Why isn't Variax popular?

firehawkkwah

Member
Messages
144
It's clearly not a popular instrument.
If it was, there would be updates, and also competition.
Modeling amps and effects is a booming business. Tons of great options and many price points.

But the Variax mostly stands alone. They went highball with the American jtv, metal with Shuriken, classic with the Standard...
And given the popularity of the Helix there's a lot of people out there with an unused VDI port on the back of their box.

So why? The Standard looks and feels like a Pacifica, one of the best selling guitars out there (as well as being a strat style). The 59 is an LP... The modeled tones are pretty good, and even if you don't like modeling it's still a real regular guitar.

So what gives? Not in enough stores? The name brand appeal maybe wasn't there years ago but L6 is highly respected in the modeling community, which seems to be having tons of growth.

Why aren't there updates to Variax, or Headrush models, fender and gibson...?
 

ljholland

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,716
I own a 69S and think it's a very nice Strat. Forgetting the digital part, as a Strat with conventional magnetic pickups, it's every bit as nice as a Fender. However, it's not a number 1 for me. I have other guitars that I enjoy playing more. I think a lot of the reason that they aren't that popular is that it's different. Guitar players just don't play "different". That's why we play teles, strats, and LPs in 2020. Also, you'll never see one in a store so it's impossible for players to try.

Given that, it's a very nice guitar and has a handful of good sounds and many meh sounds. If you're expecting a 335, Ric, Gretsch, etc.....you'll mostly get the tone but you won't get the feel and vibe of those guitars.

I primarily bought it as it's one easy guitar to bring to practice where we do classic rock covers and I need open tunings for a few songs. I didn't get it for the sounds. For our occasional gigs (which are gone now), I bring 2-3 main guitars with different tunings and the Variax stays home.
 

voggin

Member
Messages
306
I think most guitarists like their techy stuff external to the guitar, which is why Helix and the like are vastly more popular than the variax. And older players probably have nightmare flashbacks to guitars from the seventies and eighties with lots of onboard gizmos failing. Which is unfair, as I imagine the tech in the variax is much more reliable.
 

skhan007

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,516
Agree with the above. I think most guitarists would like their tech stuff on the amp or floor and prefer the guitar be less complicated. Go figure- we welcome tech in our phones, devices, cars, etc., but not our guitars. That has to remain in 1950's spec.
 

_MonSTeR_

Member
Messages
511
Because guitar is a multi sensory instrument.

We don’t just go for the sounds, it’s also the looks, the feel, even the ‘image’ of the brand.

Line6 despite making fantastic amps and modellers and such, just doesn’t have the right image or kudos attached to its guitars.

On top of that when was the last time a guitar player thought needing LESS guitars to get MORE sounds was a good idea???
 

guitarmook

Member
Messages
2,761
It's a compromise solution in search of a problem. Anytime I've NEEDED different guitar sounds, I haven't needed them during a single song. It's easier to swap guitars than to use either less-than-perfect or mediocre 'sounds' in the same guitar.
 

pale fire

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,757
I know you are taking about the electrics but I played a 700 acoustic for a lot of years as my main guitar. Loved the neck, and learned which models worked and which didn’t in a band context. Think I had three of them at one point. I really only used one or two of the models and once I got a crowdster it did those sounds better. I still think about getting another one because it is cool to dial up a banjo or sitar sound once in a while. Used the banjo model on a studio recording once and it was a neat little ear candy kind of thing. The sounds can sound a little artificial but I ran them through an aphex aural exciter then to PA and got a decent sound. FWIW, I have had all the other acoustic - electrics (like the Gibson Chet sst, Taylor T5, etc ) and some of them weren’t much more natural sounding
 

Gtrman100

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,834
Why aren't Variaxes more popular? Because guitar players are very conservative with instrument choices. Like mentioned before, why are Strats, Teles, and Les Pauls the dominant instruments today even though they were first introduced in over 65 years ago?

I've had 2 Variaxes since the JTV's were introduced in 2012 (hard to believe it's been that long). mainly for cover band gigging where I needed multiple instrument for one song. I got tired of carrying 3 guitars to a gig and having to switch between songs. Variax work great for that, and were totally reliable, good playing, solid guitars.

