player opinions

Carvin AE185

Carvin AE185

  1. Name: Will Collins

  2. Band: Solo, Highway 41

  3. Price Paid: $816

  4. Performance

  5. This is a hybrid guitar — it has an acoustic piezo pick-up system, and a magnetic (two humbuckers) system, with each having a separate output and active EQ (center detent bass/treble boost). Also a master volume. All I wanted was a guitar that would sound like an Ovation on one setting and a Les Paul/335 on the other. Well, this ain’t it. What it is, is a whole new ball game that I’m still figuring out how to play. For starters, unlike other hybrids I’ve played (Hamer, Shadow, Godin) the Carvin is definitely coming from the acoustic players corner as far as feel and playability. The neck is wide, the frets high, and the action high (for an electric) and non-adjustable. A shredder who didn’t learn on an acoustic will freak when he plays this guitar, but an acoustic cat will feel right at home. The setup also makes this a top-notch choice for a slide guitar. This is not the axe to take to a gig where you’re the screaming lead player, but for sheer versatility its hard to beat. Like the dog that walks on its hind legs, the wonder is not in how well he does it, but that he does it at all.

  6. Performance Rating: 8

  7. Sound Quality

  8. The acoustic sound, while not as good as even a thin-bodied Ovation round-back, is better than other hybrids I’ve tried, maybe because the guitar has a real acoustic bridge — a gorgeous big chunk of ebony looking like its been grafted from a D-28. The harder you play the more acoustic-y it sounds. Hard strumming will really bring out the thump and snap that says “acoustic guitar.” The ‘buckers also, probably by design, sound very hollow, not at all like a warm Gibson. More like a Tele without the noise and twang. The secret is to ride the active EQ when playing through the ‘buckers to get the tone you want. Feedback at high volume was sweet and nicely controllable. The peizo/magnetics are chosen with a knob, not a switch, and I’ve gotten the best results by blending the two. Send the peizo signal to the PA, route the mag signal through an effects processor, and roll a little of the ‘buckers into the peizo to fatten it up. While this guitar sonically is not what I expected, I’ve learned to make it do just what I need, (I do a solo/sequenced act with all styles of popular music), and I’ve got to hand it to Carvin for more or less reinventing the wheel.

  9. Sound Quality Rating: 8

  10. Construction

  11. This guitar is gorgeous. It’s a neck-through (mahogany) with mahogany “wings” grafted on and a lovely spruce top. I opted not to get any of the fancy upgrades Carvin offers, and it still looks great. The spruce top is routed nicely into the mahogany — binding not necessary, except maybe to protect from dings. The fretboard is as nice a chunk of ebony as I’ve ever seen, as is the bridge. The finish is rich and shiny. The master volume knob was very stiff when it came, too stiff for pinky swells, but its kind of in the wrong place for that anyway. This is my first guitar with Spretzle locking tuners, and I’m sold.

  12. Construction Rating: 10


  1. Average Ratings
  2. Performance: 8
  3. Sound Quality: 8
  4. Construction: 10
  5. Ratings Key
  6. 10: Excellent
  7. 0: Useless
  8. Company
  9. Carvin

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