If you want a good guitar, you might pick an Ibanez or Schecter. When you want a great guitar, you’d probably choose something from Gibson or Fender.
What if you want only the best for your musical needs?
In that situation, you might turn to Kiesel Guitars. These instruments aren’t sold in retail shops, and they’re rarely available online to purchase at any site except the brand’s e-commerce platform.
Why are Kiesel guitars hard to purchase compared to other brands? The company started as a family-owned, factory-direct business, and that approach has never changed.
You can discover what guitars are in stock right now for this brand by clicking this link. The inventory is variable, which means there might not be anything available if you’re thinking about this instrument for your playing needs today.
Carvin Kiesel Guitars Review: Is Kiesel Carvin a Good Brand?
Carvin Kiesel guitars deliver high-end, custom instruments that offer a unique sound while employing the Fender-style construction for the body and frets. The company has been making multiple designs, including 7-string guitars, for more than 70 years.
When you select Kiesel Custom Guitars for your music, you can have a one-of-a-kind instrument.
The brand provides a complete lineup for your consideration, including multiscale fanned fret guitars, carved tops, MIDI synth access, headless guitars, extended-scale designs, baritone guitars, acoustics, and electrics.
You’ll find that Carvin Kiesel Guitars offer signature models from various artists, including Christ Litchford, Allan Holdsworth, Brian Bromberg, Jason Becker, and Craig Chaquico.
If you need something other than the regular series guitars from Kiesel, the brand’s custom shop builds to your specifications using American-sourced products.
Even with the customized experience, the price remains competitive because you’re purchasing the instrument direct from the manufacturer.
Several hundred options are available for the guitar build, including hardware, fretware, electronics, pickups, inlays, and exotic woods for the body and neck.
If you want an instrument perfectly suited for your playing style, it’s tough to find a better brand than Kiesel to deliver what you need.
History of Kiesel Guitars
Kiesel Guitars delivers a playing experience that is up to three times cheaper than if you bought an instrument of a similar quality through a retailer.
The company produces guitars, basses, and specialty designs suitable for hobbyists, professionals, and everyone in-between.
There is some confusion in the name. Some people call them Carvin Guitars. Others say that they’re Kiesel Guitars.
You’ll also see Carvin Kiesel and Kiesel Carvin listed when people try to sell their instruments on the second-hand market.
The company’s name today is Kiesel Custom Guitars. When Lowell Kiesel founded the company in 1946, it was called the L.C. Kiesel Company.
He moved from Los Angeles to Nebraska briefly before returning to California in 1949.
When Kiesel returned, he called his guitar company “Carvin.” It’s the combination of the names of his two sons, Carson and Gavin.
The company was making accessories, pickups, and parts until they started making them in their facilities.
Those earliest instruments were made by Kiesel personally, along with selling some rebadged instruments from Harmony and Kay.
Carvin Guitars stayed that way from the 1950s until 2015. Different influencers came into the organization throughout the years while the business kept relocating, trying to find the right combination of value and pricing.
By 1988, the company was producing basses and guitars with a neck-through design.
In 1995, the custom shop opened to deliver signature-series instruments at an affordable price.
In 2015, Carvin Guitars switched back to becoming Kiesel Guitars to honor the founder.
It’s still a family-run business, with Mark and Jeff Kiesel leading about 50 full-time employees. Their custom shop delivers about 5,000 orders each year.
What Kind of Warranty Comes with a Kiesel Guitar?
When you purchase a Kiesel guitar today, you’ll receive a 10-day home trial of the instrument. If you don’t like how it plays, you can return it for a full refund.
That gives the Carvin Kiesel guitar an advantage over the competitive brands.
Instead of finding a local music shop that can carry the instrument or process a special order, you can have the item shipped to your home directly.
This factory-direct experience has been happening since 1946. According to Kiesel, this option allows them to add more features and quality while keeping the costs low.
There aren’t any distributors or retailers with added markups that force you to pay more to get less.
Each Kiesel guitar comes with a five-year warranty for the artistry, materials, and quality control the instrument receives. Every unit is built in the company’s factory in Escondido, CA.
When you choose a custom shop model, the guitar features kiln-dried tonewoods hand-selected for your specific instrument.
The CNC router tolerances are less than .001 inches, making the guitar incredibly fast to play. You’ll get action to 3/64 on almost any model.
If you prefer a special edition instrument, Kiesel has you covered with that choice.
You’ll get to choose a custom finish, exotic woods, and receive unique options that aren’t available in a standard instrument.
If you’ve never had a custom-built guitar before, you’ll want to take the stage with a Kiesel instrument. It delivers one of the best playing experiences available today.
What Is the Cost of a Carvin Kiesel Guitar?
You’ll need to have some money set aside to afford a standard Kiesel guitar today. In a review of the company’s current inventory at the time of writing, there wasn’t a model priced below $1,800.
The company also sells guitars in their standard shop that rise above $5,000.
Although that price seems expensive, it’s essential to remember that the company doesn’t use distributors or retailers to sell the instruments.
That means their $5k guitar would easily retail for $15,000 or more at a high-end shop.
The company’s electric basses are sometimes a little cheaper. If you can purchase an “as-is” model, you might get a price in the $1,400 range.
It would be up to you to repair the damage to the instrument when it arrives.
If you decide to purchase solid-body electric guitars from Kiesel, you’ll get the best deal. The D6 Kiesel Delos is sold online for $1,299 direct, even though the list price s $2,299 for the instrument. That’s before you start adding items to the guitar to customize it.
Since Kiesel will build almost anything, you’ll find some interesting guitars out there on social media today.
