Carvin DC400 Questions

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Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby _dc400_ » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:49 am

I just got a Carvin DC 400 with 2 jack outputs, piezo for acoustic sound and coil splits for the humbuckers. Love the feel of the guitar and the way it plays but I can't really figure out how to work the knobs and switches. Btw, I am all out of 9v batteries so I can't test the piezo ATM.

I think I have only one volume knob that is working, and it adjust the volume no matter what setting the three way selector switch is put in. Strange. In addition to the 4 turning knobs and the 3 way switch I also got three "toggle swtiches" that flips up or down.



1: So I am guessing two of those flip-switches must be for the coil split? What position is split? Up or down?

2: What is the function of the last flip switch?

3: For the turning knobs I can feel 3 of them got a "groove" at middle position, or 12'o clock that is made sort of a natural stop, but I can still keep turning past the groove to 5 o clock. So because this groove at 12'o clock is the same on 3 knobs maybe I have only 1 volume control? 1 volume control that handles both humbuckers and piezo?

4: If 1 of the knobs are for volume, what are the last three knobs for, blending with piezo maybe? But that still leaves two knobs. What jobs do the final two knobs have?


5: What kind of neck and truss rods did Carvin use in 2006 or 2007? Was the carbon rod gone by then? Reason I ask is I saw some comments about the carbon rod and neck issues. So I cross my fingers neck issues was prior to my guitars manufacture year.

6: The bridge seems to be of the "knife-type-balancing" bridges. I've not yet used the tremolo because I've only owned a Les Paul until I got this so I am not used to having that option. But I've hear many people seems to agree tremolo is often causing guitars to go out of tune rapidly. Anyone know how the wilkinson tremolo bridge was? Worth spending time learning to use the trem arm? Or just enjoy the guitar without using tremolo and be happy guitar stays in tune?
Last edited by _dc400_ on Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:55 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Knobs and switches settings for Carvin Dc 400 piezo and active EQ

Postby _dc400_ » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:54 am

Sorry didn't do my homework before I posted. I just came across this pic. I guess this picture reveals all the secrets?

So I am left with these questions:

When I bought this guitar I was told it was a 2006 custom ordered guitar. It got a a wilkinson tremolo bridge and Spergel US locking tuners. When I started to dig into the flight case I found a piece of paper that seems to be some sort of quality control check, signed by a person in september of 2007. So most likely seller got the model year wrong.

1: What kind of neck and truss rods did Carvin use in 2006 or 2007? Was the carbon rod gone by then? Reason I ask is I saw some comments about the carbon rod and neck issues. So I cross my fingers neck issues was prior to my guitars manufacture year.

2: The bridge seems to be of the "knife-type-balancing" bridges. I've not yet used the tremolo because I've only owned a Les Paul until I got this so I am not used to having that option. But I've hear many people seems to agree tremolo is often causing guitars to go out of tune rapidly. Anyone know how the wilkinson tremolo bridge was? Worth spending time learning to use the trem arm? Or just enjoy the guitar without using tremolo and be happy guitar stays in tune?

3: How come the second hand prices are so low on these guitars? When this guitar was ordered I think it must have been a costly purchase, as it seems the first owner got a few unusual choices.

  • Ebony Fretboard
  • Quilted Maple
  • Abalone inlays
  • Spergel Locking tuners
  • Piezo
  • Stainless steel frets
  • Coil split
  • DiMarzio Joe Satriani pickups


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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Casual Madman » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:03 am

Hi, congratulations on your purchase! You need to post some pictures of the new-to-you axe, so we can drool over it. :drool:

Regarding the switches and positions: for the coil taps, down is split; for the phase switch, down is "out of phase."

Resale-wise, Carvins are notorious for not holding value - 40% of "new" price seems about right for the market, generally - but the newer ones seem to be keeping more value.

None of the options yours has are particularly esoteric - ebony is the standard fretboard wood on this model (and most of the lineup), the locking tuners were also standard, the other options were only a small upcharge each.

Let's see that baby!

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Sun Feb 10, 2019 11:48 am

That specific type of DC400 uses the same electrics as the AE185, which allows the use of magnetic and piezo pickups. It's a pretty good-sounding setup, even compared to more modern designs.

The Wilkinson Fishman sources, while listed as a VS50, has better knife-edging than the typical Wilkinson VS50 I've encountered on late 90s thru 2000s, and wears much better, like the older mid 90s Wilkinsons.The stability, while not that of a Floyd Rose, is pretty good for a non-locking two-post floating design, assuming your guitar has the inline 6 headstock, and not the 3+3, which will cause some instability due to the strings angling in the nut.

