Carr Skylark Review

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by senojnad, Jun 20, 2015.

  1. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    So far I have logged about 20 hours (+/-) on my new Carr Skylark. Playing time has been limited to home use, mostly at moderate volumes.


    The Basics


    Single-channel 6V6 combo

    12 Watts full output

    Built-in switchable variable attenuator 1.2 watts down to zero

    Low/High Gain switch

    Extended range Mid control

    Extended range Presence control

    All tube spring Reverb Celestion A-type 12” American voiced speaker

    Point-to-point wiring

    Standby switch

    Yellow pine cabinet with floating baffle

    21” W x 15.5” H x 9” D 36 lbs.


    Who’s It For?


    Carr’s Skylark is described as a “home/studio/practice” amp. Most published reviews also rate it as fully competent for small live gigs. It is an impressively versatile 6V6 amp that delivers an extraordinary range of tones. It can support just about everything from jazz to crystal clear clean tones to Texas overdrives and serious overdrive/distortion and sustain. Its flexibility is incredible! Notes are clean, focused and articulate – even as it moves through breakup.


    My use is essentially at home – I’m getting too old for gigs! I play mostly standard/pop stuff, some borderline country/rockabilly (my kids have called it “Country Elevator Music”). I play finger-style with humbucker equipped guitars. I have been using a Gretsch 6122-1959 Country Gent and a Gibson ES-335 with the Skylark.


    Sounds & Tones


    The Bass and Treble controls are full range. The Mid control has an unusually wide range which contributes substantially to the versatility of tones. The Presence control adds shimmer and more “bite” to the tone as it is cranked up. It sets overall brightness and cut. (Note: when the Presence knob is turned it makes a “swooshing” sound, which is normal. Had I not read the manual, I might have assumed a faulty pot.). The Hi/Low Gain switch adds brightness and a bit of volume when turned on. It adds more “bite” to the tone.


    The character and quality of the Skylark’s tone(s) are on a par with other very fine amps with which I have a good deal of experience – notably a Gretsch Executive (by Victoria) and a Standel 25L15. This is not to say it sounds “the same” as those amps – it does not. It is a different beast – 12” vs. 15”, 6V6 vs. Standel’s 807’s, and less than half the wattage. But it has the same type of fullness, clarity and articulation of the bigger amps. Given all of its built-in features, it has more flexibility. It is not as loud as the Gretsch or Standel, but it sounds better at low volume levels (IMO).


    The reverb is as good as any onboard spring reverb tank I’ve experienced – including Fender and Victoria/Gretsch. It can provide just a hint of space and dimension, or cranked to full surf levels – and pretty much anything in between.


    Here is a sound clip (thanks to Premier Guitar) that shows the versatility of the Skylark:




    At 12 watts, the amp can be LOUD. Even with the Attenuator on, at 1.2 watts it can get loud. Setting the volume control at 8 o’clock to 9 o’clock (at 12 watts) is perfect (slightly loud?) for living room levels. Depending on how the guitar controls are set, breakup starts to occur around 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock. If you want full breakup with tons of sustain, etc. for home use, flip on the Attenuator (unless you’re home alone with no neighbors within 100 feet). At 12 watts the amp clearly has enough power for clean playing at live gigs (IMO).


    Here is a video version of the user’s manual where Steve Carr demos the amp and explains much of the function and technology behind its features:




    Pedals


    The Skylark behaves very nicely with pedals. You may not need your reverb and distortion/overdrive pedals unless you turn them on and off during songs/riffs. Its reverb works beautifully with delay.


    Currently I am running through (not in this order):


    Nocturne Dyno Brain

    Origin Effects Cali76 (compressor)

    Strymon Flint (reverb & tremolo)

    Strymon El Capistan (delay/echo)


    If you are not familiar with the Nocturne Dyno Brain, you should check it out. It is not an effect – it enhances sound rather than changing sound. It opens up and expands your sound, even at lower volume levels.


    Soooo…??


    Obviously I REALLY like the Skylark! It cranks out extraordinary sounds, is very responsive and versatile. Build quality is outstanding. The built-in attenuator enhances its flexibility. Even at low volume levels, the amp‘s tones are full, clear and articulate.


    It is not inexpensive – msrp = $2390 (black tolex). Color choices add $100-200; two-tone adds $150 (or more). However, considering ALL the features that are “standard equipment”, its build quality, the sound quality and incredible versatility, the Skylark offers a LOT of “bang for the buck”!
     
    nozkcb and BallaBalla like this.
  2. Mejis

    Mejis Member

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    Thanks for the detailed review. I've never owned a Carr, but I've had the chance to play through a few and have always been impressed. Enjoy!
     
