Carvin is an American custom guitar brand. They are not particularly well-known but to those â€œin the knowâ€ they represent high quality and reasonable value for what they are. Many of Carvinâ€™s designs in their 1980s heyday employed through-neck construction, which is now established and used often. When Carvin started using it, however, it was in its infancy, having only been used previously on the Gibson Firebird and early BC Rich guitars.
In the 1980s Carvin began to gain a serious reputation, and their guitars were used by Craig Chaquico of Starship, Jason Becker of Cacophony and Steve Vai before his endorsement from Ibanez. Their amps are also renowned, and Vai is a long-time user of his signature Legacy series.
Many of Carvinâ€™s guitar designs are based on traditional shapes with their characteristic twists. However, in 1984 they introduced a very different shape to their line-up, which actually became one of their most popular designs. That guitar was the V220T.
The V220â€™s shape was unique and could perhaps be said to resemble the bottom half of an upside-down Jackson Rhoads crossed with the top half of an upside-down Gibson Explorer. It is a surprisingly elegant shape, and was available in black, white and red as well as a clear natural finish.
In terms of construction, the V220T consisted of a maple body and maple set neck, although quilted maple and koa bodies were options. The neck had 24 frets on an ebony fingerboard. The neck was topped off by an arrow-shaped headstock resembling that of a Gibson Flying V.
The hardware was high-quality. The pickups were an M22 humbucker at the neck and an M22SD at the bridge. The pickups had twice as many pole pieces as normal, for more sustain. The pickups came with white covers and could be said to resemble DiMarzios. There were two options for the bridge. The standard was a one-piece fixed bridge/tailpiece combination. The more common option was the then-new Kahler locking tremolo system, which ended up on most V220Ts. In terms of the controls, there was a master tone control, volume controls for each pickup, a three-way pickup selector and two coil-split mini toggle switches.
The V220 was a successful design which found favour with many significant rock players. It was discontinued in 1989 after a prosperous five-year run. It has since been reissued, however, and is in Carvinâ€™s current product line albeit with some changes. The shape remains the same, although the tremolo is now a Floyd Rose model, and the construction is thru-neck.
The body is now alder and the controls have been simplified. The UK price of this new model, due to the higher-end features, is Â£1226 (quoted from Carvinâ€™s website, and converted from dollars) but original 1980s models go for surprisingly little. A trawl on eBay suggests prices in the region of Â£300-Â£600.