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how good are variax guitars?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by frquent flyer, May 17, 2011.

  1. frquent flyer

    frquent flyer Member

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    Anyone with first hand information on variax guitars. What do they do and how well do they do it?
     
  2. frquent flyer

    frquent flyer Member

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    I just did a search and saw a demo. I didn't know you need a HD 500 like system to run these guitars. They still seem at the "gimmick"stage to me.
     
  3. slippyknees

    slippyknees Supporting Member

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    i borrowed a friends tyler variax - the "lower end" one that looks like a strat. i love it!

    (quick back history on me - i've been playing for 25 years, 12 of which have been professionally, graduated from berklee, owned WAY too much gear over the years (vintage, new), yadda yadda....meaning, i've played some great guitars and have some sense of how they may be useful in certain settings.)

    some of the tones are meh...12 strings esp....they just sound digital. well, actually like my old micro pog if that helps.

    but.....85% of the other tones are great. in my experience, any kind of modeling sounds bad on its own...put it in a mix though and it's hard to tell that it's not the real deal.

    i think the absolute best use of these guitars is in demoing songs. if you've got a home recording set up and use it often, i'd get one. plugged into my mac, the acoustic tones blew me away. they are very, very useable. just the ease of use factor is off the charts - you don't have to mic the guitar, etc...they even get the string squeaks in there when changing chords - nice!

    the quality of the guitar itself? having played an older variax, i'd say it's way better. the neck shape is great. with a decent set up it plays pretty well. just remember what this thing is - it's a tool to make creating easier. to that end, mission accomplished. if you're looking to replace your stable of les pauls and strats....nah, don't do that. you won't dig it.

    hope that helps a little!!
     
  4. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    You don't need anything else to use one. The POD series has some nice convenience features though.
     
  5. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    Makes a hell of a good TeleAx Conversion!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. slippyknees

    slippyknees Supporting Member

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    rhomco - that's awesome!

    how much did that cost / was it a huge pain in the arse to do?
     
  7. burningyen

    burningyen Vendor

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    That's because it's not true.
     
  8. leofenderbender

    leofenderbender Member

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    NOT correct, sir! The guitar plugs in and plays like any other guitar does - any amp, you choose. And the digital models are there for your choosing.

    If a guitar is a gimmick only because it plugs in, or needs a battery then you may be right. However, you would be describing a number of electric guitars that do not have digital modeling built-in.
     
  9. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    Was it a PIA? Yep, but well worth it. The guy sent me a Variax 500 and a generic Tele body. I cut down the Variax neck to closely resemble a tele and fitted the variax into the routed cavities you see. The pickguard is custom made to cover the controls. The tele pickups are just empty cores for looks. It has been gigging on the west coast weekly for several years. Hint: I have templates for these conversions.
    Rob
     
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  10. frquent flyer

    frquent flyer Member

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    Thats quite a good testimony,slippyknees,thanks. Thanks! Can you tell me how these variaxs work? Can you just plug it into a standard amp or is a processor needed?{ Like HD 500}
     
  11. sixesandsevens

    sixesandsevens Member

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    Awesome stuff.

    Warmoth has some variax specific bits they sell now too. From a quick glance a few weeks ago it doesn't appear that they support magnetic pickup routs in the same bodies a la yours or the new Tyler variax guitars, but pretty cool nonetheless.

    I have a 300 series model and it's a lot of fun. It's actually broken right now (there's a handful of well-documented issues with them, and mine's suffering from one of them) but I'll almost definitely spend the money to get it fixed.

    My only real complaint with the 300 is that the pickups are piezo pickups, so it doesn't really respond as I'd like to palm muting. Playing open, ringing notes works fine though.

    As one person put it, the 300 is so cheap it would be worth it if all it did was the sitar. ;)
     
  12. Bobby D

    Bobby D Member

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    the new MIK Tyler Variax guitars are a LOT of bang for the buck at $1299....the modeling is MUCH improved from the first gen - and the guitars don't need ANYTHING -- you can just play them with the built in magnetic pickups, or use the variax models with ANY amp or setup you want!

    you don't NEED an HD500 -- but it sure makes it more fun ;)
     
  13. dspellman

    dspellman Senior Member

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    They've been out for years -- since around 2004, I believe. They're used in spots you wouldn't expect, such as theater orchestras, etc., and in quite a few conversions.

