Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by BeatleFred, Oct 10, 2017.
Carvin Audio Closes Factory, Will Liquidate Assets
I don't know why these audio/gear companies have headquarters in California. It's literally the worse state for manufacturing due to regulation red tape etc.... I know the music epicenter is California, but no one can survive in CA unless you are a boutique company or a tech company. They should have their factory in the deep south like Klipsch Audio.
The inevitable result of not selling out and moving all your manufacturing to China, like Peavey. They aren't really a respected "vintage" name like Fender or Marshall, and didn't charge the premium that one can when riding on such a name. Even with products like the Vai Legacy amp (which I own), you have the "PA system" company reputation that is hard to escape.
It will probably be another brand name to be tossed around by some conglomerate, with products that are made in China.
A sad loss for those who are losing their jobs, but no great loss otherwise.
I gather the guitar line will continue under another name.
Carvin's stuff was pretty good, but they couldn't compete with Fender. The latter of the companies has been on the cutting edge of new technology plus has an incredible legacy of vintage designs. Regardless of where items are manufactured, the US built guitars and amps are where professional musicians are going to continue to use.
Carvin's problem was over competition to a shrinking market. Both Gibson and Fender have also experienced a slowing of their business as well.
California is a very "poor business climate" state to start with, plus which, most of the populated areas are included in the South Coast Air Quality Management District, in which most of the normal paints, solvents, etc. used in guitar making are prohibited or very regulated.
Carvin's guitar business split off as Kiesel about a year or two ago.
Because of the aerospace industry historically, California had a lot of people with precision manufacturing skills. Even with CNC equipment, you still need that to manufacture good guitars, or pretty much good anything else. PWK went to Hope , Arkansas, Hartley Peavey to Meridian, MS and both had a lot of trouble hiring and retaining precision workers-they became starter companies (much as McIntosh in Binghamton, NY was) that would train them and they'd move on. The difference was that from Mc to Link or IBM or NCR was a few miles. From Mississippi to anywhere was hundreds.
The Carvin Museum - Early 1950's Equipment
Already is as "Kiesel". This happened a little while back. The part closing down is the electronics.... amps, PA, etc.
They've been there for 70 years. It's not like they just decided to set up shop there.
I've wondered how Carvin's business model worked since the 80s when I first became aware of them. Catalog/internet only private label brand with really nothing to differentiate other than a *slightly* lower price perhaps - sometimes. I never bought anything from them and everything I ever saw or tried from them was nothing special.
We are in the golden age of guitar/amp/effect manufacturers. Unfortunately there are too many boutique companies out there putting out variants of the same thing. Companies like Carvin have lost ground in a saturated market. With the way prices have exploded for gear, I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies follow Carvin. If you want something, get it soon. With wood scarcity, saturated markets, and dwindling sales, this golden age may be a thing of the past in a couple of years.
yes, with the 5th largest economy in the world, California is a terrible place to do business.
Exactly what my brother Peter has been saying for at least 20 years. When I started playing in the 70s the entry level cheapo stuff was absolute garbage (though some people love it as "vintage" these days - it was mostly trash). Nowadays you can get a serious giggable quality guitar for a hundred bucks. Entry level stuff is for the most part great. Mid-line stuff these days is amazing.
isnt Gibson billions of dollars in debt
manufacture products i realise California has a large economy
It may be! The problem that both Gibson and Fender fell into was buying up other music manufacturers that in my opinion don't really translate into market share. You might be able to cater to some brand loyal customers, but when it comes to guitars, it still seems to be the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul for the most part. All the others are just marginal at best with a select customer base.
When it comes to Carvin, they just didn't have that unique of product line, although I think they had quality products. They didn't have a very good resale value either.
Gibson Guitar Rating Hits Low Note
They are $520 Million in Debt
You have to sling a lot of Mahogany to pay that dept down.
It depends on what you are trying to do.
As far as manufacturing, if you are making a high end high per additional unit profit product that benefit from or requires Caltech or Stanford level engineering talent or highly skilled manufacturing workers that happen to be available in California, it can work out well. But for what is essentially a commodity product like Carvin's PA and sound reinforcement line, and their guitar amps, California is the wrong place.
"Business climate" refers to tax and regulatory environments, labor laws, and real estate and energy costs.
As an example, my employer makes a product that is used be telecom outside plant installers and techs. It was originally made up of several machined pieces that were (originally oxy-acy, then heliarc) welded, annealed, shot peened, cleaned, machined further, hardened and tempered. We were approached by a famous company in Connecticut that are masters of investment casting with the idea that they could do it cheaper as a near net shape investment casting. Their most famous product line, a category of goods not allowed to be discussed here, is a product for which the business climate in that state is exceptionally poor aside from CT having the same basic conventional business climate issues as California has. As it turned out their casting process is so good that the piece they make needs only trivial additional work before being used in the final assembly. Using their product has saved us several hours plus per unit of manufacturing time and reduced our cost of build substantially while being actually more durable than the previous piece.
