Some guitar makers never seem to get the credit they deserve. Carvin Guitars might be one of them.
They make some of the finest custom solid-body and semi-hollow guitars on the market today.
This includes the Carvin DC200, a solid-body electric that has become one of my go-to guitars these past few years.
Manufactured in the United States, and always made to order, Carvin Guitars guitars are known for their versatility, their quality electronics, and their fast necks (they all ship with very low action and no fret noise).
For each model, a variety of options are available — different pickup configurations, tone woods, and tremelos are available, in addition to a variety of aesthetic options, including colors, flame-tops, quilting, and inlays.
Carvin guitars are not the least expensive guitars you can buy, but, being available second-hand for as little as $600, they are quite a value, as even at their full list price they outperform their pricetag.
Carvin guitars and basses are played and have been played by any of the finest musicians in rock, metal, and fusion, including players such as Jason Becker, whose 80s DC 200 is the inspiration for two contemporary signature custom shop models.
This review is of the Carvin DC200 Koa, which can be found used for around $800.
Carvin DC200 Review | Playability
Carvin guitars are known for their playability. It is the first thing most people notice about them – they’re necks are smooth and fast.
The DC200s are quite comfortable sitting on your lap or around your neck; their weight, a sign of quality, makes it feel like there’s something there.
But Carvin necks are what stand out. They are set up, from the factory, with very low action (too low for some players), and playing on them is as easy as it is on any guitar in the world. Very few guitars play as fast or as easy as Carvins. Overall, I rate this as one of their best qualities.
Photo via Reverb.com
Carvin DC200 Review | Tone
Once a person has had a chance to play around with them for a little while, one thing becomes obvious: Carvin DC200s are kings of tone.
This guitar is extraordinarily versatile – active/passive electronics combined with both a treble and bass cut/boost makes it easy to dial in a wide range of tones. Added to that is the presence of two coil taps (one for the front pickup and one for the back), a phase switch, and an active-passive blend knob.
All of these things combine to make the DC200 capable of sounding almost any way imaginable, a quality which sets it apart from many other great electric guitars.
The active electroics on the DC200 combined with the passive pickups makes the sound of the guitar both hot and punchy (due to the active electronics) and natural and woody (due to the passive pickups). The DC200 Koa sounds particularly woody and warm, due to the qualities of the Koa wood from which it is made.
This guitar sounds as impressive as it feels – big, bold, warm, heavy at time, light at other times, and all of that with a huge amount of sustain and clarity. Few solid-body electric guitars can match the tonal richness of the DC200 Koa, and almost none can match its versatility.
Photo via Strat-Talk
Carvin DC200 Review | Available Variations
The DC200 comes in a wide variety of flavors. It comes in Koa, Ash, Alder, and Walnut.
The tremolo bar on the one I am reviewing is a Wilkinson tremolo. However, there is a version of the DC200 that comes with a Floyd Rose bar. There are two different fixed bridges available as well.
Finally, there are aesthetic variations. All sorts of finishes are available, and flamed or quilted maple tops are also available. No two DC200s really look alike, although they all share the same impressive playability and tonal palettes.
There are many choices to make when buying a guitar. One of the first of those is whether you will be looking for a hollow-body or solid-body guitar. Hollow-bodied guitars tend to have richer, more complicated sounds. Although, they also tend to be one-dimensional, incapable of doing a lot of different things.
There is, for some people, a never-ending search for a solid-body guitar that is capable of producing tones that are as rich as a great hollow-body. There is, unfortunately, no such animal.
But as you can tell, this guitar comes darn close. And, it does so while at the offering perhaps the fastest neck and maybe the most versatility of any guitar available. Regardless of what you play, if you are looking for a solid-body guitar, then the DC200 is a great choice.
Some photo courtesy The Carvin Museum