the 1960's and early 1970's, Carvin bought necks from
Höfner, and used them on their own guitars and basses. Höfner
was founded in Schönbach, Germany in 1887 by master luthier Karl
Höfner, and was the largest manufacturer of stringed and fretted
instruments in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
His two sons, Josef and Walter, joined their father's company in
1919 and 1921, and they successfully expanded Höfner's worldwide
market, enabling them to survive the years of recovery following
World War II.
Höfner is now part of
The Music Group conglomerate, and still makes
guitars, basses and other gear.
Carvin's relationship with Höfner began in the mid-1960's, and would
last until the late 1980's. Carvin guitars and basses from
1964 until 1978 had bolt on Höfner necks, and the SH225 was
made by Höfner and sold under the Carvin name.
the following headstocks:
headstock on the left is from a late 80's Höfner Nightingale.
The headstock on the right is from a 1982 CM140. Although the
headstock shapes are different, there is no mistaking the inlay in
this example, the Höfner headstock on the left is from a 1963 model,
and the Carvin headstock is from a 1978 CM140. Although the
inlays are different, the shapes are nearly identical.
the above example, the mid-60's Höfner headstock on the left is
identical to the '73 Carvin CM95 on the right, including the inlay.
Carvin basses also showed their similarity to Höfner models.
The 1968 Höfner 500-6 has the same headstock shape, as well as the
same inlay as the 1974 Carvin SB40.
This example (above) shows a relatively new Höfner "Beatle bass"
with a '79 Carvin LB60. Once again, the "double diamond" logos
are identical. Click the picture to see the entire Höfner
For more, see
Due to the amount of customization available on Carvin basses, identifying the specific model can sometimes
be difficult. Serial numbers can be of some help in narrowing down the possible guitar models available for any
given year, but the most accurate method of making the determination, particularly on a guitar where the serial
number is not known, is by looking at the woods, hardware, and headstock, and then seeing what models from what
year fit that criteria. Serial number information for Carvins is scarce, and bass guitars were serialized right
along with guitars:
|1970 - 1979
|1980 - 1983
|1984 - 1987
|1988 - 1990
|1991 - 1994
|1995 - 1999
|2000 - present
of serial numbers is practically impossible, and the numbers themselves have no
logical order. For example, a TL60 made in 2002 has a serial number of
63663, while a Bolt made in 2000 has a serial number of 82398, and an LB70 made
in 1998 has a serial number of 63094. These examples are actual serial
numbers, as well, and are only one example of the randomness of Carvin's serial
number schema, especially from 1995 to the present.
Guitars and basses prior to 1970 did not have serial numbers. 1970 was the
first year, and the serial number sequence began with 5000 (versus something
like 0001). Unlike most other manufacturers' serial numbers, there are no
hidden "codes" in a Carvin serial number that indicate year or month of
production, or anything else. They are, essentially, a random number.
numbers can be located in several different places. Older models, up
through the late 1990's, had the serial number on the jackplate. However,
models with rounded body sides had jacks with no plates, so these serial numbers
are located on the fretboard. There's an exception to this, as well -
maple fingerboards. Because maple (and birdseye maple) cannot be stamped
with a serial number like ebony can, a model with rounded body side (and
therefore, no jackplate) with a maple fingerboard would have the serial number
on the control cavity cover plate. Models from the 1970s with a bolt-on
neck could have the serial number located on the neck plate, as well.
Carvin does not keep an
accurate database of serial numbers, and cannot provide any information
based solely on a serial number. Because many of the guitars
they produce are custom orders, the serial numbers flow as the orders are
received, therefore, sequential serial numbers could represent any model
guitar or bass.
So, the best details to look at in narrowing down possible Carvin production
years are logo style, neck, headstock shape, bridge, tuners and body
construction. Still, determining the actual model year can sometimes be very
tricky, but by paying close attention to these details, a good educated guess
can be made.
The chart below will
help narrow down the year of production based on certain general features.
Not all features are options are listed here; this is just a quick-reference
guide. For much more detailed information of features, models and the relevant
model years, see the Bass Identification
Höfner bass neck
Carvin bass neck, curved logo
Carvin bass neck, block logo
neck, curved logo
finish (with bolt Höfner neck)
White, Red finishes
(Black introduced in 1980)
(released gradually, some discontinued)
As with all Carvin guitars
and basses, the presence (or absence) of a specific feature does not
guarantee the year of manufacture. For example, there are some set-neck guitars
(circa 1987) with the block logo (which wasn't "officially" introduced until
1988). Because features and options were added or discontinued at
various times during the year, and because Carvin would generally accommodate
requests to use features that were no longer officially offered, there are
some exceptions to the rules presented here.