I have a DC127T with the piezo option, and it has basically all the appointments (except for gold hardware) of the DC400, which is really just a "package" deal of a DC127. All the options you mentioned can be selected, and several are default options. I can guarantee those DiMarzio pickups are *not* the originals, and plenty of people like swapping pickups, though the originals were very likely just fine (and probably the popular C22B/J pairing for bridge and neck respectively).

Carvin typically has lower resale prices, though the recently-renamed Kiesel brand seems to be garnering higher resale prices, for whatever reason, though I think it's a bit silly given that people are buying used instruments within a few hundred of new price. What does set yours apart is that I've not seen a huge quantity of quilt top guitars with the piezo Wilkinson, so even in Carvin terms, it's a little less common, though not what I'd call rare.

Welcome aboard, and I second showing some pictures! The quilted instruments are usually very pretty.
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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Koshchei » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:39 pm

In 2006/7, Carvin used a very strong two-way truss rod (same as on current models) and no reinforcements. They used to use a one way truss rod that needed the extra reinforcement, but they did away with it when they introduced the 2 way in the early 2000s. It's a good setup -- as good as anything out there right now -- and as such, you'll probably still need to adjust it periodically.

The new carbon-fibre reinforcements were introduced into the 8 string models in 2012, and then for the rest of the line in the spring of 2015. These new necks DO NOT MOVE; they are ridiculously strong.

Comparison (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JY5fqe_rDao):

Maple neck, 6 string, no rods - 192lbs of force to move the neck 1/4"
Same, with rods - 326lbs of force to move the neck 1/4"

Carvin has a lower resale than Kiesel because they had a much lower profile -- you had to know about them to know how good they were, and to know about them, you had to know somebody who knew about them. They were also notoriously conservative about how far off the beaten track they'd go with their options list (it was still large back then, but still several orders of magnitude smaller than today). Also, say what you will about Jeff's very SoCal approach to marketing, but he's increased the quality of the guitars from "excellent" to "HOLY CRAP" and doubled the company's sales.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby _dc400_ » Mon Feb 11, 2019 2:27 am

Yeah I will take some pics of the guitar. I am not much of creative type with a camera so whatever pics the phones auto setting in dim lighting manage to squeeze is what you get. But I will snap some pics tonight.

I got the inline headstock. Seems I can start learning to use the tremolo arm without too much fear of getting out of tune. DiMarzio's might have been a mod later on, you are right. One thing that is missing is strap locks, so that has to change.

I will test the acoustic sound tonight, if I remember to pick a 9v battery. Sadly the only gear I got at home is a very tiny practice amp of the very cheap type. Which means tonite is not gonna be awesome like testing all the blending options between piezo and humbuckers. It will be one output jack live only. As that is all the amp can handle.

Could I do some creating soldering maybe? Like solder up a special cable? A "2 jacks to one" thing? I know nothing about electrical engineering and Ohm's law means nothing to me, I barely know the guy.

In other words, I can manage to do the practical soldering to make such a cable. IF such a cable will work without damaging the internals of the guitar of even the amp I have no clue. Will it even work? Or will such a cable introduce noise? Or even worse violate Ohms law in the worst way so that black smoke will shoot out of every switch and cavity of the guitar or even the amp? I have in the past managed to kill various electrical appliances in an attempt to fix non working items. So I got very low self esteem as well as knowledge for anything electrical - no matter the voltage.

If me making a split cable with two jack plugs in one end and only one in the other has a potential to destroy something I will shy away from such a task. At least I will get a listen to how genuine the acoustic sound is. I don't have high hopes for acoustic sound by itself, like I don't think the piezo pickup will allow for doing a gig that requires electric and acoustic guitar for the set list to only bring the Carvin. Such a task would be insane. Rather what is intriguing is to start to blend piezo and humbuckers. I've seen this on a PRS a while back and that was really something.

On the other hand, if a diy split cable can be used without fear of damaging anything even if I mess up and swap phases when soldering or do other dumb stuff I will make such a cable when I get home and really get to listen to what see sounds like when all em pickups are live @ones. There has to be a potential for some unike sounds here, a creative blend electric/acoustic even possible single coil and humbucker, a lot of options to play with.

Sorry for the long rant. I tend to loose all ability to stay sharp and to the point when I write about something that is really interesting to me. I derail and digress so much and so frequently that any quick reply becomes long rants like this.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Koshchei » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:15 am

Um yeah. It sounds like you should stay well away from the electronics of your guitar. Also, make sure you get the battery in the right way -- you wouldn't be the first to fry the preamp by putting it in backwards.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:51 am

The reinforcement rods, as far as I know, started in 1996, as steel rods alongside a two-way truss. In '98 it switched to graphite and a two-way. These years of guitars came with a socket/screwdriver combo tool for adjusting the truss, as it used what is, essentially, a bolt head.

In the mid 2000s the reinforcement rods were changed. It was either around 2004, or 2007. The standard radius of the guitars also changed to 12" at the time.

