Carvin CT6M California Carved Top

The Carvin CT6M is an outstanding guitar in every way. The craftsmanship, fit and finish, playability, and sound quality are all first-class. If you are looking to own a beautiful and versatile guitar, personalized to your individual taste at a reasonable price, this guitar will not disappoint. We have no hesitation in awarding the Carvin CT6M our first Wish I Had One (WIHO) award.

Rather than rely on Carvin to select their choice of guitar for our review, we purchased the CT6M through their standard process, ordering it via telephone and providing no indication that this guitar was going to be subject to a product review (manufacturers typically don’t like that kind of a surprise, though in this case we doubt they’ll be too upset).


Category Value Rating
Features 20% 4 stars
Usability 25% 3.5 stars
Sound 25% 3 stars
Documentation & Support 10% 3.5 stars
Price 20% 4 stars
OVERALL RATING = 3.6, which earns it a WIHO Award. 
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended

The CT6M features a carved and flamed maple top bound to a mahogany body, a set-in neck with 22 medium-jumbo frets on an ebony fingerboard, abalone inlays, and Sperzel locking tuners. Because Carvin guitars are custom ordered direct from the manufacturer, you can select numerous options to build a highly personalized guitar.

We ordered our guitar with the stock Classic C22 humbuckers, a dot inlay pattern (block style is available, as are other options including no fret markings at all), the Tune-O-Matic M bridge with string-through-body design (Floyd Rose and Wilkinson tremolos are available), a 10” fingerboard radius with a tung oil finish on the neck (stock is 12”, and 14” is available), and Dunlop Straplocks. A blue finish on quilt with black burst edges rounded out the options.

All Carvin guitars have a SNAGG microchip embedded in them. User registration data is contained in the microchip so that ownership of an instrument can be revealed by authorities if needed.


After removing the CT6M from the form-fitted ABS plastic hardshell case (vintage tweed hardshell cases are available too), we didn’t start playing with the guitar immediately. We were too busy admiring the gorgeous paintjob and quality finish/construction, marveling at how the catalogs and web photos really failed to capture how spectacular the instrument is in person.

Because Carvin guitars are hand-painted and feature different woods from one model to another, there is no guarantee that the color selection you see online or in the Carvin catalog is going to be an exact match on the guitar you order, and ours was no exception. The blue wasn’t as dark as we were expecting, but in fact looked quite beautiful nonetheless.

We ordered our guitar set up for .10mm strings and the CT6M was ready to play without any additional setup. In fact, we laughed about the fact that it was reasonably in tune after spending a week in transit across the USA from California to our New Jersey studio.

The action was low and the feel of the tung-oiled neck silky-smooth. If you’re accustomed to playing guitars with a traditional high-gloss finish on the neck, you might not prefer this finish option, but if you enjoy playing on an almost natural wood finish you will find the tung-oiled neck extremely enjoyable to play. The string tension is tight with virtually no slack.

The guitar is well-balanced and surprisingly light (just over eight pounds). Between the wonderful neck finish, superb fretwork, and a contoured body that rests comfortably against you, the CT6M is extremely comfortable to wear and play for extended periods.

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The 3-way pickup selector is conveniently placed and has the feel of a Les Paul-type of selector, and the tone control has a push-pull mechanism that activates a coil-tap for the humbuckers, increasing the range of tonal options available to this guitar. A coil-tap enables you to split the poles of a humbucker in order to achieve single-coil sounds.


We played the CT6M through two rigs – a Mesa Boogie Triaxis preamp with Stereo 2:Fifty power amp going into a Marshall 1960a 4 x 12 closed-back cabinet, and a Marshall DSL201 1 x 12 Combo.

Clean and quiet were the first things that we noticed about the sound of the CT6M. The Classic C22 humbucking pickups were quiet at all times, including when applying the coil tap to reveal their single-coil alter egos.

In the bridge position, we achieved the kind of rock guitar tone we’ve come to associate with Les Paul guitars and other rock-oriented instruments featuring DiMarzio bridge-position pickups. We achieved our heavy overdriven Boogie tones with warmth and sustain that comes from a string through-body construction. When we dialed in less distortion for our “cleaner” overdriven sounds, the pickups showed detail across all the strings utilized in a chord. (Inexpensive pickups, and less expensive guitar amps, wouldn’t enable you to hear this kind of detail).

In the middle pickup position the C6M provided a huge, deep clean tone with warmth, thickness, and a presence we don’t typically hear from a solid-body electric. If you’ve had trouble getting your clean tones to cut through your band’s heavy mix, this may be just the ticket.

The neck pickup position wasn’t as rich sounding as we expected. If you like playing bluesy, jazzy lead melodies, other humbuckers yield a thicker sound in this position, but the tone was very good for 60’s and 70’s classic rock styles. Carvin’s optional M22 pickup may be preferred if you seek that heavier neck pickup tone.

Documentation and Product Support

While documentation for a guitar is hardly essential, Carvin provides a useful tip sheet with the guitar that clearly explains how to adjust intonation, action, pickup height, string changing, and more. Although we had no reason to require technical support, we did require customer service assistance since Carvin forgot to install the Straplocks on our CT6M. The representative was courteous and gave us the choice to either have them send us the missing straplocks or credit us for their cost.


Our Carvin CT6M cost $1565 including the case and shipping, an outstanding value for a guitar in this category of high-end American-made guitars.

Other Comments

All Carvin guitars are custom built after placing your order, unless you’re one of the fortunate few living within close proximity to a Carvin retail location in California and they have your dream guitar hanging on the wall. It usually takes four to six weeks for delivery of your guitar, which can seem like a torturous amount of time to wait (we suffered for five weeks), but patience has its rewards. We ended up with a custom-built American-made guitar that sounds great, looks great, plays great, and isn’t a clone of every other player’s off-the-shelf guitar.

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Evaluation Short-List

  • PRS Custom 22 and CE 22
  • Fender American Delux Stratocaster FMT
  • Gibson Les Paul Classic or Studio

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