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paulisher

Variax cable makes magnetic pickups sound brighter

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I have a JTV 69 made in Korea and when I use a Variax cable with Helix or HD 500 it changes the sound of the magnetic pickups. Sounds to me like a bit of piezo quack. When I use a guitar cable the pickups sound natural. I'd like to be able to use the variax cable but I'd also like to be able to use the magnetic pickups. Has anyone else run into this?

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Actually I think that the models and the mag pickups both sound better with a 1/4 inch guitar cable. The Variax cable adds some undesirable brightness to my ears. I'm new to this forum so has this come up before or has anyone else experienced this? Might just be my cable. It's a "mystarsound" ethernet cable that locks into the Helix and the Variax.

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Yes this has been noted before. There a a couple of contributing factors.

- the 1/4" analog signal going to the device Guitar Input goes through a parameter called Input-Z (at least it does in the POD HD, not sure about Helix offhand). This parameter is not applied to the VDI signal.

- the length and quality of the analog cable vs. the digital VDI cable contributes to the overall sound meaning the signal is going to be at least slightly different as presented at the device 1/4" vs VDI inputs.

 

If I recall, the consensus in the earlier discussions about this was that there's not much to be done about it. There was a suggestion that options be available for the VDI input to add the Input-Z parameter and provide modelling for an analog able. Don't know if those suggestions are on Ideascale.

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Thanks Uber, seems like it would be worth fixing. At this point I don't want to use the Variax cable.

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In addition to the differences Silverhead pointed out, the other differences in signal flow that need to be noted are where the digital/analog conversions take place:

 

VDI - the magnetic pick-up signal is converted to digital on the JTV before being sent down the VDI to be processed by HD500 or Helix

         and the modelling (piezo) signal stays digital down the VDI to be processed by HD500 or Helix (no conversion)

         and both signals finally get converted back to analog before being output from the HD500 or Helix 1/4 or XLR outputs.

 

1/4 - the magnetic pick-up travels down the cable as analog and gets converted to digital within the HD500 or Helix 

         and the modelling (piezo) signal gets converted from digital to analog in the JTV sent down the cable and then converted back to digital in the HD500 or Helix

         and both signals finally get converted back to analog before being output from the HD500 or Helix or XLR outputs.

 

So, the different connections process and transmit the signals differently and have a subtle effect on the sound produced.

Some people are far more sensitive to those differences than others. 

 

If you want to use the VDI but prefer the sound that the 1/4 connection makes then the only solution at the moment is to use the available EQ options within the HD500 and Helix and/or guitar model adjustments via Workbench to adjust the VDI signal to sound more like the 1/4 inch.

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Thanks Edstar, On the advice of a friend of mine I ordered the line 6 vdi cable. He said it sounded much closer to the guitar cable and I trust his ears. Time will tell for me as the cable has shipped. 

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The cable won't make a difference. It transmits data, no audio.

It's a shame that Line6 are not properly supporting their own proprietary standard (VDI). The Variax sounds worlds better through the Jack/Input Z connection.

Funny I had postet the same on Ideascale as well on Monday

http://line6.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Guitar-Input-Impedance-On-Variax-VDI-Connection/804025-23508

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aarrgh... Looks like I wasted 30 bucks on a cable. I'll post on Ideascale and hopefully line 6 will work to fix this. 

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The VDI cable does give you a few additional options - such as being able to change guitar models as you change patches, to have a different tuning on each patch without defining it on the guitar, and to be able to use the volume and tone knobs as continuous controllers on HD500 and Helix.  For the equivalent of a little bit of EQ on the patch it seems worth it to me.

 

IdeaScale is not letting me log in with my Google ID at the moment, but there was one (or more) ideas raised ages ago suggesting that the cable simulation used in the L6 Digital Wireless lines should be included in the VDI connection somewhere.

