playing his bass...instead of reading heated crap from TB!

    Bromberg posts here on TB as well...he's more than knowledgeable about the Carvin pickup thing...find him here and send him a PM...
  13. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    I can get a "fat, massive tone" from my Carvin OP... I am sure I am not the only one who can...
  14. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    Nope, you're not. I'm really happy with my Icon 6. It gets used on lots of sessions. The trick is to work with the midrange sweep control. You can get a lot of boom or a lot of upper midrange grind depending on what you want. A really nice bass!:bassist:
  15. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    +1 My Icon 6 has J99As, and it sounds great. It had the regular humbucking soapbars when I bought it and they didn't impress me.

    I have a bass with RAD-J soapbars, and they sound amazing.

    So my advice to the OP would be get the Icon, but get either the J99A or Rad-J pickups in it. Just my opinion though.
  16. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Somehow when I think of a Custom made bass I rarely think of it having a big fat tone LOL!!! When I think Custom, I also think Custom in Tone as well as in having a nice mid range bite or modern or hifi. If you want big fat tone just get yourself a decent P-Bass put flats on it and have at it.
  17. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Gold Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    I have two different iterations of Carvin soap bars, the thick dark humbuckers, and the single coils in the soap bar shell. Both are FAIL.

    The hum buckers have really solid fundamentals but the upper midrange and treble are NON-EXISTENT. The single's in soap bar shell are weak in low end. Very weak.

  18. Worldeeeter

    Worldeeeter Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2010
    Asheville, NC
    That was my experience as well.
    As some have mentioned, different Carvin models (i.e. - Bromberg) will have different sounds, due to the electronics.
    As this thread was specific to the Icon, I shared my experience, which appears to be very similar to yours. After playing the J99As in the store, I had Carvin switch them out in favor of the DCs, as the sales guy told me they will have a "stronger sound". Everyone has a tone that they like; some people are Icon fans. I am not.
  19. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Gold Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    I had the dual coil hum buckers in an active bass with an Aguilar OPB-3 for awhile. By boosting the treble I was able to introduce an artificial "zing" that was not present when using the pickups passively. To this end, I was able to get an interesting modern tone that was dark thick punchy and cut really well. However without the preamp adding significant color, the pickups by themselves are not a well rounded viable option.

    If I could return these pickups to Carvin, even after all this time, I would have no sense of regret whatsoever. In my opinion they should buy back all of these pickups from their customers and issue a written apology. Lol.
  20. DrumsAndBass

    DrumsAndBass Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Are you willing to replace the pickups with another brand just in case you do not like them ? You might consider another brand with the same dimensions.