I tested the JTV-89 (fixed bridge) about a week ago. I really liked the way it played and sounded - especially some of the Les Paul sounds (I really liked those). Liked the way the battery compartement worked. Liked the way the guitar looked. I'm an Ibanez RG guy and the one I tried felt really nice - maybe a little more like Jacksons that I've played in the past than my familar Ibanez guitars, but still, it felt like I needed it to feel. It was the blood red one - looked GREAT to me. My understanding is the one I tested was using the older/original firmware (not the recent update that is supposed to improve palm muting and maybe some acoustic sounds?). Not sure though.
The 2 things I really wished were different on the 89 I tested:
1) Reverse headstock - I'm ok with the looks of a reverse headstock, but prefer tradtional - especially for the functionality. Just easier for me to get to a traditional setup, easier for me to keep things straight in my head, etc.. Plus the reverse headstock somehow says "aggressive and heavy" (at least to my perceptions - and I don't always play in that genre - so more mainstream is probably better to my liking. Just me.
2) Fixed bridge - not really that I didn't like it - it seemed fine. But I just prefer locking systems with a floating tremelo and why I waited for the 89f to come out.
So, given all of that - and that my only 2 concerns with the JTV-89 were going to be addressed with the JTV-89F, I ordered one last week. I am "in line" to recieve it once the distributer gets the shipment from Line 6. As much as I love the look of the blood red version (stunning!), I decided to go with the black version. Boring as it may seem to some, I personally don't mind being a little generic with my gear. I'm feeling like because the blood red looks so great, by far, there will be a lot more of those sold and on stages everywhere compared to the black ones. For reference, I remember seeing for the original Variax (identifiable largely due to that popular bright red color with white pickgaurd). So, I figured black would make me look a little less identifiable as a Variax and maybe more as "just some cool guitar". I'm fine with that - and prefer it. The blood red sure does look good though!
It is true that...
1) I don't know how the tremelo system will feel or function. I assume it will work well and that I'll like it.
2) I don't know if the palm muting improvements will be noticeable to me - hopefully. I really didn't test aspect that in the 89 I played (I forgot to do so), but I'll probably be ok with it.
3) I don't know if the quality control is such that the 89f I receive will be built as well as I perceived the tested 89 to be. But I've had good luck with that in the past with other manufacturers (maybe I'm just not as picky about that as some).
4) Cosmetically, the only other thing I can even think of is that I guess I'd prefer if the headstock wasn't stamped multiple times with "James Tyler" and/or "Variax". Its not a deal breaker for me and at least it is a black headstock (matching my selected body color). Thinking that I didn't need to be reminded multipled times of what make/model it is! Still it looks pretty nice even as-is and I'll be fine with it. Probably end up getting used to it and liking it.
I'm very excited about getting mine in. I'm told it should be in the next 2 to 4 weeks or so. Even though it comes witha gig bag, I plan to get a hard shell case for it. But I'll do that once I'm certain that I'm keeping (and not returning) it due to any unpleasant surprises quality-wise or functionally. Fingers crossed there are no surprises. I'm hopeful to make it my main guitar. Honestly, if it is as good of a fit for me as I'm hoping, I might just sell off some more items and get a second one as a backup. Even if that means selling my Rick 360, Epiphone Casino and a few others - love them, but may not warrant keeping them giving the infrequent use combined with having something that might reasonable work for my needs to sound like them.
I'm interested to hear from others on their thougt processes concerning the 89F.
Thank you so much for detailed reply and for sharing your thoughts! It's great that you were able to test JTV89 with the fixed bridge! From the demos that I could hear on Youtube and the other sources, I can only agree that Les Paul sounds exceptional because the very structure of these Gibsons has the tone that can be heard clearly even with the guitar unplugged.
I am also an Ibanez person by the shapes, peculiarities of design and the playability factor. It is also one of the reasons why I decided to choose JTV89, if I had the choice. I also love the way it looks, to be honest, gives an awesome impression from the pictures. I am glad that you mentioned the feel of Jackson guitars since I have played a budged Jackson before and the feel was probably one of the best, if not the best from what I've tried in my life.