In 2015, the Vader model was released, and was the first advertised as having the carbon fiber rods. Shortly after, it was advertised that every neck comes with those rods, and a demonstration video came out comparing the difference between a reinforced and non-reinforced one piece maple neck.

Oh, as for those dual jacks. The "metal" one that looks normal can output *both* magnetic and piezo signal. The blend knob controls what type of signal is used. It just takes one regular guitar cable, so no need to play with the electronics, or make custom cables. The second jack (black colored) outputs only piezo signal, and when a guitar cable is plugged into that, it will cut the piezo signal from the normal output jack, making the guitar capable of running two amps at once. It's a comprehensive design.

A word about the tone control: it lists it as active. It's more like a treble boost to my ears. There is a center notch in the travel, which equates to a tone knob being turned up all the way. Moving the knob further clockwise will boost the treble, so using dark pickups is not a problem with those electronics, and can help give greater versatility.
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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Koshchei » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:40 am

I thought they were still using a one-way back then... basically you could straighten the neck, but the string tension was responsible for relief.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:32 pm

I have a 1996 that has the same truss as a 1998 (still own) and a 2003 (no longer own). The 96 originally had its build card and case instructions, which included a section about truss rod adjustment, so I know they were dual action then.

I have to take the cover off my 204 bolt, but believe it has the newer Allen wrench truss rod. Still a two way.
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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Koshchei » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:59 pm

I stand corrected then! :)

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby _dc400_ » Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:29 am

Didn't get any usable footage of the guitar. Pics was too dim and blurry. I'll see if I can make it home in time for a daylight shot one of these days, or I will do it on saturday.

Thanks for the replies. Not too much information around for the dc400 so great to gather some background here. To be honest I had no hopes for the tremolo bridge, I've always been told anything but a Floyd Rose is useless and nut/string lock is mandatory to be able to stay in tune. Now I will start experimenting, maybe some cool blues jam sessions in the near future will give me an idea how well it works.

I think I will do a string swap of .8's to make things even more easy.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby Koshchei » Tue Feb 12, 2019 8:22 am

Check out youtube for how to properly stretch your strings out and set witness points. This will help a lot with tuning stability.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Wed Feb 13, 2019 5:52 am

A double-locking (Floyd Rose style) may be more stable, but it depends on the quality of the parts. A well-cut nut is more important to a non-locking vibrato system, with the pivot edges being secondary, but those tolerances stack. With that said, I've had about a half dozen non-locking Carvins, and every one of them was quite stable, until the knife edges wore out (on one guitar). The nuts were all properly cut, and the string paths were all straight.

Floyds may be better for grabbing the guitar by the bar (and ultimately cracking the body due to the extreme stresses in those post holes), but they're not really that far beyond a good non-locking setup for "normal" use, such as dive-bombs, pull-ups, flutters, and other such fun things.

Have fun with it! One word of advice: those acoustic saddles will pick up every kind of noise, especially when they're mounted on a hunk of metal. I don't use the vibrato when trying to go "acoustic."
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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby _dc400_ » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:24 am

Problems arising! I got fret buzz on the G string. From 5th fret and higher. Rest seems to be ok. I've ordered a new set of string, a .8 set and will swap as soon as they arrive. Then I will try to check to see if I got any frets that are not level.

Any ideas what causes this fret buzz? It is so loud now that is almost unplayable.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:54 am

That's a textbook issue when the neck needs more relief, unless the lower frets have small divots in them, in the "cowboy chord" section, in which case a little fret leveling is needed.
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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby _dc400_ » Mon Feb 18, 2019 1:12 pm

UnexplodedCow wrote:That's a textbook issue when the neck needs more relief, unless the lower frets have small divots in them, in the "cowboy chord" section, in which case a little fret leveling is needed.


Not really sure what you mean by "neck needs relief"? Are the pull from the strings putting too much strain on the neck? Will thinner strings help?

I've had issues with fret buzz before, both on acoustic and electric. In both cases I think it was the fat E string buzzing around 12th fret. The solution iirc was to adjust string height. I didn't fix it myself I had a tech look at them. And it's a while ago so can't really remember.

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Re: Carvin DC400 Questions

Postby UnexplodedCow » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:10 pm

This will answer your question about neck relief, and is a decent description/education source, even with a generic relief amount of .010" to adjust for. You may like more, or less, depending on playing style and setup. I like .008" personally, and use 10-46 strings, preferring a relatively low action lately; .035" @ 12th fret for the 1st string (small E), and .045" for the 6th (big E). But relief is a certain amount of "bow" in the neck to prevent fret buzz. Some guitarists like a perfectly flat neck, and extremely low action, accepting the fret buzz it brings.

https://www.dummies.com/art-center/musi ... ck-relief/
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