I've been playing now 35 years, used all sorts of gear from basic Tele/Twin setups to PRS/Mesa etc., played with all sorts of bands, at gigs, festivals etc. Now I play in and lead a church worship band, and need at any given time electric sounds, acoustic sounds, very occasionally I play bass guitar - I need XLR outputs to the desk, some effects, the odd amp sim - oh, and a tuner is useful too. So the HD500 is such an all-in-one unit - with my Variax 700 electric and an old Fender J-bass I can do everthing I need and not have to carry around multiple guitars, amps, pedals, tuner etc. So, a couple of observations:
- is the HD500 a plug-and-play solution - no, not at all. With a simple rig, one guitar, a good valve amp, a pedal or two, it's simple to get a good tone fast - not so with the HD500. But even that 'good tone' is a bit subjective - I remember playing at festivals where the requirement was to use the organiser's backline (saves set-up time between bands) - often questionable Marshall stacks with shot valves, microphonic, broken EQ knobs etc. Sure, not a problem with your own gear in a different setting, but you get my point. I've had my HD500 for only 3 weeks now and I've had my frustrations with dialling in a great tone quickly. But then I realised that I'm going to need some time to get that right - it's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid. But then again, look at the flexibility of options you get if you want to delve a bit deeper.
- is the tone of the HD500 as good as a single guitar/valve amp or a great acoustic with a condenser mic - no, I don't think so, but it's about 90% there if you work at it. Anyway, I firmly believe that the audience doesn't care at all what gear the band use or tone they produce as long as they have a good time, engage in the worship or whatever. For me, the HD500/Variax combination is absolutely what I'm looking for for its all-in-one solution to my particular needs - just so easy to carry, transport, set up etc.
If you can get your Variax fixed you'll find you can control the Variax models via the HD500 - this opens up the possibility of almost infinite flexibility over electric and acoustic sounds including altered tunings via Workbench if you use them - all with the tap of a foot switch or two...
I suggest you keep going - my guess is you'll reap the rewards!