Properly identifying Carvin guitar amplifiers can be much trickier than
identifying Carvin guitars and basses. For starters, there is no
serial number information currently available, from this site, or from
Carvin directly. So, unfortunately, having a serial number is of
no benefit in identifying the year of a particular amp. The best
one can hope for is to narrow down a particular model to a range of
years - but finding a specific year of a particular amp is just about
impossible to do. However, there are quite a few features that at
least make it easy to narrow down an amplifier to a range of years.
with other Carvin gear, the first, and most obvious, detail to look at
is the logo on the amp itself. The earliest Carvin amps had the
same logo as was found on guitars, basses and other instruments, shown
at left. This logo appeared on all Carvin amps from 1954 (and
possibly earlier) through 1960. From 1961-1965, this logo appeared
on some amps and speaker cabinets, in addition to a plain block logo
found on the control panel of the amp. Starting in 1966, the
"Curved C" logo (below right, top logo) began appearing on amps and speaker cabinets, in the
form of a metal badge. The plain block logo continued to appear on
the control panels, as well. Although most components of this era
had the Curved C logo, some speaker cabinets did not. The "Curved
C logo generally appeared on guitar amplifiers from 1966-1987.
1976, the cursive logo (right, 2nd from top) began appearing on the
amplifier control panel on some models (the first was the VTR2800).
The plain block logo (not pictured) appeared on the control panel of
other models. Regardless of which logo was on the control panel,
the Curved C logo appeared as the "primary" badge. By 1979, all
amps that had a logo on the control panel (not all did; notably the
ST series heads with the
gold panel) used the cursive logo on the panel itself. In 1987,
the straight block logo (right, 3rd from top) appeared on the control
panel of Carvin's
MOSFET combo amps, replacing the cursive logo, but the Curved C logo
was still the primary identifier. This was the only year this logo
was used, although it appeared in print ads for several years in the
mid/late 1980's as the "official" Carvin logo (perhaps because the
Curved C logo was harder to read).
everything became standardized. The italicized black logo (right,
bottom) was used as amp badging, as well as on the control panels of
Carvin's guitar amps. The badge itself was plastic, and no longer
made of metal like most of the Curved C logos. This would remain constant until today,
although the Vai Legacy Series guitar amps only used the Carvin logo on
the amp panel - the Vai logo was used as the primary badge on the head
and speaker cabinets. Additionally, the
Vintage Tube Series amps would
use a cursive logo on the control panel that was similar, but not
identical, to the one used in the 70's and 80's.
Yellow decal logo
1961-1965 (some models)
block logo (on control panel)
"Curved C" logo badge
Cursive logo (on control
Plain block logo (on
Italic block logo
(control panel & badge)
Cursive log (on control
(Vintage Tube Series only)
(or earlier) - 1970
Carvin HE speakers &
Carvin BR Series
Carvin Vintage Series
Carvin PS Series
Celestion G12M Greenback
Carvin GT Series
on the right 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.
State or Tube?
Carvin amplifiers (like all other amps of the era) were tube-drive
models, in combo configurations with 1, 2 or 4 speakers. These
early models were designed for use with pretty much any electric
instrument, and generally had multiple channels for instruments as well
as microphones. Most of these amps used the standard 6L6's and
12AX7's, as well as a few others depending on the model. From
Carvin's first amp in 1949 until 1965, only tube models were offered.
Carvin got swept up in the electronics revolution that had overtaken
every electronics manufacturer around the globe. Tube-driven amps
were considered passť, and everyone was getting on the solid-state (or
transistorized) bandwagon, and Carvin followed suite. They only
offered solid-state amps during the late 60's, and it would be 1973
before the benefits of tube-drive amps were re-acknowledged.
However, the 1973 VTR2500
tube head would exist for one year only, and it would be 1976 before
another tube amp would be offered. During this time, Carvin
offered several amps, but were usually based on the same solid-state
until the present, Carvin offered both tube and solid-state amps, in
combo, half-stack and full-stack configurations.
