Carvin Cobalt C770T Acoustic/Electric Guitar Review

All-mahogany, playable acoustic under $1000

Download Example 1
DADGAD with Capo
Download Example 2
Download Example 3
Clips recorded with sE3 small studio consenser into RME Fireface
Carvin has been making quality guitars quietly for over 60 years, selling directly to consumers. Their pricing escapes middleman markup, which means you can get some great guitars at prices you’d expect for just okay guitars. Every guitar I’ve seen from Carvin has been ridiculously underpriced, in my opinion, so when they announced their new acoustic/ electric mahogany-top dreadnought cutaway, I was excited to have a closer look.

Brown Sugar
Mahogany is a sweet wood, offering a warm and breathy tone. A mahogany top can be like sour cream frosting on a pumpkin bar—wonderfully rich with just the right amount of bite—and this guitar is all that in an extremely pleasing way.

The appointments here are remarkable for the price Carvin is asking for the C770T. I looked it over hard under good light, and could find no construction flaws, no sloppy joints, no binding that wobbled or didn’t meet where it was supposed to. The Carvin Rapid Play low-action mahogany neck is attached to the body with a dovetail joint, which is perfectly tight and solid. The sides and back are highly figured auburn mahogany, rich with gold and red highlights, complemented nicely by a classic black-and-white backstrip.

Sporting a black-and-white three-ring rosette, the top is more of a chocolate brown shot through with caramel. The rosewood bridge has a compensated saddle and ebony pins inlaid with abalone dots and little brass rings that catch the light and add a classy touch. The rosewood fretboard is bound in white, as are the body and headstock, which makes this guitar pop visually. Simple white-dot fret markers complement the white binding. The headstock is black with white binding and logo, and very solid chrome Grover tuners. Altogether, it’s a striking looking instrument that looks as good as it feels.

The C770T also comes with Fishman electronics consisting of a Matrix pickup—one of the most popular and best-selling undersaddle pickups on the market— paired with a Fishman Prefix Plus-T preamp, which includes a built-in tuner.

An additional extremely cool feature is something called SNAGG, which is a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) for theft deterrence and asset recovery. So if you do lose your C770T, it can be located in a snap by the folks at SNAGG and returned to you quickly. All of Carvin’s Cobalt guitars come equipped with RFID protection. Nice!

With its excellent factory set up, the C770T plays great and sounds fantastic, with no snotty midrange or any other sonic defects we’ve come to associate with guitars in this price range. The action is low and inviting, yet there isn’t a trace of fret buzz. It’s loud, but never, ever harsh, and warm without any mud whatsoever.

The 25.4" scale length lets you dip into DADGAD and even down to a C tuning without unduly floppy strings. DADGAD sounds great, both fingerstyle and flatpicked, because of the clarity that mahogany offers. You can hear the subtle details in the strange and compelling DADGAD chords.

Plug It in, Turn It Up
The Fishman electronics sound great and give the player a lot of flexibility. You’ve got Notch and Volume knobs, four slider controls for Brilliance, Treble, Contour, and Bass, and another slider between the Phase and Tuner buttons to set the EQ’s center frequency between 250 Hz to 3 kHz.

Plugged into my Baggs Core 1, the C770T sounds, well, tremendous. I pushed the Contour Frequency slider slightly toward the 3 kHz side, left everything else flat, and sat on my couch for over an hour just enjoying the rich, full, satisfying tones in as many tunings as I could think of. The Fishman system offers plenty of sparkle and definition. The guitar’s amplified sound is warm, but not mushy, with round bass and clear mids that let the C770T soar, growl, snap, and sing. It’s a beautiful thing. The preamp is intuitively laid out and changing the battery takes mere seconds.

I did have a chance to test this guitar in a live performance. With my very rambunctious drummer and bassist, this guitar held up extremely well. I was able to turn up loud enough to keep up with them and had absolutely no feedback issues at all using a Bose L1 sound system. We were in a medium-sized club with surprisingly good acoustics, considering that two of the walls were almost entirely windows. The warmth really enriched the total sound of the trio, but the guitar and bass never competed for sonic real estate.

The Verdict
The under-$1000 acoustic price range is getting seriously competitive, with more guitars than ever ramping up the quality, playability, and tone to compete with much more expensive instruments. The C770T offers all that plus Fishman’s most popular pickup and a really nice preamp, making recommendation of the C770T in this price range a no brainer.

Buy if...
you want a stage-ready, great sounding, awesome playing $2000 guitar, but your budget will only bear a fraction of that price.
Skip if...
you aren’t a fan of mahogany.

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