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leesteel

Ghost Installation Step-By-Step Variax 500

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First I want to start by thanking Charlie_Watt who has been very helpful and regularly communicated with me through this process. Please feel free to offer any comments and suggestions. This was my first of 2 upgrades so I will have another one coming up after testing this one.

 

I started out with a stock Variax 500 bridge.

7400.jpg

 

I used an Exacto knife to scrape away the conformal coating to expose the copper ground plane.

With some solder wick, I removed the blobs of solder from the original piezo installation and removed the original saddles.  I used the carpet needle shown in this picture to enlarge the holes just big enough to allow a passthrough for the ghost wires. After enlarging the holes, I used a multi meter to make sure that each pickup signal pad was still isolated from ground.

7412.JPG

 

I cut the wires attached to the Ghost saddles at a length of .75" (3/4"), used the Exacto knife to separate the two wires, the silver is the HOT wire and the blue is GROUND. I found that the #28 stripper size on these Ideal strippers was the perfect gauge for prepping the wires. I pre-tinned each of the ends and pre-tinned the pads on the flex circuit. By doing this, very little heat was required to make the final connection. This keeps the insulation from being unnecessarily stressed.

7413.jpg

 

I tucked the extra wire up underneath the saddle so that it would have room to travel during intonation adjustment.

7414.jpg

 

Here is the finished solder job.

7416.jpg

 

And the top view.

7415.jpg

 

Here is the guitar that this bridge will be installed in. It's a Warmoth body with 500 neck and guts.

r2.jpg

 

When I upgrade the next bridge, I plan to locate the ground connection points as shown in this picture.

7400b.jpg

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Nice job!  You did a better job of the grounding than I did.  I ran mine back to the thick conductor in the top of your photo.  I like your solution better.  You do have to make sure that your guitar body is routed where the wires go so that they don't get pinched between the body and the bridge.  Your guitar is very nice!  I need to do that some day!  Did you have the route the body for the electronics yourself or did you get it that way?

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I bought this guitar from someone on eBay who purchased the body from Warmoth while they were still making Variax pre-routed bodies. I think I might be safe with the ground solder points. If there is interference I will probably relocate the ground connection on this bridge as shown in my latest mock-up above.  I'll let you know how the fit goes when the guitar arrives.

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I think it would be very easy to slightly route where your grounds are if necessary.  It doesn't have to be very deep.  You want the bridge to sit firmly against the body without putting any pressure on your connections.  If I were to do another, I would do the grounds right where you did I think.

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So after test fit, the ground locations were in a bad spot.. Guess I knew that before even trying but I had to try first. I moved the location as I proposed earlier and here is the outcome. Going to perform the installation tomorrow.

 

7426.JPG

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So after test fit, the ground locations were in a bad spot.. Guess I knew that before even trying but I had to try first. I moved the location as I proposed earlier and here is the outcome. Going to perform the installation tomorrow.

 

7426.JPG

 

 

If I might ask (never put Graph Techs on a 500/700 - only a 300), how are those ground wires going to connect electrically? It looks like they'll be floating.

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If I might ask (never put Graph Techs on a 500/700 - only a 300), how are those ground wires going to connect electrically? It looks like they'll be floating.

 

I used a Dremel Tool to skim off the conformal coating and exposed the copper ground below.

What is this supposed to mean: (never put Graph Techs on a 500/700 - only a 300),

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I used a Dremel Tool to skim off the conformal coating and exposed the copper ground below.

What is this supposed to mean: (never put Graph Techs on a 500/700 - only a 300),

 

 

OK, that makes sense. Thanks!

 

I meant that I've never put Graph Tech piezos on a Variax 500 or 700 (which use the circuit board in your pictures), but have done it with a 300 (which has a different circuit board).

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OK, that makes sense. Thanks!

 

I meant that I've never put Graph Tech piezos on a Variax 500 or 700 (which use the circuit board in your pictures), but have done it with a 300 (which has a different circuit board).

 

OH, OK, well the triangle areas that I originally soldered to were scraped off with an xacto knife. The new spots were exposed with a dremel so the were smaller.

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Nice job again.  Closer to the center is easier to get clearance under the bridge.  If it doesn't fit without touching, I am sure you can remove a bit of the guitar body with the Dremel.

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Hi guys! I'm gonna change saddles on my variax 600, is it the same process? i mean the same board, same ground soldering. I'm looking for installation guides online but it doesn't seem to exist any.