So, when the company flew their engineer out for lunch with us, all of us who are fans of that company's products generally asked him one question: Why don't you guys relocate?? His answer was that as one of less than half a dozen facilities worldwide with their capabilities in investment casting, they have a skilled labor base that consists of people who have worked there since the seventies and whose parents worked there since the fifties. They like it where they are and do not want to move. They don't like certain things about the area, to be sure, but it's home. It wold take ten years to build a functionally skilled workforce in a "business friendly" area and 25 to get that caliber of skills overall.
So if you are building semiconductor process equipment, precision scientific optics, et al, California may make sense even though it is expensive and inconvenient.
When Carvin split the guitar operation off as Kiesel (the name of the founder of the company, Lowell Kiesel, who named the company "Carvin" after his sons, Carson and Gavin; for years, I thought they were Carmine and Vincent, but no. Carson and Gavin) the guitar operation made more sense in California than did speaker cabinets, mixing boards and amplifiers. The necessity of getting skilled industry specific labor to make guitars was much higher than with the PA products.
Carvin's PA products were reasonably good, but nothing really special. Their guitar line does cover a lot of niches that the major companies do not address very well and workmanship is good.
Strats, Teles and Pauls utterly dominated for decades and still do, but I have to hand it to Paul Reed Smith for plowing new territory and creating a stable long term market for something different in the guitar world. Ned Steinberger, Ken Parker and a few others did some great engineering and built some great products but they did not survive the long term market test, sadly.
Caarvin/Kiesel had some long term durability issues in some older products and as you correctly state tend to have crummy resale. But if you want a headless or multiscale guitar or a thinline acoustic electric or a MIDI nylon string guitar, or some other odd niches, they're the go to vendor now.
Wood isn't scarce. Certain species of wood are not available due to regulation and in some cases excessive harvesting, but there s no shortage of wood of many other species that are good for guitars. It's that buyers have been trained and sold on things like Brazilian rosewood which is a highly controlled species now.
The irony is that Brazilian rosewood, contrary to popular belief, does not grow in rainforests and in fact probably would grow nicely in several areas in the continental US and in several other countries. However it is slow growing and it is technically illegal to import the seeds.
Ash, alder, walnut, and maple are noncontrolled woods as are many species from Asia and Australia and several other North American species that are highly suited to guitar making.
Or be bought out by some foreign (Chinese) Conglomerate
Indian Rosewood has also been listed as endangered. Fender Mexico has started using pay ferro on guitars. Mahogany and Dpruce may be next.
Yeah, but they went on a buying spree several years ago acquiring consumer electronics brands....Onkyo, Teac, Cerwin Beha, KRK, Phillips Home Entertainnent, Pioneer Home Entertainment, etc... that has sucked a lot of cash out of the company.
When I was a teenager in the 70s, we were pretty down on Carvin as a brand. Something you got until you could afford your marshall or whatever. I think that was due to ignorance and an obsession to only buy what we saw on stage with our rock heros. Recently I have come to respect Carvin quite a bit, and I have a heavy duty 2x10 bass cab and 500 watt class D bass amp. A nice rig. As others have mentioned here, I have often wondered how they could stay afloat with a solid line of products that generated no particular enthusiasm and making them in southern California when all competition is in asia. Pricing in line with a solid product line, but in no way compelling.
I saw the guitar division split off and I presumed that was some sort of settlement among heirs to the owner where they wanted to go in different business directions. Looks like so far, the guitar guys won that argument.
I think there is a larger issue here where there are simply more guitars and amps floating around the US than anybody has a use for, which will pressure all the companies. Lots of kids are going into music using computers to produce edm whereas, when I was a teenager, the guitar was the only respectable way to pursue a pop music career. There are a lot of Asian guitars that are pretty good for a lot less than American Gibson and fender.
I am surprised to see Gibson buying all those consumer electronics brands--again competing with asia and these brands have long since faded from public view--and the golden age of the home stereo has long passed as well. Much danger when companies invest in industries outside their area of expertise.
In sum, its sad to see a nice company with presumably nice employees fail, but they never really found product leadership in any area---except maybe in custom guitars. Sort of a 'just as good as' brand with 'slightly lower than' prices. Nonetheless, I will be open to the idea of purchasing their used gear if need be. Some nice tube guitar amps at presumably very low prices.
Yup. They sure did!
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