    I have two -- the Electric 500 and the Acoustic 700. The former looks a bit like a strat (asymmetrical double cutaway):

    [​IMG]

    This one has all the same models as the new Tyler/Variax versions. What it does not have are the magnetic pickups that the new ones do. The new versions also have a far more powerful DSP (processor), better piezo saddles. All of the Variax models can be used direct into an amplifier like any other guitar, using a standard guitar cable. There's a battery pack built into the back of the guitar that powers them. There are two OTHER ways to power the guitar; one is to use the DI box that comes with the guitar. This works with a TRS cable (1/4", but with three conductors rather than two, with one carrying power to the guitar from the DI box, which is plugged into a wall outlet. The third way is to use the Variax cable (an ethernet cable) running to an XT Live, An X3 Live or Pro (rack) or an HD500. No guitar cable is necessary; the signal *and* the power for the guitar travel through the Ethernet cable. Rather than translating the signal into analog at the guitar, the signal remains digital to the Pod, where it gets turned into something analog for the rest of the sound gear. The really good news in using the Ethernet cable and a pod is that you can change the guitar model and other settings (alternate tuning, etc.) along with the amp/FX/cab settings with a single footstomp on the Pod.

    The Acoustic 700 looks like a smaller thinline acoustic guitar:
    [​IMG]
    but it's actually a solid mahogany body guitar in disguise. http://line6.com/variaxacoustic/ It's no longer in production, but it models 16 different acoustic instruments (not duplicated on the Electric models). If you need to blend in with a bunch of other acoustic instruments (church, bluegrass, etc) that will be miked or have piezos built in, this is perfect. On stage in a rock band, this can be run at rock volumes and will never feed back.

    The models on these guitars, for the most part, are really good. Telecasters, Les Pauls, ES-335s, Resonators and most of the acoustics are bang on. The acoustics don't sound like an acoustic in open air; they sound like what the acoustics sound like when they're miked or run through a piezo. Amplified, in other words. Some of the models are less than perfect -- the 12-strings are done using pitch replacement rather than 12 actual strings, and if you listen to them alone, you'll be able to hear the difference. But if you have one of these playing with another guitar or two, audience members *will* be looking around to see who's playing the 12-string. On the old versions there was occasionally a bit of artifacting if you tried to run a complicated grouping, such as a 12-string with an alternate tuning, but the new DSP eliminates that.

    Some folks pulled the guts out of guitars like the 500 and transplanted them into guitars that they built or just into existing guitars, usually those with magnetic pickups. This fellow is pretty much known for that, and the guitar in this video is his own build (with, I think, bare knuckle pickups), and at one point he compares a Les Paul model to the mag pickups. You need earphones to pick up the subtleties between the acoustic models that he selects:



    But wait, there's more. Line 6 has software that allows you to edit these guitars. If you want a three-pickup Les Paul, you can build one. If you want it to have a single coil in the middle, it can be done. In addition, you can set your own alternate tuning selections.

    It should be noted that both the E-500 and the Acoustic 700 that I have will allow you to select alternate tunings. It creates these alternate tunings with pitch replacement (a far more sophisticated setup than the EH Pogs) and you can change the pitch on each string individually to produce alternate tunings with FAR more range than you can with a Robot type re-tensioning system. I have one that drops the bottom two strings an octave, leaving the rest where they are. This produces bass guitar tones, and you can walk them while fingerpicking. This *will* cause people to look around. You can do any drop tuning without ever changing the tension on a string, and you can tune up to mandolin levels while the guitar remains in concert tune. Changing the tuning can be done with a footstomp if you have the guitar hooked to a Pod, or it can be done with a turn of the switch on the guitar itself. A pretty good selection of alternate tunings are built into the guitar, but if you're the GooGooDolls, you'll want to edit these on the computer. Since tension never changes, you can continue to produce vibrato and bends on tunings that previously wouldn't support them. The short of it is, these are pretty awesome guitars if you need/want something to do more than simple six-string tasks...

    Here's a nylon string version (the 300). Remember that the sound you're hearing is not guitar sound, nor the nylon string sound, but the electronic MODEL of a nylon string guitar:

     
    Last edited: May 17, 2011
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  14. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    I saw the V1.0 at a NASMM show and it struck me as the perfect instrument for someone who plays 2nd guitar or doubles on kbds in a cover band and needs to add a lot of "color" parts, but has someone else to provide the main guitar parts.

    The modelling/playability wasn't up to what most guitarists would need, IMHO.

    I also don't see the point of having the electronics in the guitar, as opposed to on a floorboard. It makes the guitar valueless, as soon as the next Rev of the software comes out. Why not just have a pickup and a floor unit?
     
  15. dspellman

    dspellman Senior Member

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    You didn't spend enough time with it, and you missed most of the features, or are unclear on the concept.

    Think it through. There's no problem updating the DSP in the guitar (which has an Ethernet cable and software designed for editing) should the firmware change. The guitar (the Electric 500, for example) has 25 different guitar models in it, all of which can be edited or modified. In what way would it become valueless?