I agree with the reverse headstock thing. One of guitars I played had a reverse headstock and I couldn't get used with it right away, just took some time. As one of the strings would detune, it took me few seconds to get things right for some reason. Some people love it, though. Just like you, I am also not playing in the aggressive and heavy genre and I often tend to acoustics, but like to mix both, - starting slowly and acoustically based and then bursting into the full mix of high-gain power. Still it's good to have a chance to get the best of both worlds, so to say. I have never played with the high-end locking systems with the floating tremolo, so I am trying to decide which way to go - JTV89 or JTV89F. It's great that you already ordered JTV89F and I shall look forward to hear your comments, as soon as it gets delivered!
I find it interesting and quite original that you decided to go with the black colour. I would say that it adds some personality and makes it unique. I think I would go with the blood red since I always dreamt of red coloured Rickenbacker, so that will be a little reminder of some sort! Thank you for writing of all your thoughts regarding the colours - an important aspect of things in my opinion.
Now regarding the tremolo systems. Since it is the one from GraphTech, it is supposed to be good and high-end tremolo system. From what I've heard from the various small, but expensive guitar luthiers, this system proves to be the most reliable when it comes to floating bridges. I'm still a bit afraid of going this route, but then there are lots of things that just can't be played without tremolo when it comes to rockabilly, surf music and the oldies where sounds of Americana can be heard in various shapes and forms!
As for the palm mutting, they have improved it greatly with the latest update. At least, this is what I could hear from the Youtube videos where sound is more organic and punchy. The most important is that Line 6 guys know of this trouble and they are surely looking into it since it was already updated and mentioned with the 1.9 update. Of course, it would be best of all to try myself. And then we always have normal pickups after all.
I am wondering what does limited edition mean with the JTV89F and what is the amount of guitars that will be produced. I am also hoping that quality will be not worse than the rest of the produced line and that there will be no troubles with the piezzo and the floating bridge. However, I hope that Line 6 guys looked into all the troubles of the past and have eliminated possible mistakes and malfunctions. I wonder if JTV89 already comes with the latest 1.9 firmware update.
I have finally made a little change to the local distribution. The local dealer here in Ukraine was telling me that JTV89F should be there somewhere in June. This alone made me look into JTV89 and give up on the tremolo addition. That is, if I didn't want to buy from Thomann in Germany or any other source abroad. But that would mean that if I had any trouble, I would have to get it shipped back and the waiting would take weeks and weeks. And then, just yesterday I was told by the local dealer that JTV89F should be there on 15th of March (which is not that much to wait, compared to June). Now I am once again trying to decide which way to go. Another thing is that the price here locally is not yet clear. Just like you, I am also hoping to make it my main guitar since it will cover all the aspects of playing and the songwriting process. Being able to sing in different keys without changing guitar is one of the most important factors to me, let alone all these great guitars included. When I would spend some time getting all the gear together and getting tone right for this or that guitar, I would quickly run out of time for composing and would be forced to do the things in life that we all have to do. That would just take away from writing music and when there comes a quick idea, you just need to get it recorded and tried in various setups. If it works as it is told, it is a dream come true!
I hope that there will be no unpleasant surprises, but only the happy surprises!
Oh, you have a Rickenbacker 360? Did you try the Ricks in the JTV? If so, could you, please, tell me about it. As soon as I've heard that it has Ricks included, being the fan of R.E.M. and Tom Petty, I was literally jumping from happiness. Ahh, how I wish to get my hands on one!
Thank you so much again for sharing your thoughts and, please, keep us updated on how it goes for you!
With the best wishes,
I'm personally very excited about the new 89F.I have an 89 already and the only caveat for me has been the lack of a whammy bar.I will be able to do 99% of the songs my band plays with an 89F.The other 1% is covered by my massively customized Hamer Chaparral. I especially like the latest update that includes the high output pickup models.The sound is practically indistinguishable from the mag pickups in the Variax which led me too a pretty neat idea that I'll share ('cuz I'm nice like that LOL).
