Signal-to-interference ratio (SIR) experienced by users is the major quality and capacity indicator of CDMA systems. In this paper, we analyze the impact of diversity combining schemes - maximal-ratio combining (MRC) and equalgain combining (EGC) - on the SIRs achievable with diversityreception RAKE receivers over GWSSUS time-variant fading uplink DS-CDMA channels based on finite-dimensional generalized random spreading performance evaluation methodology. Through the results of random matrix th0eory on the nonasymptotic eigenvalue distributions of finite-size random matrices, SIR statistics with linear RAKE multiuser receivers with MRC and EGC are derived in terms of the key system parameters. It turns out that MRC that is much complex than EGC in terms of channel estimation and computational complexity slightly outperforms EGC at low diversity orders and low channel specularity; however the performance of EGC converges to that with MRC as the diversity order D ∞ and the channel specularity tends to 1 as well as at low SNRs. © 2005 IEEE.