DESIGNED TO COVER EVERYTHING FROM BLUES TO METAL, THE V3 IS A VERSATILE AND VERY WELL equipped amplifier that provides a lot of tonal variation from its three channels. In this arrangement, channel 3 is the clean mode, and its has a dedicated Bright/Soak switch as well as an EQX switch (also found on the other channels), which essentially “expands” the frequency range of the Bass and Treble controls and provides a boost at 8kHz for more cutting power. Channels 1 and 2 both have a 3-position switch that yields “classic” overdrive sounds in the middle setting and is flanked by a Thick position that revoices the mids and boosts low-end, and an Intense setting that increases sustain, tightens the lows, and enhances articulation. The Master section controls include Volume, Bright (boosts from 5kHz and up), and Deep (adds sub-harmonic content), along with a pair of Smart Loop switches that can store and recall effects loop settings for each channel. The V3 can also respond to external MIDI commands for channel select, volume boost on/off, and Smart Loop on/off.
The V3 looks marvelous with its diamond-plate grille—a user installed item that costs $45— and our review amp came equipped with Carvin’s optional LED backlighting system, which, by pressing and holding the channel-select switches, lets you assign red, blue, or amber colors to any of the channels, combine the colors for a static display, or turn them off completely. Seeing those colors reflecting off the shiny metal grille is visually quite cool and definitely worth the extra $39. And speaking of options, you certainly get your money’s worth from all the tonal functions that the V3 has to offer. A walk though the channels yields a wide range of clean to overdriven sounds from channel 3, which has good dynamic qualities and could be the only channel you’d need for blues or classic rock—especially with the Soak setting engaged, which elicits deeper, thicker distortion when you turn up your guitar volume. Channels 1 and 2 are similarly voiced, although by using different settings on the EQX and Thick/Intense switches, you can easily optimize either of them for rhythm or lead. For example, by using the Thick setting on channel 2 to add low-end mass and activating the EQX to extend the treble you can get a meaty chunk tone that works great for power riffing. Turn up the Drive on channel 1 with the EQX switched off and the Intense setting activated yields a smooth, sustaining tone that sounds clear, but with just enough high-end rolloff to keep your single-note lines from being too biting. Once you have these channels tweaked to your liking, it’s easy to add more depth, presence, and/or midrange scoop via the controls in the master section. The V3 trades some sonic identity in its goal of providing such a wide spectrum of tones, but considering the bang-for-buck it offers, and the fact that it’s an American-made product, the V3 is a sweet deal. —Art Thompson
(800) 854-2235; carvin.com
PRICE $849 direct; $888 as tested with LED backlighting. User installed diamondplate grille is $45
CONTROLS (Channel 1) Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Intense/Thick switch, EQX switch. (Channel 2) Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Intense/ Thick switch, EQX switch. (Channel 3) Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence, Bright/Soak switch, EQX switch. Master, Boost, Bright Mid Cut, Deep controls.
POWER 100 watts
TUBES Four Groove Tubes EL34s, five Groove Tubes 12AX7s
EXTRAS Series effects loops w/Tail switch, parallel effects loop w/level control and Tail switch, line out w/ level control and cabinet- voicing switch, dual speaker jacks w/impedance selector (4Ω, 8Ω, 16Ω), half-power switch, bias switch (EL34/ 6L6), MIDI In and Thru jacks, footswitch jacks for FS-22 and FS-44 footcontrollers (not included).
SPEAKER Carvin 412V4x12 with Carvin GT12s
MAXIMUM MEASURED VOLUME 121db
WEIGHT 35 lbs (head)
KUDOS Wide range of clean to highly overdriven sounds. Outstanding value.