Carvin V3M Combo Review
  • On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best I give it a 9.5. The reverb does not sound great on channel one and two. It sounds wonderful on the clean channel, channel three. Aside from this I have to say this amp is well worth the $799 I spent. I also bought the FS44L footswitch and vinyl cover. I owned the Egnater Tweaker for a week until I discovered the effects loop sounded like garbage with my MXR Carbon Copy delay engaged. The carvin V3M combo, hands down, sends the Tweaker back to school to retake some tests. It costs more but you get what you pay for!

    Carvin V3M Combo Features

    • Three independent channels, all footswitchable (must purchase FS44L-V3M footswitch separately)
    • Reverb, also footswitchable (not crazy about how it sounds on channel one and two, sounds lush on clean channel three)
    • Three Watt settings: 7, 22 and 50 (7 Watt setting gets LOUD if you want it too)
    • Master Volume with Boost (boost footswitchable!!, same decibel boost for all three channels)
    • Expandable EQ on all channels (flip the EQX switch on any channel and BASS and TREBLE are boosted – works very well, very noticeable)
    • Three character voicings on each channel: Thick-Intense on 1 & 2, Bright – Soak on channel 3 (excellent and noticeably different, very impressed – with EQX this makes 6 characters on each channel )
    • 4/8/16 ohm selectable for speaker outs. Easily disconnect-able speaker (trs cable)
    • TRS speaker cabinet voiced line out with -26db for use with mixer
    • Series effects loop
    • Boost dial in rear near footswitch input (controls decibel boost from 0-6db – this is brilliant)
    • Speaker: Carvin GT12 – (very comparable to Celestion GT12-75)
    • Tubes: 4 EL84’s – 4 12AX7’s
    • Weight: 36 lbs
    • Dimensions: 16″ (40.6cm) wide X 9.3″ (23.6cm) deep X 17.75″ (45cm) high
    • Made in San Diego, California

    Gear Used for testing

    • ESP Eclipse Standard II loaded with Burstbucker Pro pups and Daddario 10-46 gauge strings
    • 10 ft. Monster cable

    In Depth Review

    I read about this amplifier in an issue of Premier Guitar Magazine and saw it had three independent channels, reverb and a master volume with a boost and all are switchable via the FS44L-V3M footswitch. Playing guitar and singing in a cover band, I could really use all these features from a light-weight tube amp. I currently play through an Egnater Renegade and though it is awesome, it is only two channels.  I find when I am singing lead vocals, it is difficult to work the volume knob on my guitar in order to dial down gain.  My goal with the Carvin would be to set channel one to a nice crunch for rhythm, channel two would be dirty for leads and heavier/louder rhythyms and channel three would be used for cleans, of course. It took me 45 minutes to find my personal sweet spot one each channel and needless to say, I am very intrigued.

    Channel Three: Clean like a Military Latrine

    The first thing I noticed about this amp is how incredibly clean and thick channel three is. All I can say is HOLY CRAP! I honestly thought I was playing through a Fender 2×12 combo. I thought for sure turning up the bass would flub out the speaker or rattle an internal component but it didn’t. The tone is crystal clear, deep, shimmery and overall just downright magnificent. On the 7 watt setting I cranked the GAIN dial to 3 o’clock before it started to break up. I am honestly stoked. With open chords you can hear each individual string sustain. Switching the character to bright and rolling the treble back exposed a chimey, singing chorus of notes that resonated off my laminate floors in my studio and were very pleasant to the ears. I absolutely love channel 3! The touch responsiveness is equal to boutique amps that are twice the price. When I plugged in to my Egnater 212X extension cab loaded with Celestion Elite-80’s I was also very impressed. The windows were rattling and I felt the low end in my chest. Channel 3 gets an A+.

    Channel 1 & 2:  Mesa, Vox, Orange and Marshall meet up for breakfast and agree on the same dessert

    The user manual suggests settings. I highly recommend you follow this manual because it really helped me dial in some sweet tones. I immediately attempted to set channel one to a nice crunchy rhythm with slightly less volume than channel two, which I set to a dirtier, heavier crunch. Setting channel one to THICK delivers a spongier distortion that reminds me of a Mesa Dual Rectifier. It does this very well in my opinion. I jammed on the Monkey Wrench intro and it sounded great. I also chugged along on some power chords and thought I was playing through a Mesa Mark III combo. Very nice.

    Channel one and two can be set to sound exactly the same and I proved this to be true. The beauty in this is I can set the bass, mid, treble and presence exact on each and then set the character different and expand the eq if I so choose. What I did was set channel one to THICK and channel two to INTENSE and rolled the gain back a hair. These channels get very dirty if you want. Personally it is too much gain for my tastes but fifteen years ago I would have really enjoyed the possibility.

    While on channel one I tested out a few tunes I have always found to be great for testing tube saturation. Backwater, by the Meat Puppets, has an opening chord progression that calls for plucking all the strings and requires dirt. Doing so proved to be very pleasant. The tube saturation and natural break-up is wonderful. Each note rang out as it should and sang harmoniously with the next. I couldn’t be happier.

    Switching to channel two, set to INTENSE, I toggled to my neck pup and played some leads. I also hit the boost switch and was very pleased. I can’t tell you how many times I have been playing on stage and the cymbals or bass guitar are drowning me out and I needed a volume boost that didn’t add too much treble. The Carvin V3M does exactly what it is supposed to. It boosts the volume and EQ as a whole. I will never have a problem cutting through the mix and remember, the boost works the same for each channel.

    I have to mention that by scooping the mids slightly and on channel one or two and switching to INTENSE with expanded EQ, I ripped through Holy Wars by Megadeth and it was very much tonally accurate.  Rolling back the GAIN and switching to THICK produces a nice classic rock sound as well. This amp is incredibly diverse.

    Summary: Buy a Carvin V3M soon, you will be very pleased!

    Pros: So many features, low wattage option, excellent clean channel, diverse overdrive channels, footswitchable boost, master volume

    Cons: one 12″ speaker is a tad thin on channels 1 and 2 (of course),  reverb doesn’t sound great on channel one and two with higher gain stages

    I hopefully will have time to create some youtube worthy demo vids in the near future. I am one happy camper!

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One Response and Counting...

  • Bren 05.05.2011

    Loved your review. Out of the blue I woke up the other day and said “I want a practice amp. I want a carvin”

    Well I don’t know a thing about amps. Lol

    So I looked for the lowest wattage and came across this amp. Of course I knew what I was reading a bit as I read it’s description and also the other reviews… So I knew that this would be a winner

    I remind u I don’t know much about amps… I stumbled upon the Carvin Nomad because it was relatively small and VINTAGE struck a chord with me. I’ve never played vintage music. It sounds like u and I listen to some of the same alternative stuff at the least.

    So are u familiar with the Nomad? Do u know enough to be able to advise me on which of the two I should get? Knowing the little that u know I mean. Anything helps. I think it’s the “idea” of “vintage” pulling me instead of the sound that amp will produce. But am I wrong? Maybe the nomad can get heavy too? I want to be able to do a variety of things without getting too complex

    What are your thoughts?
    I’d greatly appreciate any light u can shed

    Write my email anytime 😉

    Thank you

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