Line6 Variax

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Scooter, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. Scooter

    Scooter Supporting Member

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    These seem very interesting. I know its models won't replace the real thing, and I'll always love my favorite "real" guitars, but I have to admit that the videos on the Line6 site look and sound pretty intriguing. The alternate tunings alone seem worth the price of admission.

    Anyone here using one? Thoughts, impressions, advice?
     
  2. Scott Peterson

    Scott Peterson Staff Member

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    I own the hardtail 700 and the 700 Acoustic.

    The hardtail replaced a hardtail 500 that I had.

    The 700 Acoustic is my go-to stage acoustic and has been in heavy use by me since about May 2004. It has never let me down and is a wonderful tool for the job. No feedback and once I did some upgrades to it (new nut, fret crowning, new tuners, micromeshed the back of the neck) the guitar is a great player too. The tones are exceptionally good to front of house and every board tape I have heard of it with me playing sounds far superior IMHO to when I was playing "real" acoustics in the same band.

    The 700 Hardtail is a nice guitar. I did a setup to it; and keep the firmware updated (the latest firmware is 3.10) and the last firmware upgrade really cut the perception of a latency that always bugged me with it. That issue now fixed, the guitar is really pretty good. The 700 plays well, is a nice weight and the tones range from excellent (strat, tele, hollowbody, semi-hollowbody) to fair (banjo). Recorded it sounds much better than you'd imagine. Your perception as a player is challenged because you don't play a strat the same way you play a Les Paul; you need to adjust your attack and attitude when you are playing. It is harder than it sounds.

    The altered tunings is crazy, but there is one major thing to note. On stage, it works fine. At home or recording, it is *very* important to note that you will hear the actual physical guitar being fingered and played in normal EADGBE tuning at 440hz while you hear from the monitor/amp the results of the altered tuning. It is very hard for my little pea brain to get around. You can listen back to the track and you'll be impressed, but the act of actually doing it is indeed a strange thing.

    The "X" factor in the Variax series is the Variax Workbench software. Once you have started digging into that, well, you'll spend hours and come away entirely impressed and educated. You can try things that are impossible in real life and get a clue of what it'd really sound like. It is an *amazing* peice of software.
     
  3. gomez1856

    gomez1856 Member

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    Scott summed it up very well. I've got a 500 and look to get an acoustic 700. My experience has been that it's great for recording and playing at home. I've got the earliest model and it's not the best player, but as Scott mentioned, the 700 is a higher quality guitar. I replaced the neck, but skimped on the quality of the replacement, so I'm sure it'd be fine if I just ponied up for a nicer neck.
     
  4. YZDanno

    YZDanno Member

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    I was curious on these as well, so I purchased a Variax 600 last week (along with a PodXT Live). I'm a Strat/Tele player, which is why I purchased the 600 instead of the 700. From what I hear, the 700 has a neck profile more like a Les Paul/Gibson type guitar and the 600 is more Strat/Tele like.

    My first impressions on playability were not positive as the action was very high and the intonation was off by a ridiculous amount. Playing it like this didn't leave a good impression initially, however I decided I'd get the tools out and do a setup on it. Once the action was lowerered a little and the intonation was adjusted, I fell in love with it and like the way it plays just as much as my USA G&Ls.

    As for the sounds, well, I'm thoroughly impressed. The Tele and Strat models are really good. I'm still exploring all of the sounds available and am also digging the ES-335 and Acoustic models (except for the 12 string models). It's not quite as a dynamic as a regular guitar, but if you need to go from a Strat to LP to Jazzbox in a set, this is a great solution.

    In my case, I'm using it for a P&W band at church with the PodXT Live and it's amazing at how many tones I can get. I'm definitely keeping it now and decided to put some Steinberger locking tuners on it to help with the Tremolo tuning stability. I may also take it to a guitar tech to have a proper setup done on it and maybe replace the nut with a bone nut.
     
  5. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    I had an early-gen 500 hardtail, and it was amazing. I used it when I was gigging a lot with a band that needed some basic acoustic rhythm, and it blew the sound engineers away. The singer had a Martin 000 with a Baggs Dual-Source, and mine always sounded better and didn't have the feedback issues. The guitar itself is about the same quality as a decent Korean Strat, and can be very playable (although doesn't have the feel of a more-expensive guitar). The electric tones were great, the Strat tones were especially accurate. I didn't really play with the banjo or sitar or resonators, but they were cool to fool around with. Really, it's not the same, but for $700 you can have access to pretty much any guitar tone you'd want. Sure, it's better to have each and every individual model, but then you're paying $1000-3000 per. I sold mine because the band sorta dissolved... it was either that or my "real" guitars, so it went, but I'd pick one up again in a heartbeat if I was in that situation again. Really, it's a great toy that isn't just a toy.
     
