Carvin NS1

It took Carvin in conjunction with Graph Tech and guitarist Steve Oliver two years to develop the NS1 ($1,299 direct), a cutting edge nylon-string guitar with both 1/4" and 13-pin MIDI synth outputs.
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The NS1 features a chambered mahogany body capped with an AAAA flamed maple top whose exposed edge adds an elegant “binding” effect. The neck-through design provides an ultra smooth heel, and the classical-style mahogany neck supports an ebony fretboard with a nearly flat 20" radius and a width that varies from 1.88" at the nut to 2.38" at the 21st fret. The slotted headstock is faced in flamed maple and sports engraved open-gear tuners with sweet looking dark pearloid buttons. The exposed trussrod adjuster that you see poking out beneath the perfectly fitted bone nut could have been hidden under a wooden cover, but that’s a minor ding on an otherwise stunning package. Installed in the ebony bridge is a Graph Tech hexaphonic pickup, which feeds a Graph Tech preamp system that offers stacked Volume controls for the MIDI and piezo outputs, stacked Tone knobs for treble and bass boost/cut, and stacked Midrange frequency and boost/cut controls. A mini-toggle provides for scrolling between MIDI patches when the instrument is connected to a synth module. In this mode, Oliver calls the synth tracking “amazing.”

The NS1 looks gorgeous with its honey hued woods and gold hardware, and it plays extremely well thanks to the polished frets and low action. The 12th-fret intonation is pretty accurate, but some A-string inconsistencies made perfectly in-tune chords in the lower positions sound slightly less tuneful when fingering them higher. That didn’t prevent me from having a blast with the NS1, though. Played through both a Schertler David acoustic amp and a Fender Deluxe Reverb reissue using the guitar’s 1/4" out, the NS1 sounded excellent, providing warm, vibrant nylon-string textures that were easily dialed in for the different amps via small adjustments of the active bass and treble controls. You can turn the NS1 way up without feedback, and when you use its 13-pin out—which carries the signals from each string as well as a summed signal from all the strings—you get the ability to generate acoustic and synth sounds and control them independently. A genuine nobrainer for players who need to have a huge spectrum of sounds at their fingertips for live performance, the NS1 is a mighty cool instrument to add to your arsenal.

Kudos Excellent playability. Excels at delivering smooth nylon-string tones at high volumes. Outstanding flexibility.
Concerns Minor intonation inconsistencies
Contact Carvin, (800) 854-2235;