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Hi Sergio, I have never taken a 600 apart so I can't answer that one.

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Answer is no.  THe 600 has a trem.  The 500 is a hardtail.  That means that the bridge assembly is different.  I think you can use the same Ghost saddles but the connections will be different.

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Here is a video I found of what your bridge should look like Sergio.

 

 

https://youtu.be/9itJCmOZC-k

 

This is a video that shows how to change to a new bridge, but it gives a good view of your existing bridge and circuit board.

Looks like you could attach the hot wires to the same location as the existing pads. All the grounds could be attached to the common ground pads where you see the green wires attached.

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Here is a picture of the finished guitar. Just a note, on the next one, I will leave the low E string Ghost wiring longer. Maybe more like .85" - 1". I came too close for comfort with not being able to pull that saddle back far enough for proper intonation.

 

IMG_7443.JPG

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Yes.  There is not a whole lot of room for a service loop.  I left mine a little long and let it go forward in the slot especially on the saddles that I knew would end up further back. 

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Just a quick update…. I recently purchased a Variax 300 because I got it for a great price. Just took it apart and did the GHOST upgrade and thought I would share a few pictures. Now I have done GHOST saddles on 4 Variax guitars. I found that if you back the saddle all the way, then connect the wire, the service loop is perfect. On this 300 bridge, I used some adhesive copper strip to create the ground plane. There is a small exposed ground area on either side of the 8-pin connector. I folded a tiny amount of copper strip over and soldered the copper to that ground area. Sorry, I didn't get a before picture. I drilled an access hole in the circuit board that lines up with the very front of the slot in the bridge plate to run the wire through. from top to bottom. I hope this helps someone here on the forum. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

300a.JPG

 

300c.JPG

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Hi, I just found this post after searching for information on transplanting variax electronics into other guitars. I'm curious about the purpose of putting Ghost saddles on a variax. I was under the impression that the variax bridge with piezos for each string and the Ghost were pretty much the same technology. So do you do this becaise Ghost is an upgrade in terms of sound or reliability, or is there something I'm missing here regarding the bridge swap and why you couldn't reuse the original variax saddles for the same purpose?

 

I'm new to this and just ordered a used variax 300 I saw so for sale at a good price to try out and perhaps transplant into a semi-hollow tele.

 

I'm currently working on wrapping up a mod of a silent nylon string guitar with an electric hard tail bridge and Ghost saddles. I like the fretboard, but it had intonation issues and the under saddle piezo just couldn't give me even close to equal volume along all 6 strings, no matter what I did, it was either too soft on the low E or the high E. Since it's just a frame style silent nylon, I thought I'd solve the problem by using a bridge with adjustable saddles and then to have a piezo for each string. It's been some work figuring out how to make this all work (and gold and copper leafing the guitar frame) but I THINK this will all be worth it. In case anyone is wondering why I would do this, my goals were: to be able to play nylon strings at all hours of the night without complaints, to be able to easily feed the guitar into effects pedals for recording without needing to worry about microphones or a totally quiet environment, and to have more control over the action and intonation.

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The biggest difference is that the Ghost pickups have two wires each (signal and GROUND)  this is much more reliable and these pickups are definitely an upgrade!  Only down side is that they have much more output so you have to dial the gain down on the strings in WB to keep from saturating the DSP.

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Hi all. This is my first time posting on the Line 6 forums. Last week I replaced all of the piezos on the trem bridge of my JTV-69, and I just feel compelled to contribute to the conversation by sharing my results with everyone here (and there) who might be considering doing the same to their Variax. I have to say that I'm amazed with the results of this definite "upgrade", and while I'm at it, I also want to thank everyone for the various forum posts asking for, and generously giving information on how to (and whether to) go about this procedure.

 

To explain further, my need to replace them was based solely on the fact that while replacing the stock neck with the most common one from Stu-Mac, I apparently (subconsciously) made upward saddle height adjustments while the strings were fully tensioned (in tune) - and this resulted in having slightly stripped saddle screw threads. Makes sense when you consider that those screws are stainless steel while the saddles themselves are made of aluminum. DOH!! So after performing with the guitar for a few months, I started having problems with fret-buzz that increased through the shows - and I soon realized that the saddles where creeping lower due to my hard rhythm strumming and the resulting vibrations at the point of contact with the piezos. With THAT revelation - I had to get creative quickly 'cause this is my one and only electric ax at this time, and having to raise the saddles again during every break was aggravating to say the least.

