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The Carvin Pickup Myth

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by count_funkula, Dec 4, 2003.

  1. This whole thing about Carvin pickups being substandard is really confusing to me. I hear it everytime the name Carvin is mentioned. It's almost like folks have heard it said so many times it just automatically comes out when talking about Carvin basses. Then I'll listen to a sound sample of a Carvin bass and it sounds great. I had a Carvin bass and it sounded great. I just ordered the Slap Bass DVD by Ed Friedland and he plays two basses. A Carvin BB70 (complete with the infamous Carvin Humbucker), and a 70s Fender jazz with a J-retro preamp. Both basses sound awesome!! They sound a little different but the Carvin is in no way lacking.

    Every magazine review I have read of Carvin basses and bass amps are very positive. But when you read reviews off of Harmony Central or BGRA what do you hear? The humbucker is weak and the cabinets are "inefficient". The same descriptive words are always used which makes me think these opinions are just passed along rather than developed from experience.

    I seriously think the negative opinion of Carvin pickups has become some sort of Urban Legend. Either that or the majority of the bass playing community has fallen into some sort of mass hypnosis.

    I'm sure their pickups aren't the greatest on the planet but they aren't so bad they should be dogged in every Carvin related post. Fender pickups aren't the greatest either but when someone says "tell me about the 2003 Fender Jazz bass" you don't hear, "they're nice basses but the pickups are horrible".

    Sorry I had to go and do that......Please, if you haven't had a good amount of experience playing Carvin basses, Make a News Years resolution this year to not talk about the quality of their pickup.

    Whew.........I feel much better.....:spit:
    villis likes this.
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Count, I have played several Carvin basses. The simple fact is that the quality of the pickups, and especially the preamps, are not up to the quality of the rest of the bass. IMHO. I have not tried the new MM style pickup, but I have tried the others. And didn't like them.
  3. No offense, embellisher, but that's not a "simple fact" at all. It's a "simple opinion."

    For another simple opinion, I've owned several Carvin basses, and I tend to agree with count to some extent. I wouldn't say that all, or even necessarily most, of the dislike for Carvin electronics is mere passing on of some Internet opinion. If a thoughtful, experienced player has tried them and doesn't like them, well then, he/she doesn't like them, and no more need be said. It's cool. Hell, I don't particularly care for the Barts I've tried. That's how it goes sometimes.

    But I do think, from what I've seen, that *some* of that negative response is knee-jerk, based more on what somebody else said than on what was actually heard. For the record, I've been able to get very good tones out of Carvin electronics, and have received a number of tonal compliments. Do I think they're the ultimate? No. Do they suck? Hell no, IMHO.

    It would be interesting to do a double blind comparison, for those who are so sure Carvin electronics suck without really having a lot of experience with them. (I'm not talking about those who have experience to back their opinion up. That's cool. I'm talking more about folks who pass this kind of opinion on as gospel with limited or no real experience.)
    villis likes this.
  4. Armchair Thief

    Armchair Thief Guest

    Aug 18, 2003
    Houston, Texas
    I honestly can't say I have a problem with the J-style stacked humbuckers (model H50N) in my Carvin. They produce a nice quiet, smooth, punchy tone with a lot of detail. Sure they don't snarl and growl quite like the single coils in my RIC, but that's apples and oranges. I don't have any experience with either Carvin's single coil J-style or humbucking MM-style pickups though.

    The preamp module in that Carvin did frizzle out a couple years ago (I simply rewired the bass passive after that), but then again it is an older bass (built Jan-Feb '94). I always kind of had mixed feelings about that module, but from what I hear the newer versions they build these days are better quality and sound wise.
  5. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX

    You are right, when people make comments toward Carvin basses it it s mostly opinion.

    I must admit though, that I do agree with th overwhelming majority on this. As a matter of fact I didn't know that this opinion was of the majority.

    At one point I did have an LB75, an RL600, a 2x10, and 1x15. For a while I was pretty happy with all of it - getting rid of the factory strings and putting a set of medium Ken Smiths definitely helped.

    After awhile, I started comparing my bass with a Ken Smith that my bass metor owned. I know that it may be a pretty unfair comparison, but the Carvin definitely lacked. Harmonics were not clear and I wasn't happy with the general tone. I also tried to lower the action to improve playability and started getting fret buzz in several places, I tok to several places to try and get set up and it never improved. I also had the same problem getting the intonation set.

    With the amplifier and cabs I could never get rid of mud. I also tried an SWR 2x10 cab and the problem was still apparent. I tried several different setting and basses to try and find out how to get rid of the undesirable nuances but never could. Again, I just wasn't happy with the overall tone.