On quite a few songs from the 80's (of the "hair band" variety),it was common for the choruses to go up a full step at the end (think "Living On a Prayer" by Bon Jovi or "Crazy Crazy Nights" by KISS).I wrote a song that I wanted to do that but the riff had open notes and other fingerings that made that impossible.So I programmed a custom F# tuning in the Variax (all strings up a full step) using the high output bridge model in conjunction with it.The bulk of the song uses the Variax magnetic bridge pickup (along with some 12-string acoustic for the intro and interlude sections).When I want that higher tuning,I just tap the volume knob with my pinky to put it into Variax mode.My fingerings stay the same and I have my open notes,but the key jumps up a step.The tone between the model and the real pickups stays virually the same.I can't tell you how many times guitar players have asked me how I shift the key of the song without changing my hand position! I always make sure we play a Motley Crue song (which uses a D tuning-all strings a full step down) right after to confuse them even further.LOL The new high output models on the 89 are a dream come true and the addition of a Floyd is another!
I plan on getting a red one to match my current Variax,although if there was anything more I could wish for,it's more color choices.I'd love to see the candy orange or silver from the 69 made available (they're made in the same factory,so why not?) or a Glitter Rock White finish.
Thank you so much for your message and for sharing the great idea of doing the trick with the going up through the song´s structure. Actually, I always loved such moments in music and they always made songs spectacular in my mind and gave it a great feeling! It was adding some artistic feel and the freedom. If speaking of the freedom, JTV guitar is being a real blessing when it comes to discovering all the things you can do with it which were not possible before or something that was barely possible!
I am also excited about the new JTV89F and I think that it is going to be the route which I am going to take. The very fact that you can cover lots of ground with a single guitar and compose in tunings that you can customize or use the already included ones to sing in various keys is one of the reasons to have this great axe in one´s arsenal. I can´t wait to get mine! Does anyone know if JTV89F comes with 1.9 firmware installed?
Thank you so much again for sharing your thoughts and there is no wonder lots of guitar players come up and ask questions and feel confused when they see JTV in all of it´s blood red shining glory .
Do you have any recordings or clips online that you may wish to share? That would be ace to hear anything from the 80's era. Maybe a cover of Billy Idol's hits with Steve Stevens guitar licks somewhere? It would be quite fitting with the capabilities of Variax technology!
You're welcome Denis. I know I find it helpful when others chime in with their thoughts, so I'm glad my thoughts are helpful to you. These guitars aren't cheap, so being on the bleeding edge for a new model can be risky. But I'm game - obviously!
To answer your question about the 12-string. Yes, I did try it on the JTV-89 I played in the store. However, I didn't really scrutinize that aspect because I was just playing it through an amp (i.e. no compressor like I would normally push an electric 12-string through). And anyway, I was mostly trying to test the playability (i.e. make sure it wasn't hard or foreign for me to play it like I'm used to playing my current guitars). But from what little I heard, it sounded reasonable enough to do a song or two in a particular set and not be disappointed - at least to my ears. If I was still donig an entire Beatles act though, I think I'd still want the real thing. But a part of that is the looks aspect - never saw George Harrison playing a JTV-89F!
Seriously, though, I'll admit, I don't have a lot of first-hand experience with how good the 12-string emulation sounds on the Variax. But I have read a lot about it - it sounds like many variax owners find the 12-string emulation to be a bit disappointing relatively speaking. If I understood things correctly, it sounds like the default settings for it makes the "extra" strings just a little too out-of-pitch. As a woarkaround, some users seem to have improved on that by adjusting the tuning of each string using the software program that comes. So maybe with a few tweaks to "true-up" the tunings it will sound closer to actual. I have hopes that doing that will make it sound a lot better. In context of a full-band setup, I'm assuming it will get me by - but only when it arrives will I know.
