Carver Audio C-4000 Preamplifiers

C-4000

User Reviews (14)

Showing 1-10 of 14  
Wilson Boozer   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 05, 2013]

I am not a rich man, so the selection of audio components has always been with this in mind. I bought the C-4000 over thirty years ago, and then it was a significant outlay, but I have never regretted it!

Last summer I completed my "dream" system by adding a couple of Bohlender Graebener RD-40s, along with the a couple of Carver AL III+ bass units with crossovers, so in essence I have a biamped Carver AL III+ system driven by two Carver M1.0t power amplifiers. Another amp, a Carver M0.5t drives a Yamaha YST-SW216 subwoofer. This handles <80Hz through a Carver DPL-33 Dolby processor. For five channel listening, I have added a Martin Logan Encore TF center speaker that shares the subwoofer amp, and a couple of Bohlender Graebener NEO-8 rear speakers that are driven by yet another M0.5t.

The C-4000 at first glance seems to have a bewildering array of knobs and buttons (I counted 'em, and there are 32!), but most are of the "set and forget" type. I bypass the tone controls entirely, and after setting the Sonic Holography and Peak Unlimiter levels, I hardly ever touch the thing except to alter the volume. For flexibility and durability, this thing simply cannot be beaten! I have spent hours listening to my favorites, and have never experienced fatigue. I favor Baroque, especially Vivaldi and Bach, and for sheer frequency response and dynamic range, nothing will test a system more than having to handle everything from recorder to bass organ pedals. Except that after thirty years the volume pot has picked up some noise that my laziness has prevented me from fixing, I could not be happier. If this preamp wears out before I die, I will seek another.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
gray.scott@live.com   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 09, 2009]

I purchased my C4000 in 1984 and have been using it ever since paired up with a m500t amp and a pair of DCM time window 1A's. This combination has such a wonderful musicality at the price point. I have friends who can't believe this technology has been around for so long and still sounds so wonderful. Thank you Bob Carver!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
jhaan92   AudioPhile [Aug 24, 2009]

The Carver C-4000 preamplifier is probably well known by this time, and in line with the other reviewers, it is an outstanding preamp. I bought mine for a song, and have enjoyed it immensely. It has a high level of flexibility, and when you toss in the Autocorrelator, Sonic Hologram Generator, and the Peak Unlimiter (Carver's response to the dbx dynamic range expander), you get one fine piece of equipment.

It is also one of the few newer (under 25 years old!) preamplifiers that use dual tone controls for left and right, allowing you another degree of flexibility. Other nifty features also include the buttons for adjustable treble selectivity (8 kHz or 2kHz), which are great when you have a recording that just needs a little more open sound in the very top end, but won't affect the mid treble. I don't really use the tone controls that much, given the fact that I have a Technics SH-8020 EQ, but there are some times when all you need is just that little push, and that is where the Carver comes in handy. I like the effect of the Sonic Holography, but specific room placement makes using it difficult, which is why I use the Lexicon CP-1, which can correct for offset listener position, as well as room depth. All in all, the Carver C-4000 is a fine preamp for those who like controls, but not for those who see things from a minimalist approach.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
O'Shag   AudioPhile [Jan 03, 2008]
Strength:

Overall Musicality. Very good linestage performance. Decent phono stage performance, especially for Moving Magnet cartridges. A positively brilliant headphone amp. Bi-amp capability. More functions than you can shake a stick at. Beautifully made and great looking. What more could you want especially given the price..

Weakness:

Its all relative. I'm not going to compare to massively expensive preamps (some of which I own) because its irrelevent. The C4000t always sounds good, and is never fatiguing, which is more than I can say for several very expensive preamps Ive heard. I refuse to say it has weaknesses given the absurd price it can be had for today.


I own, and have owned some of the best preamps money can buy. I currently own the MFA MC Reference (a prototype), Mark Levinson No 26, Spectron Model 10, Audio Reseach SP6e, SP4, and for home theatre purposes; the Yamaha RX-Z9. The MFA MC Reference remains the benchmark and has bettered a $40,000 Jadis pre, the Audio Research Reference 3 and Reference 2, Aesthetix Callipsto.IO and the Mark Levinson No 32. I tell you this because you may take it that, as a point of reference, I know what good sound is.

