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Carvin SH575 MIDI Access Guitar

New Rating:

4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

I’m going to do something that I have never done before and that is to re-rate some gear that I’ve already rated. The SH575 now gets a Tone Bone rating of 4.75 instead of the 4.5 I gave her yesterday.

I should know better than to do a review after only a day of playing some new gear; especially when it’s something that is completely new. Maybe it was my vanity in thinking that since I play all sorts of guitars that I should be able to pick up a new guitar and just start playing – and play it well. So shame on me for not taking more time with the Carvin SH575 to get to know the guitar better before I reviewed it.

It bugged me that I gave it a 4.5, which is not a low score by any means – I was really hoping it would be higher. So this evening, I went back into my home studio, pulled the SH575 out of its case, and just started noodling around to find out where the sweet spot was with the guitar. I originally took off marks for the guitar not really sustaining all that well. For the most part, I was wrong. The SH575 has a lot of sustain – you just have to figure out how to get it.

What I discovered is that this guitar requires an extremely light touch to play. That’s not a bad thing because a lighter touch in general means that you can play faster. Once I lightened up my touch, I was able to get some really stinging sustain out of it, and for that, I decided to give it a higher rating. Here’s a quick clip I made that demonstrates the nice sustain:

I added some overdrive with my trusty Tube Screamer, but it was pretty light. I wanted the guitar to do most of the work, and I added just a touch of reverb to create a little ambiance in the tone. Excuse my little mistakes in playing… :)

So why not a 5.0? There are a couple of reasons. First off, a high B on the 12th fret is actually a little dead. Not sure what that was about, but no matter how lightly I played, the tone of that string was just flat. Secondly, to me, the bridge pickup is just not very inspiring to me. I dind’t like it yesterday, and even though I really tried to look past my opinion of it, I just couldn’t get to liking it. As I mentioned in my original review, if I owned one of these, I’d lower the bridge pickup a tad to bleed off some of the highs.

But despite those two nits, this guitar plays like a dream, and in either the neck or the middle pickup selector, the SH575 just sings! That’ll teach me to get a review out too fast. I’m glad I proved myself wrong. :)

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4.5 Tone Bones - Very solid performer, and has almost everything but just missing a couple of things

Carvin SH575 MIDI Access Guitar

Carvin SH575 Synth Access Carved Top Guitar

Summary: One of the better synth guitars I’ve played to date. Great response time into the synth. Very well built and gorgeous looks. The one I played was a blue burst (not the one pictured).

Pros: Great looks and incredible acoustic sound, especially when plugged into an acoustic amp. Synth feature is VERY cool and the response is about the best I’ve played. Very light in weight – you could play this for hours and not get tired.

Cons: I was disappointed with the sustain, or lack thereof; especially in the top strings. Notes trailed off pretty quickly, no matter how hard I dug in and shook the strings. The driven sound of this guitar was a bit uninspiring, though the cleans are magnificent.

Price: ~$1900 direct

Specs: Visit site

Tone Bone Score: 4.5 – There’s a lot to like with this guitar, and if it weren’t for the lack of sustain and uninspiring drive sound, this would be a joy to play. In spite of my negatives, this is a very versatile instrument, and the mere fact that you have both guitar and synth going at the same time is simply awesome.

Several weeks ago, my good friend Dave shared with me that he had ordered a Carvin SH575 at the Carvin store while in Southern California on a trip. I had heard of this guitar from the Winter NAMM show, and was pretty excited about it. Dave finally got the guitar a couple of weeks ago, and let me borrow it so I could play around with it and do a review… so here it is! :)

Fit and Finish

Carvin makes some very pretty guitars, and this is no exception. A lot of care went into the details in building this instrument, and I have to say that I’m totally impressed with the build quality. The blue burst finish of the guitar I tested was quite magnificent, and everything down to the hardware was perfect.

Playability

Wow! I had never played a Carvin guitar before, and I have to say that I am incredibly impressed by how nice this guitar plays! The medium-jumbo frets are perfect, and moving around the neck is a real dream. Your fingers glide very easily over the strings (though I have to admit, I am NOT a fan of Elixir strings, which I think these come with stock). It’s no small wonder Steve Vai plays a Carvin. The SH575 is simply a dream to play, and this is really the saving grace of this guitar.

How It Sounds

I’m really conflicted in this area. Acoustically, this guitar rules. I love the acoustic sound of this guitar, especially when plugged into a good acoustic amp (Dave uses a Genz-Benz 150). But even plugged into my DAW from the synth unit, the acoustic tones were nothing short of amazing. Here’s an example:

In the clip above, I ran the 1/4″ out on the guitar into my pedalboard, and had the MIDI out go into the synth so I could have a nice background string pad to play over. Very neat! :) In other words, I have two separate signals going into my DAW. As you can tell, the natural acoustic tone of the SH575 is gorgeous – it doesn’t sound like an acoustic plugged into an amp. It sounds like a big-body acoustic with a microphone in front of it! I love it!

In this next clip, I’m running only the MIDI out from the guitar into the synth, then into my DAW. I recorded two separate tracks: One for the guitar, then I overdubbed a “bamboo flute” patch over the guitar.

To play these parts individually, the volume knob is a combination volume knob with one volume “ring” around a central raised knob. The center knob controls the synth volume, while the outer ring controls the guitar volume. With the first clip, I had a mix of both guitar and synth. With this clip, for each individual part, I turned down the synth or the guitar to isolate the signal. Again, very cool.

In this final clip, I feature the guitar alone. I wanted to see how it sounded driven. The end result isn’t a bad sound at all, but I really had to work hard to get some sustain out of the guitar, and instead of just using the natural drive of my amp, I opted to run the guitar through my Tube Screamer and a touch of compression to add some sustain and give the signal some balls. Also, I played this clip with the neck pickup of the guitar, as the bridge pickup pretty much did nothing for me. Mixing the two was nice, but if this were my guitar, I’d lower the bridge pickup to reduce the treble just a tad. In any case, here’s the clip:

Overall Impressions

As I mentioned above, there’s a lot to like about this guitar from the synth access to the acoustic tones. I was thinking that perhaps a function of the lack of sustain might have to do with the Elixir strings that are put on at the factory. I’d probably string this guitar up with either pure nickel or nickel wound to get more resonance out of the strings. That might be the way to go to get a better electric guitar sound out of it. And as I mentioned, the electric guitar sound is not bad at all, and if I were to rate it just on tone, it would get really high marks. But the lack of sustain just kills me; truth be told, my Strat seems to have more inherent sustain than this guitar. Sad but true.

Don’t get me wrong. I like this guitar – a lot! I’d definitely use it for rhythm guitar and for acoustic simulation; and of course, for playing a synth along with it, which it is particularly great for.

For more information, visit the Carvin SH575 site!

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