Carvin used Lansing, JBL and Altec-Lansing speakers at various times
in their history, and all these familiar speaker brands are related,
and have a unique history of their own.
1928, Western Electric formed Electronic Research Products, Inc (ERPI)
to manufacture and maintain early motion picture systems. ERPI
also performed research and development of better sound systems for
use in theatres, and in the 1930's, the company became separate from
Western Electric, and was renamed All Technical Products Company, or
B. Lansing's company, Lansing Manufacturing (which had been formed
in 1927) worked with Western Electric, and was pivotal in bringing
sound to film, as well as developing all sorts of audio products,
including speakers. His Lansing Manufacturing Company was bought by Altec in 1941,
creating the Altec-Lansing Company, and Lansing stayed with the new
business for 5 more years. For reasons that have been
lost to history, Lansing decided to leave Altec-Lansing later in 1946, and form another company,
Lansing Sound Inc,, which would soon be renamed James B. Lansing
Sound, Inc. By the 1950's, the company would simply be
referred to as JBL, and would ironically become
of of the main competitors of Altec-Lansing.
B. Lansing passed away in 1949.
used a wide variety of speakers in their history, including
Altec-Lansing, Jensen, JBL, and their own MagnaLab models. During
the late 1970's and 1980's, it was possible to order most combo amps or
speaker cabinets with different speakers loaded in them.
the early to mid 1950's, Jensen speakers were used exclusively in
Carvin guitar amps. These were general-purpose mid-range speakers,
as all the amps sold by Carvin were not specialized guitar amps, but
were designed with multiple inputs for any electric instrument, as well
as microphones on some models. Jensen speakers used by Carvin from
1955 - 1963 were either 8" or 12" varieties, and a 15"
would be added to the Model #10-RA
amp in 1964.
1960, Carvin began to offer James Lansing speakers in some models,
in addition to the Jensen speakers. The Lansing speakers were the
first 15" speakers Carvin had used (the previously used Jensen's were
either 8" or 12", and a Jensen 15" wouldn't be available for 4 more
years), and had a built-in tweeter. These speakers would be
offered in 1960 only, then would return again in 1967.
Although the "James Lansing" name has faded into history, the brand
these speakers evolved into hasn't - JBL speakers, and Altec-Lansing
(see sidebar). By 1969, Carvin was offering an assortment of
Lansing and Jensen speakers in a variety of
1970, James Lansing speakers officially began to be called
Altec-Lansing speakers, and Carvin continued to use these speakers, in
addition to Jensen speakers. However, in 1971, the Jensen
speakers were dropped in favor of CTS speakers, which were used in
addition to Altec Lansing speakers, and in 1973, Electro-Voice
horns were added to some speaker cabinets.
was a significant year in every department for Carvin, and the guitar
amplifiers department was no exception. The CTS speakers were
dropped, and Carvin introduced their own line of speakers, dubbed
MagnaLab. These were entirely designed and built in-house,
allowing for cost savings versus purchasing off-the-shelf speakers from
Jensen or Altec. However, Carvin continued to offer JBL and
Altec-Lansing speakers for a higher cost on most speaker cabinets.
1978, the Altec-Lansing speakers were dropped, in favor of the
British-made Celestion speakers. Carvin's MagnaLab speakers were
still the standard, but Celestions could be ordered in the concert stack
amps, and JBL's could be ordered in combo amps. More changes
would occur in 1979 - specifically, Gauss speakers were added in
addition to MagnaLab and JBL speakers in Carvin's combo amps. The
standard MagnaLab's were the least expensive; the Gauss' were the
high-end. The concert stack amps were offered only with MagnaLab
or Celestion speakers.
1981, Gauss speakers were dropped in Carvn's combo amps, and
replaced with Electro-Voice speakers. MagnaLab speakers were still
the standard, and Celestion speakers were still offered on the big amps.
In 1982, JBL speakers would also be replaced with Electro-Voice
MagnaLab name was dropped in 1986, and Carvin simply put their own name
on the speakers they produced,
and in 1986, the "HE" (High Energy) series was the standard in Carvin
guitar amps. Electro-Voice and Celestion speakers were still
offered as optional equipment.
saw another significant change in the speakers Carvin used.
