Guitarists hold the Carvin Corporation in high esteem for many reasons, not the least of which include the reasonable direct-from-factory sale prices, consistent top-shelf quality and hassle-free custom-shop design options.
But in the strictest sense of instrument crafting, Carvin is known for having, essentially, perfected neck-through-body guitar construction, such that playability is effortless and specific tonal attributes are superior. Carvin’s new DC800 eight-string is no exception, with excellent feel and balanced tone across its extended range.
A single, long slab of hard rock maple makes up the DC800’s neck and body core. The neck shape has a slight peak at the top of its hill, which creates the hint of a C shape. The shoulders are deep and rounded, and the 27-inch scale length allows for a generous tapering of the fretboard width. This might not sound like a unique set of design parameters, but I found myself picking up the DC800 purely because I enjoyed its playability over that of many six-strings in my collection.
Alder body wings are glued to the guitar’s maple center, creating a combined tonal foundation that is both full and clear. Neck-through construction is known to deliver less attack and punch than bolt-on designs, so Carvin combats this issue by topping the neck with an ebony fretboard and capping the body with flamed maple. Strings travel through the body and a fixed bridge, terminating at high-performance Carvin-brand locking tuners with a 19:1 gear ratio.
Carvin completes the tonal equation with its own active A80 pickups, a three-position selector, master volume and passive tone controls, and a rear-side battery access door. Carvin’s A80 pickup is particularly noteworthy. Unlike some other active pickups, which use miniature preamp circuits, the A80 is mated to a specifically designed preamp built on larger circuit boards to allow for greater clarity at high gain. The result is an extremely hot pickup with little to no noise.
The DC800’s complete package of pickups, wood and design achieves a perfect balance of definition and fullness. This was evidenced by how easily I coaxed round, jazzy note rolls from the high strings while mimicking an upright bass’ smooth growl in the low registers. Adding some gain and riding the neck pickup delivered the buttery low mids and crisp upper harmonics associated with Eric Clapton’s Cream-era “woman tone.”
But the DC800 really excelled at pumping out bold yet well-defined high-gain tones, thanks to its truly hot A80 pickups and specially designed preamp. The sound was never muddy, and the pickups were dead quiet even at maximum volume levels.
List Price $2,299
Manufacturer Carvin Corporation, carvinguitars.com
Maple neck-through-body construction and a 27-inch scale ensure excellent stability while offering expectedly long sustain with smooth tonal delivery.
Carvin’s active A80 pickup is bold but balanced, allowing in-your-face aggression at no expense to clarity and detail.
The Bottom Line
Carvin’s DC800 exemplifies the best of the eight-string renaissance, utilizing maple, neck-through-body construction, well-chosen tone woods and superb craftsmanship to deliver class-leading musicality, feel and playability.