You may not have the brilliant technique, the musical credits, or the celebrity of Brian Bromberg, but now at least you can have his bass. The Carvin B25 (and other Brian Bromberg models) is a fantastic, versatile bass designed by Bromberg (and the luthiers at Carvin), right down to the selection of hardware, choice electronics, and hot color finishes.
Bottom line: we had so much fun with this bass that we can't send it back. This easily made our must-purchase list, and it deftly achieved WIHO Award status by the time we had run it through its paces.
As with all Carvin guitars, their dedication to quality and service—along with tons of customization options—make their guitars an easy choice for serious musicians. The hardware, electronics and woods are some of the best in the industry and with such a wide selection of body styles, colors and other accessories, you need to take a lot of time deciding how to customize yours, even if you just want "Brian's bass."
The features on the Brian Bromberg B25 bass include a long list of quality woods, electronics, colors and finishes. Ours came shipped in a hard shell black vinyl case, and the optional gold hardware adorned our Ruby Red stain finish on top of AAAA flamed maple—really a stunning instrument. Carvin also includes tools for the user to make adjustments and to keep the bass up and running at peak. Standard features on the Brian Bromberg bass include a maple neck-thru body design, 34-inch scale, 24 medium-jumbo frets, Hipshot A-Style bridge, and best of all, the Brian Bromberg 18V active preamp driving a pair of RAD-J radius top Alnico single coil pickups. Stacked controls for bass/treble and mid with frequency sweep are also standard.
We loved the look of the ebony fretboard (12" radius) without fret markers other than a signature Bromberg mark at the twelfth fret (there are fret markers on the top side of the neck of course).
The strings can be strung through the body or traditionally to the cradles in the bridge saddles. Ours was set up through the body. We prefer this setup because we find that strings through the body anchor themselves better for a more solid and consistent tone across all five strings. The active electronics require two 9V batteries, easily accessed in the rear of the instrument.
As we have seen in the past, all Carvin guitars are shipped ready to literally plug and play. As we have come to expect, Carvin does the set up adjustments from string height and intonation to the bridge and neck tolerances. They even include the required 9 volt batteries to power the active electronics. The B25 ships with a beautifully low and fast action.
However, when we first started our test, we noticed a bit more fret buzz than we like—can't help that sometimes with cross-country shipping (and going from warm CA to snowy NJ, too). But with a couple quick adjustments to the string height we were back in business and ready to play… err, we mean test, with no more buzz and low action.
The B25 has a very comfortable neck, and as five-string necks go, it was a joy to play. You don't have to be a fusion master to appreciate the thin neck profile, but if speed and technique are parts of your vocabulary, this bass will certainly help you to articulate your vision nicely. And if you've been hesitant to make the move to five strings, this neck profile will certainly make the transition as easy as you could ever hope for.
The B25 comes standard with a Master Volume, Pickup Blend and two controls for Bass, Treble and midrange frequency Cut/Boost. The Mid sweep ranged from 200-100Hz. Control operation was straightforward, and the bass was well balanced both standing and playing while seated.
After spending several moments admiring the great looking instrument laying in the case we couldn't wait to plug it in and start the best part of the testing process: Playing it! As with other Carvin basses we have played, we were not disappointed (once we took care of that minor setup tweak).
The tone B25 is extremely clean and clear throughout all five strings thanks to the Brian Bromberg 18V active preamp driving those two RAD-J radius top Alnico single coil pickups. If you're going for a retro/vintage sound, as you'll later read, you can come close style-wise to the sounds, but this isn't really your bass. You can't really bring back the noise and lack of clarity: this is a modern bass that sounds clean. Of course, if you're going for vintage tone without the drawbacks of vintage pickups, then keep reading!
The first amp we played through was a Mesa/Boogie Titan V12. Settings on the amp were adjusted fairly flat and set to the active electronic mode. The bass electronics were also set to the nominal flat settings so we could get flat sound to begin with. Even at nominal settings, the sound was quite impressive. The tone controls allowed us to get an extremely wide range of tone from super crisp highs to lows deep enough to cause floorboards to loosen and untie your shoes. Dialing in a specific tone was very easy because with such a wide range of EQ controls we were seemingly able to emulate virtually every popular and traditional bass tone we could think of with just a twist of the knob. We also played through a Peavey MK III and a Hartke 7000 to get some comparison data, and the B25 performed beautifully through each of our rigs.
Overall, the B25 performed beautifully with every amp and playing situation we threw at it. Sounds were clear, clean and consistent. We took it out of the studio and played it in a live performance setting and the B25 performed beautifully, whether slapping or really digging in. The Brian Bromberg B25 was able to quickly adjust tone to fit any music style we wanted. This left us smiling, and arguing as to who was going to play it next (Joe won).
With the five-string option and such a wide sweep of tone possibilities, the B25 makes a very versatile bass guitar. It could easily be your desert island choice. Whatever genre of rock, metal, pop or fusion you prefer, just dial in your tone setting and rock on!
Documentation and Product Support
There is not a lot of documentation necessary for guitars, but Carvin includes a very detailed one-page insert showing the neck and bridge adjustments you can make on your own. Battery replacement is easy with two compartments on the back of the bass.
There is also a sheet that gives the user a view of the various control knob layouts. Simply match your bass's knob array and you are ready to go. The only thing we would like to see is a sheet showing the user some sample tone setting positions (maybe some of Brian Bromberg's choice settings, for example).
Carvin warrantees the electronics for one year and the instrument itself for five years.
There are four basic models of the Brian Bromberg bass: Two four-string and two five-string models with all the standard features listed in the Features section of our review. At these factory-direct prices, you really can't go wrong with this bass.
The Four String versions are:
1) The Brian Bromberg B24 Flamed Maple Active Bass (MSRP $2,799.00) sells direct for only $1,359.00.
2) The Brian Bromberg B24S Active Bass without Flamed Maple (MSRP $2,299.00) sells for only $1,099.00.
The Five String Versions are:
3) The Brian Bromberg B25 Flamed Maple Active Bass—our test instrument (MSRP $2,999.00) sells for just $1,429.00.
4) The Brian Bromberg B25S Active Bass without Flamed Maple (MSRP $2,499.00) sells for just $1,169.00.
You might build yourself a slightly higher price depending on various options as you customize the purchase, but no matter how you spec them out, the Carvin Bromberg basses are a steal, easily worth more than twice as much as you'll pay.
Unless you live under a rock, you might be the last serious musician to learn that Carvin sells all instruments factory direct, and not at retail (other than within one of their three California locations). And though you wouldn't guess it from the price alone, yes, all of their instruments are manufactured in San Diego, California.
Overall Rating - Product Summary