How to Order a Custom Guitar from Kiesel
If you want to take advantage of what Kiesel’s custom shop offers, you can start the build process online for your preferred model.
The website provides a series of steps to help you pick out the options you want, including the hardware, finish, wood, pickups, and more.
You can build the instrument without an obligation to place an order for it. The boutique experience is a lot of fun because you can experiment with different looks and configurations to match your style.
You’ll want to start building one guitar at a time to play around with the designs.
Each new build adds another item to the shopping cart, leading to problems if you decide to purchase one of the instruments.
When you’re ready to buy the custom guitar or bass, Kiesel requires a 20% deposit on the instrument. You’ll need to pay the balance before the company ships the unit to your door.
It takes up to 18 weeks to complete a custom guitar. Once you place the order, no changes are allowed to the design. If you decide to cancel, a 20% restocking fee applies if you haven’t received the instrument.
More information is available by calling the sales staff at (858) 484-8277.
What Does a Kiesel Guitar Sound like When Playing?
What I love about Kiesel guitars is that you get several distinctive personalities for your tone and music based on how you play the instrument.
|Neck Pickups||🞄 The sound that comes from a Kiesel with this playing option is gentle, full-bodied, and emotional. |
🞄 It’s the perfect quality for your ballads, instrumentals, or accompaniment needs.
|Neck and Middle Pickups||🞄 You’ll get more of an echo with a touch of added vibrato when using this playing approach. |
🞄 It adds some extra personality and grit to the tone without it feeling overwhelming.
|Bridge and Middle Pickups||🞄 This option delivers the sound you’d expect to hear with a high-quality electric guitar. |
🞄 There’s a touch of distortion to add some flavor, but you won’t notice it with your note bending, slides, and other strumming techniques.
🞄 If you’re playing the melody, this capability is the one you’d want to use the most.
|Bridge Pickups||🞄 You’ll get a lot of extra distortion when playing here on a Kiesel guitar. |
🞄 It has more brightness in the tone at this point, providing lots of energy that encourage the listener to pay attention to your playing.
🞄 You’ll find that it is a lot of fun to use this option with your playing style.
🞄 If you put power chords into your compositions, this guitar delivers.
What I Don’t like about Kiesel Guitars
Although everyone has their specific preferences about a guitar, I find that there are a couple of things I don’t really like about playing a Kiesel.
Before it seems like I’m ragging on the design or the instrument, let me be clear: I’d pick up a Kiesel to play at any time. The build quality is one of the best in the industry.
My biggest pet peeve about the instruments, both guitars and basses, is that they start to lose definition when you’re playing the bridge pickups.
It gets to the point where even multiple power chords become almost indistinguishable from one another. The only option you have is to pluck the individual notes.
It’s also a bit difficult to get some vibrato out of the instrument, even if your setup and the pedal box are perfectly suited for that outcome.
Even when you bend the strings a bit while striking the notes, the tone stays relatively pure.
I get that some players want that in their playing. For me, when I hit the end of a phrase, I want to hear some wobble in there to give it some definition.
The only way to really make that outcome happen is to shake the instrument manually, and you don’t always have the space to do that on stage.
That’s why I tend to roll with the older Carvin guitars instead of what they are making now, especially with the Aries model.
It delivers more of the definition I want with my playing style while still giving me the warmth and depth that this design provides better than any other.
■ Kiesel Guitars and Customer Service Issues
It doesn’t take long to find a lot of upset people discussing Kiesel guitars on forums. The biggest complaint about the company is their lack of customer service.
When reviewing each case, I’ve found that most of the issues involve people not understanding what they were getting into when purchasing their instrument.
Since it is a custom piece, it’s not always possible to change or cancel an order when the build begins.
If you purchase a special edition model with specific terms and conditions attached to it, I’d highly recommend reading them before agreeing to pay any money.
I’ve never had any problems. Although I have seen some pictures about potentially questionable builds online, I haven’t had a similar concern.
If we don’t know the error’s context, there’s always a risk that things could get staged for social media.
The bottom line is this: if you want an excellent custom guitar designed to your specs, Kiesel is one of the better brands out there.
The Closest Alternative to a Kiesel Guitar You Can Find Online
If you don’t want to wait for a custom Kiesel guitar, only a handful of instruments are available online right now that perform in a similar way.
Although you could grab a Fender or a Gibson to enjoy their signature sounds, I prefer an instrument that offers some personality.
When people hear the notes and chords play, I want them to know that I’m the one making the strings sing.
That’s why I pick up the ESP LTD EC-1000 EverTune Electric Guitar when I want something that sounds like a Kiesel.
This instrument allows me to practice with similar quality and tone without putting a $5,000 guitar out there in the garage to work.
You’ll receive a mahogany body with maple along the back to give the sound a slightly darker tone than you expect.
I love how the bridge system provides constant tension, keeping things in tune for you – even if you’re an aggressive fingerpicker!
The ESP guitar offers the same 24-fret design as most Kiesel instruments, and the neck spacing is almost identical between my two layouts.
Since it uses Seymour Duncan jazz-style passive pickups, you’ll get plenty of personality while enjoying a fast neck and nearly perfect intonation.
It delivers a warmer sound with more of the wood tones that you’ll adore.
It works quite well in Drop-C tuning for virtually any strings you prefer to run.
Passive pickups aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for noise and brightness, a $200 guitar with actives will deliver more sound.
This instrument is for those moments when you want precision, which is also the way I play my Carvin.
What do you think? Are you a fan of Carvin Kiesel guitars?