May 8, 2012 8:46 AM
Hello all, first time poster...just some background, I have been doing 300+ solo shows a year for the past 8 years (and a dozen or so per year with my band), and most of the time for my solo show I use a Variax electric. I've owned 7 of them over that time...a blue 700, a bunch of black or red 300s...and now have settled on two sunburst 500s. I can definitely say from experience...the build quality and especially the reliability of the electronics is much, much better on the 500s over the 300s. I had lots of problems with every one of my 300s...they simply aren't made to withstand 300 live dates a year. But so far, over the last 6 months, I've had no problems whatsoever with the 500, which is why I decided to buy another one to to a transplant.
I am a Strat guy and always have been. I love the sounds of the Variax, especially the Martin Jumbo acoustic that I have tweaked over the years that I use 75% of the time during my solo shows. I'm convinced I can't get a better acoustic sound through a PA than this particular model; I've tried the Graphtech AcousticPhonic system on a Strat (still have it in fact, it's on eBay right now...just doesn't do it for me although it's awesome)...I've tried electric/acoustics...nothing sounds more like a micked acoustic through a PA than this model on the Variax, other than micking an acoustic, which isn't practical and I don't like playing big acoustic guitars all night, plus I'm kind of a "one man band" type of act, using a loop station, so to be stuck with a micked acoustic all night just isn't an option.
But...I hate the look of the Variax, and the feel of it. The body is too small...the neck is just...well, you guys know. Great sounds, uninspiring guitars, especially if you've always been married to a certain type of guitar.
Anyway, I've educated myself on the various transplants...Jeff Miller (who happens to live 45 minutes from me), other "stratovariax" projects...that beautifully done white strat by Marco in Brazil:
But I haven't found any of them that actually allow you to blend the two systems together. So my question is...why can't I just put the circuit board, bridge, all 3 knobs, TRS and RJ45 connector in my strat, especially if I'm not concerned about how it looks or having 6 knobs and extra jack holes drilled...and have 2 cables coming out of the strat, through my pedal board and into the PA? I do all my solo gigs sitting down...I could use a Y cable as well I'm assuming, just combining the 2 outputs at the first input on my pedal board...that way when I have a loop going from the Variax acoustic, or my favorite Jazzbox Gibson L5 setting or whatever...and then while I'm soloing, just turn up the strat pickups and have the 2 sounds blended together, or turn down the Variax volume completely, half and half, etc? Am I missing something here? I've just never found anyone that's done it like this, and I'm assuming it's because most people that have done transplants are trying to "hide" the Variax knobs as best they can, and use an a/b toggle switch. I'm not worried about how it looks, this is my full time job and I just want my favorite strat to play every night, to have the Variax sounds inside of it, but I don't want to do the A/B toggle switch to have one or the other. Am I asking too much? Lol
If my assumption is correct, and there is nothing stopping me from doing this, I would probably just sacrifice the 2 tone knobs of the strat, making tone 1 the vax volume, tone 2 the vax tone, and then have the model selector knob off to the side of those knobs, somewhere between the edge of the pick guard and the input jack. I did see one project where they just made a special little extra pick guard and had all 3 knobs lined up next to the strat knobs...looks kinda dorky, but like I said, I'm not that concerned about the look...I just want the variety of tones, and the ability for them to be used simultaneously. Here's a link to the one I'm talking about: http://guitarrepaircentre.net/index.php/work-portfolio-mainmenu/modifications/19-varistrat
In fact, after looking at this one again, I don't see a toggle switch, so maybe this one proves that it can be done? And I'm guessing to have them completely "blendable", I would have to install a separate 5 way switch for the Variax, so that when I make changes between the magnetic pickups with the strat's 5 way, it doesn't change the model sound on the Variax that I'm blending with? Maybe that is overkill, asking too much lol?
Sorry for the long post, I'm just kind of "typing out loud" trying to think this through. I have all of the parts ready to go, I'm going to get started on it in the next couple of days, I'm just trying to find the best way to go about it. I'm also horrible at wiring/soldering, so I may end up taking it to someone, if I can provide them clear instructions and insight on how it's been done before. By the way, if there's anyone in the Dayton/Columbus/Cincinnati/Indianapolis/Northern KY area that knows how to do this, other than Jeff Miller (he's apparently had enough of this madness!), let me know!
Thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions. I will be documenting this whole process and will post pictures and info on the progress. The strat in question is a lovely faded Sonic Blue mim strat with a well worn in maple fret board. I decided to do this transplant 6 months ago, and I'm really excited to have located a second 500 as the donor...I just don't want to screw this up!