  3. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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  4. petty1818

    petty1818 Member

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    Great review! I have been testing Carr amps for about a year now and still need to try out the Skylark. I think deep down I know that the Skylark probably won't have enough clean headroom for me but there's something about it that makes me keep wanting to get one. Out of curiosity, how do you find the bass on it? Do you find that the smaller size hurts the overall bass output?
     
  5. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    The bass is very full and clear. It is comparable to my Standel 25L15 in that regard. Its "voice" is different due to difference is speaker size and power tubes. But the tonal quality is excellent. So -- no, the smaller size does not affect the overall bass output (IMO).

    To clarify -- the Standel has a 15" JBL D-130 speaker with 807 power tubes -- both were components of very high end Hi-Fi gear in the late 1950's-60's. Standel is 25 watts, 55 lbs.
     
  6. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    Re: Headroom. Here is one of the comments posted to this same review over on the Gretsch Discussion Page:

    I agree 100%!

    I gig mine all the time with a 5 piece group, even outdoors.

    I never wish it had more clean power, as it breaks over into distortion so smoothly and musically that it just sounds clean to most people used to electric guitar sounds, but I can hear its "hair."

    Tones range from tweed to brown face to black face ( of course not as clean as a big blackface).

    I love mine.

    I can almost use the attenuator on gigs, and have, but mic'ing it would be necessary if you really want to stand out in a dense mix.

    In 12 watt mode, it's can get all of a Harvard tweed sound, plus extra EQ and great reverb.
     
  7. BallaBalla

    BallaBalla Member

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    good review. Thanks. I like my Rambler a lot but I wish I had a Skylark for playing at home.
     
  8. petty1818

    petty1818 Member

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    Thanks for the additional info! I bought a Fender Excelsior Pro last summer just to have around for fun. In order to save up for more gear, I decided to sell off my other amps which were far too loud (%13) so for the past few months I have been primarily playing through the Excelsior. Anyway, it has a 15" speaker and I have really grown to love the volume/headroom on it, which I feel is perfect for me. It also has the perfect amount of bass. At home 12 o'clock is pretty loud so I am usually around 10 o'clock. However, when I gig I play the amp at 12 and it has the perfect amount of clean headroom for my single coils. If you dig in there's a bit of hair but it's just right. If the Skylark is anything like the Excelsior in terms of volume/headroom then it might be more of what I am after than the Rambler.
     
  9. senojnad

    senojnad Member

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    I know about the Excelsior (specs, etc.) but I have never played one. So I can't give you an honest comparison. Same with the Carr Rambler -- I played one about 8 (or more) years ago. But, again, I can't make an honest comparison.
     
  10. GTRJohnny

    GTRJohnny Member

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    I'm hoping I can hear one of these on my travels. I like Carr's stuff. The reviews and videos real show how versatile it can be.
     
  11. twhitehead928

    twhitehead928 Member

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    Coming up on a year with the Skylark, and it still continues to bring a smile. I started trying out some pedals on it. Pretty amazing that it took 8 months to need to hook up a pedal. Hadn't needed it. It seems that in spite of all the classic overdrive pedals I have (TS-7, ZenDrive, Okko Diablo, Timmy, Ethos), all the Skylark really wants is a warm, clean boost from the KOT's yellow side or maybe the Timmy set low. That's it.
    I put a set of NOS GE 6v6 tubes from the 60's in it and OMG! This amp really uses the power section to get its tone and the switch out made that abundantly clear.
    The wife doesn't allow pedals to remain in the living room, but this amp by itself is OK. The only other amp which got her blessing was the Swart Space Tone and the Carr Mercury. Maybe that's because the controls are mostly hidden; I dunno.
    I think I'll be offloading some of my collection shortly; I just don't use them anymore. Maybe it's maturity or maybe it's practicality but I think my chase for the ultimate amp is possibly over (had to kiss a lot of frogs). I'll probably still keep the Morgan DAG15 for the Voxy tones but that should about do it. Down from 8 amps to two.
    That's progress, right?
    C'mon guys, talk me out of this...
     
  12. porterburst

    porterburst Silver Supporting Member

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    I've played the Skylark about three times now, and agree it's one of the best amps I've played.

    Amazing tone stack tone that's very versatile. Clean or dirty, the tone just kills.

    Great attenuator, beautiful reverb, sounds fantastic with Strats, Teles,or Les Pauls, and just plain fun to play.

    Next on my amp purchase list.
     
  13. nozkcb

    nozkcb Member

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    I have one and I have to agree with most of the comments here.

    The one thing I found with the Skylark is, it doesn't play as well with some of my OD pedals like my other amps do. Not sure why exactly, but if I alter the settings on my pedals (reduce bass and output), it does fine.

    This is a bit of a problem if I have a gig where I'd like to use my regular setup sans the amp. I may build a smaller board with pedals that the Skylark plays well with for these types of gigs, but that will obviously get pricey.

    It's a labor of love, right?
     

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