Carvin DC400 gets a pair of Seymour Duncans!

Discussion in 'Pickups, Pickups, Pickups' started by SAguitar, May 31, 2019.

  1. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Last Saturday night I had a few free hours, so I dug out my old Carvin DC400. This is a great, solid Koa guitar that is beautiful and only finished in Tung Oil, so it feels luxurious. I have owned this one for years but have never been satisfied with its electric tones. With its through-neck design and ebony fingerboard, it has excellent sustain and rings strong and true all over the two octave neck. To my best estimation I have tried at least 5 different sets of pickups in it and never really bonded well with any of them. I have tried two different sets of Carvin pickups, and 2 sets Gibson humbuckers ('57 Classics & Burstbucker Pros). I even put in a set of Jim Wagner's WCR pickups (a Godwood & a Darkburst). Then I tried a nice set of GFS Retrotron Hot Nashville pups in there, just to try something completely different. That combination almost sold me and they lasted in there for at least a year, and yet the longing for something else was still there.

    So last Saturday I got out the soldering station and my box of extra pickups. After rummaging around for awhile, I settled on a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates SH-PG1n for the neck, and a SH-4 JB model in the bridge. At first it seemed like a fairly pedestrian choice, but the combination of the two has come out very nice. I have had a few evenings this week to wring it out, and I may have finally found the right combination for this chunk of wood. The Pearly Gates produces some great cleans and when pushed it can do your Clapton woman tones with not problem. The JB at the bridge, being fairly overwound does the cutting edge stuff, and when asked to it produces screaming yowls that could make zombies tremble. When blended and used together, they make a wonderful range of tones. Just changing the volumes of either pickup makes for some nice variations in color.

    I also wired a coil split switch for both pickups (since the switches were already there), and those open up another realm of tones for this plank. Just cutting a coil from either one lightens the impact and should let the guitar sit nicely in the band mix. Using them both as a single coil produces a very Strat-like personality which was a very pleasant surprise.

    At any rate, so far I am pleased with this installation, but the real test will be when I play this guitar with the band and that won't be until next week.

    Stay tuned, Stan
     
    Biddlin and Infant like this.
  2. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    What was it that you couldn't bond with? Too dark sounding? Ebony boards will do that. Maybe why you liked the GFS pups as they are a bit more jangly. Pearly Gates and JBs are supposed to pair up really well. Let us know how they sound with the band.
     
  3. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Yeah, it was a bit dark, or maybe just too "warm" sounding. I know what you mean about finger boards, but I have two other Carvins and one Gibson LP with ebony boards and they don't have that problem. In the past, with several other pickup combos, I have felt that the guitar tones somehow felt "cold" and didn't seem alive or sparkle enough, or notes within chords seemed to mush together and not remain distinct.

    At any rate, with this set of Seymours, a nice brightness has come out that is very rewarding and nicely balanced. I've been playing it every night and really enjoying all the tones I can wring out of it. I've discovered that along with the Strat-like tones (when both pups are split), I can split either the neck or bridge pickups and instantly augment the tone with the mini-switch. When playing in the Strat Zone, I can flip one (or both) of the switches back into humbucker mode and it's like an instant lead boost. Another plus I've found on this axe is moving my picking hand towards the bridge radically changes the tone. Picking down toward the bridge brings out a nice Gretsch twang that is very cool, and picking closer to the neck pickup moves everything back into the Gibson tone book.

    But hey, this is a part of The Quest that I love, constantly changing elements and searching for tones that inspire. Sometimes you can stumble onto a combination of pickups that really bring out the best in a guitar, or find that one amp that just makes it sing.

    Thursday night, this Carvin has a date with the band, so we'll see how it goes. It wouldn't be the first time I got excited about some tones I achieved in my garage and then onstage it was a hot mess!
     
    Infant likes this.
  4. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    I know, these threads are worthless without pics! I finally got around to capturing a couple this morning with my phone.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    spellcaster likes this.
  5. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    Man, those Carvin guitars have always been pretty.
     
    SAguitar likes this.
  6. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Rob! Yeah, those guys could sure make some nice guitars. My first Carvin was a bass. After drooling over their catalogs for many years, I finally took a chance and ordered a Koa BB75 bass (5-string), and when it got here I was literally blown away by its quality. Seriously, I had to wait nearly 3 months for them to build and ship, but I still remember the feeling when I opened the case. I'm sure my jaw dropped, it was stunning. When I ordered, I asked them to pick out some woods that had a lot of figuring in it because I liked that look and they sure did.

