Is a Variax a must-have guitar?

burningyen

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14,657
Variax+Helix is a pretty powerful combination. With my current band I sometimes change mid-song between acoustic and electric sounds or between tunings. I'd be really bummed if I couldn't use my Variax (my avatar is a transplant build I finally finished this year). With a stock Variax, it all depends on how picky you are about your acoustic sounds and quick-change options (which IMHO weighs in favor of the Variax) vs. how picky you are about the physical instrument (which for some will weigh against the Variax).
 

Random1643

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241
Several years ago I used to catch a really good trio @ a local bar - guitar, bass & drums; they were a scaled down version of a bigger band with a horn section, backup singers, etc. Their guitarist (also the lead singer) was what I think of as a high-level utility player mixing strumming, picking, comping, slide, lead work, different tunings, diff tones as needed to support the next song. Across different genres. This is pretty much my approach on the guitar, but the guy is straight-up a more advanced human than me. (No, I never felt like selling all my guitars after one of their shows; never understood this impulse)

Anywho, the last few times I caught the trio he was playing a Variax through a small Matchless tube amp. He sounded amazing per usual and the Swiss Army Knife aspect of the instrument suited their playlist.

With my back/sciatic issues driving guitar choices these days, the variax guitars are too heavy for me. Also the Line 6 gig rig I own (no Variax involved) has taught me to be wary of their products; I feel less stressed with my current more standard sorta rig.
 

pale fire

Silver Supporting Member
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1,731
I had a couple Variax 700 acoustics. I sold them and now thinking of getting another one. They are far behind my crowdster for sound BUT the neck is great and they do have some really cool sounds. The price is pretty reasonable too
 
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537
I got one in the end, more for fun than to use at gigs really. I planned to use it more for alternate tunings than for the different guitar sounds. The guitar itself is a standard model and it's quality is OK but it isn't that great to play, OK but not great.
 

sorenspete

Member
Messages
126
Is an Axe-FX III a must-have?

No.

Same answer probably applies to your question.

Pretty Pat Simmons from The Doobie Brothers uses one. Or maybe it's John McFee. I don't remember.
 

guitarlix

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1,852
I've always wondered why the amp modeling is so good (helix etc.) but the guitar modeling (Variax) is not as good. Somewhere in between appears to be the speaker modeling (Powercab)
 

frankg11

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Messages
1,609
I purchased a Variax JVT-69S to work with my with my Helix and PowerCab. I haven't looked back. This combo can run both active and modeled paths as the same time. For example strat and acoustic running though the Helix. The alternate tunings are very good and accurate, The guitar plays well and is just a joy to use. James Tyler is a lot of work on the pacifica to raise it's quality and the trem is stable and locking tuners are just a joy.

I would suggest anyone thinking about a Variax, take a long look at it and then take a look at it within the line6 platform, and see just how far you can go.
 
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COYS

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5,178
It seems like a cool idea, if you want to buy totally into the Helix ecosystem.
 

fjrabon

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3,785
I play in a Stones tribute band and because of all the alt tunings they use I had to bring 5 guitars to our last rehearsal. Open G electric and acoustic, regular tuning electric and acoustic, and open E tuning... If I could just bring one guitar that does it all it would be worth it for me.
But would it really be a stones tribute band if you’re playing a variax? I guess rehearsal would be cool to have 1. But for a show I’d definitely want to nod to mick Taylor and keef’s guitars.
 

kiki_90291

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3,784
Like anything, it depends on what you need. In my last cover band, I decided to try and cop the "accurate" tones for each song. Between a Helix Floor and an Variax, I could virtually reproduce the rig from the original recording (to the extent I could figure them out). It was a lot of fun (and occasionally a lot of work), but I learned a ton about guitar tones. Over time, the effort to do that (one patch, multiple snapshots per song) got a little exhausting and I also concluded that a lot of "special" tones were indistinguishable from other "special" tones in a live setting, so I quit trying so hard. We also evolved into mostly originals and the range of tones I was looking for was reduced dramatically.

I wound up selling the Variax, but would use it again in a heartbeat if I needed that kind of flexibility. I actually owned both a JTV59 and a JTV69. The controls on the 69 made more sense and the whammy bar meant you could do absolutely everything you needed on one guitar, but I think I liked the 59 better (played nicer, better headstock :) ).

Finally, if you do multiple alternate tunings live, it's indispensable (I'd call it a must have). For a while were were doing a couple of alternate tuned songs and one drop D downtuned song (difficult to play without doing the downtuning) - that alone was worth the price of admission. I went from having to bring 3 guitars to just one. Very nice. You do have to be able to play loud. In rehearsals, if we were playing quietly, the disconnect between the acoustic sound of the strings and the amplified sound could be disconcerting (no pun intended).
 

DinoMikeSr

Member
Messages
172
It's not for me. I've spent a couple decades putting my set up together and I love the way it sounds. I don't have excessive numbers of amps, pedals, or guitars sitting around. What I have I use and for me it's fantastic.
 

Surfreak

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2,112
I’ve always find that a guitar with a distinct tonal character inspires me to play better than a guitar that does a bit of everything.
 

JELIFISH19

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Messages
578
I've always wondered why the amp modeling is so good (helix etc.) but the guitar modeling (Variax) is not as good. Somewhere in between appears to be the speaker modeling (Powercab)
The same reason that the modeling on a Line 6 Spider isn't great. The Variax starts at $900. You really can't expect much from it considering it's a guitar plus all of that modeling stuff. You're not getting Helix-level modeling. And the tech is 10-years old.
 
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6,077
Great instruments for cover band guitarists, or performing players who can't afford to tour 10 instruments but still want a 12 string Ric, a Banjo, a dobro in open G for side, etc, etc.

Another famous Variax user is The Edge from U2 - he plays a couple of tunes on a Variax acoustic:

Love, Peace Or Else:

The Fly:
 

BigDoug1053

Silver Supporting Member
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3,674
I would get one if you are collecting examples of ES-335-345-355s, but not if you are just looking for some new tones.
 

panther_king

Member
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1,785
If you play standards, you might be able to collapse a couple guitars into one, and save some gear hauling.

If you make it a point to make music around the fact that you have a Variax/Helix - it's pretty huge.

 




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