First, I believe that at the price the Carver C-4000t is to be had these days, it is, without question, the best bargain in high-end audio. Is it in the same league as some of the preamps I own; no. It is, however, very good indeed. Where it will lack in comparison to the very best preamps is in resolving power, ultimate clarity, punch, and image definition. This is not to imply that it is not very capable in these areas because it is.

Lets put aside its exceptioanal functionailty for a moment, and look at its preformance as a "straight-wire-with gain" preamp. Linestage signal-to-noise ratio is good, at 98db, re 2v. The latest preamps will have higher signal-to-noise performance, but not much. Phono stage s/n performance is 89dB re 5mV (MM) and 84dB re 0.5 mV (MC), also very respectable. Distortion figures are are very good also, with THD at 0.05%. So, what we have here, is very good performance from an engineering perspective, even by todays standards.

Performance as a Linestage
The C-4000t takes high input signals in its stride. Unlike many other 'minimalist' designs, it compensates for excessive gain with a very useful button which reduces gain by 15dB. What this means is if the signal strength is excessive, causing any form of harshness in the sound, then this can be compensated for. With the high outputs of many DACs for example, the problem of volume gain flexibility is a problem, where one click forward is too much and one click back is too little i.e. the incremental increase in the dB gain from position to position is too high. The C-4000t (the volume knob doesn;t ckick incidentally, but has a smooth motion), even without the 15dB button engaged is more forgiving, but with this -15dB gain reduction is eminently useful, especially for late-night listening in an apartment.

The C-4000T is always musical. Its gets the natural flow of the music right. It is never fatiguing and overly bright as so many modern components are. Its imaging ability is good. Soundstage depth and width is very good. One aspect of the imaging I find so compelling about the C4000T, is its ability to project the sound away from the speaker baffles, which results in this component contributing to the sense of the speakers 'disappearing'. The sound is essentially neutral, probably more to the warm side. The sound overall is robust and full-bodied. this preamp never sounds thin. Its portrayal of instrument timbres and harmonics are very good. Inner detail in also good, but will not be revealed to the same degree as some of the best preamps of today. Macro Dynamic swings are delivered convincingly, which means that this preamp can really boogy when called for. Overall an excellent linestage that makes music enjoyable to listen to.

Phono Stage Performance.
This preamp provides a great solution to the novice looking to enter the wonderful whacky world of vinyl. My experience with the C-4000t as a phono stage is not extensive, but I've experimented. I feel it offers very respectable performance either with Moving Magnet or Moving Coil. However I also fell it will perform best as an MM phonostage. Get a older Mission 775SM turntable, with an Alphson Xenon (titanium) or if you can afford it, HR100s also by Alphason and stick on the Stanton 881S. You will, I assure you, have music that will make you question CD's superiority. Throw on a jazz record, say Mose Allision live at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach CA, and you will be surprised at how much presence vinyl can have. In truth though, the very best phono preamps will leave the C4000t in the dust, but then again, at a much much higher cost.

The C4000Ts Secret Weapon
Boy, this is fun. Have you listened to a lot of headphone amps? Well, I have. The C4000T has a positively brilliant headphone amp. I always laugh when I attempt to listen to headphones through my $4,500 Yamaha RX-Z9, as advanced a processsor as it is. The headphone amp in the C4000T makes it sound like a toy. THAT ALONE, makes the C4000T a steal on the used market.

Sonic Holography
Make no mistake, is amazing. It is very misunderstood by many however. The thing to keep in mind, is that it requires a paradigm shift in the way we view speaker placement. We are stuck in our ways when it come to setting our speakers 7 - 10ft apart. For Sonic Holography to work, the speakers have to be set up precisely according to listening position and are much closer together than we are used to. When sonic Holography is set up correctly, this preamp becomes a giant slayer. The soundstage is positively vast. Imaging is improved. Bass performance is improved. Clarity is improved. The problem though, and this is why I feel Sonic Holography never dominated (probably as it should), is that its performance is so dependent on accurate and precise measurements that ultimately make for a small sweet spot. This means that you have to listen from a specific point. Unlike 'normal' stereo, the holgraphic image is delicate, and will crumble more readily when outside the sweetspot. Still it is really really cool if you set it up right.

