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Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-10-23 03:38:54

Hi there,

I'm hoping for some advice. At the moment I'm playing mostly in my local church, leading a worship band, here in sunny Manchester, UK . Sometimes I'll use an acoustic set-up (Breedlove acoustic with Fishman Rare Earth Blend pickup, AER Compact 60 with XLR out to PA); sometimes electric (Strat or Tele into Trademark 30 combo, XLR out to PA). But sometimes I'll need both acoustic and electric sounds and therefore I take along both set-ups, or just one of them and compromise on sound.

So here's the question - should I take the plunge and go for a digital solution - e.g. Line 6 stuff? I guess I want to be able to take along one guitar and one pedal and take an XLR out to the PA, perhaps with some stage monitoring. So I could go for, say, a POD HD300 (hooray, it's got XLR outs) and two guitars, or maybe go down the Variax route, with a HD300, or maybe HD500... This would give me acoustic and electric sounds, lots of effects, lots of connectivity options etc.

But my hesitation is that I've already been down that route with a X3L and a Variax 700. I sold both as I couldn't get on with them for some reason. They worked fine, but I felt a bit dislocated from the sound coming from the set-up, there seemed some latency or something that didn't quite work for me (been playing for over 30 years in many different bands at semi-pro level).

So some advice please (I accept that this forum will have fans of the Variax - that's ok!). Should I go for an analog unit such as the Carl Martin Quattro, DI boxes, lugging around a lot of gear, or go down the Line 6 route again? And if so, would you recommend an HD500 over an HD300 for the Variax connectivity? Is the new kit (JTV, HD Pod etc.) that much better than the Line 6 gear I had before but didn't get on with? I'm particularly interested in the acoustic sounds - how realistic are they in comparison with the 'real thing'?

Or should I stick with what I've got and put up with 2 guitars, 2 amps, swapping guitars mid-set etc.

Any thoughts or experiences gratefully received! Many thanks...

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by afkasm on 2012-10-23 04:06:58

Hi Mate

I can only talk about the guitar side of it because as I don't run into The HD or PODs . Yes your right this is a Line6 forum and some people are going to be biased , but there are lots on here who have been painfully honest about their experiences with line 6 so hopefully you'll get a balanced response.

All I can say is I've been lucky as far as my guitars reliability goes , and the one thing that has impressed me the most is the organic feel and sounds , i tried the original variax years ago when they first come out and yes it sounded digital and there was a latency issue . But even when i'm recording on computer through Guitar rig latency is not an issue .

On the sounds side of it I run the guitar into an A/B and use that to toggle between an engl half stack for the electric sounds and the PA fotr the acoustic and I've had nothing but great feedback about the authenticity of the sound. And if buying the HD500 was an option without resulting in another divorce I would definately have got one by now .

get yourself down to one of the local music shops and try the range out . personally I think you'll be impressed


Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Crusty_Old_Rocker on 2012-10-23 04:15:05

There have been improvements in the response in the Line 6 gear, so it's worth giving it another try before you buy.  You'd definitely be better of with the HD500 as it has the Variax Digital Interface.  I defintely dig the versatility and have been willing to sacrifice some of the "feel" for the convenience with the Variax 700 and 600 going into PODxt Live, Vetta II and POD X3 Live, but there is now much less scrificing of the feel with the JTV and HD500 combination.



Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by lindsayward on 2012-10-23 05:00:46

Hi Spider. Welcome.

I lead worship most Sundays with a JTV-59 and POD HD500. I'm happy

The simplicity of plugging in to the PA is a real plus. I stand in front of a foldback wedge that gives me all the monitoring I need.

I don't use the acoustic sounds much because I don't need to, but when I have used them they sound good in the mix (I'm told).

If you're going to get a POD + Variax, it's a no-brainer to get the HD500. In a recent update they made it possible to set your tuning for the JTV on the POD, so I can push a pedal and be playing with a virtual capo - no need to touch the guitar.

I create different patches for nearly every song (some songs share patches) we do at church, then each week I copy the patches into a different 'set list' so they are all right next to each other to step through the set on Sunday. Takes about 1 minute after the software loads on my computer, or if I do it manually it's about 2 minutes...

All good here.

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Rewolf48 on 2012-10-23 05:15:57

+1 for HD500 + JTV combination

The VDI interface allows the HD500 to control the JTV, so change a patch by pressing a pedal and you change the variax model (including the tunings) and you can also turn the variax controls into extra expression controls on the HD500.  You can take both variax model and magnetic pickups as feeds into the dual paths on the HD500, so you can have acoustic and electric sounds at the same time and cross fade between them.... etc, etc. 