    Maybe it was just me, I just got tired of messing with it. I have heard some bass players with Carvins that sounded good, I just couldn't find what I wanted.
  6. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    My opinion is in line with what you call the "majority". I owned a Carvin six string and used it as my main bass for over two years, plenty of gigging. I thought it was the best thing, and told everyone. After a period of time, when I happened to play a few other basses with Bartolini's, I noticed much more clarity and punch. I swapped out the Carvin electronics with Bartolini's, and the bass came alive, both pickup and preamp were replaced.

    Carvin makes great basses, but in MY opinion, they should offer other electronic choices as options. Ask yourself, if Carvin added to its big list of options Bartolini pickups and preamps, EMG's, Seymour Duncans, etc., and I'm willing to bet that very few people would choose the proprietary Carvin electronics. I know I wouldn't . . .
  7. Hey, I'd have loved some options too. That would have been cool. I like the SD Basslines I have on my current basses, and I'd like to check out some Aeros sometime.

    My issue, I guess, isn't with people who like other stuff better, but with the mentality that assumes, hey, this gear must suck not because I've checked it out for myself but because, uh, some guys said it somewhere on the Internet. We've all seen this attitude, on this board and elsewhere. It's far from universal, but it's common enough to be an occasional irritant. BTW, I'm not aiming this at you, as this was clearly NOT your attitude--you checked things out, got some real experience, and did what worked better for you. No sensible person could quibble with that.
  8. I've tried all kinds of Carvin gear and developed my low opinion on my own, however, If I read a hundred bad reviews on a product it is hard to ignore. If I ask a hundred peep's what they think about a product and the majority pan it, my radar goes up.
    Just as I suspect some critic's of Carvin have never tried one, I also suspect that many Carvin praisers haven't tried much else or a/b'd the product. It's hard to knock what you've just dropped your savings on.
    I read consumer reviews for all my major purchases wheteher it be a car, washer or stereo. I use this info to help form my opinion.
    The thing that strikes me is Carvin doesn't seem to do anything about improving the line or the image. I guess they must sell alot of basses and amps.
  9. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I have some limited experience with Carvins, in part because I live in San Diego, and drop by the showroom from time to time. I also had an LB75 for a little while.

    I bought a DeArmond Pilot Plus once, since it was cheap, and as far as I could tell, the pickups were four-string pups as they didn't do very well with the B or G strings. I got a set of Carvin pups and put them in it, and it was a vast improvement. It was a cheap bass, but sounded much better with the Carvin pups.

    On to the LB75. This was an almost-current bass (preamp didn't have active/passive switch but was three band) with stacked humbuckers. I would have kept it, but I got it at about the point in time that I decided to go back to four-string full-time. I found it to be a solid, versatile bass, and I thought the preamp was pretty good.

    At this time, I'm pretty much a P-guy, so Carvins aren't as attractive to me, since they don't offer something P-ish. Last time I was seriously shopping for a bass, I went up to their showroom and played a few B4's. Decided I wanted a P. If I were a J-guy and didn't want to spend the bucks on a new US Jazz, I think I'd look hard at a Carvin, especially when they have their periodic sales. After all, you can get a bolt-on, well-made, graphite-reinforced neck bass with a decent finish and ebony fingerboard at a pretty nice price. You don't have to get the preamp if you don't want it.

    Listen to Ed Friedland and Bunny Brunel. If you don't sound that good, the problem may not be the bass.

    To paraphrase Freddy, the Sobe espokeperson, there are many, many basses out there. Choose one that fits you.
  10. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    "Just as I suspect some critic's of Carvin have never tried one, I also suspect that many Carvin praisers haven't tried much else or a/b'd the product"

    When I first got my LB75 (1995) I took it with me to several music stores and a/bd it with several other brands that cost 4-800 more. None of the basses I tried played any better and some definately did not have the finish or workmanship.
    I switched the orignial pre for the newer active passive pre and thought it was definately an improvement, but having the passive option, I now play it mostly passive with the stock HN50 humbuckers. I also got a chance to side by side compare one of the early Eden 2-10s against my RL210 cab. I thought the eden added a low mid bump that I didn't particularly like especially when the eden cost over twice as much. I thought the carvin was more accurate. All of this is JMHO

    "The thing that strikes me is Carvin doesn't seem to do anything about improving the line or the image."

    In the last few years they have come out with piezo pus, 35 1/2 scale basses, new speaker cabs are on the horizon, ash body wood, single coil and MM pickups. I guess you don't get their catalogs? On any problem I've had with my carvin gear they have always taken excellent care to solve the situation. I have no problems with their image. If I had 3K to blow I'm sure I could find a better bass, but not for under $900.
  11. Count_funkula... you've got balls. :D

    I must admit, much of what you hear about any product (i.e. the dreaded Eden hump, Warwick's killer neck-dive, and Fender's dead neck spots)must all be taken with a grain of salt. What one person cannot tolerate is no problem for another and what one person does not like another person is quite taken with.

