Carvin Nomad

Introduced back in 1994, the Nomad followed the lead of the Mesa/Boogie .50 Caliber and the Peavey Classic in its use of a quartet of EL84 tubes running in class AB to deliver 50 watts of power. The Nomad offers independent 3-band EQ for each channel, along with an Acoustic Presence control for Channel 1, and Soak (gain) and Volume controls for Channel 2. Both of these channels share a single reverb control.

This compact combo is well constructed, and it looks sweet, too, with its dark lacquered tweed covering and vintage-y brown chassis. Chromed metal corner protectors and recessed pointer-style knobs lower the potential for damage, and, weighing in at a little over 40 lbs, the Nomad is easy to carry. The power tubes are kept in place with wire-style retainers, and the five 12AX7s ride fully exposed with no metal covers. (Some tone hounds claim you get better sounds with the preamp tubes unshielded.)

Sonically speaking, the Nomad offers no huge surprises. Its clean tones are decent, and there’s enough headroom in the circuit to maintain good clarity at higher volumes. The response is bright—even with humbuckers—and with no Bright switch, you’re left to twiddling the tone knobs to find the sweet spot with different guitars. Channel 1 can also pump out gritty distortion when turned up, and though the amp is quite loud in this configuration, the overdriven tones are punchy and snarling with good touch sensitivity. The full-sized Accutronics reverb tank is a welcome sight, and the textures it provides are smooth and airy with good decay characteristics. It doesn’t provide for any splashy, sproingy surf-type colors, but it’s the second most Fender sounding ’verb of the group.

Channel 2 packs a lot of gain, and with the Soak knob on 3 there’s already plenty of grind for blues solos and chunky rock riffing. The Volume control allows you to contain the rage at bedroom levels, but the sounds are definitely vibier with the volume opened to the point where the power tubes can contribute to the brew. The EL84s running in class AB don’t conjure any British vibe, but they do have a certain sparkle that works well with fatter-sounding guitars. The tone knobs are accommodating to single-coils and humbuckers, but there’s not enough cut range in the Mid control to delve into anything even vaguely approaching a modern metal sound. The Nomad’s naturally zingy response helps keep the bass frequencies sounding clear and tight, but that brightness also makes the distortion tones a little frazzy sounding—a factor that tends to make this amp’s abundant gain potential somewhat less enjoyable.

A great deal for an American-made amp, the Nomad is a cool sounding little rig with plenty of power for gigs. It’s not as up to date in terms of features or distortion-channel voicing as some of the other amps in this group, but it holds up as a solid performer with a tone set that makes it a good choice for blues, jazz, and rock.