But, I think they made mistakes with the design, based on guitar players attitudes.
1. The guitars didn't look EXACTLY like a Strat or Les Paul.
2. Some of the default guitar models don't sound close enough to a typical model of the intended guitar. The Workbench software can help that dramatically.
3. The piezo pickup system creates a different envelope of the attack of a note which when listened to by itself, doesn't have the immediate response like a mag pickup. This was helped, but not eliminated in a software update.
4. The support by music store staff is laughably bad. Try asking a GC sales guy about a Variax, and if they have one, they can't figure it out (even though it's very simple) and there won't be a battery or a power supply to operate it anyway.
5. They are more expensive than the equivalent guitars without Variax technology- around $500 more.

That said, for a gigging musician, they are awesome. In a band situation, neither you or your audience can tell the difference. For recording, you can get convincing sounds of guitars you probably don't own.

There are many pro players using them, but in reality big name players don't need an all-in-one solution for gigs. They have a load of guitars available, and a road crew to support them. So if players don't see their favorite star playing a Variax, they are not inclined to buy one.

I'm happy with mine, and with the Helix integration, it makes a very good sounding, versatile rig. I hope they continue to support and develop Variax, but some comments from Line 6 about the Variax being "a labor of love" make it iffy.
 

Gig Young

Hey! 19! kizz off!!
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,443
Looks, looks...


Isn't about the sound ultimately and of course construction, feel and materials?
 

HughesP

Member
Messages
1,269
I'm not sure it is just that guitar players are conservative (though that plays into it).

I think that:

a) The first few models, in particular, weren't well made instruments. While later ones are made better, I think a lot of guitar players won't go near them because they were turned off early on. They need a rebranding. Just like "Helix" wasn't another "pod".

b) People like guitars that don't necessarily have "built in obsolescence". We bond with guitars in a vastly different way than pedals/amps. There's a certain amount of "love" people have for their guitars, where pedals/amps are looked at more as tools. Putting a bunch of tech into a guitar seems to mean the guitar will be "out dated" and lose value whenever the next big thing comes along. Where as a strat/tele/les paul is pretty much proven to stand the test of time. A 50 year old les paul is still a great guitar and parts are still available. Will you still be able to repair a variax in 50 years if something breaks down? Probably not.

With us having these personal relationships with our instruments, this matters. I mean, on a relational level, getting a variax would be like dating someone who says "I'll date you until someone better looking comes along.". Most people wouldn't enter a relationship like that. Of course not everyone looks at guitars this way, but I can say that all the people I know who play variax guitars tend to see them as tools rather than lifetime instruments.

c) Lots of people like guitars that are simple. Same reason most people don't buy guitars with a whole bunch of switches, push/pull knobs, etc... Yes, there is a market for people who love those things, but most people like simpler guitars and then dealing with all the knobs/electronic stuff on the pedalboard/amp.

d) People don't see their idols playing them.

e) The sounds are just "okay". It's a functional guitar, but not a "special" guitar. Plus basically every other bit of guitar marketing is about selling the idea of why such-and-such an instrument is "special" and has the ultimate tone. So even if the sounds were great, line 6 is facing decades of guitar marketing from EVERY other guitar manufacturer.

f) Perceived Durability & repairs - we see pictures of relic'd guitars all of the time. People take pride in how guitars like telecasters can take a beating/feel indestructible A bunch of computer tech, no matter who durable, can't shake appearing more delicate. Plus, when/if something does go wrong, who can repair it for you? It's one thing to swap out a pot/switch on a telecaster, but repairing a circuit board is something entirely different.

g) Batteries. Just like passive pickups are more popular than active pickup, the idea that the guitar could shut down on you on a gig isn't appealing to a lot of players. I played with a bass player who went through a run of bad batteries and literally had his bass die on EVERY GIG for a stretch of 6 months (playing 3x 1 hour sets a night, doing weddings, dances, etc).
 

twoheadedboy

Member
Messages
11,589
I own a 69S and think it's a very nice Strat. Forgetting the digital part, as a Strat with conventional magnetic pickups, it's every bit as nice as a Fender. However, it's not a number 1 for me. I have other guitars that I enjoy playing more. I think a lot of the reason that they aren't that popular is that it's different. Guitar players just don't play "different". That's why we play teles, strats, and LPs in 2020. Also, you'll never see one in a store so it's impossible for players to try.

