There is now a "How to" bias video up for all you Carvin players. The video shows both the Carvin method of measuring across the standby switch and using a bias probe. These methods can be use for the V3, the MTS and Legacy amps and the older Valve Master amps. Check it out here, it's #4 on the list. http://www.eurotubes.com/eurotubes-how-to-bias-video-probe-Pro-One.htm
A note for you V3 players on bias: There have been issues with the V3 when running the bias at proper levels using EL34 type tubes. We first noticed this with one particular V3 back in April of 2008. Carvin recommends biasing all of their 100 watters at 100mA across the standby switch which is extremely cold and less than 25mA per tube, which is way into crossover distortion. To get the tubes where they should be, we recommend biasing between 150 to 180mA. What we have encountered with the V3 is that it will start to oscillate at about 120mA to 130mA which is still cold. This oscillation almost sounds like a heart beat or "motor boat" sound that you would hear from a bad cap. We have NOT encountered this phenomenon with all V3's, but we have run into several that have the problem. It does not seem to happen when running 6L6GC's but any type of EL34 tube including the JJ E34L's and KT77's. We do not yet know what is causing it. The only cure so far seems to be running the amp at lower bias settings which is too bad, because when biased properly these amps sound far superior.
Over the years Carvin has continued to add to it's loyal following of players who fell for the X-amps and with the introduction of the new V3 has given players yet another choice. The V3 catches Carvin up with the three channel crowd and does a pretty good job of it. Shipping with sovtek EL34's and 12AX7's it's pretty good right out of the box. The biggest complaint we get from customers is that it's a little thin and brittle in the highs and loose in the low end.
This can be addressed by going to the JJ E34L's which are the king of power, punch and depth in the EL34 kingdom. The JJ KT77 is also a great tube in the V3 and while not quite as tight as the E34L it's low end is almost as deep as the JJ 6L6GC's but the KT77 retains that mid and upper mid EL34 crunch.
As Crunchmaster Chris said in the review of his V3 loaded with JJ KT77's and ECC83S pre's "HOLY GUACAMOLE these KT77s are SOOO cool in my Carvin V3, all I can say is they have made this amp an absolute crunch monster!"
If you're not a crunch seeker and more of a mid scooper then look to the JJ 6L6GC's which will get you the biggest low end chug.
My favorite lineup for the front end is to use the ECC83S's in V1, V2 and V4 with a balanced ECC83S in V5 and then an ECC803S in V3 for the clean channel. The 803S's have that fat, thick mid with a very nice sparkle in the highs.
The MTS, Legacy's and Valve Master amps are also great candidates for the KT77's, the E34L's and the 6L6GC's depending on the players style. One of my favorite combinations for these amps is using an Integrated quad with a pair of E34L's and 6L6GC's matched up to together, an ECC803S for V1 followed by ECC83S's with one balanced for V5. This gets that punchy mid upper mid from the E34L's and that deep full low end from the 6L6GC's. This combinations gets a great clean tone too. If you scoop mids then stay with an ECC83S in V1 and we can do the Integrated quads with a pair of KT77's and 6L6GC's which will get a deeper chug but if you're considering buying a Carvin and you want a big low end then you better stay with the V3 because the MTS, Legacy and Valve Masters do not have a big low end and are voiced more like an older Marshall with an emphasis on the mids and highs.
The Belair's are one of my favorite amps from the Carvin lineup. The clean channel is surprisingly nice with a great chime in the high end and more comparable to the higher end EL84 amps like the small VHT Pitt's and Dr Z amps. The soak channel is the biggest complaint we get from our customers about this amp and it is quite compressed and can be muddy with humbuckers. The majority of Belair and Nomad players seem to be Blues and Classic Rock players who do not use all the gain the soak channel so in this case we can use an ECC832 in the V1 position which maintains the clean channel gain but drops the gain down quite a bit in the soak channel and opens it up. You can also use the ECC832 in the V2 or V3 position if it reduces the gain too much for you in the V1 position. Otherwise the ECC83S's are a great tube for adding warmth and more complex harmonics in place of the stock 12AX7's.
Last but not least in the current lineup is the V16 which any player considering a Blues Jr or a YCV20 should give a listen. The added ability to switch to the five watt mode is a great plus for players looking for a low volume living room or bedroom amp and the overall vibe is pretty good, not quite as warm and responsive as the Belair but very nice in it's own league.
All of the above mentioned amps are adjustable bias and routinely come from the factory with the bias set pretty cold. Carvin's recommendation for bias is also cold, setting a quad of EL34's or 6L6GC's at a 100mA draw across the standby switch is only pulling about 20 to 25mA per tube. I don't use this method, I use bias probes but if you own a Legacy, MTS or V3 then I highly recommend learning to bias the amp (it's VERY simple to do) and setting them between 150 to 180mA or between 35 to 40mA per tube using a bias probe. The amp will be much more responsive and warmer sounding. The bias on the smaller EL84 amps is also cold and can benefit in the same way from being properly biased.
Although Carvin has made amps since the 50's the amps that really started things moving for them were the V and X-amps which can still be found just about anywhere and these along with the Valve Master amps are a great alternative for players looking for a Marshall type tone with a very road worthy build quality at a great price.
Was Carvin listening? The Carvin V3 Micro is now a reality utilizing a quad of EL84's for power just like the Belair and Nomad amps, however you will now see that Carvin recommends a bias setting of 80mA across the standby switch which is right at what we have been recommending for years. The old recommendation from Carvin to set the bias on their quad powered EL84 amps at 50mA was way too cold! Thanks for getting real Carvin!