    Myself? I've played lots of basses, but the only one that I really liked better than my Carvin 5-string, was a Pedulla. I like the tone, the playability, the looks, and yes, even the pickups of my Carvin.
  12. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    I like Carvin basses for their "playability". They feel good. The fretless necks are, in my opinion, exceptional for commercially produced instruments. The tolerances are precise and repeatable, and in general the basses are well constructed.

    I do think that the Carvin pickups have "a sound", and personally I don't like it. Ordinarily I wouldn't hesitate to rip out the pickups and put in a different set. However, it seems that Carvin's active electronics are specifically tweaked to work with their pickups (go figure) and don't work well (or as well) with other pickups. So you'd have to replace both the pickups and the preamp. Hardly seems worth it, the stock sound isn't "that" bad. It's just not "exciting" the way a Roscoe might be. :)
  13. you mentioned the carvin amps just for a secound in your post, so im gonna squeeze in a little attack. My friends dads bass player has one and i have played through it a bunch. It is impossible to get a good sound out of it. if you turn it up past 1/4, It just gives off this horrible distorted sound. I spent a whole day messing with it. Everything you could do to it, i adjusted with the head...and nothing. Its impossible to get a clean sound thats loud, and the distortion it gives off...it crap. My opinion..worst amps ever. Just my 2 cents :hyper:

    - w00t :hyper:
  14. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I have a redline 1000 head, and my experience is nothing like yours. I can get clean, powerful sound at close to 80% of the max volume. Sounds to me like your cabs are distorting, not the amp. I run my head with Carvin's 4x10 and 1x18 cabs. For practice, I use the 4x10, amp in bridge mode, and run poweramp volumes at full, and master volume at anything from 1/2 to 2/3 - sound is clean and powerful, enough against a full Marshall 200W stack, a keyboard, drums and a 1000W PA system.

    If I want distortion, I set preamp to tube only, gain to middle, and crank up my volume on the bass (U-Retro). I don't use Carvin's EQ, unless the room I play in has lousy accoustics, otherwise I keep it flat. Cranking up EQ will get you some nasty distortion at high volumes.
  15. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    I owned a Carvin LB 70 for a while. I popped in a basslines pup and the tone got much more exciting even with the Carvin preamp. So for me it is not a legend. I would agree the electronics are not up the the quality of the fit and finish of the bass. The bass is really well made, I love their necks.

    As for the R1000, They have real nice knobs:rolleyes: ........................and lots of features...................................none that work very well...............................and the tone sux.............................IMO:meh:
  16. Sounds like your dad's is obviously a defective unit. I've had a great deal of experience with their amps, and they don't do that when not defective. Your dad should get it fixed, and you shouldn't be generalizing about a whole line of amps on the basis of one defective one.
  17. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    I've played a couple of Carvin basses and the tone just wasn't right for me. But still I consider it a good quality instrument. I also wouldn't hesitate to recommend the R1000 to anyone. I had no problem getting a great tone out of the R1000 I played through.
  18. bizzaro


    Aug 21, 2000
    Then on the other hand this is my "FIFTH" Carvin amp replacement that started out with The R600. My current R1000 is an upgrade, (the R600 finally quit with no warranty), so I took the upgrade deal rather than just throw away the R600. I have maybe 80-120 hours on the R1000 and the high frequency amp has died. Maybe just a string of bad luck, but unlikely. And the tone has never ever been "WOW" no matter how much I fiddled with the knobs. The tone was "ok" and usable but never really great.
    Like I said before: Nice Knobs:rolleyes: Lots of features, none that work well,and the tone is very forgettable:bawl:IMHO
  19. Fair enough. OTOH, the ones I've owned have been tanks. Mileage varies as always.
  20. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Really? I'm sorry to hear you're having such problems with your Carvin amp. All issues of tone aside, I've found them to be very reliable over the years. I have a FET-1000 that I've had for at least ten years, it's been one of the most reliable amps I've ever owned. Once it had to be serviced 'cause it fell down a flight of stairs. Carvin had it fixed the same week, and only charged me 85 bucks. I also have a DCM-2000 in the studio, it doesn't get stressed but it's still been very reliable. The fan went out on it about a year after I got it, Carvin replaced it for free (and within a week). I think their amps may be slightly overrated in terms of the power they'll deliver, but I've always been pleased that they're super clean and super reliable. I don't care much about fifty watts more or less, but I don't want my amp going belly up in the middle of a gig. :)