Classically-inspired bolt-on basses are nothing new to Carvin. We have such options from the B40 / 50 series and other basses. But they were, on the whole, instruments inspired by the J-bass. Why no P-bass? Well, you need that iconic split pickup first, and since Carvin makes all of their own pickups and electronics, we’ve had the classic ‘chicken / egg puzzle’. With the introduction of Carvin’s new SCP alnico V split-coil single-coil pickup, the path has been cleared for a suitable P bass in Carvin’s range. Jeff Kiesel explains, “Yes, this is Carvin’s very first split coil pickup. I don’t know why it took so long. It was something I was asked all the time, and I finally took matters into my own hands in November 2012 and started on this PB bass as my first instrument design. Tonally, we wanted a full range of dynamics, while also providing the thunderous bass that was lacking in our range. “
PB basses don’t just sit on a solid foundation, they take it to the next level. As good as they have been (and they’ve been very good for a very long time), Carvin seems to keep improving his playing when it comes to the bass they produce. Every time they release a new series of basses, like the B40 / 50 and Brian Bromberg’s signature model, Carvin seems to be tweaking the apple a bit more. Nothing big jumps out at you, but they just seem to keep doing the little things better and better.
Dial a PB5
When Carvin offered us the opportunity to review one of their new PB series basses, they suggested that we use their online “Bass Builder” setup tool and place an order for the exact instrument at examine. How could I say no? Although Carvin offers the P / J option (and even the ability to add his HB humbucker in the bridge pickup position), I felt that the real test of an excellent P-bass was there with the single split-pickup. coil, and I resisted the temptation to add a bridge pickup. Likewise, a P-bass should just sound in passive mode, without any on-board preamp trickery. So our review bass is a straightforward passive affair. That’s not to say that the added versatility of a bridge pickup and / or a built-in preamp option might not be a good thing. Far from there. However, there is a certain beauty to a nice, passively operated, split-coil pickup.
Carvin offers an impressive number of options to choose from, and it starts with the woods on the body and neck. While I let myself be tempted by mahogany, black limba, walnut and koa, I really like a nice P-bass with an alder body. I did pull the trigger on a 4A quilted maple top, however. For the neck, we kept the traditional stuff, going with maple (one piece) and the standard rosewood fingerboard. Basically we have a fairly simple and proven combination: alder / rosewood, passive, single-P layout. However, knowing Carvin’s ability to produce breathtakingly beautiful instruments, I felt like I had to challenge them a bit when it comes to aesthetics. To show off that quilted maple top, I opted for the Deep Aqua Burst (which includes their DTS finish – triple deep stain – finish) and a matching headstock. To complete the look, I went for abalone block inlays, black hardware, and a white mother-of-pearl pickguard. This potentially daring combination would have been easy to go wrong. However, if you get it right, quilt maple, abalone, and a pearloid guard can work together very well.
In terms of price, our test bass cost around $ 1,400, but you can order a simple Jane model for around $ 900, and that’s just a bargain for an instrument made in the USA, with a solid warranty. of 5 years, from a solidly established company.
The moment of truth
When the large Carvin box was delivered last December, it took a lot of restraint to wait for it to acclimate to the warmer interior temperatures. When I was finally ready to open the case, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Once the cover was up, I knew Carvin had nailed it. The maple quilting is big and deep, and the Deep Aqua Burst invites you to dive and swim. The deep, rich rosewood plank cradles these abalone blocks, and the pearloid white pickguard really brings it all together. I almost always prefer black hardware, and black definitely works on this bass. Okay, we have a spectator on our hands. But how does it play and sound?
Picking up the PB5 and grabbing the neck is immediately rewarding. It’s a great neck profile (between a J style and a P style), and the oil finish is perfect. The 22 medium jumbo frets were nicely finished and felt great below. Likewise, the cut-out heel of the neck makes accessing the upper registers easier and more comfortable. The slightly undersized body (compared to a Precision) gives an appropriate ‘modern / vintage’ feel and your right hand still feels comfortable in the presence of a single split-P pickup. I firmly believe that in order for an electric bass to sound great when amplified, it must also sound great when played unplugged. Electronics can certainly help you get the most out of what you have, but the really good bass all seem to sound really good there in your hands, without any outside help. This PB5 passed this particular test with flying colors. 30 seconds after starting my exam, I knew I had a winner in my hands.