  6. Kewlpack

    Kewlpack Member

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    I just got my third Fourth Variax. Long ago I had a V500, then a V300, and then again another V500... all of those went back to the store for this or that issue... or I had GASfor other things.

    In a funny twist of fate over the weekend, I managed to find a MINT, used, red V500 - perfectly setup... for $279 (just the guitar - nothing else)! The price was so low it was a no-brainer.

    So I call Line6 and tell them I need a pedal/psu/cable since it didn't come with anything... today they told me they would ship out all of the accessories (except bag) for NOTHING... they'll even pay shipping.

    My hat is off to Line6 for an excellent customer service experience. I was ready to pay for the accessories, but the rep said, "Nah, man. We'll take good care of you."

    BTW - with the latest firmware update (v3.10) - I have zero issues with the tones. They are brighter, punchier, and the 12 strings sound great. The alt tunings are good too - and if you don't want to hear the standard tuning of the actual guitar... just turn up the amp a little more or use headphones. :)

    I am a happy camper today!
     
  7. jpage

    jpage Silver Supporting Member

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    A rundown of my qwest to try a Line 6 Variax 700:

    Called GC here in Denver and the guy tells me that they are only going to carry the 300 model Variax and all the others are special order. On top of that, he claimed it would be awhile before anyone got any stock on them--according to him they just didn't sell at all.

    It's not like I'm in a small city or something; and I do tend to like to play a $1200 instrument before commiting to it.


    So I finally found a Variax (lower end--$599 I think) yesterday @ guitar center. After I had them change the battery (there was none) I played around with it for a bit. My obsevations:

    -the strings on the guitar were the lightest I have ever seen. I think that the first three (unwound) strings were all .008s.

    -the neck was the absolute thinnest, skinniest thing I have ever played. I am 6'5" with hands to match and I felt like I was playing a toy. The frets extended over the sides all the way up the neck, but that happens on most guitars up in this altitude. Easily the worst neck I have ever played in 25 years on any guitar costing more than $200. The frets were so rough that I could hear the strings "scraping" over them whan I was bending strings!

    -the neck needed serious adjustment and maybe was simply defective. The GC sales guy told me that he'd give me some $ off because all of these Line 6 guitars had warped necks (??!!). Geez, can I get a deal on rancid meat at the grocery next week...?

    -the "Modeling knob" that has all of the words on it felt as though it would break off unless very careful. Maybe it was missing a nut or something as it was wobbily and actually made noise when I moved the guitar.

    -I loved the acoustic models (well, one of them anyway). The others were hard to judge because of the horrible quality of the guitar.

    I guess I am going to have to give up. No way on God's green earth do I buy a Line 6 "guitar" sight unseen. And since it looks as though no stores in this major metropolitan area will carry the stuff, that really leaves me no option. Maybe I'm spoiled but I can't see any company putting out garbage like that thing I played yesterday and staying in the guitar making business. The thing is I really , really, really wanted to love it. The ability to get a decent acoustic simulation out of a "real" amplifier is alone worth $500 to me. I wish that there was a "Variax Les Paul" because I'd spend $3000 right now.

    It's a shame this technology is probably going to go to waste because Line 6 was in a hurry to get it in the hands of every skateboard punk in America. That guitar I took the afternoon off to drive across town to try out was a complete and utter waste of time for any real player.
     
  8. DavidE

    DavidE Member

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    "The ability to get a decent acoustic simulation out of a "real" amplifier is alone worth $500 to me. I wish that there was a "Variax Les Paul" because I'd spend $3000 right now. "

    You won't get decent acoustic sound out of an electric guitar amp. You have to send the acoustic sounds to the p.a. or an acoustic amp for them to sound right. That's one of the functions of the included footswitch (also provides power with a stereo cable). XLR out to p.a. and 1/4" out to your electric guitar amp.

    I bought one of the first 500's in my city. I returned it within the 30 day trial period. As I wrote to Guitar Player after their cover story on the Variax (and they printed my letter), the guitar was unuseable live because the guitar accurately modeled the different outputs of different guitars. So, if I was using a strat sound and a LP sound in the same song, the LP would be much louder. That might be ok of using the strat sound for rhythm and LP sound for a lead, but overall it just didn't work.

    Now that the workbench software is out, that problem is solved. In my custom banks, the volumes of the presets are set roughly equal so I can easily switch among different sounds without having to work the volume control or hit a boost pedal just to keep things even.

    There are also all kinds of possibilities with the software and it's easy to use.

    I find that the alternate tunings work surprisingly well.

    The new firmware upgrade really improved the 12 string sounds. I used my new/used 500 at my gig last week and it sounded great and I was able to use the proper sounds for our wide ranging set list. Too bad it isn't as good a guitar as my Hamers or PRS, but it's not bad when properly set up. I'm going to use it again this week and see if I feel the same way.
     
  9. jpage

    jpage Silver Supporting Member

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    "You won't get decent acoustic sound out of an electric guitar amp."