One of the first general giveaways to the year of
a particular model is the logo on the headstock. This will at least
identify if it's pre- or post-1988, which was the year that Carvin switched from
the curved logo to the block italic logo. This is particularly useful when
identifying used guitars (and basses), as the year is often
misidentified. The curved logo started appearing around 1975 in the
middle of the headstock, oriented so the it read normally if the instrument was
on a stand, regardless of whether the headstock in question was a 2X2 or an
inline. Later headstocks, with the block logo, were positioned horizontally
on the 2X2 headstocks, and vertically on the inline models. In 1976, the horizontally-oriented curved logo, positioned at the
top of the headstock, was introduced. The curved logo in this era was also
inlaid, not a decal as in the block logo of later years. However, there
have been a few newer Carvin guitars made with an inlaid block logo -
but the rule of thumb is that if the logo was the inlaid "curved C" (as
shown at the right), it's pre-1988; if it's a decal block logo (in black
or white), it's 1988 or later.
on the right (above) was the standard on Carvin guitars during the late 1970's and early to mid
1980's. Some models had the "double-diamond" inlay, and some did
not. The inlay was predominant on the higher-end models, like the
DC160, but has been seen on other models of that era (and was a holdover
from the Höfner era; see sidebar at left).
Additionally, a different inlay, the "sword" (another Höfner
design) was used at least in 1978
on the traditional headstock with rosewood fingerboard. In the
early 1970's, the double fleur-de-lis style inlay (also from Höfner) was used on
and basses (see the headstocks below).
2 logos in the middle (right) never appeared on guitars or basses. They
are included here for posterity only. The cursive logo (2nd from top)
was used on mixers and pro audio amps in the 1980's, and the block logo
(2nd from bottom) was used on some instrument amps and other electronics
in the 1980's. Prior to '88, the same curved logo (top) that appeared on
guitars and basses also appeared on amps and speaker cabinets. After
1988, all Carvin gear used the standardized italic block logo (bottom).
logo was used on some Carvin components in the mid to late 1970's;
specifically, on such things as amp and cabinet handles. It's
similar to the "Curved C" that was used in the 1970s and 1980s, but the
letters aren't attached to the underlining part of the letter C.
is the earliest Carvin logo, used on instruments beginning about 1949,
when the L. C. Kiesel Company name became Carvin, Inc. This
logo was used until about
1955, when the factory was moved from Baldwin Park (about 20 miles
east of Los Angeles) to Covina.
Covina logo on the left
was used on Carvin
guitars and basses from 1956 to 1969, following the move from Baldwin Park. The Carvin factory moved from Covina to
Escondido sometime around 1969, so there may be similar logos that read
"Escondido, Calif." for the period of '69 through '75.
If you go back in time far enough, you'll find the logo on the left
(and some variants) in Carvin's history. This is the original Kiesel
logo, used on steel guitars manufactured around 1947, before the Carvin name (which
came from Lowell Kiesel's 2 eldest son's names, Carson and Gavin) was
introduced. Note that at the time, Carvin's home base was
Kiesel didn't stay in Nebraska long. Although this was Lowell
Kiesel's home state, he returned to Los Angeles after a brief stint
in the midwest, and the logos on the left and right were used on
steel guitars and amplifiers from the era, circa 1948-1949.
Another obvious giveaway to the
model year is the headstock shape. Although this won't narrow it down to a
specific year, it will at least provide a range of years, especially since the
headstock shape changed every few years.
logo in 92)
05-06 bass CT
offered a variety of bridges for their basses throughout the evolution of
the instrument. Identifying the type of bridge is another excellent
method of narrowing down the possible years of a particular model.
1979 - 1983
1983 - 1987
1987 - 1991
Carvin basses used the standard bridge tailpiece configuration,
which were constructed initially from aluminum, the later, from
brass. Various spacing between the bridge and tailpiece were
used over the years. Shown is a 1978 TB4 bridge and
N4 tailpiece, which was designed for narrow neck basses (1 3/4"
between outside string).
1979, Carvin began using the Schaller TB8 combination bridge
tailpiece. This was chrome plated, and was offered with gold
plating on the LB60. The body and the saddles were made from
brass, and had 2" spacing between outside strings, as would all
future 4-string bridges.
1983, Schaller changed the design of their one-piece bass bridge,
making the mounting plate larger, which presumably provided more
sustain and resonance. Like it's pre-decessor, it was made
from brass with brass saddles. Initially, this was only
available in chrome, but would eventually be offered in black chrome
Schaller bridge was changed again in 1987, but still called the TB8.
