Carvin V3M

February 15, 2012

The V3M joins the ranks of the mini-amp market in size only, as the amp is basically a scaled down version of the 100-watt V3. Powered by four EL84s, the V3M pumps out 50 watts, and can also be set to operate at 22 or 7 watts. The densely packed front panel features independent Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Presence controls for each of the three channels, along with 3-position Drive Mode switches with Classic, Intense, and Thick settings for channels 1 and 2, and Classic, Bright, and Soak options for channel 3. All channels also feature a 2-position EQX switch that expands the range of the EQ. Lastly are the Master Volume and Reverb controls, which affect all of the channels equally.

On the rear panel are the 1/4" and XLR jacks (respectively) for the optional FS22 (two button) and FS44L (four button) footswitches. The latter switcher allows you to also activate the reverb, effects loop, and the boost function, which has a variable level control. A pair of buttons select red or blue LED backlighting (or no lighting), and a main voltage switch is provided for 120- or 240- volt operation.

As is typical with Carvin products, the V3M’s feature set is quite deep. Cruising the channels with a variety of guitars, it was quickly apparent that a wealth of clean and overdriven sounds are available. Channel 3 serves up tones that can cover everything from low volume jazz gigs (the 7-watt setting is useful here) to rowdy barroom blues and rock with the Soak and EQX functions on for a fat distortion tone. Choose 22 watts for less volume and a bit more compression or a manly 50 watts for maximum punch.

This channel is a good stop for pedals, too, as the abundant headroom—especially in the 50-watt setting— means you hear your effects clearly and without undue coloration. The DSP reverb also sounds great, adding a warm and very spring-like shimmer that’s particularly cool for the cleaner tones.

Stepping to Channel 2 uncorks the V3M’s overdrive mode, which covers the gamut from rock rhythm crunch to sustaining lead tones. The Drive Mode switch sets the gain and voicing for the desired response, with the Classic setting yielding the mellowest distortion, and the Thick and Intense modes taking it up from there in meatiness and gain. Combined with the EQX function, which has a boosting effect on the tone settings, there seems to be nothing this dynamically responsive channel can’t be dialed to do.

The V3M’s circuitry is easily viewable by removing the cover plate on the chassis bottom. Inside the steel housing, we find most of the components, including the tube sockets and pots, arranged on six interconnected PC boards. It’s a lot of circuitry
contained in a small area, but the construction looks
rugged and well executed.
But if you’re still seeking more fury for your lead tones, there’s Channel 1, which pours on even more gain to provide the hyper sustain that shredders and metalheads crave. All of the options available on Channel 2 are mirrored here, so finding a tone that works for your style is simply a matter of selecting an appropriate Drive Mode setting (Thick or Intense are both good options here), dialing the Gain and tone controls appropriately, and possibly activating the EQX function to extend the lows and enhance the top-end bite. Lastly, the V3M’s variable boost can be deployed on any of the channels via footswitch to give an instantaneous increase in overall level and gain.

Given its power and tonal flexibility, the V3M is a great choice for players who like the mini-amp concept, but want the features and high degree of control over the sound that big amps typically deliver. Kudos to Carvin for creating such a well-equipped amplifier at a very attractive price.


Carvin V3M

CONTACT Carvin, (800) 854-2235;
PRICE $799 direct
CONTROLS (Channels 1 and 2) Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence. Drive Mode switch (Classic, Intense, Thick), EQX switch (Standard, Expanded). (Channel 3) Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence. Drive Mode switch (Classic, Bright, Soak), EQX switch (Standard, Expanded). Global Master Volume and Reverb controls. Channel Select switches.
TUBES Four 12AX7 preamp tubes, four EL84 output tubes
POWER 50 watts/22 watts/7 watts
EXTRAS Series effects loop. Two speaker outs w/impedance switch (16Ω, 8Ω, 4Ω). Cabinet voiced line out. Boost level control. Power Mode switch. LED backlighting switch (Red, Blue, Off).
SPEAKER Tested with Carvin 212V cabinet ($349 direct)
WEIGHT Head: 19.6 lbs, cabinet: 47 lbs
KUDOS More power than most minis. Three channels with fully independent controls. Tons of tonal options.
CONCERNS Footswitch has to be purchased separately.

More from this Roundup:

Three New Mini Tube Amps
Hughes & Kettner Tubemeister 18 Head
Solid-State Micro Amps
Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier Twenty-Five
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