Other Amps

Carvin is toast?

1

Saw this mentioned in the LA Manny amp thread. They started WAY BACK when Fender did, out there in CA, made steels, amps, sold direct, then got into the hard rock/metal scene in a big way later on.

What happened? Asian competition? Family biz no one wanted to continue with?

2

Changed to family name of Kissel. Now just guitars, no amps or electronics.

3

Ok, I had seen Kissel name. Didn't know the connection to Carvin.

4

They split the company in two, they changed the guitar part to Kiesel and then the Carvin part that was doing amps closed.

The company was called Kiesel way back in the 40s.

5

Kiesel, yes. Thank you.

6

Carvin was a portmanteau of the two sons' first names, I think.

7

Too bad, they made some good stuff. The vintage series amps are not bad. For as long as they've been around, I have never ran across a vintage specimen Carvin guitar for sale, even on the internet.

8

Their 50s-60s stuff is pretty odd-looking. Weird would be fair. Ugly might be going too far. I've never seen one in person either.

By the late 70s, anyway, they'd started making much more conventional-looking guitars, borrowing from (but not quite slavishly copying) the shapes and specs of other builders. They started specializing in ultra-high-output pickups (with 22 polepieces) and body construction with tapered heels, lots of maple and ebony in the bodies. My DC150 was an absolute rock monster (though I wasn't), very heavy, endless sustain, and very very well-made. Every detail sorted out, perfect fit and finish, and phenomenal low action. It just had no sonic character.

I still have their hybrid acoustic-electric AE-185, a semi-hollow f-hole modified Tele shape with a pair of those sledgehammer 'buckers and an excellent piezo pup under a straight bone saddle in a glued-on acoustic bridge. Also great action, and just as well put together. Perfect, in fact. The semi-hollow construction and maple-over-mahogany body warms it up compared to the maple slab of the DC-150. I always intend to sell it, but then I play it and don't. Great neck.

The Carvin/Kiesel guitars I'm familiar with from following their (world-class ugly) website for years are all built on ideas borrowed from/inspired by the most of the usual suspects, perhaps with more PRS influence as the years went on. All impeccably built, I'm sure, most with their 22-pole pickups, and seemingly aimed mostly at a PRS-y hard-rock/metal audience. The finishes got more and more outlandishly figured and garishly painted, like PRS on an acid trip, with no one to dial back the extreme in the name of good taste. They just didn't appeal to me.

And every one I've heard, alas, sounds like my DC-150. Clang clang. So, for me, great guitars perfectly built with no character whatsoever. They're all about providing linear and predictable, endlessly sustaining, control voltages for high-gain amps, consistent across the entire neck. That's a valid thing a lot of guys clearly value - but it's very not my thing.

ExCEPT maybe their Allan Holdsworth series. I'd like to try one of those before dismissing the brand completely. Just never seen one in the flesh.

But clearly their guitar direction works, or that wouldn't have been the part of the business that survived. So it's just me. I always wanted to like their guitars better than I did, because I admired the family history, all-American manufacture, and commitment to uncompromising quality in materials and build.

Carvin electronics, on the other hand, always impressed me. The gear was never flashy, and never cutting edge in tech and features - but always a great value for the money, and I never knew a piece of Carvin gear to fail. I frequently chose and recommended Carvin against Peavey and Mackie. Purely utilitarian, but steadfast and reliable.

9

Would like to see pix of some of their pointy 80s/90s shredders.

10

Their 50s-60s stuff is pretty odd-looking. Weird would be fair.

I love the look of 1950s Carvins. I'll probably never get a chance to see and play one in person, but people also rave about the pickups.

11

That one's not bad; I seem to remember having seen worse.

12

Here's one right up you alley, DCBM:

13

Would like to see pix of some of their pointy 80s/90s shredders.

– DCBirdMan

Here you go:

There’s a good webpage for this: http://www.carvinmuseum.com

15

I am ashamed to admit I hacked an old Carvin doubleneck... the only vintage guitar I ever did that to and it wasn't that long ago. I don't deserve to own another.

For this, I should be sentenced to having that shredder shown here as my only guitar.

16

You'll poke your eye out with one of those.

– MadScience

You'll poke somebody's eye out, for sure!

Man, some things about the 80's I just don't miss. I so badly wanted a BCRich back then.

17

Their 50s-60s stuff is pretty odd-looking. Weird would be fair.

I love the look of 1950s Carvins. I'll probably never get a chance to see and play one in person, but people also rave about the pickups.

– Afire

Me too, there's that "early electric solidbody California Bigsby/early Fender" vibe about them. They have Hofner necks. (as did Kapa guitars, btw)

The pickups' claim to fame is that they're what's in Semie Moseley's first guitars, so they're supposed to be instant Joe Maphis/Larry Collins.

18

Me too, there's that "early electric solidbody California Bigsby/early Fender" vibe about them. They have Hofner necks. (as did Kapa guitars, btw)

The pickups' claim to fame is that they're what's in Semie Moseley's first guitars, so they're supposed to be instant Joe Maphis/Larry Collins.

– WB

Correct, I remember the necks on mine had "Made in West Germany' on them. Odd that they were bringing Hofner necks over here before Hofner was even known here starting in 1964.

19

You'll poke somebody's eye out, for sure!

Man, some things about the 80's I just don't miss. I so badly wanted a BCRich back then.

– Suprdave

Call it hair metal remorse

20

I was a teenager hanging around in Hollywood when i walked into the Carvin Store on Sunset Blvd. It was near the Guitar Center, I think across the street. Guitar Center Hollywood was always a stop whenever I was in the neighborhood and I walked over to The Carvin Store because I knew they made Music gear but not really informed on exactly what.