The rig is really small and light - the JTV via VDI into HD500 then XLR to PA.  A small FRFR powered speaker (I use FBT MaxX but there are loads of other options) covers monitoring and can be fed from the other XLR on the HD500. You could of course use your Acoustic Amp as a monitor.

I have HD500 and JTV69 + the monitor and I think it works great with loads of flexibility; it is also a single trip to and from the car; is assembled in a minute and gives the same sound pretty much all the time (acoustics of location dependent obviously).  But that same flexibility plus point is also a big problem for some - you have a large number of virtual guitars, and reasonably large number of amp options and a hundred or so effects all of which have been modelled down to the smallest degree of response (including overloading the inputs). That makes the apparently simple rig very complicated indeed - and it takes quite a lot of time to really understand how it all works; and it isn't necessarily that obvious.

There are loads of example videos on the web that show JTV and HD500 combinations workinig together - some are even not just metal sounds!  Look at a few of those - especially the Line 6 official ones or ones from respected people (try the Andertons ones - it is a music shop in Guildford but they do some quite detailed video reviews that helped convince me). 

Now comes the practical problem - to understand what it can do and to make sure that it has the right "feel" you really have to try it as the full combination; just 'cause I say it is great just means that it works for me but it doesn't mean that it will work for you.  The perfect answer is to find an existing user who you can spend a few hours with, but you need to find one first; I would be a candidate, but I live south of Birmingham (UK).  A very important factor is that (as usual) the demo patches on the HD are rather effect heavy and when trying the combinations you really want to start with a blank rig and slowly add components testing as you go - if you go into a Store and don't know how to drive the HD500 you may well be disappointed, but if you can work out how to get a blank patch and then add just an Amp you will get a better idea of how good the combination can be .

Finding a guitar store that has both components actually on display can also be tricky - even harder to find a store where the assistant has a clue about how to put them together and get the right settings. Fortunately Manchester has more options that some, but make sure you phone first as website stock isn't necessarily in store (I wasted my first trial of a JTV because they only had a HD400 and the battery was flat so the JTV couldn't be powered up ).

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-10-23 05:50:09

Hi everyone,

Wow, thanks very much for taking the trouble to reply so quickly and fully - it's much appreciated! I understand about needing time to test out the HD500 - part of my concern is that my current set-up is really simple, and I may suffer some 'option anxiety' with the HD500 (but I'm pretty tech-savvy as I've done lots of sound engineering, recording etc. over the years). Anyway, it might be fun!

Any thoughts on the improvements of JTV/HD?00 over the first gen Variaxes/X3L? Perhaps the answer is I need to try the kit for myself (and many thanks Rewolf48 for offering to be a candidate, but I guess distance is against us!).

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by lindsayward on 2012-10-26 05:57:25

I upgraded from a Variax 600 + X3 Live to the JTV-59 + HD500. I do think they're both better (thankfully!). They feel like more 'mature' products.

The JTV guitar is a really solid (literally) guitar. It's well-made and I think they've really thought through the electronics and controls well. I love the fact that the tuning is now separated from the models (unlike in the earlier Variaxes), and the integration with the HD500 is great. You could change Variax models on the X3L but with this setup you can control much more. You can set the tone knob (per patch) to control an effect, e.g. delay mix.

On the JTV-59, I don't like the fact that the strings don't stay in the bridge when they're loose (changing them) so I've ordered some locking tuners to deal with this.

The HD500 is a bit harder to use than the X3L in my opinion. It's more flexible, which is great, but it means you need to spend more time setting it up. E.g. with the X3L there was one button for "MOD" and it could only ever control your mod effect and you could only have one of them (per side). The HD500 has 8 buttons and you set them to what you want, and you set the effects you want, even 4 different delays... You probably know all that and are just asking for opinions... You definitely need to be careful of not spending hours and hours tweaking and adjusting instead of actually playing the guitar, but once you've setup some good patches, it's easy and fast to use.

All the best...

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-11-02 12:13:41

Great, thanks for your reply. I guess I'm prepared to do quite a bit of tweaking to get it working ok - it may even be fun! - but for me the real test will be the realism of the acoustic sounds and how responsive the set-up feels . I'm going to try to find a dealer that has some stock and try a JTV-69 and an HD500 - if I like what I hear it could be the ideal solution for me (especially as I already have a Yamaha powered wedge for on-stage monitoring.).

I'll let you know what I think...