The Amps
This is important. To get the best performance from this preamp you have to be feeding amps that have a 'synergy' with this preamp. What I can tell you, is that I've found it works well with both valve/vacuum tube and solid state. But the very best match I've found is with the Mark Levinson No. 27 (my favourite Levinson amp and I've owned several diffent models and heard most of them). For the No 27 to sound truly great, you have to have two of them and be able to bi-amp. I have had great success running transparent single-ended (RCA) cables to a device that changes single-ended to balanced, and with a pair of balanced cable splitters feeding the two amps (one driving bass the other mid/hi) via tranparent balanced cables. In this config, the C4000T sounds very good. By the way if you want to bi-amp to single ended amplifier inputs, the C4000t has two main outs. C'mon, for 300 bucks????

In conclusion, DON'T BE AN AUDIO SNOB. Very good linestage performance. Decent Phono performance. A positively brilliant headphone amp. About as many functions as you can shake a stick at. All in a chassis that is built like a brick __thouse and one that is in my opinion a very handsome component indeed. All for $300-$400!!!??#$%!! Are you kidding me??? What are you waiting for....

Customer Service

Doesn't exist anymore. Thank God this preamp is built like a brick __thouse and is virtually indestructable.

Similar Products Used: I've heard most of the best preamps, both older and new.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Bryan Hunt   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 22, 2004]
Strength:

Read the other reviews. I agree. Very low listener fatigue. Very musical sounding, with great sound-shaping capabilities. The holography circuit can be amazing--depending on the recording, it can bring the music to life. No exaggeration. No other manufacturer has this. However, it is better with some recordings than with others. Sometimes you'll want to use it, sometimes not. Some of the other circuits on the C-4000 are of dubious value, but again, it depends on the recording. (the Carver C-1 has the holography circuit, but not the others--a stripped-down C-4000, if you will). Some things sound better, some not. If you like to experiment with your sounds and hear your favorite recording differently, this is an AMAZING preamp. If you just like to listen to clear music and not fuss with controls, then this unit is just good. But if you're like me and want it both ways, do what I did!

Weakness:

Not nearly as transparent or clear sounding as a straight line preamp.

Great control preamp. Very Versatile. I understand the audiophile's need for total clarity in their music, and I enjoy that, too. But I also need tone-shaping capabilities for those less-than perfect recordings. I believe I've achieved the best of both worlds--read on. I have two fairly high-end two-channel stereo systems. One has a Rotel RC-995 straight line preamp running into a Rotel RB985 mkII 5-channel amp, which I use to bi-amp (I only use 4 of the five channels for this) a pair of B&W CDM 9 speakers. The other system has a crystal clear McCormack ALD-1 straight line preamp running into a Rotel BX880 amp powering a pair of B&W CDM 7 speakers. So where does the Carver come in? I use a C-4000 on the tape-out/in loop of the McCormack preamp (and a Carver C-1 on the tape-out/in loop of the Rotel preamp) for those times when I want to hear the recording differently from how it was originally recorded. (Let's face it--all audiophile snobbery aside--some things are just not recorded well. The recording may be tinny, or bassy, or whatever. Maybe the engineer was drunk that day--who knows? But if it isn't recorded well to begin with and all you have is a straight line preamp (essentially, only a volume control), then you'll never hear the music at it's best. This of course doesn't apply to music that IS recorded well and demands sonic clarity--thus the reason why I have straight line preamps on each of my systems). So if the sound I'm hearing on the straight line preamp isn't what I think it could be, I switch the controls to the tape loop, and the Carver C-4000 is activated with all it's tone-shaping capabilities. It is a noiseless setup, works beautifully, and doesn't compromise the sonic clarity of the straight line preamps at all--it's comletely out of the circuit when the tape loop is deactivated.

Similar Products Used: Carver C-1, McCormack ALD-1, Rotel RC-995, Dynaco PAT-4, Sanyo Plus C-55
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
jan cooper   Audiophile [Aug 03, 2001]
Strength:

reliable,sturdy,minimal heat production

Weakness:

heavy to move

the best sound hurray for bob and sunfire corp he's before
his time as usual need that home theater amp
i have and use the tuner, amp, preamp, cd changer, along
with stax professional headphones it will knock you off
the sofa at one eightth of the volume on the amp meter

Similar Products Used: sony,jvc,dennon,mitisubishi dragon
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Jim Tidwell   Audiophile [Nov 01, 2001]
Strength:

Its flexability, its many inputs, phono stages, power outlets, and signal processing features that made Bob Carver famous!

Weakness:

To today's audiophile, it's somewhat outdated to the state-of-the-art line stage, straight wire preamps on the market.

