During the 1980s, it was almost impossible to read guitar magazines or music publications without seeing a massive ad for Carvin amplifiers and instruments.
If you stepped into your local music store, massive posters bearing the Carvin named were plastered all over the walls.
Although we’ve forgotten a lot about this brand after a generation, one of Carvin’s best products is still in high demand.
The Carvin X100B delivers multiple sounds with plenty of versatility, offering a high-quality finish that no one else gets closed to producing. That’s why artists from Steve Vai to Frank Zappa were always using this equipment.
After being out of production for several years, Carvin has reintroduced the head and the 4×12 combo in the late 2000s.
Carvin X100B Review
What makes the Carvin X100B an inviting amp is its clean sound. Everything you’ve ever read or heard about this channel is 100% true. You won’t hear something warmer, purer, or louder from an amp. When you need something for the stage or at home that stands on its own merits, this amplifier delivers.
If you play the updated version of the Carvin X100B, you’ll get a half stack with a 4×12 cabinet if you purchase the full combo. When the new models reached the market, you could select from several different coverage options.
The amplifier head is a dual-channel 100w amp with 50 and 25 settings for a custom output. Although it comes with four stock 6L6 tubes, it can also use 5881 or EL34 options.
You’ll also get three AX7 tubes for driving the preamp with this investment. You’ll see a master volume with a switchable boost, a five-band graphic EQ with dual assignments, and four GT12 speakers in the cabinet that you could pay to upgrade to Celestion V30s.
Since the Carvin X100B went out of production again, you’ll want to shop carefully in the second-hand market because the Celestion upgrade tends to operate better than the stock model. It’s cleaner, crisper, and has an extra touch of warmth that you want to have with the guitar.
The headroom for this amp is fantastic. You’ll find that it can maintain a basic sound even when the volume gets cranked to the top. It responds well to each control, although the EQ seems to be more for value than practicality.
Distortion on the Carvin X100B Is Surprisingly Good
Although the Carvin X100B became famous for its clean sound, you’ll still be impressed by what the overdrive channel offers. It tends to lean into more blues and rhythm than something on the extreme end of the rock spectrum, but you can certainly shred with it if you want. Everything is first class with the updated design.
If you’re not concerned about distortion, the older Carvin X100B from the 1980s has a slightly warmer tone while offering a touch of feedback and overdrive. It’s more conditioned for a straight-up rock set.
Once you see the rear panel on the amp, you’ll discover how innovative the design is for the modern musician.
Carvin allows it to run at different power levels, which means you can accommodate the needs of most locations. You even have preset bias settings for the various tubes.
When you hear the sounds come through the cabinet, the Celestion speakers do an excellent job of representing what you want to hear. You’ll find the bottom half of the combo works well for authentic distribution, providing enough stability to get you through almost any gig without a problem.
A reissue rarely sounds better than the original, but you might walk away from playing the new model with that perspective. The built quality is excellent, the sounds are impressive, and the retail price on the updated design is under $1,400 new. If you only want the head, you can pick it up for around $500 today.
If you buy the 1980s version of the X100B, you’ll pay up to $200 more for the head if it is in excellent condition.
Frank Zappa loved the clean channel on the X100B. Steve Vai recorded “Blue Powder” on his first solo album with this equipment. If you’re a creative guitarist, you’ll want to review the specs for this amplifier so that you can see how much support it offers.
It’s important to remember that the amp comes with 6L6 power tubes to deliver a powerful output with a responsive tone. If you play soft, the tubes stay clean. When you increase your attack, the sounds progress naturally with your style.
|RMS Power:||100, 50, or 25 watts available with its switchable design.|
|Output Impedance:||4, 8, or 16 ohms, also switchable.|
|Input Impedance:||220,000 ohms|
|Tone Controls:||Presence, Bass, Middle, and Treble|
|Graphic EQ:||18 dB boost or cut with a 5-band design.|
|Footswitch Functions:||FS44L: channel, reverb, boost, mute, and effect loop; FS22: channel and reverb|
|Voiced Line Out:||1.5 VAC at 100 watts RMS|
|Preamp Tubes:||3x dual-stage 12AX7|
|Power Amp Tubes:||4x 6L6, switchable to EL34|
|Cabinet Size:||Head: 24.25 x 10.5 x 9.5 inches; Combo: 26 x 17.5 x 10.25 inches|
|Weight:||35 pounds (head) or 58 pounds (combo)|
Carvin made the cabinet with a multi-ply hardwood so that it delivers fantastic resonance. It’s carpeted to avoid overlapping or bounce back while providing the shimmering highs and reproduced characteristics that the brand has featured since 1949.
