Price paid: £ 600
Purchased from: Rockstar Guitar
Features: I purchased my Carvin Bolt-T through UK Carvin dealer Rockstar Guitar using Carvin's "Guitars in Stock" section as opposed to getting one with custom options (I guess I lucked out with my timing to have a guitar perfect for me all ready to go), ordered in the christmas of 2008, so the guitar was assumably a 2008 model. Made in Carvin's "custom shop" in California, USA.
The neck has 22 frets, a 14 inch radius (which was the only "custom option" which my model of the guitar had, otherwise it's a completely stock Bolt-T), 25.5" scale length. My model has a maple neck with an ebony fretboard. Though Carvin also offer Maple and Rosewood as options for no additional cost to the guitar "Building" process, though a different neck wood costs extra. The frets are "med-jumbo" (.048" height and .103" width).
The tuners which sit on a 6 in a line headstock are Carvin's stock tuners, nothing out of this world, but they definitely do the job.
The body wood is alder, 2-piece body I believe, my model has a transparent finish so the grain is particularly attractive, I'm not aware if the wood picked for solid finishes by Carvin are of a similarly standard.
The finish, as previously mentioned is a transparent finish, the colour is emerald green though with black-burst edges (while earlier I said that the only custom option was the radius, some may consider the burst edges a custom option) and the quality of this finish is superb! It looks beautiful and I've recieved many compliments of the guitar over my two years of owning it.
The body style is very similar to that of a Strat (or S-type to avoid legal issues ;)) though a bit more lightweight and "thin", the horns are much thinner to that of a Fender alternative, which makes higher fret access a bit easier than that of the alternatives.
The bridge is a Wilkinson modern-style two point tremolo, though other options on this model are a HardTail bridge (though that would effectively change the model to a "Bolt" as opposed to "Bolt-T") and you can also opt for upgraded saddles with the HardTail bridge. There is no option for a floating tremolo with this model.
The electronics are all passive, what could be considered as an upgrade to the Standard "S-type" electronics, a 5-way switch, one volume, one tone and a "neck-on" switch. The neck-on Switch being a Switch which activates the neck pickup wherever the 5-way is set, enabling you to utilise unused pickup configs such as Bridge+Neck or all 3 pickups at once.
As the last sentence gave away and as the mention of this being an S-type guitar it's not hard to guess that it utilises 3 single coil pickups, the particular pickups being Carvin's AP11 singlecoils. Which use 11 pole-pieces as opposed to the usual 6, which according to Carvin prevents any tone-loss during bends.
Included with the guitar is a hard-case (unfortunately this is not avoidable and you do have to pay, you get an option of a form-fitted ABS hardshell case or a Vintage tweed hardshell case, the tweed being about 30 more expensive, I recieved the cheaper case, though there is a distinct lack of room, the 30 for the tweed I assume isn't just for the aesthetics!) I also recieved a handful of Carvin picks, a Fender cleaning cloth and a set of Allen keys (two or three of which can be used with the guitar, the other ones seemed to just be bonus! But there's no complaints from me!). // 8
Sound: It's possible to say I have no "style" of music which I play. I play everything I possibly can, meaning a versatile guitar is important. I have no fear to say that this guitar fits everything I do perfectly and it's still completely stock. And I play everything, meaning everything from jazz, to blues, to rock, to shred, to metal (yes, a Strat style guitar CAN do metal ;P) and this guitar never fails me, no matter what situation I'm thrown into.
The amp I've been using for a very long time now is a Laney LC15, and as of recent I've purchased a Cornford Roadhouse 30 Head which is played through a Harley Benton 112 cab.
This guitar, being a single-coil equipped guitar does have a certain level of hum, but surprisingly less than that of most conventional singlecoils (assumably something to do with their 11-pole piece set up, but I'm not too savvy with the technicals of it!), the guitar is very bright, being an alder bodied guitar with a maple neck, though the tone knob can shape the guitar very well, turning the bridge pickup from a shrill blues-rock machine into a very jazz suitable sound. Though for those who never touch the tone knob (as I know many are!) the guitar still gets a wealth of tones without touching the tone knob. The bridge pickup, whilst when partnered with an overly bright amp (which my LC15 was notorious for) can occasionally seem very trebly is very usable in most conditions, the middle pickup being nicely rounded and full sounding and the neck pickup being warm yet still with plenty of clarity and high end.