    After a few years with the BB75, I found a fretless Koa 5-string bass on eBay, and jumped on it. A few years later I went in deeper and bought this DC400 and a DC150 (SSH) off eBay. It took me awhile to dial in the right pickups for the DC150 also. I really love the look and feel of the Hawaiian Koa wood. Carvin's build quality is remarkable, every note rings true and strong, and seems to jump off the fretboard.
     
    Infant likes this.
  7. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Well, I gave the ol' DC400 a good workout with the band last night and I was very pleased with its performance. It sounded great without any effects, and responded like a champ with all my pedals, covering a wide range of tones with ease. Wow, after all these years I may have finally found this plank's optimum pickups.
     
  8. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Gave the DC400 a good run for the money this weekend and we both had a great time. This guitar has been given a new life, and will now contend with my favorites for stage time.
     
  9. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    And yes, the venerable Carvin DC400 has won the head-to-head battle for this weekend, and will take the stage. This is a crazy game I go through every week. As I practice the songs for the coming weekend, I'll try out different guitars from the stable to see which one handles best for that set list. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, it looked like a Les Paul or one of my Strats was gonna get the call, but on Wednesday the Carvin blew every one else away. Better luck next time!
     
    Infant likes this.
  10. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    That's the only problem with multiple guitars, deciding who you're dating each weekend. I'm down to two #1 guitars. Number 1a is my Tele Thinline that I mainly use for dinner dance/weddings as we tend to play a long 2 hour set to start at those things and its only a hair over 6lbs. Besides, it can rock pretty good and clean up nice for those slow ballads. Number 1b is my Melody Maker with P90s. This is my bar gig guitar. It's around 7lbs and it's a rock and roll beast. The P90s just sing.

    I don't tend to tinker with my pickups. All I do to my guitars when I buy them is add a set of strap locks and maybe change the tuners if the originals feel rough.
     
  11. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Good to go, buddy! That sounds like a great plan. Maybe someday I'll thin the herd down some more but for now I'm enjoying what I've got. I have about 8-10 that vie for the top position each week, and then about 10 others that spend most of their time in closets, never go out on dates, and could probably be sold with damaging my fun. But I've never been good at selling stuff, and I don't have a lot of friends anymore that are interested in buying guitars. And I've always been a guy who likes to tinker with guitars, I can't hardly play any of mine without thinking of something I could do to make it "better."
     
  12. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    I've got 5 electrics, 2 acoustics and an electric bass. The two guitars mentioned above get the brunt of the action. If I'm playing some jazz gig, I'll bring the Gibson ES137. The Strat and 75 Tele rarely come out...I'll sometimes take them to a rehearsal. My Martin gets all my acoustic gigs and nowadays, my '72 ovation balladeer very rarely leaves it's case. The bass is just for recording around the house. I've been thinking of thinning the herd a bit but I have sentimental attachments to some of these guitars.
     
  13. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    I'm down to only 3 basses! All of them are 5-string, one with frets and two without. I do only have one acoustic, my trusty old Alavarez-Yairi, which is basically a great copy of a Martin Dreadnought. Electric guitars are my passion, and too many of them have "sentimental attachments." Oh well, I do seem to have stopped buying more of them, occasionally I am tempted, but am doing pretty good in saying no more! Although that Epiphone that Biddlin got recently really caught my eye.
     
    Infant likes this.
  14. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    Yes that is a damn nice one. However, I now have to start watching my pennies as I plan on retiring in the next couple of years and I think I'm pretty happy with what I have. Sure some of the ones I see at long and mcquade are very tempting and I've got about $1700 saved in my "gigging bank", but I think I'm gonna use that to make the "Missus" happy with a trip somewhere seeing as she puts up with a lot of boring Saturdays when I play.
     
    SAguitar likes this.
  15. SAguitar

    SAguitar Well-Known Member

    Good choice, Rob. Happy wife - happy life.
     
    spellcaster likes this.
  16. Infant

    Infant Well-Known Member

    D@mn right!!!
     
    SAguitar likes this.

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