I do not know what to expect on the Graphtech/Floyd floating tremelo system. I'm hoping it will work well. If you've never used a locking system with a floating tremelo, it can feel like a whole new world (good and bad). The good (for me anyway - if you get one that works well) it stays in tune really well. I mean REALLY well. Some of my Ibanez guitars seem to only rarely even need to be tuned from week to week. they hold a tune through thick and think, dive-bombs, pull-ups, weeks in a case or hanging on the wall. So, that's the good part.
Conversely, there are several aspects that can be tough to get used to though. For one, if you break a string on a floating tremlo system, everything goes out of tune. That sucks - you seriously have trouble even finishing the song without sounding horrible! And breaking in a new string seems to be tougher. As it stretches, you have to make adjustments and that is a bit more involved than if it was not a locking system. Once it is broken in, all is back to good. But during that adjustment period (takes me about an hour or so of playing before I feel like it is done stretching) it can keep you from sounding good. For that reason, I bring a backup guitar and will just switch to it to complete a gig - I don't even bother replacing a broken string during a gig on a floating system.
Another issue is altered tunings. I play in A=440 and using standard tuning on all of my current floating trem guitars. It is just too much of a hassle to try to change it on the fly (in my opinion). That is one thing I'm looking forward to with the variax - the ability to use drop-d, half-step down, full-step down, etc.. with the flip of a switch. Yes, there are mechanical products out there that can do some of that (i.e. the D-Tuna and such). But all have a big gotcha for me and/or my guitars that I don't want to deal with. So, the variax seems promising - maybe it will give me that ability and work well - we'll see. I was just working on a new cover song today that our group will be doing - and it was all Drop-D tuning. I don't want to bring even more guitars to the gig, so for now, I'm playing it in a compromised fashion. Once I get the variax, I'll be able to play it "correctly" - can't wait to try it!
And you even have more challenges for changing string gauges and such. Plus, on a floating system, when you bend the strings, you'll actually see the bridge responding to your bend. So you end up having to bend a note even further to attain the pitch you were arming for. On a fixed bridge system you don't have that problem - bends are a lot easier. It can be a subtle thing to some, but it actually can be an extra challenge and anyone that's never experienced before might find it very undesireable.
Bottom line: a floating system is simply more complicated to deal with. I personally think its all worth it, but I thought maybe me mentioning that to you would be helpful.
Finally, since posting above, I found a different store in my area that had a JTV-69 (with tremelo). I played it and LOVED it. I almost thought to just buy it instead of the JTV-89F I've ordered - I liked it that much. But, I kept trying to remember why I wanted a floating tremelo system. I also like the more modern neck (the 69 has a lot thicker neck, like a 69 strat - thus the name). And I really wanted 24 frets - just like that extra reach for a few things I play. Or maybe even the idea of it! But this JTV-69 played REALLY well. Lots of sustain. The non-locking tremelo stayed in good tune. It was intonated perfectly (to my ears anyway) and chords just rang out even without plugging it in. And it was gorgeous (tobacco sunburst paint job). Thought that might help for you to know. It gave me hopes that when my 89f finally arrives, that it will be in that same category for me (plays great, sounds great, looks great).
They're carried by pretty much all of the major online retailers - Musician's Friend, Sweetwater, Zzounds, SamAsh, etc.
Personally, I think I'd lean toward Sweetwater for a guitar purchase since they actually do something of a setup and quality check of the guitar before sending it out.
Update as promised...THIS IS LONG. So skip over it i if you don't like long!
As I continued to wait on the availability to order the JTV-89F, I went back and forth between choosing between the blood red color and the black one. So, I did what anybody would want to do if given the resources - I decided to order one of each! I figured I could justify it since I sold off several guitars to raise more than enough funds to afford these 2 new ones. Plus, I really like having a backup that is functionally identical, so I splurged.
They arrived in the mail from Sweetwater last Thursday (4/11/2013) and I've now had a few days to toy around with them. So, I thought I'd share my impressions at this point.