Getting Started with the Carvin X100B
Most guitarists want to plug in the new amp to start playing right away. If you have the Carvin X100B, you’ll want to have a 120 or 230 AC grounded power outlet available to use.
You’ll also need a standard guitar cord and your instrument. If you have the head version, a speaker cord and cabinet are necessary to start creating music.
The first step is to plug in the speaker while setting the Speaker OHMS switch to match your equipment. If you have an FS44L footswitch, you’ll need to use the five-pin jack in the back. It helps to turn all your volume controls off before plugging the amp into the power source.
After you have the amp connected to AC power, plug in your guitar. Turn the power switch to the on position.
It takes approximately 60 seconds for the tubes to warm up enough for use. Once you complete this waiting period, you can turn the standby switch over to operate. You’ll discover that the Carvin X100B is ready to start playing in seconds.
As you start to strum, gradually raise the volume levels at the master and channel until you reach a level of your liking. You can readjust the tone through the experimentation process. If you’re not getting the sounds you want, it could be due to shipping damage that occurs with the tubes, which would require a replacement.
Playing the Guitar with the Carvin X100B
I’ve found that the Carvin X100B works better when you use a shorter guitar cord. If you’re more than 25 feet away from the equipment, the sound quality degrades quickly. You’ll want to use a greater capacitance for longer distances, but the amplifier works better when you can stay under 50pf.
Although it’s possible to use a long cable with a high capacitance while playing, you’ll notice a significant reduction in the overall treble response.
The AC power cord that you get with the Carvin X100B is detachable, although I’m not the biggest fan of the design.
You’ll need the European 230V export model if your receptacles use the CEE-7 design. You’ll want to review the rear power cord label first to ensure you’re using the correct levels.
It would be best if you never tried to use the amp without the ground connected. The fuse is within the AC power cord receptacle. If your Carvin amp doesn’t turn on, unplug it so that you can check on this item. Only a fuse of the same type and size will work if a replacement is necessary.
Troubleshooting the Carvin X100B Amplifier
I’ve found a few issues while using the Carvin X100B that were easily solvable, although the information was not available online when searching for it. That’s why this brief troubleshooting guide is included in case you encounter similar problems.
■ What if I’m getting feedback from the lead channel?
The Carvin X100B can deliver feedback when the presence, treble, drive, or volume settings are set to their maximum levels. This outcome is normal, just as it would be on any other high-gain tube amp. If you want to control the noise or unwanted sounds, I’ve found it helpful to reduce the drive settings.
You can also move your guitar to the side of the amp to resolve some problems. It might also help to play further away from the equipment.
■ What happens if I have a malfunctioning tube?
It’s not uncommon for tube issues to develop with the Carvin X100B. The preamp tubes are the smaller of the two options included, located in the V1, V2, and V3 in your chassis. The V1 is the closest to the instrument input.
If your amp sounds dull or muddy, you’ll need to replace all the tubes to restore the sound. If you’re only experiencing overdrive issues, replace the V2. When no output is heard after putting a signal through the effect return, you’ll want to replace the V3.
■ What if I don’t have output after replacing the preamp tubes?
If you don’t get output after replacing the preamp tubes with the Carvin X100b, you’ll want to look at replacing the EL34s next. This option also works when a fuse blows unexpectedly with the amp.
If the amp stops working and the fuse blows, try turning the amp off and replacing the power tubes. It is possible that one of them could have a short.
For me, the best way to avoid problems with the Carvin X100 is to inspect your amp for damage before it comes into your possession. If you find any problems, notify the owner or shipping company immediately.
Record the serial number, save your invoice, and keep track of any repair logs that might be part of the history of the product.
I’ve found that the Carvin X100B is worth the investment. Although there are high-quality alternatives that produce richer sounds, you’ll pay $4,500 or more to achieve that result. Why invest that much cash when you can get something nearly equal to those results for three times less?