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Unfortunately adding impedance selection to the VDI cable operation won't help. The ugly brightness that we all hear is the active audio system in the Variax. In other words, when you plug the Variax into any supported device, HD500, HD500X, Helix, the entire guitar (magnetic pick ups as well as modeling) goes active. It's the active electronics system in the guitar that is not musical. The long Variax cable with the cannon connectors on both ends minimizes this effect slightly, but does not correct it. Here's a way to hear EXACTLY how the VDI connection warps the tone of the guitar: plug your Variax into your device with a 1/4 inch cable. Make sure your device input is set to 1/4 inch input only, and make sure that the Variax input is disabled. Play for a moment to hear the tone of the guitar. Now, plug the VDI cable into the guitar and into the device, just as you would if you were going to use it, but with the 1/4 inch input selected and 1/4 inch cable still connecting the Variax to the device and listen to what happens to the tone of the guitar. You will find that even though you're using the 1/4 cable and input path in your device, as soon as the active electronics are engaged, by connecting the VDI cable from the device to the Variax, the Variax sounds bright and thin EXACTLY like it does when using the Variax input and VDI cable. I tried in vein to get Line 6 to either provide me with a schematic or at least a basic block diagram of the active system to try to come up with a solution, but was unable to get any support from them in that pursuit. I found an acceptable workaround. What worked for me was to return to Variax Firmware version 1.81 for modeling sounds, as later revs just got progressively more thin and anemic, and to install rather bizarre pickups that would probably sound odd in a normal guitar. For the neck and middle positions in my JTV-69 and JTV 69S I use a chinese made rail style humbucker that's wrapped to 10K and has a ceramic magnet <http://www.ebay.com/itm/172023118736?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT>  For the bridge pick up in the JTV69 I found a F spaced humbucker at 12 K with Alnico II magnet that works well <http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tonerider-Rocksong-TRH1-Modern-Bridge-F-Spaced-Humbucker-black-/191765544799?hash=item2ca61dff5f>.  On my JTV69S the bridge pickup is a rail hum bucker 12K Alnico V magnet <http://www.ebay.com/itm/221951507228?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT>  I went through probably a half dozen pickups in each position before arriving at these values as it took a while to realize that applying my experience with pickups and amplifiers was irrelevant in the Variax system. Now when I compare either my DeTemple or Rutters Strats through the Helix against my Variaxes with these goofy pickups, they are comparable. Both my JTVs are USA made Tylers. The JTV69 is a prototype, and the JTV 69S is a production model. Previous to that, I went through 7 Korean JTV69 models before realizing that I wouldn't find an acceptable Korean made Variax. Here's a recent clip using the above mentioned config, running direct/no amp.   

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Actually I think that the models and the mag pickups both sound better with a 1/4 inch guitar cable. The Variax cable adds some undesirable brightness to my ears. I'm new to this forum so has this come up before or has anyone else experienced this? Might just be my cable. It's a "mystarsound" ethernet cable that locks into the Helix and the Variax.

That's exactly why I don't use the VDI cable anymore. Of course I loose the possibility to automatically switch models but it's all about the sound.

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Here's a recent live clip with my prototype USA Variax/Helix rig with pick ups and configuration mentioned in my earlier post, running direct into Front Of House as well as monitor mix, no amp.

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That's exactly why I don't use the VDI cable anymore. Of course I loose the possibility to automatically switch models but it's all about the sound.

 

You could always use both.

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You could always use both.

Yeah, thats right. There's another thread where someone mentioned that is not good to use both cables togheter because it can cause damage.

I'm not sure about that - used both together for a while without any issues.

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I used to use both occasionally but I don't anymore. The main Line 6 JTV support/repair guy (username psarkissian) has advised against it. Apparently it can cause circuitry overload issues.

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Using both doesn't address the brightness issue. As soon as you connect the VDI cable to the Variax, the electronics go to that ugly bright sound that also passes through 1/4 inch cable. 

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That is because when the VDI is connected the mag signal is passed along the VDI to the HD500 or Helix, so the passive circuit is switched to become an active circuit.

 

Have you tried turning the tone knob down a bit?

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Hey guys,

 

I recently ran into this as well. I find it quite annoying, too. The regular jack actually sounds pleasing and easy to get inspiring sound with, lots of weirdness is gone. I bought helix only because I wanted to have the VDI link and the Helix Variax combo - tunings, models, seamless switching. I sold my AXE FX II because I could not justify the difference - at least for me. 

 

BUT the difference between jack and VDI in TONE and FEEL is HUGE. I can get good sounds with tweaking through VDI, but I am turning treble and presence way down pretty much on everything. But with jack, I just plug in an amp and it sounds very good from the get go.

 

I am not shy of tweaking - but jack input sounds and FEELS so much better right away and THAT is what makes it annoying, especially because I like the convenience of VDI connectivity and control options it  offers with Helix.

 

even the magnetic pickups sound way better (through VDI I thought I am hearing piezo pickups, but I also got hum,  which gave it away)

 

So Line6 - I know that you think that variax is perfect the way it is - but if we could have that option, to change how VDI output behaves - that would be actually pretty wonderful from you.

 

BTW, I have Variax Standard.

 

Thanks guys!

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I noticed the difference in tone, but I guess as proof that sound is subjective I actually didn't mind it at all. With all guitars I'm constantly twisting the tone knob depending on what I'm doing and that's all I did in this case.

 

I do wonder what could be done to change that.

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The capacitance of 1/4" analog cables can limit the signal reaching the amp, thereby affecting tone, often by sucking out high frequencies if the capacitance is too high. The VDI connection on the other hand is entirely digital...the 1's and 0's either get where they're going unmolested, or they don't arrive at all. 

 

http://sfguitarworks.com/the-great-cable-myth/

 

There's also a whole lot of A/D and D/A conversion going on in a Variax and a Helix (or other modeler ...scroll up in this thread for a more in-depth overview. It's a miracle this stuff works at all... lol

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