The sounds from this guitar are never ending! As I mentioned I play everything from jazz to metal and it always does the trick. The band I play in has a large variety of tunes ranging from songs which need "that" signature Strat sound to ones that need a much more "dark" sound and this guitar nails them all. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: The guitar was set-up perfectly from the factory, even after being shipped from California, to the dealer and then on to me, nothing has been changed on it (intonation, neck relief, electonics, anything) since purchase. The pickups were adjusted fine from the factory, though a couple of tweaks to suit my own rig have been made, but nothing major.
Everything to do with the woodwork of the guitar is perfect, both aesthetically and performance wise. The routing behind the wilkinson tremolo is a very nice touch for those who utilise the tremolo in that sort of manner. Though it would be nice to be asked for the option of the slight backroute as I rarely use the tremolo.
No flaws with the guitar, always stays in tune, none of the hardware has sustained any damage. The jack gets loose fairly often, but that problem's present with most of the S-style jacks so no major complaints here. // 10
Reliability & Durability: This section is where this guitar probably shines the most. When it comes to live playing this guitar has been to hell and back! I've played this guitar live many many times, from larger stages with a barrier between the stage and the crowd, to poxy pub-corners with no room to breathe and there hasn't been one problem with it, electronically or otherwise.
Not only has it survived my own live onslaughts but many people who have been rendered guitar-less for their gigs have borrowed this guitar and slung it about however they do and everything's still fine with it.
The hardware is definitely top quality, the wilkinson bridge is the go to two-point bridge of most guitar manufacturers (that don't make their own bridges) so it's almost certain to hold up.
The tuners aren't anything amazing as already mentioned but they do their job perfectly. Strap buttons are also solid, I've used this guitar without straplocks for two years, used it with some questionable straps too and no slip ups yet.
I would, and have used this in a gig with no back-up, the only reason I'd ever feel the need to use a second or third guitar live would be for alternate tunings.
The finish is bang on! No problems, the only problems with the finish (chipping and the likes) are from drops and falls. // 10
Overall Impression: Overall this guitar is great in short. It suits many, many styles of music, very versatile, great for most things. Though if you're looking for a more refined "sound" and you're looking at this guitar you may want to consider a pickup change as the pickups, are very versatile, possibly too versatile in that they're a jack of all trades kind of thing, though they don't do any one genre "perfectly".
I've been playing roughly 5 years, with my other gear being an Ibanez S470 the amps previously mentions and various pedals which don't really require mentioning (as they're barely used) but the guitar reacts with all my other gear perfectly well.
While I didn't try this guitar before purchase (was a blind buy, but with the specs and amazing looks this seemed perfect for me, I guess I lucked out with it.) no qualms with it really.
If it were stolen/lost, unfortunately I wouldn't purchase another one. Partially cos I'm one of those people who get very sentimental with their gear so it wouldn't be the same, but mainly because, where I bought this guitar for 600, since Carvin have attempted to cater to international customers the initial price of the Carvin Bolt has risen to 1000 which would almost definitely be too much for me!
As I've drilled it into you so much I shall repeat, the things this guitar excells at are versatility and reliability! There isn't a tone this guitar can't achieve (even with single coils which many accuse of being very limited) and it can take a beating!
Compared to the obvious alternative, the Fender Stratocaster I would argue that the Carvin Bolt is a step up. When I purchased this I considered it a "modern Strat which was roughly the same price as a Fender US" though of course now the price of both have gone up, the Fender by a mere 100, the Carvin by a large 400, so at the time of purchase I would easily go for the Bolt. Though to compare I'd say that the modern tweaks which the Carvin Bolt offer are very welcomed compared to what Fender offer (depending on what you're looking for in a guitar of course), the use of a master tone knob and a neck-on Switch instead of a neck and a mid tone knob is a lifesaver really! Adds tonnes of versatility and a lot of ease as it means no soldering to get a master tone knob (and unfortunately sometimes the stock bridge pickup does need a tweak of the tone knob to be usable depending on your amp setting).
The only way I'd improve this guitar would be to get rid of the pesky routing behind the tremolo so I could screw the bridge claw all the way down to block the tremolo. Other than that it's all pretty much perfect for me! // 9