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Variax on the cheap?

Chuckwalla

Member
Messages
106
I have an HD500 and would kinda like to try a Variax. Been browsing ebay; the 300s can be had pretty cheap. Are these worth having or should I be looking for something else? Just looking for something to mess around with.
 

BigWave

Member
Messages
501
Hold out for at least a 500. I think they have the same guts but the 500 is finished a little better. I like mine anyway and I think it plays and feels better than a 300.

BTW - The acoustic models are great the electrics are ok. I've never been able to get the LP model to sound anything like any LP I've ever heard.
 

Pietro

2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy
Messages
16,441
Avoid the 300. They play terribly and weigh 6 tons.
 

jdalf

Member
Messages
1,003
I had a 300 for awhile, it was pretty good, sold it financing something else, wish I still had it. I had a black one and put an allparts big head maple strat neck on it, looked pretty dang cool.
It had loads of good sounds and played well, crazy what you can do when paired with a HD500 and workbench software.
 

Chuckwalla

Member
Messages
106
Thanks for the input. So, is it the neck that make the 300's so bad? I have a few tele and strat necks. Wonder if the neck pocket is the same.

I read that the 300's have a 1.69" nut. If that's the case, then I don't want one unless I can change the neck.
 
Messages
3,917
Thanks for the input. So, is it the neck that make the 300's so bad? I have a few tele and strat necks. Wonder if the neck pocket is the same.

I read that the 300's have a 1.69" nut. If that's the case, then I don't want one unless I can change the neck.
I believe Warmoth makes official Variax replacement bodies and necks, so that should be do-able.

I have a 300. The guts have gone wonky on it and I have yet to take it in for a repair.

As a guitar, it plays like a halfway decent import. The fit and finish could be better, but I don't think mine is particularly heavy nor hard to play in any way. I didn't hand pick it either. I went to GC, played a red one, liked it enough, asked for a black one, and they brought it out and I took it home.

The newer models are said to be a little more responsive. Some folks feel that the alternate tuning stuff on the 300/500, et al. are a little too laggy for their tastes.

In my opinion, the biggest weakness is that some techniques (I'm looking at you palm mutes) simply don't sound right with piezo-electric pickups. The new ones work around that by including magnetic pickups too. I've considered adding a mag pickup to mine, but haven't yet done it.

The second weakness is that if you "know" the feel of how chords and notes feel to play, it's a little disconcerting to have the sound coming out of the amp clash with the actual vibration of the strings. You can get used to it, but it's definitely a little weird at first.

That said, it's sickeningly awesome fun to play just to be able to have those kinds of tonal differences at the twist of a knob (or the stomp of a switch). I should really nut up and get that repaired...
 

jhall

Member
Messages
849
I'm a digital convert to the bone. Yet I've NEVER played a Variaxe that sounded any better that fresh poo to me.
 

Pietro

2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy
Messages
16,441
I'm a digital convert to the bone. Yet I've NEVER played a Variaxe that sounded any better that fresh poo to me.
Seriously? You should check out the JTVs. They are AWESOME!
 

jhall

Member
Messages
849
This may be totally true when played through a generic amp at low volume (never done it with a Variax), but personal experience with 11R and amplified up to ear splitting levels the Variax is awesome. Pushing a lot of air makes up for deficiencies I'd suppose.
For me it was usually into a Pod XT live into a 1,200 watt powered mixer into a pair of dual 15" cone 7" horn tweeter towers. So yeah I played it plenty loud. I still have that Variaxe in my closet and have never even bothered with it when it lost the sound in one of the piezos in the bridge.
I do ahve an HD-500 now and an updated Eleven Rack and many many tube amps. Still have a bad taste from that first V-axe. I SHOULD try one of the new ones but I'm leery of the reliability of them.
 

marshall2288

Member
Messages
1,101
I have a 300 (I love it....sharp fret ends never bothered me and it's not heavy at all) and I'e had to replace 2 piezo (sp?) things already. It's an easy fix but I don't gig with the guitar anymore. It's strictly a studio tool for me now.
 

