BelAir 212 review by Carvin

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (25 votes)
Carvin: BelAir 212

Features — 9
I traded a Fender 75 for this used Carvin in the mid '90s. The "75" was way too harsh a sound for me. I wanted a Twin Reverb Fender but the price was too high and they weigh too much to be hauling around. I found the Carvin at a shop used and traded for it after a short test. Also made in the USA was a good selling point for me. Two channels. One clean and one they call Soak. It also has a "Presence" knob on the rear that works only with the clean channel. There is a mod that can be found online to make it work with both but I haven't done that to mine.

Sound — 10
Very nice warm clean channel and the "soak" channel didn't impress me much. At the time I was playing a Fender Strat and a Gibson SG. The Strat sounded better than the SG with this amp at the time. After changing tubes and having a general tuneup done on the Carvin it handled both guitars better. Seems to handle pedals well. I don't have those guitars any more. I now play an Ibanez AS73 that I had loaded with Gibson '57 Classic and Classic Plus pickups (a combination which I highly recommend also). This guitar is a perfect match for the Carvin. What sweet sounds I can get now. I think the "vintage" feel of the Carvin with the semi-hollow body Ibanez is a match made in heaven. It's my "poor man's" Gibson ES-335 and Fender Twin Reverb combo!

Reliability & Durability — 10
It's a very well made amp that should last me a long time. It already has. Love the tweed too. Carvin has done a great job on this amp. Its reverb is very nice. True spring reverb and not digital. I have gigged a couple of times but mostly studio work these days. It traveled well when it did get gigged but I am nervous when it comes to transporting tube amps. It is a little heavy but not near as heavy as the Twin Reverb Fender I used to haul around. Someday I may change the speakers out but for the immediate future I am very happy with the stock ones.

Overall Impression — 10
I play mostly rock/pop music and don't gig. My Carvin is a studio queen these days. I would look to buy another if lost or stolen. I've been playing for 45 years or so and have had lots of guitars and amps. Strats and SG's, Les Pauls, Kramers... I've had a bunch. Fender amps have been my amp of choice over the years and now the Carvin. For what I do these days it's the only amp I think I'll ever need. I also have a Carvin SX-200 amp. It's not tube but has a nice character of it's own. I am a Carvin amp fan for sure. LOL.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    can someone please tell me if either of the channels on this amp can handle lots of effects? I play a lot of fuzzy, gain-y, reverb soaked rock music, and I tried one of these at guitar center used and it sounded great clean with even the cheap pink squier next to me... but I don't want to buy if this amp can't handle a fair share of pedals any info would be helpful, thanks!
    In the mid 90's I bought a Carvin Nomad and a Carvin VT-50 with 2 410 cabinets. I have modded both amps with the Hasserl mods and I must say they sound great. The mud in the "Soak" channel is gone and some very usable gain was added. Total cost of the mods $36. (took about 4 hours to do) Can't beat that with a big stick. I got rid of the Vin 30 that came in it (Just plain the wrong speaker) and replaced it with a Eminence Cannibus Rex. I also put in a new set of JJ's tubes and reset the bias. All of this made them both a MUCH warmer sounding amp and with none of the mid range hump. I love taking it out and watching the faces on Mesa owners when they hear it. Plus now my amps have a gain switch on the back to add or take out gain anytime I may need it. An attitude control that makes them snarl like a rabbid dog or as tender as a baby bunny. AND a master Volume so that they can have an inside voice too. If someone makes a better amp I really don't care.
    I just bought a Belair modded by Sovtek tubes and Warehouse Guitar Speakers Veteran 30 12" 60W British Invasion Guitar Speakers. As nearly everyone everywhere has noted, the "soak" channel could benefit from tone mods, and a master volume would be nice, but at $350 (used) this is by far the best amp I've owned (that includes a '67 Twin modded by the old Gyro Gearloose boys). Straight into the clean channel, no reverb, and it sounds like churchbells
    I put a pair of J B L e120s in mine. It heavy as hell but it sings for days. I play a 80's Japan Jaguar, a Sqiuire Tele, Ric 12 string, a standard Strat, a newer Epi Casino & a weird old 4 pickup Guyatone all in the clean channel. A lap steel sounds unreal. I don't much like the other channel. Only stomp box I use is a Behringer compressor along with a Space Echo. I don't think I've ever used an amp that did surf, 60's rock, Bakersfield Tele twang & with the Ric the Byrds type chime better. I got mine for $150 without any speakers but if it was stolen I'd get another. In fact I'm checking out one on Craigslist tomorrow for a backup that has a matching external cab.