This bridge was distinctly different from it's predecessors; most
notably, the addition of roller saddles and a rounder design.
This bridge was available in chrome, gold or black chrome finishes.
In 1988, the TB5 was added, which was identical to the TB8, but for
1985 - 1992
1991 - 1998
1991 - 1998
1992 - 1998
The model 2400 Kahler
bass tremolo was introduced in 1985, and was offered in chrome,
black chrome and gold hardware. A 5-string version, the model
2405, would be added 1989.
The Wilkinson TW4
bridges were unusual in that they didn't have a
large metal plate that attached to the body of the bass. Also,
only the saddles and string holders were chromed (or gold, or black
chrome) - the majority of the bridge appeared black.
The Wilkinson TW5
bridge was the same as the TW4 in design and function. Like
the TW4, only the saddles had finish on them.
The Wilkinson TW6
bridge was the same as
it's 4 and 5 string counterparts.
Incidentally, the "TW"
model name comes from the designer, Trev Wilkinson.
1998 - 2005
1998 - 2005
1998 - 2005
1997 - 2000
The Hipshot SF4
replaced the Wilkinson bridge, and added a more
refined look with a smaller footprint than the Wilkinson. Like
the Wilkie, only the saddles were chromed (or gold) - the body was
black on all models. In 1999, the option to feed the strings
through the body of the bass was introduced, increasing sustain and
The Hipshot SF5
was the same as the SF4, with chrome, gold, or black saddles,
and the ability to feed the strings through the body.
The Hipshot SF6
was the same as it's 4 and 5 string counterparts.
bass bridge was only offered briefly at the end of the 1990's.
It was probably rarely used, as it was about a $300.00 option.
However, it was an excellent bridge, with a big block of steel
that went completely through the body to increase sustain.
1999 - present
1999 - present
1999 - present
2006 - present
In 2001, the P Series
option was added, which brought with it the piezo bridge. This
bridge had a piezo pickup on each saddle, allowing the bass to
simulate acoustic tones. The piezo bridge could be blended to
any degree with other pickups. Like the Hipshot, only the
saddles were chromed or gold plated.
The P Series
bridge was also offered in a 5-string version, which had the
same features of the 4-string model - that is, the saddles were
available in chrome, black or gold, which the aluminum bridge
body was only offered in black.
The 6-string piezo
bridge had the same features as the 4 and 5 string models.
In 2006, the
Hipshot A-Series bridge became the standard on all Carvin
basses. It was available in 4, 5 and 6 string variants.
Carvin basses started off using AP-series pickups in 1959, and
continued using these until 1977. AP-4 pickups are easily
recognizable, with a single adjustable pole piece under each string,
in two rows (one on each coil). From 1959 to 1971, these
pickups were cream colored. In 1972, they were black, and this
lasted until 1977, when they had chrome covers.
1978, the M22B pickup (left, top) was introduced. Like it's
guitar counterpart, this pickup had two rows of 11 pole pieces which
were adjustable with an allen wrench. Originally, the pickups
were cream, with either a cream or black bezel. In 1986, black
pickups were added; however, this would be the last year for the
1987, the M11B stacked humbucker (left, center) was introduced.
This was originally designed specifically for the LB90, but wound up
being used in all Carvin basses in 1987. These pickups had a
single row of 11 pole pieces, which were adjustable with an allen
wrench. They were only offered in black with a black bezel.
later, in 1988, a newly redesigned stacked humbucker called the
M13B (left, bottom) replaced the H11B. It was the same
basic stacked humbucking design, but with 13 pole pieces, versus 11,
which allowed fuller coverage of the E and G strings (compare the
H11B and H13B at left). Like the H11B, these would only be
offered in black with a black bezel. These pickups would only
be used in 1988 and 1989.
1990, the H50B stacked humbucking pickup (right, top) was
introduced. This pickup, which had the same physical
dimensions as a Fender Jazz bass pickup, did not have adjustable
pole piece - a first on Carvin basses. Due to it's size, it
could be used on Carvin's 5-string basses, as well as the 4-string
models. It was available in black only.
Carvin introduced the LB76 6-string bass in 1992, and with it, the
new H50N pickup (right, center). It was physically
identical to the H50B, but the internal coils were redesigned so
that it could accommodate string spacing up to 3.3" (versus 2.9"
with the H50B). This pickup was also available in black only.
Visually, the H50N was nearly identical to the H50B, except for the addition
of the Carvin logo on the lower left corner, and the plastic cover
had a little texture to it.
