Carvin MTS3200  Head
Carvin MTS3200 Head
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glassjaw7 03/16/2011

Carvin MTS3200 Head : glassjaw7's user review

« Lots of amp for the price! »

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The Carvin MTS 3200 is a 100 watt tube amplifier.
The amp features two channels, Lead 1 and Clean 2, respectively.

Channel 1 Lead controls include Treble, Mid, Bass, Drive (gain), and channel volume.
Channel 2 Clean controls include Treble, Mid, Bass, Drive, and volume. There is also a push-button presence switch for the Clean channel.

The front panel houses two additional controls; a global Reverb control that affects both channels, and a Lead 1 Presence knob that selects the Lead channel's presence frequency.

Rear Panel:

On the back of the amp you'll find the usual suspects; a bias switch for selecting 6L6/5881 power tubes (which ship with the amp) or EL34s.
A switch to select cab impedance (4, 8, or 16 ohms) is included along with the two speaker-out jacks.

Send and Return jacks for the great sounding serial effects loop are found here as well. The loop can be switched on or off via the included footswitch.

A very handy and smart feature of this amp is that the output power can be cut down to 50 watts via a switch on the rear panel, which will keep your neighbors and FOH soundman happy! (it should be noted that the impedance does not have to be changed when running the watt in 50 watt mode, as it is not the same as pulling the outer or inner pair of power tubes as many commonly do to tame 100 watt amps)
This feature is great for getting that driven tube sound at lower volumes!


This amp is very easy to dial in, which will be appreciated by the guitarist who is buying his/her first tube amp, or the seasoned pro looking for a great value in a well built, time tested product.

Turn the knobs on the front panel and you'll notice that the overall sound of the amp doesn't drastically change. It's as though the amp was designed to deliver a general sound (albeit a very good one!) despite where the controls are set. It delivers its tones with only a slight variation from the eq controls, which is good since both the clean and lead channels sound very desirable!

The treble on the Lead channel is the one control that can drastically alter the tone, but once you find a setting that cuts through without sounding overly bright, the other knobs only slightly alter the tone for fine-tuning.

The manual is well-written and covers the basic features of the amp. No complaints here.

The global reverb control is a bit sensitive. Trying to find the perfect amount of verb can be tricky as there's a fine line between just enough and too much. Once you find your sweet spot though, the result is spacious, and beautiful tube-driven reverb that spills over when switching between channels or when turning the reverb off. One of the best verbs I've ever used!


Channel 1 Lead:

Channel 1 Lead is a very smooth playing channel with enough gain to get into hard rock or even metal territory. It is voiced somewhat like a JCM 800, but is thicker, looser and less defined. The trademark Marshall "kerrang" and wiry top end is not there, but the overall character is decidedly british, especially when using EL34 tubes in the power section.

I found that with the drive control set between 7 and 8 (around 2:00) this channel comes alive with harmonics and singing, controlled feedback that always sounds musical and is never stiff or harsh. This amp is a lead player's dream! It's gain texture is soupy and lead lines flow effortlessly from the player's fingers! Kick in a touch of the tube-driven reverb and it becomes spacious and full.

The Lead channel's presence control is very different from most other tube amps. No matter where you set it, the amp will never become muddy, harsh or overly bright. At first listen, it seems as though it has a very minimal, or no affect on the tone at all. But crank the amp up on stage or at band rehearsal, and give it a twist! You'll notice a subtle shift in the high frequencies that really lets you choose the right setting to cut through the mix. This is a very well thought out feature! The mids are also voiced very musically in this amp, as turning them higher doesn't warrant a harsh result, and only brings more focus, bite and clarity to the voicing.

The lead channel can also be set up to suit the hard rock riffer by shifting the presence and treble controls. With the treble past noon, the tone becomes a bit sharp. Dime the bass and scoop out the mids a bit and you're in the modern rock/metal realm. In doing so however, you sacrifice the warm liquid lead tones that are had by setting the amp up with more subtle high frequencies. I prefer keeping the channel set up for a soupy lead tone, then kicking on an MXR 10-band Eq in the effects loop to get the more aggressive and heavy rhythm tones.

Another thing I'd like to point out is how the bass control sounds. This low end control acts more like a depth control that can be found on some amps, such as Diezels. Adjusting the bass on the MTS is like fine-tuning the very low sub-frequencies, and never adds low-mid flab like many other amps' bass controls. With the bass maxed, the lead channel becomes extremely huge sounding and almost feels like you're playing through subwoofers!

Channel 2 Clean:

Switching over to channel 2 Clean, the first thing you'll notice is that this is no ordinary, dull clean tone like you find in so many channel switchers. This is a full bodied, warm, almost acoustic-sounding clean that chimes and shimmers! Playing a strat or tele through this channel delivers some unbelievable clean sounds! Arpeggios and chords ring out clearly and never sound dull or thin. The quality of the onboard reverb can really be heard and appreciated on this channel. It's thick and lush with beautiful tails that decay and trail off naturally with no artificial artifacts or cheap digital sounds. Amazing job Carvin!

Plugging in a Les Paul, I hit the presence-boost switch and the thick, round tone became bright and spanky and airy in the top end. This setup could almost pass as an acoustic sound from a Piezo bridge pickup!


Given the low price and high build quality of this two-channel tone machine, I find it difficult to nit-pick. However, if I had to make one complaint, it would be that there is no mid-shift or contour switch on the lead channel. This would allow me to dial in my liquid lead tones, and then flip the switch for playing aggressive riffs. This is hardly a problem though, as an eq can be used in the fx loop to attain these results.

I would buy this amp again in a heartbeat! I can recommend this amplifier to the player who is looking to buy their first tube amp on a budget, or to anyone who wants a great lead channel and one of the best cleans available in a channel switching amp at any price! A great value!

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