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by TheRealZap on 2012-11-02 12:18:45

just a word of caution... the dealer will likely have a factory fresh model for you to try...

and the latest update significantly changes the acoustic sounds...

so if you get it home and update... it will likely sound different than what the store sounded like.

you might like it... or might not... it's subjective...

you can always downgrade if you like the original models as some users do...

but when you do that you may lose some of the newer advertised features...

just an FYI

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-11-04 11:13:45

Thanks for that! I would be prepared to work with the acoustic sounds to get something close to my current acoustic rig, but I'm not expecting a direct match. I was considering how to go direct into the board at my church, thinking of analog pedals, DI boxes, SansAmp pedals, etc. - also I would need a separate tuner etc. But then it ocurred to me that a Pod HD500 and JTV would be a perfect, all-in-one solution. As long as the tones are at least near enough to my current, totally simple, guitar-into-amp-no-effects-DI-to-board rigs...

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by klarkkentster on 2012-11-06 10:06:31

I am looking at the same thing for church as well. Tired of changing guitars/capo etc.  I played a couple yesterday direct though to an amp using the 1/4 inch output. It sounds pretty cool. Loved how the 59 looked and how the 69 felt. I think going through the HD500 > PA is the trick for cool acoustic sounds. I like a little wet acoustic sound anyways...not worried about matching or improving my current acoustic sound. (i think thats where I'm at mentally). I think i'm wondering how the vibe will feel jamming on an electric getting acoustic sounds will feel. There's alot to the sound thats from strumming/bumping an acoustic. I hope I'm making sense.

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by TheRealZap on 2012-11-06 10:15:39

you can actually hear some "body" in the acoustics... it's not exactly the same... but harder strumming seems to project it a bit..

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by phil_m on 2012-11-06 10:22:18

From the playing side of things, yeah, it's a different experience, but as Zap said, the models actually are rather articulate and sensitive to playing style. To me, though, the bigger question is how much do these little subtleties actually come across to an audience in the first place? Unless you're doing extremely percussive things with the guitar like creating faux drum beats and stuff like that, I'd say the little nuances are often not heard by an audience. It really depends on your individual playing style.

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-11-07 00:59:50

Thanks for all your thoughts. I agree that for an audience the subtle nuances of tone don't really make any difference, so I'm not too worried there. I've played now for over 30 years, in various bands and for lots of different audiences - my take on this is that most audiences/congregations come along with a specific reason for being there, and it's never going to be about guitar tone (unless you're at Musikmesse or similar trade event).

One concern I have is that some reviewers have mentioned that JTVs are heavy guitars (in weight). At the moment my main electric is a home-assembled Warmoth Thinline Tele - on purpose I made it to be the lightest guitar possible (the body was under 2 ½ pounds before assembly!) - in fact, it's so light it's a bit neck-heavy on a strap. Any thoughts on weight as far as the JTVs are concerned? My real issue is that I'm finding it really difficult to find a dealer in my area (Manchester, UK) that has any stock of the JTV 69 for me to try out. This could be because they're selling well or, I guess more likely, there is a shortage of stock at Line 6 UK.

Anyway, as soon as I can get hold of one I'll give it a whirl, test out its quality of construction, sounds (especially acoustic), weight etc. I'll let you know...

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Rewolf48 on 2012-11-07 04:32:11

They might have been talking about a 59.  I have a 69 and while not a featherweight it is quite light as there are a lot of cut outs in the body - as well as the normal strat pickup + control cavity you also have one for the battery, and another for the CPU.  Compared to my other strat type guitars it is the lightest and also the most acoustic (when not plugged in).

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by phil_m on 2012-11-07 06:17:55

I have the JTV-69US, and it's probably one of the lightest, if not the lightest, guitar I own. It's definitely lighter than my Deluxe Strat (which is quite heavy for a Strat), and I think it's probably lighter than a US Standard Strat. The body is actually a little smaller than a Strat, and with the extra routing for the electronics and battery, that's quite a bit of wood taken away. I actually the 2-Tone Ash version with a maple neck, and ash is generally a little heavier than alder (which is what the Korean JTV-69 models use for bodies), so I don't think weight will be an issue with the 69.

Re: Some advice please - should I take the plunge and 'go Variax' again? (first post)
by Spiderplayer7 on 2012-11-07 11:58:23

That's really useful info, thanks - I'm glad that weight won't be an issue as I really like light guitars - for the resonance as well as the (to my ears at least) faster attack that they seem to have over heavier guitars. But I accept that I may be somewhat scarred by having played for many years a very heavy 70's Les Paul (from the dark days of Gibson! - ironically it would probably be worth something now even though it wasn't a great guitar by any definition, so maybe I should have kept it) - after a 2-hour gig you certainly felt it in your shoulders and back...

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