 

Let the frustrations with Line 6 BEGIN!!! When I bought the guitar I knew from research before-hand that parts are available through Full Compass. Trouble is, their website only shows items that are the most commonly replaced by "do-it-yourselfers"...........piezos included. So I emailed them asking how to go about ordering new saddles. They replied that those are available by special-order only, and that's done only by phone. So I called and ordered a full set of them (forty seven dollars and change - including shipping), and waited........................and waited........................and waited, etc., etc., etc. They withdrew the funds from my checking account immediately and sent an email confirmation with order number and a statement that they will send another email as soon as shipping has occurred. A month later - no 2nd email, and still waiting......................and waiting. Called them at the end of the 5th week and was told that they still haven't received them from Line 6 and asking me to be patient. So I waited another 3 weeks and called again. The gentleman said that he will look into it and call back with whatever information that he can find out. Two days later I got an EMAIL (not a phone call) from this same associate telling me that "those items have been discontinued by the manufacturer". OK, that concludes my ranting of frustrations.

 

Back to being further creative, and afraid to go the route of fixing the threads with LocTite or any other brand of "thread repair" because I had read plenty online about the need for an absolute need for the best path to ground from the piezos through the saddle casing and adjustment screws. I didn't want to risk compromising any of that by putting an epoxy between screw mating surfaces.

 

So I got a hold of Graph Tech to find out what my options are there. They were not only quick to respond, but VERY informative about the best or most common solution for my needs. If anyone is interested - the Ghost Saddle set to get for the JTV-69 is (as stated by a few others in different forum threads) part or set # 6RH PN-8102-RO or simply PN-8102-RO, (with another variation showing RH at the end of the # string). I did find them at a lower cost ($106.21) on eBay than what Graph Tech is selling them at, so do some online shopping.

 

Also, just as a side note. My original piezos are available to anyone who might be interested in taking them off my hands. They're in perfect working condition and I have them up for sale on eBay. And feel free to ask me any questions you might have about my process of doing this mod. I have a few helpful details and I'll be more than happy to give back by sharing them here.

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Hi Leesteel.

 

Re your Variax 300 saddle upgrade. I have decided to repace my original saddles with Ghost saddles from Graphtech.  I have removed the  bridge from the body and I notice that my guitar does not have the Green earth wire (connected to the stud) as on your photo.  Is this extra earthing you have fitted yourself, or is it original wiring that is missing from my equipment?

Oh, and where is the other end of that wire connected?post-2509798-0-56777100-1484860388_thumb.jpg

 

Many thanks.

 

Peter

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Recently changed my stock Line6 piezos to Ghost set.

How much should I decrease the Gain settings in Workbench software? Anyone experience? I don't have nearby "true strat or tele or LP" to plug in my Helix and finetune. 

May be I can do it approximately, but prefer to be realistic and clear.

 

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On 1/2/2017 at 4:59 AM, ricrum said:

 

Let the frustrations with Line 6 BEGIN!!! When I bought the guitar I knew from research before-hand that parts are available through Full Compass. Trouble is, their website only shows items that are the most commonly replaced by "do-it-yourselfers"...........piezos included. So I emailed them asking how to go about ordering new saddles. They replied that those are available by special-order only, and that's done only by phone. So I called and ordered a full set of them (forty seven dollars and change - including shipping), and waited........................and waited........................and waited, etc., etc., etc. They withdrew the funds from my checking account immediately and sent an email confirmation with order number and a statement that they will send another email as soon as shipping has occurred. A month later - no 2nd email, and still waiting......................and waiting. Called them at the end of the 5th week and was told that they still haven't received them from Line 6 and asking me to be patient. So I waited another 3 weeks and called again. The gentleman said that he will look into it and call back with whatever information that he can find out. Two days later I got an EMAIL (not a phone call) from this same associate telling me that "those items have been discontinued by the manufacturer". OK, that concludes my ranting of frustrations.

 

 

I recently had to do a special order for a Line 6 Variax part via Full Compass (as suggested by Line 6). That was a total cluster fark. After a 3 week wait (funds were also withdrawn when I placed the order), plus a crazy high "drop-ship" charge, Yamaha Group sent the wrong part. It took a months worth of calls to Full Compass to get a return authorization and refund. After all that, I contemplated trying again but instead repaired the bad circuit board with a $1 part from Mouser. OK, that also concludes my ranting of frustrations.

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