Celestion speakers were dropped altogether, and Electro Voice speakers
were only offered as optional equipment in the
XV112E Tube-X Amp.
But the big news was the introduction of the Carvin British Series
speakers. The British Series was designed to replace the
British-made Celestion speakers, and had similar sound characteristics.
Also, 1989 was the last year the EV speaker would be offered on the
XV112 - it would only be offered with the BR-12 in the future.
This was significant because this was the last non-Carvin speaker that
would be offered in a Carvin amplifier, until the Celestion Greenbacks
were used in the Vai Legacy Series amps.
1995, the BR-12 speaker would be dropped in favor of the new
Vintage Series speaker. All guitar amplifiers would rely on these
new speakers in 1995. However, the BR-12 would return in the MTS
combo and stack amps and SX combo amps in 1996. Also in
1996, Carvin would begin using their PS series speakers in the new AG100
acoustic guitar amps.
speakers would to return to Carvin in 1999, in the form of
Celestion Greenbacks which were used in the Vai Legacy Series amps.
Vintage Series, British Series and PS series speakers would continue to
be used in Carvin's other amps.
speakers were added to Carvin's lineup in 2002. These speakers were standard in the SX
series amps, as well as the Vintage Tube combos and MTS series.
2005, Celestion G12T-75 and Seventy80 speakers replaced all Carvin
speakers, making all Carvin guitar amps Celestion-equipped. The
Vintage Series amps would adopt the same G12 Vintage 30's used by the
used a variety of amp coverings in the 50 years they have been producing
them. In the 1950's, tweed linen covering was used on most
amps. In 1959, a material referred to as "airplane
heavy-duty luggage covering" - probably some form or vinyl - was used on
some models. By 1961, all amps would use this covering.
large stacks appeared in 1968, the covering was also changed, to
black Lavant, which was a form of vinyl. This would last until
1971, when the covering would simply be referred to as "black
things at Carvin changed in 1976, and the amp covering was one of
them. After several years of using vinyl, Carvin switched to black
Tolex (as did much of the industry). Tolex had been around for
quite a few years, and was used in the music industry on amps, speakers,
guitar cases and just about anywhere an inexpensive, attractive covering
1981, black Tolex was used on all Carvin amps and speaker cabinets,
but a very attractive oak cabinet was an option on the
XV-112E combo amp. This
would be offered on this amp throughout it's life-cycle. The
XV-112E Oak was offered from 1981-1988, then reappeared in 1991 for one
1989, Tolex was retired on all Carvin amps and speaker cabinets in
favor of Ozite, a
synthetic product made from dyed polyester and polypropylene, with a
texture similar to indoor/outdoor carpeting. The Ozite that Carvin
used was greyish in color, and would be use through 1994.
1995, Ozite was replaced by Duratuff II, a similar material to
Ozite, but much darker in color - almost black. Duratuff II was
used on all amps except for the new Vintage Series - these amps were
covered in tan tweed, just like Carvin amps from the 1950's.
However, in 1996, Duratuff II was used on bass amps only -
guitar amps were covered in a non-descript black vinyl (except for the
Vintage Series, which were still covered in tweed fabric).
bit changed in 1997. The new AG100 acoustic guitar amp had
an interesting new covering - green vinyl. This was quite a
departure from the various black materials that had been used over the
years. Additionally, the new SX amps were covered in tan Lavant, a
material similar to vinyl, but more durable. The MTS amps were still
covered in black vinyl, Vintage Series amps were still covered in tweed,
and bass amps were still covered in Duratuff II.
significant change came in 2002. The SX Series amps went to
being covered in black vinyl, just like the Vai Legacy Series and the
MTS Series. Vintage Series amps were still covered in tweed
fabric. Bass amps were still covered in Duratuff II, except for
the 2004 BRX bass speakers, which were covered in DuraTex, a spray-on