The short verdict is... I love them. They are gorgeous to look at. The red one is admittedly a bit more stunning than the black (since black is black). But both are as nice as I hoped. I've already grown to even like the headstock logo and literally everything about them. Very happy!
I had Sweetwater change the strings to Elixer 9's when they did their setup. Seems to have been a good choice and intonation appears really nice.
Other than the color, the guitars are 100% indistinguishable from each other to me (seriously). So that is at least a good indicator of some semblance of quality control I suppose. They both play really nicely and stay in tune. I could not find any manufacturing flaws with either of them. The Floyd rose is as good as any I've ever owned (at least at this point and as far as this brief time has allowed to prove). As expected, the whammy bar doesn't stay "in place" (it hangs down like many players prefer and that is normal). But I put a little bit of cotton in the mount and that gave it just enough friction to stay parallel to my strings like I prefer.
So far, I've only had 2 surprises:
1) The action as delivered is just a bit higher than what I anticipated. Not a lot - and it is still lower than average - but just not ultra-low like I'm used to. The neck appears straight as can be on each, so I'm assuming I'll have no problem lowering it just a tad later when I get around to it. For now though, I'm just using them as-delivered since it is still low enough to be enjoyable for me. I might just learn to like it as-is - who knows.
2) The magnetic pickups sound GREAT! In fact, so nice that I've used them much more by far than any of the modeling at this point. Not to say the modeling is an issue (its not), I just haven't really had the need to dig deep into it yet. Even if I end up using the Magnetic pickups 90% of the time and use the modeling here and there for need, I will remain quite pleased. I love the idea of having a great playing passive guitar that also has the versatility to do the modeling and alt tunings when desired. And if I can make good use of the magnetic pickups, that can save battery life for when I do need the modeling or the alt tuning.
They both were delivered with the latest version of the Variax firmware. Each connected fine to my PC via my HD500. And I was able to experiment a little in Workbench with tweaking some of the model patches (an example, I prefer to tone down the Electric 12-string model so the sympathetic strings are a little bit more subtle than on the factory patch as-delivered). And I also backed-up the entire set just to prove I could. Easy enough!
They each came with:
- Gig bag - beige-ish in color - actually much nicer than I was expecting (generously padded). But I have hard-shell cases for these new guitars, so the included gig bag will be put to use to maybe for some other guitars that need them.
- Set of Allen wrenches.
- Paperwork (manual, warranty card, inspected by card, etc.)
- USB interface and cable
- VDI cable (metal cannon type on one end, unprotected ethernet RJ-45 on the other).
- Battery with charger.
- Whammy bar
They sound really good to me. Again, at this point, I've by far relied on the magnetic pickups. For any naysayers that claim doing so defeats the purpose of the Variax, I say: to each his own. These guitars have to play great to be my primary guitars - and they do. So, since the magnetic pickups sound excellent to me, they are ready to replace my old reliable Ibanez RG set of guitars that I've preferred for the past few decades - even if no modeling was included. And as mentioned, the modeling and tuning functions are just the icing on the cake (albeit a FANTASTIC icing that has so much potential use for me).
Regarding the modeling...as I expected, the acoustic guitar models don't get enough justice being played through my electric guitar rig. That is to be expected. But they sound GREAT when played through a full-range system though. I prefer to roll off the volume just a bit to tame a bit brightness and that makes them VERY convincing to my ears. In my opinion, the Les Paul sounds are so convincing, I really have trouble thinking anyone could distinguish them from an actual Les Paul in a blind listening test. Sure, they may sound a bit different from any single Les Paul (because those don't all sound identical either). But the Les Paul models completely capture the nuances that I hear coming from a great sounding Les Paul. I'm very, very impressed with that set of models. And I love several of the other ones - some are more fun (banjo, resonator, sitar, etc..) while others will be practical for me to put into use (Electric 12-string). What great versatility!