If you've read all the previous reviews before this one, then you're familiar with all the preamp's wide range of features...its Autocorrelator noise-reduction system reduces tape hiss and low-level turntable rumble, its Peak Unlimiter circuit undoes the compression present in broadcasts and older recordings, and its fully adjustable (and bypassable) Time Delay and patented Sonic Hologram Generator change ordinary two-channel stereo into a more three-dimensional you-are-there realism. If you need a more detailed description of the Carver C-4000's many controls, please feel free to read the previous, well-written reviews submitted by Wilson Boozer, Dr. Allan M. Hunchuk, and others (there's no need to repeat their glowing reviews, so I'll move on...)

My fascination with Bob Carver's revolutionary components began in 1980 when I visited a friend's new house for the first time. He had just purchased a complete home audio system for his huge music room, and was eager to show it off! I was familiar with a portion of his equipment; Nolan had heard my dad's Klipsch Cornwall loudspeakers and his Nakamichi 680ZX three-head cassette deck, but I was envious of his purchase of not one pair, but two pairs of Klipsch Klipschorn corner-placement loudspeakers, and two Nakamichi 680ZX decks, each used for recording/dubbing purposes. The remainder of his equipment I had never seen or heard of before...two Carver Model M-500 Magnetic Field power amps (WOW) and the Carver Model C-4000 High Fidelity Control Console (WOW again), plus a Dual (I think) turntable and a microphone preamp for live recordings.

This new Carver Corp. I've never heard of before, and I've never seen anything quite like it either (I was familiar with Phase Linear, but I was 18 and clueless; I should've recognized the similarities). It had that striking pewter finish and invisible white lettering that disappeared when the sunlight struck it just right (cool), and those rack handles reminded me of my dad's pro vacuum tube oscilloscope. I was just getting interested in high-end audio at the time, and the Carver C-4000 definately made an impression on my young audiophile mind!

Since then, I knew that someday I would own a C-4000, if nothing else from the Carver line. That preamp had more features and inputs then I had ever experienced before, and I just had to have one. Three years later, while stationed at Ludwigsburg, Germany with the Army, it was finally time to retire my old 1978 Technics 25 wpc receiver, cassette deck, and manual turntable (which I still have packed away out in the garage). I went to the Post Exchange at Robinson Barracks in Stuttgart, with about $3200 in my hands, ready for it to be my turn to own and experience the C-4000 Sonic Holography preamp, along with a new Carver amp and tuner, Nakamichi cassette deck, Denon turntable, and Klipsch Cornwall loudspeakers. After the day was through, I went back to my apartment with a Nakamichi Dragon, a Denon DP-62L with Stanton MM cartridge, JBL L112 Century II monitor loudspeakers (the Cornwalls were all sold out), and the lovable little Carver M-400t "cube" Magnetic Field amp and Model TX-11 Asymmetrical Charge Coupled FM Detector stereo tuner, but the PX no longer carried the C-4000 preamp at its stores, and it was unavailable (backordered) in the AAFES catalog. I couldn't afford the C-4000 anyway (after purchasing the Dragon, which wasn't the model I had intended on buying), so I settled on Carver's Model C-1 preamp, which served me well for over 17 years! Even after several years of upgrading my audio system, I still yearned for the C-4000 (see my latest Carver audio system on AudioREVIEW's Photo Gallery/My System, dated 10/17/01)!

My time finally came...several months ago, while browsing eBay auctions on Carver equipment, I stumbled across a mint C-4000 preamp whose seller lived in Tampa (only 45 minutes away from where I live). I couldn't resist the chance, so I placed a bid and actually won! The seller had to drive to Lakeland on business anyway, so we met the very next day, and a few hours later, I had connected to my system what I waited for since 1980 to own!

And what a difference the C-4000 is over the C-1. As good as the Model C-1 is, the C-4000, even with its bypassable sound enhancement circuitry, is far superior in every way! Carver craftsmanship extended to all their components (up until the time Bob Carver left the company he founded, and then quality suffered tremendously), and the C-4000's electrical components are first-rate...G-10 glass/epoxy circuit boards, 24K gold contacts on all mating surfaces, lubricated controls that eliminate noise, and high clamping-pressure hot-molded external connectors for complete electrical contact. All this plus its wide range of functions you can add (or delete, to make the C-4000 a straight wire preamp), and its sophisticated phono section, with its adjustable capacitance to perfectly match the phono preamp to virtually any MM and MC cartridge and cable load without distortion (works on my new Sumiko Blue Point high-output MC cartridge).

