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Re: Carvin, I have a CT3 that I bought without ever seeing or trying one, and I can attest that you get a lot of guitar for the money, more than in most store/new purchases. Also, Carvin pick up the taxes and importation to Canadians, which shocked me, but true (but always check that they're still doing that). The guitar tech who recently did an RS Superkit upgrade for me commented that the guitar was a "10" in terms of quality and construction. The letdown on Carvin's, IMO, is the pickups and secondarily, the electronics (the electronics bear improvement on most production guitars anyway, but is inexpensive to do).

I also own a CS Strat, a MusicMan Axis SS with P90s and a Godin, and I would say the Carvin is right up there after a pickup change (lots of Carvin owners like their pickups, I found them somewhat lacking in character).

You also have to decide what rings your bell in terms of single-coil vs. humbuckers - don't think you indicated that? What scale length do you like - Fenders tend to be 25 - 1/2", Gibsons tend to be 24 - 3/4", PRS (and my Carvin) in the middle at 25". Also, the guitars you mention are somewhat different in terms of how the neck feels, etc.

Best of luck.

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