For anyone claiming there is no lag when using the modeling/tuning functions…I will say there definitely can be. It is not really noticeable to me when using standard tuning. But when tuning down, it gets a bit more noticeable. And the lower the tuning, the more noticeable the lag is. I don’t think anyone else can perceive it, but the person playing can tell there is just a slight delay when the modeling plus the tuning functions are used. It’s not enough to stop me from using it at all. But for some, it could be a deal-breaker. I mostly would just be using either drop-d or 1/2 step down tunings, so the extreme down tuning would not likely be something I will need or use. But to be clear – having played an older version of the Variax before, I kind of anticipated that comes with the turf. There can be a lag. Each person would need to determine if it is acceptable or not based on their needs.
One thing I was a bit worried about from reading other posts and prior to receiving these was how far the E string was to the edge of the fret bar (i.e. falling off as some reported - mostly with their JTV-69s it seems). That does not appear to be an issue for me at all, so "all clear" there too.
It is still admittedly early and we'll have to see how things develop to make sure there are no surprises. But at this point, I'm very, very pleased. And honestly, I'm ready to put even more of my guitars up for sale now knowing how much I'm digging these new JTV-89Fs. The Epiphone Casino models allowed me to sell that guitar it sounds literally 100% identical to my ears and I just didn't play it enough to keep it having an option that sounds exactly like it (and stays in tune better anyway). Similar story for the Rickenbacker sounds - while the 12-string may not be 100% identical, it is plenty close enough to fool me - especially in a full band setting which is the only place I'd use it. And since these 89Fs are easier to play, easier to keep in tune, etc.., I could let go of my trusty Rick 360/12. I thought I'd be sad about letting that old friend go. But so far, I'm not (surprisingly!). It mostly collected dust because I didn't use it enough. And when I would use it, I'd have to fight to get it into tune, worry about gigging with it and it all just wasn't worth it for one or two songs a night. Selling it alone paid for more than one of the 2 89Fs, so I'm pleased about it. True, my 89Fs wouldn't look great trying to be a substitute in a Beatles tribute band, but I'm not doing that anyway, so I'm fine with it.
Bottom line - very happy and highly recommended!
Hope that helps someone out there!
Thank you so much for the update and for taking time and thought to compose your amazing message! Personally, I believe that exactly such in-depth messages are capable of bringing out the information, the impression, the opinion, the thought and the emotion about a musical instrument or probably any other subject. It's great that there are people out there still paying enough respect and attention to the readers and the fellow forum members. Thank you for that, Randy!
Now on the topic of JTV89F. I want to thank you for being one of the people who helped me make my choice and now I am also a very happy JTV89F user. The first thing that I would like to note is that I am really impressed with the magnetic pickups and I also realize the fact that I am spending more time using them. I remember that when I saw JTV89 model for the first time (at the time being), I instantly had a notion of what the magnetic pickups would be like to match these looks. Being a fan of progressive rock/metal genre, I wanted to reach the extremes, - the best of high-gain world when it is necessary and the soft acoustics at the same time. JTV89F allowed me to reach all of these goals and it is one of guitars where each detail and each feature plays it's valuable role - from the way how it is crafted and the looks to the way how all the models are made and the fact that there is no hum with the Strat models which is usually inevitable without the noise gates and the other means of filtering of the sound. A chance to play amazing acoustics without having to worry for the traffic jam outside, construction works and the neighbours is another plus, not to mention the need of the expensive and vulnerable mics. The addition of banjo, sitar, tricone, the amazing Rickenbacker guitars which I always dreamt of... The list it endless!
Randy, it's amazing that you could get both blood red and the black versions of this amazing guitar. Since I am not playing live at the moment, I have no need for the backup guitar, but with the presence of the live gigs, that would be amazing to be safe! Congratulations again!
Thank you very much again for your message and for the detailed impressions! It is, indeed, quickly becoming a guitar you really love from the first look and it's not possible to put it down since it keeps you playing and exploring new territories of musical space. I should take some time too and write of my personal thoughts and impressions, but I can admit that mine are very much like yours - very happy with it!