1999, the new J99 single coil pickup (right, bottom) was
introduced in conjunction with the HB series Alnico humbuckers, and
standard on all Carvin basses. The H50N was still available,
but the J99 was standard. Physically, the J99 was identical to
H50N, but if you look closely, you can see a small dot preceding the
Carvin logo in the lower left corner - this is the only way to
differentiate between a J99 and an H50N by appearance only.
2005, the H50N was replaced by the H50S, which was also a
stacked humbucker, and this replaced the J99 as the standard pickup
on all Custom Shop basses except the Icon. Visually, the way to tell the difference
between the new H50S and the H50N and J99 was by a little blue dot
that appeared right before the Carvin logo on the top of the pickup
(similar to the J99).
Carvin's most radical new bass pickup debuted in 1999. This
was the HB series pickups, which were humbucking
pickups with Alnico V magnets at the poles. Commonly referred
to as HB2 pickups, there are actually 4 models - the 4-string HB4
(bottom); the HB5 (center), which had 2.63" spacing between
outside poles; the HB5W (top), which had a wider 2.9" spacing
between outside poles; and the 6-string HB6 (far left).
These pickups could be ordered in a pair, a single (similar to a
MusicMan bass), with a J99 in the neck position, or with an H50N
(later, an H50S) in
the neck position.
the same time as the HB series was introduced, Carvin also added the
P Series option, which was a package that consisted of a J99 (later,
an H50S), HB and
piezo bridge pickup system with 18V active electronics and rounded
2006, Carvin took a giant leap forward with the introduction of the
SPN and SPB soapbar pickups, which were standard on the new Icon
bass, and optional on other bass models. These pickups had
side-by-side coils, and could be used in active or passive mode.
used an assortment of high-quality woods since they began building their
own necks and bodies in the late 70's. With the exception of poplar,
all these woods are still available on Carvin basses and guitars.
Hard Rock Maple (Acer Saccharum)
For many years,
Eastern Hard Rock Maple was the standard wood used in Carvin
basses. It is still the standard used in Carvin necks, due
to it's bright tone and superior sustain. It is still
available as an optional body, but is no longer standard due to
it's heavy weight. The grain is closed and easy to finish,
and looks good in translucent finishes as well as solid colors,
but not stained (unless finished over with clear gloss) or
Shown is a 1981
LB50 in clear gloss with chrome hardware.
Birdseye Maple (Acer Saccharum)
In the late 1970's
and early 1980's, Carvin offered Birdseye maple on their upscale
LB60 bass and DC160 guitar. The "eyes" are a natural
occurrence found in hard maple. It is a heavy wood, which
produces a bright tone, just like standard maple.
Currently, Carvin only offers Birdseye maple on fingerboards.
Shown is a 1979
LB60 in clear gloss on Birdseye maple with gold hardware.
Poplar was Carvin's
standard wood from 1990 to 1996. It's very similar to alder
tonally, and weighs just slightly more. It is naturally a
grayish-green color, so it does not look good with clear finishes,
or with some translucent finishes. Like maple, it is a
closed grain wood that is easy to finish.
Shown is a 1993
LB75 in Tobacco Sunburst with gold hardware.
in the Pacific Northwest, alder is a light weight wood with a full
sound. This is the standard wood used on Carvin basses (in
conjunction with a maple neck), unless another wood choice is
specified. It's has a tight grain, with little or no grain
lines, making it easy to finish.
Shown is a 2003
XB76 in clear gloss with gold hardware.
Maple (Acer Macrophyllum)
Flamed maple tops
were added as an option in 1989. Prior to that, Carvin's
basses had some figure (the pattern of the grain) in the maple,
but varied from little figure to moderate figure. When the
flamed maple top option was added, it signified that highly
figured 1/2" maple would be added to a body made from a
different wood, usually alder. Flamed maple is also referred
to as fiddled maple or tiger maple, and is recognized by the
striped pattern. Striped patterns that run diagonally to
form a point in the center of the body are referred to as chevrons
(pointing towards the bridge) or reverse chevrons (pointing
towards the neck).
Because it represents a small amount of the total body mass, it
does not have a huge impact on tone, but could add some brightness
if applied over mahogany or koa.
Shown is a 1995
LB76 in Classic Sunburst on flamed maple with gold hardware.
Maple (Acer Macrophyllum)
Quilted maple tops
were added to list of Carvin options in 1992, but had been
available in the 80's on the DC160 guitar (called "curly
maple" at the time). It is used as a "top" on
Carvin basses, meaning a 1/2" layer is added over another
type of body wood - usually alder. Like flamed maple,
quilted maple does not have a huge impact on tone, but could add
some brightness if applied over mahogany or koa. It is rarer
than flamed maple, and is found mostly in western maple.
