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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Carvin Guitars IC5 Deep Teal with Black Burst Edging,... (Review)

Reviewed By: "Top Shelf" Kevin McAleer
Purchased from: Manufacturer
Street Price: $1959 USD as customized ($1319 stock model) with case + shipping

Carvin Guitars has been selling guitars and basses direct to the customer for almost 70 years. On their website ( you can order the "stock" version or customize any model to your own liking.

This Carvin Guitars Icon-5 5-string bass has a mahogany body with a quilted maple top, 5-piece maple neck with mahogany stripes and a 14” radius 24 fret ebony fingerboard.

Chrome Hipshot A-style with strings-through body, Chrome Carvin Guitars premium 20:1 ratio tuners.

RH2 radiused humbuckers, 18V active/passive, volume, pickup blend, stacked concentric bass and high frequency, stacked concentric mid frequency and sweep. 

Markbass Combo 121 Lite

Strings used:
Dark Horse Nickel .45-.125

Pick Used:

Passive tone (volume knob out): A sweet and mellow almost "modern vintage" sound, great for traditional bass tones. 

Active tone (volume knob in): Very modern with a slight boost and added bottom end warmth with top end note clarity that cuts through the mix without overpowering the other instruments.  

Sweepable mid-range feature: The mid-range sweep/boost is fantastic. It adds a slight boost and growl allowing your tone to cut through a loud, dirty rock guitar. 

Action, Fit & Finish: 
The finish is a Deep Teal and I opted for the black burst edging ($30) on a quilted maple top. The finish looks fantastic, but is more green than teal. This could be an optical illusion from the contrast from the edging, but it gives the bass such a unique look, she really is a thing of beauty. With the action -- not sure how, but she had on .40s when I asked for 45's, but once I put 45's on the action from the factory was perfect. The ebony fingerboard was fast and smooth -- a feature I truly enjoyed over the rosewood that you would normally get on a comparable bass from other manufacturers within this price range.

Reliability & Durability: 
This American-made instrument is of the highest quality. No hums or crackles in the electronics. Every piece of hardware is on tight.

Me @ Dingbats in Clifton NJ 
It's a tough thing sometimes, spending a good chunk of your hard-earned cash on an instrument you've never played with your own hands. We all know that we can go to any large music store and play three examples of the exact same model instrument before buying, and they'll all play differently. Most of us grew up going to the music store (hopefully a locally owned one), playing several instrument and picking the one that we could afford that played the best and looked the coolest (not always in that order of priorities, if we're being honest). So paying before I even held her was my biggest fear, but at the same time I felt confident that I would get exactly what I wanted due to the ten day return policy that Carvin Guitars offers on every sale.

During the build the options can be overwhelming, there are so many different ways you can customize an order. A typical musician may know what kind of pickups or fret-board they may want, but may not have any idea of how the body and neck woods will work together. I wanted to make sure that the guitar would react and perform the way I wanted it to, so I simply called Carvin Guitars and asked. My experience was great! My representative (Chris) listened to what I was looking for, asked some questions and most importantly -- wanted to know what my concerns were.  I felt like they really cared about me and my tone, it was a great feeling. After only about 20 minutes all of my questions were answered and Chris helped me build the guitar I truly wanted. 

So fast forward ten weeks, and just like that I had the bass I built to my exact specifications. I paid for her before I played her, before I ever saw her. I built her on a website by clicking on options the same as I would a hotel reservation, and I could not be happier with the end result. This bass is just wonderful in every way!

Overall, I now own a well-built heirloom quality fully functional diverse musical instrument that can take me from jazz and blues to rock and metal without any hesitation or additional equipment

What I would change: 
I would add a volume mod treble bleed circuit to the volume pot allowing the overall volume to gradually reduce without hitting a "shelf" preventing tonal loss at lower volumes via instrument body controls ($5 part). Other than that I wouldn't change a thing -- but if you wanted to you could. That's the beauty of Carvin Guitars, you can build your dream guitar or bass on their website!

My advice:
Carvin Guitars has been a consumer direct family owned and operated business that strives for perfection on every build for almost 70 year. They offer boutique features at blue-collar pricing without sacrificing quality or customer service. So my advice is, if you are considering dropping $1200 or more on a big manufacturer’s standard American-made top-end bass -- you should absolutely consider going to and checking out the all they have to offer. It’s totally worth it! - TSKM

P.S. They offer in house financing options.

12340 World Trade Drive
San Diego, CA 92128-3742
Phone: (858) 484-8277    

Fax: (858) 487-8160

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Posted 04/2015
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