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Author Topic: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review  (Read 8905 times)

Ryan Grandusky

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Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« on: November 20, 2010, 08:51:16 pm »

I am a very busy weekend warrior and long time reader of this forum, although I just recently became a member and this is actually my first post. I was in the market for a 4 channel 2U amplifier to use for monitors in an attempt to cut back on both weight and space to help me with remaining portable. I took a chance and chose the Carvin DCM 2004L amp over the Peavey CS800x4, and the QSC CX-404 based mostly on power output and cost.

This is my first piece of Carvin gear I have ever used, however, I have heard and seen others use Carvin LS series speakers before. I have heard my share of not always positive feedback about Carvin gear as well. As a company so far my experiences with Carvin has been that they have incredibly fast shipping and it was easy to use their online registration for my amps warranty.

First and foremost the Carvin DCM 2004L is incredibly light at only 10 pounds which is a big plus for me because all of my other amps are QSC RMX series amps and are already quite heavy.  Just looking at the amp right of the box, it looks nice, but you can immediately tell it is build to a price point. This is based on comparison with my multiple QSC RMX 2450's and 1850HD's. On the outside the potentiometer gain knobs seem flimsy and they are awkward to operate even with my skinny fingers. The power switch seems pretty heavy duty though. The inputs and outputs on the back seem decent enough quality. There is very limited space for external features with all of the open vents. It seems for saving space Carvin came up with the idea of having quarter inch outputs built into the speakon plugs, although I would rather have banana and speakon and no quarter inch like all of my other amps it’s nice to have at least two speaker hookup options if ever need them. I love the 300w/500w x 4 spec’d amp power as well as the ability to link the inputs for amp 1&2 and 3&4.

Before I got a chance to use the amp I cracked it open to see and to share what's inside. See pictures. I figured more people would want to see the insides of this thing so sharing these pictures is the main reason of this review. I took these pictures on my phone so sorry for the lower quality.

Once I opened the amp the first things I noticed there were excessive amounts of hot glue used to secure parts on the board. I also noticed the outpourings of some thermal goop from under one of the cooling fins. None of these things are bad to me they just signify less precise craftsmanship. As mentioned earlier the case fan doesn’t seem to be as high quality or even as high in output as I would expect from an amp, however, the cooling fins are thick and tall compared to the rows of transistors and because it is class D  this amp may not need that much airflow to remain cool. I was glad to see some nice big capacitors inside. I must also mention that the fan shroud between the cooling fins and the fan is pretty much construction paper, but does serve its purpose. I do not like that in order to change the fuse I have to pull the case open as it is mounted to the circuit board instead of integrated into a socket or plug accessible from the outside of the amp. The last thing I noticed of cost savings or lower quality is how the cooling fan wires are punched down into the plug instead of using a standardized cooling fan adapter plug permanently attached to the fan's wires. Pretty much all of the things I have mentioned are just obvious signs of reduced cost building in order to meet a price point.

I have used this amp a total of two times. In both cases I only used three of the four amp channels for a 3 monitor mix setup in a smaller 250 - 300 person bar. So two amp channels ran a single 12 inch Yamaha monitor (8ohm load), and the third mix/amp channel was two more of these monitors daisy chained. The first gig was running sound for a high energy 4 piece country band and the second gig was for a 4 piece 80's and 90's cover band. The amp worked out very well at both gigs. No problems were encountered and everything got plenty loud enough for the performers on stage. The amp worked constantly from 3 to 4 hours each night. Just FYI this amp replaced a single QSC RMX 1850HD and only 2 monitor mixes. I wanted to be capable of 4 monitor mixes but didn’t want the added weight and lost space of another RMX.  Only time will tell the true lasting build quality of this amp, but thus far I am very happy with this amplifier and so long as it operates trouble free for the long run I think it will pay for itself many times over. I hope to get a more high demanding rock gig soon to see how this amp reacts when being pushed to the max to produce the volumes necessary. If this amp can run all night with no problems I am sold that it is a great amp in its category (4 channel amps) despite the fact that it was obviously built to a specific price point. I also think that if this amp holds up the other DCM Class D amp models should as well.

For me this four channel amp capable of at least 300w at 8 ohms is exactly what I needed for my weekend warrior rig in order to expand my monitor mix capabilities without breaking the bank or my back and I hope this amp proves to be a worthy investment as I continue to use it. I will follow up after a bit more use. I hope this review was helpful for anyone curious about this amplifier.

Pictures:

Link  in case pictures do not work:
  http://picasaweb.google.com/111492270231434067346/CarvinDCM2 004L?feat=directlink

edit: (fixed broken pictures)
http://lh3.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhy5khAueI/AAAAAAAAAEc/zGE6KfAPPjc/s640/PIC_0354.jpg

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhy55XupvI/AAAAAAAAAEg/nla4b8nHjfs/s640/PIC_0355.jpg

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhy6HWpCSI/AAAAAAAAAEk/F-QXHY00TgQ/s640/PIC_0361.jpg

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhy6fWmoeI/AAAAAAAAAEo/1qrwjA7Gh4k/s640/PIC_0357.jpg

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhy6l0D8SI/AAAAAAAAAEs/E6FRK48Ha9I/s640/PIC_0358.jpg

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_5YMTRzDLA5k/TOhzUENCwaI/AAAAAAAAAE0/cE7d94cl8lY/s640/PIC_0356.jpg
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Ryan "Squirrel" Grandusky

john sanders

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2010, 05:02:25 pm »

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john sanders

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2010, 05:10:14 pm »

Ryan,

First off welcome to the forum and thank you for sharing this review with us. I've used Carvin products from time to time throughout my career and have had positive experiences with most of their product line, often times in harsh conditions.