    That's what I always thought but I found that at least one of the modeled acoutics sounded great (for a sim of course) out of the amp I was playing the guitar out of (a HR Fender I believe).

    Congrats to you on finding a playable guitar. The one I played was so ridiculously horrible that I would find a hard time recommending it to an 8 year old looking for his first guitar.

    The problem with all of this is that Guitar Center (the biggest L6 pimpers of them all) is now refusing to stock any Variaxes except for these toys. Without GC pushing these products, sales will suffer tremendously. When I asked if they could bring one in I was told I would have to pay for it first and my money would not be refundable.

    With these issues, I would be surprised if Line 6 continues the Variax for very long at all. It's a shame but I don't see how the line can survive without any stocking dealers around the country.
     
  10. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    With Warmoth offering Variax-friendly pieces:

    http://www.warmoth.com/guitar/line6/line6.cfm

    It can be very easy to get the technology into a much more user-friendly package. Also, there are quite a few players out there carving their own bodies for the electronics. I can't help but think that a Variax Les Paul isn't too far off. Of course, Gibson is already working on their own digital guitar format... but that's a whole nuther issue entirely.

    My Variax was very playable, needed minimal setup, and while the frets weren't the cleanest I've ever seen, they weren't unplayable. Sure, they have lemons out there... and they're cheap guitars anyways... but you can find some better units if you look.
     
  11. vinni

    vinni Member

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    Last saturday I played the electric one and the Acoustic Variax.
    Also the Live XT.
    Earlier that week I played a Taylor acoustic. The 210-E
    ("budget"-taylor)

    the salesperson insisted that I played the Acoustic Variax.
    After 5 minutes I asked for his lighter.....so I could burn it.
    Horrible.....not only the sounds....the guitar really feels cheap.
    The Taylor is lightyears ahead of the Variax.

    Same with the electric version and Live XT
    No match for a real guitar and good tubeamp.

    Sorry guys.....

    Vinni
     
  12. jpage

    jpage Silver Supporting Member

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    I understand about the Warmoth and other options but apparently the electronics of the cheapest model is different from the other two. Meaning that the "guts" will cost upwards of $6-700.

    I love the idea. I am just noticing something on...the...wall..., yep, it's the writing. No stocking dealers=no sales=discontinued product=no support for a proprietary technology.

    Frankly, it ticks me off because I hear great things about them.
     
  13. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    I have a V300 in the Denver area if you'd like to give it a try.
     
  14. Antero

    Antero Member

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    The recordings of 'em I've heard haven't impressed me... they DO get the general character of each instrument, but they don't sound good doing it...
     
  15. CGrisamore

    CGrisamore Member

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    Currently playing in a classic rock cover band and I am using the Variax 500 exclusively. Like others have said, the build quality is nothing special but if you need a variety of tones in a live setting and don't feel like bringing a lot of guitars, there's nothing else like it. Purists will turn up their nose but I have found it very useable and my band members are wowed.

    I own much more expensive guitars than the Variax but for this band, it's the right tool (I even bought a 2nd one as a backup).

    [​IMG]
     
  16. DavidE

    DavidE Member

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    Yo! Vinni! ;-)

    I was underwhelmed by the acoustic variax I tried in a store as well. Thought it played poorly and sounded bad.

    I'm sure the software you tried in the electric one was old. The new updates do make a big difference.

    The Variax guitars I've seen in the big box stores have all been destroyed by testers and not cared for by the stores. They can't seem to take care high end acoustic guitars let alone something like this. Mine plays fine and is decently built.

    And if you want to throw the guts in another guitar, buy used. I got my 500 for $400 with the extra digital cable to hook it to my XTLive. I think there are still new ones out there for $599 now.
     
  17. RickC

    RickC Gold Supporting Member

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    Someone brought a Variax 600 to the local blues jam this past Sunday night; I was very impressed. I couldn't actually see what the guy was using at first, but the tone stood out so much it grabbed my attention; when I found out, I was shocked. The other player onstage at the time was using a P90 Historic; the Variax smoked it. Really :eek:

    I'd heard earlier versions live before, they were okay. The latest firmware seems to really be a step up.

    /rick
     
  18. smoove

    smoove Guest

    I have a house gig every weekend at a place where they have the worst power imaginable. Playing becomes an exercise in buzz management and stifles creativity in the worst sort of way.

    The Variax changed my life because it is absolutely, 100% impervious to 60-cycle hum. (No magnetic pickups - no inductance - no hum).

    Everything else is gravy. (But, I REALLY, REALLY like the gravy...).
     
  19. papersoul

    papersoul Member

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    My biggest thing is the brighter or thinner sound and feel of the guitar...not liking either on the 700.
     
  20. edwarddavis

    edwarddavis Supporting Member

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    Line 6 makes some great stuff, its not junk.
     

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