Quilted maple has a more circular pattern, in contrast to the
relatively straight pattern of flamed maple, and the figure
varies widely, from loose, cloud-shaped patterns to tight
curls. It looks good in translucent and burst finishes, and
stains finished in clear gloss, but not in matte satin or
Shown is a 2003
LB76P in Cherry Sunburst on quilt with gold hardware.
Carvin began using
koa wood (sometimes referred to Hawaiian mahogany) in the early
80's, far ahead of most manufacturers. This wood is grown
only in Hawaii, adding to it's exotic appeal, and making it's
quantities somewhat limited. It's lighter than maple,
but varies from medium to heavy weight. It's tone is
warm like mahogany, but a little brighter, and has become
increasingly popular in bass guitars. Carvin builds koa
basses with tung-oiled finish, clear matte satin, and gloss
finish. Carvin basses can be ordered with a koa body and
maple neck (which would be standard on a koa model, unless
otherwise specified), or with a koa body and 2-piece koa neck, or
koa body and 5-piece neck in several combinations. Carvin
also offers a 1/2" thick highly flamed koa top which can be
used in conjunction with koa or other body woods.
Shown is a
tung-oiled 1993 LB70 with koa neck and body and chrome hardware.
Early Carvin guitars and basses that used koa had some degree of
figure in the wood, but in 1996, Carvin began offering select
highly flamed koa tops for their guitars and basses. Like
standard koa, these
basses could ordered with a tung-oiled finish, clear matte satin
finish, or clear gloss
finish. The flamed koa top could be added to a bass with any
body wood, including the standard alder, mahogany, maple or
swamp ash. A flamed koa top could also be ordered on an
AC-series acoustic/electric bass.
Shown is a
2004 AC50F with flamed koa top and chrome hardware.
Walnut (also known
as black walnut) is almost as heavy as maple, but not quite as
bright. Carvin's standard walnut body is used with a maple
neck, but a 2-piece walnut neck can be ordered, as well as a
walnut or figured walnut top used with another body wood.
The grain is similar to koa, but the wood itself is darker. Walnut
looks good in tung-oil, matte satin, or gloss finish.
Shown is a a 1999
LB70 in tung-oiled walnut with gold hardware.
Walnut (Juglans Hindsii)
Claro Walnut is
part of the black walnut family, and is grown primarily in
Northern California, but can be found as far north as
British Columbia. The Claro Walnut Series was introduced in
1999, and used a California Claro Walnut top on a body with walnut
back and maple center. Tonal properties and weight of Claro
Walnut is similar to standard walnut, with the difference being
the highly figured quality of the wood. Claro Walnut can be
tung-oiled, finished in matte satin, or gloss.
Shown is a 1999
Claro Walnut LB76 in gloss finish with gold hardware.
Mahogany is similar
in tonal characteristics to koa, but has a finer grain with little
figure. It's also about the same weight as koa, being
lighter than maple, but heavier than alder. The tone is warm
and full with good sustain. Carvin offers mahogany with a maple
neck, or mahogany with a two-piece mahogany neck. Mahogany
looks good in clear gloss, and with some translucent finishes and
Shown is a 1995
LB70 in Tobacco Sunburst on mahogany with mahogany neck and black
Ash (Fraxinus Americana)
Carvin began using
Swamp Ash (also known as Southern Ash) in 2001. In recent
years, this has become a popular wood, especially for basses, due
to it's light weight and tonal qualities. It offers a very
nice balance of brightness and warmth with a lot of punch.
It has a distinctive open grain, and is creamy in color when
unfinished. The attractive grain pattern lends itself well
to translucent colors, but it can also be painted a solid
color. However, it does not accept stain well, and
therefore, should not be finished with stain or tung oil.
Shown is a 2001
LB76 in translucent Sapphire Blue with chrome hardware.
Spruce (Picea Englemanii)
Engleman Spruce is
only offered as a top on Carvin's AC40 and AC50 acoustic
basses. Bodies of these basses are usually made of
mahogany. Engleman Spruce trees are grown in subalpine
climates such as British Columbia, and the trees are slow to grow
and long lived (300 years). Engleman Spruce is light and has
a tight grain, which enables the wood, when properly cut, to
vibrate much like a speaker cone. As the guitar ages, the sap
hidden in the grain of spruce gradually dries and crystallizes,
further accentuating the bright, resonant quality of the wood.
Shown is a 2002
AC40F in clear matte satin finish with black hardware.
For more information, see the Bass