Goog luck with the amplifier and report back after you've had a chance to put it through it's paces.
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Douglas R. Allen

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2010, 07:11:47 pm »

""It seems for saving space Carvin came up with the idea of having quarter inch **inputs** built into the speakon plugs"" <Snipped>

I'm pretty sure you mean outputs? Or is there some kind of dual in/out plug available? Also how loud is the fan? I'm on a never ending search for a home HiFi amp.

Douglas R. Allen
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Allen Audio

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"You can't teach common sense."

Ryan Grandusky

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2010, 07:30:11 pm »

You are correct, I did mean Outputs, I have corrected the post.  The only inputs are XLR. As for fan noise I can't complain the fan is audible and can be heard when the amp is on. The sound is just like a computer where you can usually hear the case fan and the power supply fan, however, it is quieter than most computers because there is only that one fan and not multiple fans producing noise.

If you found a quiet higher quality replacement case fan the swap would be quite simple. The fan is held in place with two screws and if you look at the picture showing the fuse you can see the red and black fan wires punched down into the fan plug.

Carvin's tryout period (10 days) may be beneficial to see if this amp would work for your home hifi needs.
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Ryan "Squirrel" Grandusky

Ryan Grandusky

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2010, 07:33:01 pm »

Thanks for the welcome! I'm hoping that this new DCM L amp series has the kinks worked out from their previous line I have read so much about.
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Ryan "Squirrel" Grandusky

Ryan Grandusky

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2010, 11:26:51 pm »

Update: Since my original review post I have been able to use the amp for 8 more gigs including a few high stage volume gigs. Each gig was of a different band including numerous genres with some more demanding than others. I have currently run as many as to 6 of my Yamaha 12" 8 ohm monitors off of this 4 channel amp with no problems and I am sure I can run 8 monitors with no problem with this amp (2 per amp channel). Due to mixer limitations I currently can only run 3 monitor mixes which is working out much better than my previous 2 monitor mixes. I hope to upgrade my mixer soon in order to expand to 4 separate monitor mixes.

So far this amp has shown no signs of weakness and has fit my needs perfectly. As stated before the Yamaha monitors I am currently using have a program rating that is very close to the 300w 8ohm output rating of this amp which is perfect. Of the 8 gigs since I originally wrote this review 3 of the bands really allowed me to push this amp hard. The three genres were a funk/hip hop/reggae band, a Latin/rock band, and blues/rock band. All three of these bands had a loud stage volume which required loud monitors. In order to meet the requests of the bands for stage volume I was able to drive this amp into clipping at heavy peaks for each of the 3 loud bands with no problems. I have been able to run not only loud vocals through this amp but also instruments such as bass as the player used only a SansAmp DI. These bands have allowed me to run this amp hard for hours each  time. This amp has yet to show me any signs of slowing down or trouble. I have used this amp for about 6 weeks now on a total of 10 gigs since I purchased it including the two in the above review. My concerns about the adequacy of the cooling fan are gone as this amp runs quite cool, and the fan moves more air than I originally thought it would/could. Although I have only used this amp indoors currently and have yet to use this amp outside in the Texas heat though that will probably happen next year. This amp is clean and quiet with no noticeable noise from amplification and the fan is no louder than any other amp (QSC RMX) in my amp rack.

The bottom line is that I am happy with this amp and would purchase it again. This amp fits my need for more amp channels in less space with less weight. In choosing this 4 channel Carvin amp I have been able to expand my rig, save on weight, and to help make the bands I work for happy earning me repeat business.  As I expand from 3 to 4 monitor mixes I will be able to meet the needs of more bands allowing me to expand to a higher level of gigs ultimately allowing me to use this amp more often and earn more while doing it. This amp will soon pay for itself which matches my definition of a good equipment purchase. The only thing that would make me happier with this amp is if it can last as long as my oldest QSC RMX series amp which is currently 8 years old and still running strong with regular use.
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Ryan "Squirrel" Grandusky

Weogo Reed

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2010, 08:49:04 am »

Hi Ryan,

Am glad the amp is working for you.

"I was able to drive this amp into clipping at heavy peaks for each of the 3 loud bands with no problems."

The amp may be fine with this.
Your speakers may not last very long.
It sounds to me like you need an amp with at least twice as much level to minimize clipping.

Thanks and good health,  Weogo
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Ryan Grandusky

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2010, 09:39:25 am »

I definitely worded this wrong. Better said: I was intentionally trying to drive the amp into the built in limiters (clip light) to see how the amp reacted and to see if I or anyone could noticeable any audible changes to the sound. Carvin claims the limiters are "distortion-free" and from my experience I have to agree as I couldn't hear any change/coloration in the sound. Well before I hit the clip limiters the monitors were way too loud for my taste so they work out well when louder rock bands come through.

Thank you for your concern though as actual clipping is perhaps the quickest path to speaker upgrades.  Razz
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Ryan "Squirrel" Grandusky

John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Carvin DCM2004L 4 channel amp review
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2010, 10:24:38 am »

Ryan Grandusky wrote on Wed, 29 December 2010 08:39

 Carvin claims the limiters are "distortion-free" and from my experience I have to agree as I couldn't hear any change/coloration in the sound.
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Thank you for your concern though as actual clipping is perhaps the quickest path to speaker upgrades.  Razz

By definition any change to the signal is distortion but amp designers since they have been making clip limiters (for several decades) have worked to make them not suck.

A big enough amp can fry your speaker without clipping and a small enough amp can clip till the cows come home and not make the speakers warm.


JR
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