Given that, it's a very nice guitar and has a handful of good sounds and many meh sounds. If you're expecting a 335, Ric, Gretsch, etc.....you'll mostly get the tone but you won't get the feel and vibe of those guitars.

I primarily bought it as it's one easy guitar to bring to practice where we do classic rock covers and I need open tunings for a few songs. I didn't get it for the sounds. For our occasional gigs (which are gone now), I bring 2-3 main guitars with different tunings and the Variax stays home.
No famous players have gotten famous sounds using them or something similar. I think that drives a lot of guitar sales.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
42,707
I like'em. The more recent models have gotten it right, imo.

@LHanson gigs with one regularly.

I think most of the reasons why it and other out-of-the-box guitar designs don't have wider appeal have already been listed. I would just echo those and think guitarists are pretty traditional in their tastes with regard to guitar design.

Reactions to PRS tops, relics, and headless designs show how narrow-minded guitarists can be.
 

Gtrman100

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,834
I'm not sure it is just that guitar players are conservative (though that plays into it).

I think that:

a) The first few models, in particular, weren't well made instruments. While later ones are made better, I think a lot of guitar players won't go near them because they were turned off early on. They need a rebranding. Just like "Helix" wasn't another "pod".

b) People like guitars that don't necessarily have "built in obsolescence". We bond with guitars in a vastly different way than pedals/amps. There's a certain amount of "love" people have for their guitars, where pedals/amps are looked at more as tools. Putting a bunch of tech into a guitar seems to mean the guitar will be "out dated" and lose value whenever the next big thing comes along. Where as a strat/tele/les paul is pretty much proven to stand the test of time. A 50 year old les paul is still a great guitar and parts are still available. Will you still be able to repair a variax in 50 years if something breaks down? Probably not.

With us having these personal relationships with our instruments, this matters. I mean, on a relational level, getting a variax would be like dating someone who says "I'll date you until someone better looking comes along.". Most people wouldn't enter a relationship like that. Of course not everyone looks at guitars this way, but I can say that all the people I know who play variax guitars tend to see them as tools rather than lifetime instruments.

c) Lots of people like guitars that are simple. Same reason most people don't buy guitars with a whole bunch of switches, push/pull knobs, etc... Yes, there is a market for people who love those things, but most people like simpler guitars and then dealing with all the knobs/electronic stuff on the pedalboard/amp.

d) People don't see their idols playing them.

e) The sounds are just "okay". It's a functional guitar, but not a "special" guitar. Plus basically every other bit of guitar marketing is about selling the idea of why such-and-such an instrument is "special" and has the ultimate tone. So even if the sounds were great, line 6 is facing decades of guitar marketing from EVERY other guitar manufacturer.

f) Perceived Durability & repairs - we see pictures of relic'd guitars all of the time. People take pride in how guitars like telecasters can take a beating/feel indestructible A bunch of computer tech, no matter who durable, can't shake appearing more delicate. Plus, when/if something does go wrong, who can repair it for you? It's one thing to swap out a pot/switch on a telecaster, but repairing a circuit board is something entirely different.

g) Batteries. Just like passive pickups are more popular than active pickup, the idea that the guitar could shut down on you on a gig isn't appealing to a lot of players. I played with a bass player who went through a run of bad batteries and literally had his bass die on EVERY GIG for a stretch of 6 months (playing 3x 1 hour sets a night, doing weddings, dances, etc).
Good points made. As far a being obsolete, they work fine as a regular guitar even if the electronics aren't the latest and greatest, or don't work. That's the only slight disagreement I might have. Many players use the mag pickups most of the time, and only use the models for specific tones.
 
Messages
110
Something like this one looks gorgeous enough for me.

I know nothing about them. What's needed (between guitar and amp) in order to output their "magic" sounds?
 

BMW-KTM

Member
Messages
304
I know nothing about them. What's needed (between guitar and amp) in order to output their "magic" sounds?
Nothing is needed. You can access it all from thumbwheels on the guitar. That said, if you also have a Helix you can get the Helix to switch the guitar for you. You could be playing a Strat with bridge/middle for your rhythm tone and then, with a toe tap, add boost and grind and switch to a Les Paul in the neck position for your lead break.
 




Trending Topics

Top