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Carvin V3 (100-Watt, 3-Channel Tube Combo)

There’s no doubt that high gain, 3-channel super amps are cool, but in most cases, they remain cost prohibitive. Carvin’s latest offering embarks on a mission to make all the features and sonic flexibility of a modern 3-channel head or combo an affordable reality for today’s player. I fired up the V3 combo with a TonePros-equipped ‘57 reissue 3-pickup Black Beauty (Les Paul Custom).

Sound Off

Most notable on the V3 are the EQ and tone-shaping features – this amp is seriously loaded. Each channel corresponds to the master channel, which has a mid cut,boost for solos, deep, bright and of course the master volume, giving you a variety of ways to tweak your tone. The master channel is also equipped with two “smart” loops (one series and one parallel), a nice feature that recalls your effects loop settings from channel 1-3. You can set your effect loops off in channel 1, while using both loops in channel 3, or any other combination you like. This function allows you to have effects in the loop but intelligently assign them to specific channels. The footswitch activates the boost and effect loops simultaneously – one button will turn on an adjustable 9db boost for solos, while bringing in any assigned loop effect for the channel you are on.

“There are tons of tones available here, and it may take you some time to find your own. But that’s the trade off, as the V3 is no one-trick pony.”

Beginning in channel 1 (sonic high gain), I gradually worked my way to channel 3 (clean). Off the bat, it’s apparent that channel 1 has as much gain capability as a Diezel Herbert, a Triple Rectifier or an Ubershcall. The features included here were extremely impressive; each channel is equipped with an EQX function, which shifts the adjustable frequency range of your tone controls. Utilizing this function in the down position, I was able to achieve ridiculously scooped mid tones for drop tunings and modern metal sounds. In thenormal position, the mids are swept in the classic or traditional range – think Marshall crunch. I was able to get a creamy high-gain lead sound with this EQX position. There is also a 3-way drive mode switch on each channel – in channel 1 and 2, it reads Intense (up, for most gain), Classic (center) and Thick (plenty of low end and textured mids, my preference for channel 1). This 3-way drive switch really changes the character of the amp, by tightening or loosening its focus, drive, compression and distortion characteristics. It also affects the midrange frequencies, and is a useful feature to really help dial in a certain tone. Channel 2 brings you into the brown sound, the old Van Halen-esque tones – the V3 also nails a pretty solid AC/DC sound. This channel, however, is capable of a higher gain and sustain-packed solo tone, just not as intense as channel 1. Channel 3 (clean) was also impressive on the versatility front. The 3-way switch here is labeled Bright, Center and Soak. The V3 is capable of chimey tight (dare I say more sterile, clean sounds) to clean on the verge of break up – not quite a vintage Fender, but decidedly in that realm.

The Build

The rear panel of the V3 boasts as many features as the front; functions include a bias option from EL34 to 6L6, cabinet voicing and level control for line out, and a power switch, which creates more or less sag on the tubes, and changes the Carvin from a 100-watt, 4 tube beast to a 50-watt, 2 tube creature. This feature offers nice live to studio flexibility, as some prefer the cranked 50 watt breakup. For those who want more headroom and sheer power, keep it in 100 watt mode and use all 4 power tubes. As an added plus, the V3 is fully MIDI compatible. The build quality is solid – the V3 is built like a tank, but unfortunately, it’s one heavy beast. This combo is not easily picked up and slung around, and the aesthetic is also somewhat conservative and plain – something to consider if you’re going for a certain look. The biggest bonus of this amp: tons of knobs and switches that allow the player to shape countless sounds. It is also on the somewhat affordable side of the boutique price range.

The Final Mojo

All in all, Carvin did a fabulous job creating a versatile amplifier with as many features as a Diezel Herbert – or at least enough to keep you busy for a long time. There are tons of tones available here, and it may take you some time to find your own. But that’s the trade off, as the V3 is no one-trick pony.


MSRP $1299.00

“There are tons of tones available here, and it may take you some time to find your own. But that’s the trade off, as the V3 is no one-trick pony.” Our expert has stated his case, now we want to hear yours. Log on to, click on “Forum” and share your comments and ratings.
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