My music room is too small for proper placement of my Magnepan MGLR1 loudspeakers for Sonic Holography to sound its best, and I don't have any small speakers installed for the Time Delay (yet). I very seldom use the Peak Unlimiter dynamic range expander except on very old, highly compressed analog recordings (and for FM), which is effective. I do find myself using the Autocorrelator noise reduction more and more on FM stations, old Dolby B (or no Dolby) cassette recordings, and on analog LP's that aren't Direct-to-Disc/digital recordings (and it is quite effective even on CD's that were transcribed from their original analog masters...the Autocorrelator eliminates hiss to an almost silent background).

The Carver Model C-4000 may not be the purist audiophile preamp on the market today, but I have a love for vintage Carver components! It blends well with all my equipment, and to my ears, this high fidelity control console presents truely realistic sound reproduction! I wonder if my old friend still has his...

Similar Products Used: Carver Model C-1 preamp.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Larry   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 18, 2002]
Strength:

Versitility, build, sound quality, realiability, ability to shape the sound, a great-looking piece of gear as well

Weakness:

No remote

This review is actually for the Carver 4000t which is the " new and improved " version of the classic Carver C-4000. As you well know, the Carver C-4000 is widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of gear ever built by audio gear masterbuilder Bob Carver....but the 4000t is just that much better. Carver " smoothed out " what little rough spots there were with the C-4000 in improving the 4000t. Adding the separate Surround Sound was just icing on the cake. If you are wanting true control over the sound your gear produces, then I highly suggest you keep your eyes open for one of these beauties. Some might say that there are simply too many audio effects on this piece but I disagree. I think there are two kinds of audiophiles....those that like simplicity in their gear and those that don't. The 4000t is for the latter group. This is the quenticential piece of audio equipment for the person who likes to " mess around " with their settings. Separate tone controls as well as multiple sound-effects invented by Bob Carver simply inhance your listening experience. Not all music was both recorded or meant to sound the same....and the Carver 4000t caters to this fact. If you can find one, get one. It's quite simply one of the greatest pre amps ever built.

Similar Products Used: Adcom, Marantz, Carver C-4000,
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
CB   an Audiophile [Jul 23, 1999]

Still sounds great after 19 years.I use now in a 2nd system,but you really can use it with todays high end gear and be very pleasantly surprised.It is a cool piece of hifi history,and probably the best product Carver ever made.If you can pick up a decent used one reasonably,do it,it's fun and really does sound great.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Ralph Perrini   Audiophile [Nov 12, 1999]
Strength:

Many inputs, Auto Correlator Noise Reduction, many signal processing options

Weakness:

Mediocre sound, noisy phono stage, pots get noisy over time

I got my Carver C-4000 back in 1980, it must have been one of the very first since the owners manual consisted of typewritten pages with drawings by Bob Carver himself! In 1991 I sent the unit to the factory where they replaced the RCA plugs with gold platted ones, they also replaced all switches, pots, caps and IC chips. A couple of years later I replaced the power cord with an IEC detacheable type cord and disabled the electric plugs in the back, which produced a small improvement in sound. I finally retired the unit in April 1997 and replaced it with a Dynaco PAS-4 vacuum tube pre-amplifier. I still have it stashed in it's box!
From a sonic point of view it is hard for me to recommend this pre-amp. The Dynaco PAS-4 I replaced it with sounds far better in every way! The Dynaco sounds far more like music with much smoother highs and wider soundstage, not to mention a tighter, more realistic bass. The phono stage is relatively noisy, compared to outboard phono pre-amps from Creek, Musical Fidelity and my Acurus P10. The Auto Correlator noise reduction system is effective in taming some of it's phono stage noise, and it works very well on tape hiss with little in the way of side effects.
Compared to most receiver based systems, the C-4000 holds it's own, but if you have separates, there are many better sounding pre-amps out there to consider.
The C-4000 was great in it's day, but it's day has passed. If you have a lot of old noisy recordings, or are one of those clueless, tin-ear types still listening to those hideous 8-tracks, the combination of the Auto Correlator and the Peak Unlimiter dynamic range expander should help. I also figure it would work well on video sound. Otherwise, if good sound matters to you, don't waste your money or time on this thing!

OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
2
Showing 1-10 of 14  

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