mattball826

Senior Member
Messages
20,812
Reliability is a factor. If you gig with it I think you should have two. I had two variax guitars and one flaked out. I trust the Variax as far as I can throw it, but same as 11R, I have two for that reason. Blowing fuses with a tube amp is easy, bring fuses and have replacement tubes. The new JTV models evidently from some reports sound "better" but from the LINE 6 literature and posts there's no difference in the modeling from the 300/500/700 to the newer JTV.
i think the difference is the better class guitar with the similar electronics.
 

speedyone

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,452
The 300 felt like a toy; Crappy fretjob, horrible playability. If you enjoy any techniques featuring palm muting (which are numerous,) the artifacts/ringing-weirdness you get is a huge nuisance.

Now the 700 felt like a REAL, quality guitar, nice fretwork, nice feeling neck.

This is one guy's opinion of course.
 

dspellman

Senior Member
Messages
8,310
The 300 felt like a toy; Crappy fretjob, horrible playability. If you enjoy any techniques featuring palm muting (which are numerous,) the artifacts/ringing-weirdness you get is a huge nuisance.

Now the 700 felt like a REAL, quality guitar, nice fretwork, nice feeling neck.

This is one guy's opinion of course.
I have the 500 (and an Acoustic 700).
I've had it for a while, and honestly it's not a particularly great guitar as a guitar.
I think you'll find a surprising number of them have been gutted for the electronics to be transplanted to a better guitar. Fact is, I bought the 500 as a donor; just haven't had time to get around to the surgery. But it's certainly usable and can be set up to play very well.

The newer models have several advantages, even if the models themselves are identical. One, they're better guitars all-round, including the Korean versions. Two, they have magnetic pickups built in. Three, they have more processing power (reduces some artifacting in the more complicated models, such as a 12-string in an alternate tuning). Four, the piezo saddles are much improved -- this was the source of the little ping/ring noises that some folks notice. Five, the alternate tuning setup has been much improved in terms of ergonomics. It's also benefited from the increase in processing power. But it's become outstanding.

I haven't really run into a single reliability issue with the Variax units yet. It's *always* a good idea to have a backup for any guitar if your livelihood depends on it. If I were using a Variax in an orchestra pit for theater, I'd want to have a duplicate handy. Same for any live work, I'd say. But that applies for the entire rig.
 

fe911

Member
Messages
802
I just ordered a 500 from GC used. I figured the thirty day return policy might be a good idea over craigslist. I am not going to expect it to sound as good as my LP standard and JMP stack, but it looks like a lot of fun to play around with the alternate tuning and different amps, effects, etc.
Also, the day after I ordered it a black 700 showed up for 399, but the 500 was a lot less, so I don't feel too bad...
 

epluribus

Member
Messages
9,170
I have a freak 300 that I bought as a donor. Got it off the truck, the thing plays great. Crazy.

But...reliabilty...not! The early 300's had a flaw in the power system that makes them go silent at random...and frequent...times. I had mine in for repairs and it still does it. Great fun to play, incredibly useful, but owning to the bad reliability, ironically use-less.

Moral: Get something besides a 300 and I think you'll absolutely love the electronics. Way too fun! :beer

--Ray

Yes, they have funny "feel." What would you expect...a solidbody guitar to magically "feel" like a J-200? :) Took me a while to figure that out... :bonk
 

pomfret

Member
Messages
1,993
If I were using a Variax in an orchestra pit for theater, I'd want to have a duplicate handy. Same for any live work, I'd say. But that applies for the entire rig.
Funny you said that, as I've used a variax 600 + X3 Live for almost a year in a orchestra pit.

Much as I hated playability on that guitar, truth is there was no other way to playing that score: acoustic, electric, and banjo, even in the same song (I'm taking about Spamalot, the musical from Monty Python).
 




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