Are Carver Preamps Any Good?

Just wondering?

There are so many versions of Carver preamps and preamp/tuners for sale. They always seem to sell. Are they really any good?...or are they just a popular product with so-so sound? Are they like a Rotel or NAD?

Seems like their products change hands regularly. So, what are there better products, if they have any?
Carver was very popular mass produced in the day. But really not high end more midfi gimmickee kind of equipment. Everything Carver produced had some special gimmick BS name that was supposed to sound innovative and original

Nothing special
Carver's Sunfire line of theater and 2ch equipment is much superior and price worthy compared to Nad Rotel or Creek.
I owned a carver pre/tuner in the 1980's and it was the the poorest part of my system, which also included a carver amp, which was good for the money. I moved to a sonic frontiers preamp and it was great. Stay away from carver tuners.
Thanks, they have a following nether the less.
depends what you mean by good, for the price they'll stomp anything out there but it depends what you're running in the system and how good you want it to be! If you have a system say under 3500.00 including your speakers you can run your pre out of a carver multi channel receiver and you would be surprised how good of sound you will get !
Carver's big claims to fame were it's amazingly powerful amps for the money and the truly Amazing Loudspeakers.
An old amp like the TFM-35 was seriously powerful and fairly musical, but it took a non-Carver pre-amp to get the most out of it.
Those huge Carver ribbon speakers were hard to find room for, but when properly set up (rare), could rival many speakers costing thousands more. We had a pair sitting next to B&W 801's and several good Magnepans of the day, and the Carvers didn't just hold their own, they did better on tons of material.
But pre-amps? Nope....there are MANY good cheap old SS pre's out there that are better.
Name them. imo, the Carver C-16 pre was way better than any equal priced produce from NAD, Rotel, Proton, Adcom, Audio Source, MTX/Soundcraftsman etc.
The pre has a complex tone control section that was more like an eq and works well for subtal changes and a loudness control for bass at low volume levels which was rare on most preamps. It also has a full phono stage which may be of use for the vinal revival crowd.
The Carver Sonic Holograpy was a good idea and did work if you took the time to set the speakers up right. The preamp would be right at home with products that are in the same $$$ leauge. I agree, it is not high end, but okay for $200.
The C-16 is kind of rare so I would get one to just try it.
The C-19 was a very good pre for the $$
Remember Carver amps being better (although they were just OK) than their preamps. While the preamps sometimes had lots of features, they were not transparent and the bass were not their strong point - features were. If you are going to drop two hundred or so, adcom 555 or 565 sound better, but they don't look as nice and lack the extras Carver provides. do like Carver's champaign finish...a Carver rack with the Amazing speakers still look cool today.
Carver stuff always sells because they are inexpensive and great bang for buck pieces. They sound decent, but you get what you pay for. Great for a starter system. But as your ears get a little more discriminating, you'll move on to something better. I still own two carver preamps that I don't use. I'm going to give one to my 12 year old son to get him started in audio.
I have a Carver c-6 pre-amp that will be going up for sale soon. I used it in my system for a good 15 years without complaint until recently upgrading to a much more expensive ARC tube pre-amp.

They are unique values these days with very good performance. A c-6 in good working order like mine should bring $150-200 or so.

Mine has a lot of features not commonly found much anymore today that allow them to perform well in most any system and is in fact quite transparent.

For example the tone controls are among the most flexible I have seen ever and the built in phono pre-amp accommodates both MC and MM cartridges AND has easily switchable phono input sensitivity and impedance buttons on the rear panel which helps deliver very good sound with most any cart out there.

It also accomodates two recorders and two external sound pre-processors, like an equalizer and dbx for example, concurrently. No other pre-amp I know of these days can do that.

Sonic holography is another feature that in fact works and some will love and some will hate.

Audio purists will object to all the control features. Those looking for flexibility and good sound for little cost these days will find a lot to like.
Mapman is precisely dead-on in his description.
I think everyone is missing a REALLY important issue here. All gear of this generation is full of aging caps and resistors that need to be replaced. Even if the items still function none of them will sound as good as they did new. If you are looking to get into the analog revival be prepared to "refresh" any item you buy used that over 12-15 years old.

A Carver pre that has been "refreshed" with quality current technology capacitors and resistors will perform as good or better than any makes/models in the same price range with similar attention. A Carver C-1 done right will simply shock and amaze you with the black void it becomes in your audio chain. Many knowledgeable individuals have done these type of upgrades to vintage equipment with spectacular results. One unsung hero in this field has become somewhat of a legend in Carver circles. He was a modest genius who was known as BillD. He did many upgrade/updates on the Carver gear he loved and his treatment on the Carver C-1 preamp has transformed it into one of the best you can buy at any price. Generous to a fault, he practically gave away his service to help other Carver enthusiasts enjoy the C-1 upgrade on theirs. He also posted parts lists and instructions to do likewise. He also helped many DIY folks upgrade it themselves and get over any hurdles they came across in the process.

If you want a truly excellent preamp buy a C-1 or C-11 offered on an auction or listing. Then get online to do a download of the parts list and instructions for the BillD style of upgrade/update on it. Find a good soldering iron to DIY or get a skilled friend or local repair shop to do it for you. There are a handful of very knowledgeable guys out there who make a good part-time income doing these type of upgrades. They are easy to find in the forums.

This route may be a little more bother than plunking down a huge wad of dough for a new, overpriced preamp, but the results will be much better and you will find well worth your time & trouble.
My c-6 recently developed a distortion/breakup issue in one channel.

I'd like to have it totally refurbed. The time is right. CAn someone recommend a good place to do that?

I'd hate to lose the Carver permanently. It's a rare beast these days and I am comfortable using it in my second system regularly or as a spare when needed.
They have their place in the world - but not the audiophile world, IMO. Carver offers reliable, attractive components if you don’t ask them to be the star of the show. By that, I mean that you’re not expecting them to enthrall you with passionate listening sessions. If you just want something that’s a step or two above the ordinary, they might meet your needs.
"Carver offers reliable, attractive components if you don’t ask them to be the star of the show."

They will not be the star of the show in most modern well executed audiophile type systems.

They can be though when some of the features come in handy as tweaks, like the tone controls, l/r variable blend, flexible mc/mm phono stage, etc.
Mapman is right. I had a C-1 for years. Then I switched to tubes. Got a C-9 hologram generator, since I love the sound. I ran the C-1 with a 7270 McIntosh, and all kinds of Klipsch speakers, and the results were good for many years, but tubes can't be beat.
Mapman, Polk432,
My opinion was poorly expressed. Talking about “audiophile world” components sounds much too snooty and I didn’t mean to come off that way. Given my current set-up, the Carver components that I’ve heard leave something to be desired, but back in the 70’s, they were the object of lust.
That's when I owned them. One day MBL will be in the same league if I live that long. Best of luck...I think.