    I can tell you why not a pickup and a floor model -- if I want to go wireless with either of the guitars I have now (or with any of the new Tyler/Variax guitars), I plug the guitar into the wireless as I would any standard guitar. Power for the models is in a battery pack in the guitar itself. If all the goods were in a floor model, I'd have a 13-pin cable running from the guitar to the floor model, and I'd be tethered to it. Which would you rather? That said, I should note that there IS a company making a rackmount version ( http://www.rackvax.com/ ) that is essentially the guts of a Variax inside a rack box. You can use any guitar with it as long as it's equipped with some kind of 13-pin compatible divided (hex) pickup. That can include magnetic or piezo pickups from Graphtech or Roland, or you can even use one of the 13-pin guitars from Carvin or iGuitar that are already set up and ready to go for either MIDI or this kind of application.

    The modeling you can hear for yourself in the YouTube, above. These are widely used by a whole LOT of people for recording; certainly it's received enough professional acceptance.

    Playability is a different story. The early guitars (like mine) have been criticized, from time to time, as providing a platform that doesn't live up to the electronics. As a result, Line 6 upgraded the basic Variax guitars (the 700 and 600 are products of those upgrades). My Acoustic 700 is just fine, but I've certainly heard some complaints about the older models. The 500 is, to me, a bit clunky. But the neck is straight, the frets are level, the action is low and the response is pretty good, so I'm fine with it.

    There have also been complaints that there are no magnetic pickups on the old guitars, and that even if only for looks purposes, they should be there. Thus we have the fellow, above, who has empty shells that look like pickups on his tele, even though he's only using the electronics.

    Warmoth attempted to mitigate some of the playability complaints by building both bodies and necks for Variax components, so that there'd be an opportunity to take the guitars upscale and make them fit personal likes and dislikes much better (in terms of neck profiles, fretboard radii, etc.).

    But the new Line 6 guitars, designed by Tyler and available in both US-made and Korean-made versions, address virtually all the complaints. There are LP-alike, strat-alike and shredder versions with corresponding scales. Playability on both versions is excellent and visually, they're a match for almost anything they'd be playing next to in any band.

    No one else needs to "provide the main guitar parts" on any of these guitars, old or new.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2011
  16. jrjones

    jrjones Supporting Member

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    Well, I have 0 experience with the Tyler Variax, but I can say from experience that even the Variax 700 felt like a cheap chinese made guitar. We're talking about a guitar that was 1500 bucks new! Maybe the Tyler Variax will feel better, I don't know and don't care to. I thought the sounds were ok, but not that close to the guitars they modelled.

    This is just my opinion based on my experience, and as always, YMMV. I have spent a significant deal of time with a Variax 700 though.
     
  17. Bobby D

    Bobby D Member

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    '
    i agree 100% -- the earlier guitars just did not feel or play good to me, and did not have standard magnetic pickups. someone offered to GIVE me one, and i turned it down :bonk
     
  18. dspellman

    dspellman Senior Member

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    Korean made. Not Chinese. Pretty sure about that.

    The 700 was the best made of the old bunch, and I have to admit that I'm not particular enamored with it either. OTOH, the Tyler/Variax versions (Korean made) are a whole new ballgame, and I would definitely hang with a Variax 59 (the LP version) with no problems whatsoever. I've touched and fondled the American-made versions as well, but the Koreans are very good indeed.

    As for the sounds... I found that it works best if you do a bit of tweaking of your amp settings and spend a bit more time with the guitar before you make judgements about those. I've actually been playing one of the Les Paul versions and had a sound guy walk down the aisle at a sound check asking where the guy playing the Les Paul was (he assumed it was off- or behind-stage). The tele sound is just about as bang on as it can get. And there are Chet Atkins fans who can vouch for the Gretsch model.
     
  19. tsar nicholas

    tsar nicholas Member

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    The first lead guit player in my current rock 'n' roll band used a 700. Seemed like it was well-made, looked good if a little odd.

    Sounded great and versatile when effected or at least distorted. The tuning capabilities were pretty neat -- tune to an open chord with the turn of a dial = boon for slide work

    However, the straight, clean modeled tones, especially the Fender-style ones, were really lacking to my ears. So much so that I had to beg him to use another guitar. They really and truly lacked the dynamics and 'spank' that we need in this outfit (stripped-down high-energy rock 'n' roll).

    I think that for playing modern rock, metal, etc, they'd be ace. Not so good for live roots stuff.
     
  20. jrjones

    jrjones Supporting Member

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    I didn't say it was Chinese made. I said it felt like a cheap Chinese made guitar.
     

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