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Carvin CS6M Electric Guitar Review

May 20, 2009
Download Example 1
Variety of Tones:
1) Jazz – Neck pickup in Humbucker setting
2) Soul – Both pickups, Bridge pickup in Humbucker setting, Neck pickup in Single Coil setting
3) Rock – Both pickups, Single Coil setting
4) Country – Bridge pickup, Single Coil setting
5) Metal – Bridge pickup, Humbucker setting
Download Example 2
Neck pickup, first single coil, then humbucker
Clips recorded with the CS6M into an Avalon Vt737sp preamp, into Digidesign Pro Tools using Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2 simulator plug-in
I opened the tweed case for the Carvin CS6M not knowing what to expect. I was immediately amazed at its beauty and sleek looks. I was attracted to its flawless finish and features immediately. In fact, I didn’t even take it out of the case right away. Instead, I chose to just look and admire it for a while! The Carvin CS6M is indeed a thing of beauty. It’s made in the USA at Carvin’s Custom Shop in San Diego, CA.

Features
This particular model features a premium bookmatched 4A quilted maple top in a deep antique brown finish, with a matching quilted maple headstock overlay. It has gorgeous abalone block inlays on a 25” scale ebony fingerboard, with medium jumbo frets. The body is premium mahogany with set-neck construction. The headstock features Sperzel locking tuners, and an attractive 24k gold-plated Carvin logo.

Although many of these features are standard on the CS6M, there are plenty of options to customize your own Carvin, which continues the guitars-made-to-order tradition that Carvin is known for. You can choose any combination of high-quality woods, finishes, electronics and hardware to create your own custom instrument. This guitar came with two metal-covered humbucking S22 pickups by Carvin, with a three-way pickup selector. It also features two Volume and two Tone knobs with coil splitters as an available option, as opposed to the standard one Volume, one Tone knob configuration.

By the way, here’s a quick word about Carvin’s nomenclature for this model of set-neck electric guitars. The CS stands for California Single, as in single cut-away. The CS6 is their top of the line guitar in this series. For those guitarists who desire the same high-quality features and construction as the CS6 but without the exotic top woods, Carvin offers the CS4, which has a plain maple top standard, and also the CS3, which features a carved, solid piece of mahogany with no top wood. The M in the name refers to Carvin’s M bridge, which is a fully adjustable tune-o-matic bridge with strings fed through the body for added sustain. You can also choose Carvin’s S bridge (which is a classic tune-o-matic/stoptail bridge), a Wilkinson tremolo or a genuine Floyd Rose tremolo.

Another cosmetic feature that I really like on the CS6M is the natural body binding. It’s a process where the edges of the maple top are masked before the finish is applied. The result is a natural, unstained wood around the perimeter of the guitar top. It looks great with the quilted top and adds a nice color contrast to the guitar.



Playability
When you pick up the CS6M and play it, you realize how well made this guitar really is. I was impressed with the high-quality construction and attention to detail. The ergonomic design felt good in my hands and was very comfortable to play. One feature I noticed right away was the smooth heel-less design for easy access to all frets. Most guitars with a set-in neck have a cumbersome heel, which makes playing the high frets a difficult task. I was able to play a B minor scale in 19th position flawlessly, which can be hard to pull off on other guitars—or it puts my hand in an awkward position because of the chunk of wood I have to get around! The neck actually sets five inches into the body and extends underneath the neck pickup, which allows for amazing sustain and greater stability. Carvin’s Rapid Play low-action neck offered excellent playability throughout the entire fingerboard, and it gives those who like to play fast the ability to shred with ease!

I have used the CS6M on many recording sessions lately—everything from a pop/punk band track to a jingle for a national sandwich meat commercial. The Carvin is versatile enough to handle any style of music. The S22 pickups offer a smooth, warm tone, and really bring out the sustain of the guitar. The coil splitters came in very handy in achieving a wide variety of tones and doubling the range of the pickups. I was able to get everything from a bluesy single-coil tone to a more funky, soulful tone with the combination of the neck pickup in single-coil setting and the bridge pickup in humbucker setting at the same time.

Plugging In
I plugged the CS6M into a variety of amps. With my Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp, the guitar offered a well-balanced clean tone— very warm and bright at the same time. I then took the CS6M to the extreme and plugged it into my Marshall 1959RR Randy Rhoads head with a Marshall Lead 1960 cabinet. In a high-gain setting, the CS6M morphed into a metal machine! It offered a strong attack with tons of sustain. You can definitely rock out with these Carvin S22 pickups.

The Final Mojo
I have owned a Carvin DC127 guitar for many years, and the CS6M is leaps and bounds ahead of it, in terms of construction, quality and playability. I honestly couldn’t think of anything I didn’t like about this guitar. Carvin has always been known for making high-quality guitars that are built to a customer’s specifications, and they now offer even more choices for woods, finishes and custom options. By mixing and matching the many different options that Carvin now offers, you can have a guitar made in over 50,000 different combinations. Now that’s impressive! By selling direct, Carvin is able to offer incredible value for an amazing guitar. I also love the fact that Carvin provides a direct connection to your guitar builder. With many choices from a wide variety of materials, any guitarist can custom-make a Carvin CS6M into their dream guitar.
Buy if...
you want to custom-make a high quality dream machine with your own specifications.
Skip if...
you're perfectly happy with guitars right off the rack with no customizing.
Rating...
5.0

MSRP $1349 (base model); $1803 (as reviewed) - Carvin - carvinguitars.com