What a disappointment, seemed that everything they had was natural wood with really odd shaped bodies or pointy guitars in black or red. It was either stuff for Country players are Metal dudes. As a young Punk rocker I couldnt run out of that place fast enough.

I knew a Bass player that was in a Dance/Funk Band and he was sponsored by Carvin, he mainly used their Bass Amps but they gave him a Bass guitar as well. I played his Carvin gear and it was nothing to brag about just well made and very playable,it was the odd shapes that turned me off.

Last year I read that they were shutting down the Amp side of the Business and having a big closeout sale at their shop in California. Its always a bummer when you see any American musical Company thats been doing business for many years shutting their doors.

21

Their 50s-60s stuff is pretty odd-looking. Weird would be fair.

I love the look of 1950s Carvins. I'll probably never get a chance to see and play one in person, but people also rave about the pickups.

– Afire

I love the look of the fifties ones as well. Sort of bigsby-ish. I totally agree though with everything Proteus said about the modern ones. That type of guitar is like the dress up clothes that your mom made you wear on Sunday and couldn't wait to get out of. It's like their customer base are people who can't stand the smallest imperfection, and never let you hold it without special pads and watching your every freakin move. I had an aunt like that when I was just a tadpole whose house was immaculate, like one of those TV commercials from the 50's. She had custom plastic covering on all the furniture in her living room, with a rope across the 6' opening like you'd see at a theatre.No one was supposed to actually go in the living room ,and like ,you know,live. It was my first encounter with irony. My mom, who always had a great Okie sense of humor, pretended to be interested in something in a glass cabinet in the forbidden zone,and marched right up to it, upsetting the perfectly brushed out acres of white carpet.My old man had a big ole grin, while his poor brother looked on sheepishly.My mom,now 94, still laughs about it. I bet you can tell,don't never hand me a guitar unless you want it driven ,not hard,but shall we say ,in a sport'in manner.

22

I agree the 50s Carvins look Bigsby-ish. Though without PA's wild inventiveness, Carvin was left (as they were in the 70s and beyond) taking their cues from someone else and contributing their own small ideas in small ways. They just changed horses as the market leaders changed.

It's interesting to me, though, that they sustained a guitar business for 60 years without establishing a unique identity of their own - other than quality for the dollar. (They were ahead of the Asian Invasion in that respect.) But every other long-running American maker I can think of had their own identity, in both style and sound. (As did many through the years who didn't endure.) Carvin seems unique in lasting for decades as an American builder making slightly tweaked inspired-by guitars to a remarkably high standard. How they do it for the money I don't know. It's obviously been a good enough business model to keep them going.

And, no, Bigsby guitars aren't my favorite. But I like their shapes (not true of the Carvin with its unnecessary little horn); it's just the ornamentation that loses me. A personal problem, of course. Bigsby pickups, construction, and tone are completely fabulous.

23

the VERY first guitar products catalog I ever received in the mail as a kid playing dad's fender coronado and a borrowed peavey vtx 212, was a carvin catalog and my mind was blown by the massive amps. I had no clue at that point about big amps other than fender and peavey combos until a few yrs later. I still own a carvin power amp for my PA system :)

24

I agree the 50s Carvins look Bigsby-ish. Though without PA's wild inventiveness, Carvin was left (as they were in the 70s and beyond) taking their cues from someone else and contributing their own small ideas in small ways. They just changed horses as the market leaders changed.

It's interesting to me, though, that they sustained a guitar business for 60 years without establishing a unique identity of their own - other than quality for the dollar. (They were ahead of the Asian Invasion in that respect.) But every other long-running American maker I can think of had their own identity, in both style and sound. (As did many through the years who didn't endure.) Carvin seems unique in lasting for decades as an American builder making slightly tweaked inspired-by guitars to a remarkably high standard. How they do it for the money I don't know. It's obviously been a good enough business model to keep them going.

And, no, Bigsby guitars aren't my favorite. But I like their shapes (not true of the Carvin with its unnecessary little horn); it's just the ornamentation that loses me. A personal problem, of course. Bigsby pickups, construction, and tone are completely fabulous.

– Proteus

You bring up an excellent point,lack of Identity with Carvin. Besides their Logo I cant recall one single guitar or unique amp to come from that long time Manufacturer. Even small companies like Danelctro , Hagstrom, Kay and Rikenbacker have instruments that are easily identifiable to the Brand.

Good observation Proteus.

25

I can’t speak to their historic significance, but I can attest to the quality and reliability of some of their ‘90s-‘10s gear. I owned a pair of PM12A powered speakers that I used for years before upgrading to QSC. They sounded great, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again if they were an option, I have a recent In-Ear Monitor system that is way better than the ones they sold just a few years ago. They’re still making IEMs, DI boxes, and a few other pro audio things.

Their guitars, well, it’s hard to disagree with Proteus’ assessment, and I would go on to say that their sunbursts have traditionally been the worst I’ve seen in an American-made, or most any other manufacture, guitar. Real dark black around then edges, a subtle gradient, and then boom! Here’s your base color. But I think their AE185, especially the AE185-12 12-string, strikes a blow of uniqueness that doesn’t follow any other maker’s cue. Except for the Fender Electric XII, I think it’s the best electric 12-string made, especially when you factor in the Baggs piezo pickup under the saddle, If you get the De-luxe electronics with the coil splits and phase switching, you’ve got yourself a keeper,


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