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First thing I'd look at is the trem block. I don't have a 69, but I'm betting they've got one of those slimline tremblock like a cheap lollipop Strat copy.

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The JTV-69 floating tremolo system is unique to James Tyler / Line6.  I doubt you'll have much luck dropping in an after-market replacement.

 

A lot of factors can contribute to poor sustain.  Might be worth having a guitar tech take a look at the setup.  FWIW, I have no sustain issues on mine.

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The sustain on mine isn't any worse than other bolt-on necks that I've had, but a bolt-on will always be somewhat deficient in that department. Might be worth seeing if any of those bolts need tightening...wood moves more than you'd think.

 

Failing that, there's always these goofy things:http://www.amazon.com/Fender-Fatfinger-Bass-Sustain-Enhancer/dp/B001L8MBBQ%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q%26tag%3Dduckduckgo-d-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3DB001L8MBBQ

 

Can't vouch for their effectiveness, and you'll probably get tired of people asking why there's a doorstop hanging from your headstock, but they've been around forever, so I'd assume that someone is buying them...

 

Might want to consider a heavier set of strings too...that definitely makes a difference.

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As well as the above:

 

New Strings - old strings lose sustain and brightness 

 

You cannot change the block as it has to cope with the piezo wires and has a circuit board on it, but you could try some lead tape (as used to tune golf clubs) to add mass.

 

You can also use this behind the headstock to increase the mass there rather than buying a clamp-on device.  Sensible advice is to try extra mass at the headstock first with a small g-clamp or a clamp type Capo. It might also reduce any dead spots on the neck that you might have.

 

Add String Trees to the headstock to increase the angle over the nut, or better yet a retainer bar, which may also dampen ghost notes that cause warble. - something like this http://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Mite-Electric-Guitar-Retainer/dp/B00D7OT6ZGand it will also add mass at the same time.

 

Lower the magnetic pick-ups - the magnets pull on the strings and because you can't get energy out of nothing, the electric signal comes from drag on the strings by the magnetic field.  Lower the pickups and you lower the drag on the strings.

 

 

Everything you do will be a compromise of some sort:

 

Lower the pickups and you get less mag volume, but you can just raise the amp gain

 

Add mass to the headstock and you get some ugly additions to the headstock (but it can be hidden at the back).

 

Thicker strings makes it harder to play... so practice and get your fingers strong enough to use medium strings rather than lights. (medium is 11 on top E)

 

 

Adding weight to the Trem block is probably one of the harder options as there is so little room to work with - the neck side has the circuit board on it and there isn't that much space on the back side if you want to be able to dive without cutting some wood away... and removing wood is one of those things that will probably reduce sustain!

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Add String Trees to the headstock to increase the angle over the nut, or better yet a retainer bar, which may also dampen ghost notes that cause warble. - something like this http://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Mite-Electric-Guitar-Retainer/dp/B00D7OT6ZGand it will also add mass at the same time.

 

Thicker strings makes it harder to play... so practice and get your fingers strong enough to use medium strings rather than lights. (medium is 11 on top E)

 

These are the two best, and easiest places to start. I've been playing 11's for years. Yes, you will find it difficult to bend strings initially. Yes, your fingers will hurt. But it doesn't last long, and you will gain both sustain and tuning stability. Before long you'll wonder how you managed on lighter strings. 9's might as well be cobwebs....

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I've heard opinions both ways with regard to headstock mass. 

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I've heard opinions both ways with regard to headstock mass.

This is just a guess, but it seems to me there would have to be a considerable increase in mass to produce any real increase in sustain...who wants that? This guitar is heavy enough. If a little more sustain is gonna cost me a laminectomy, I'll pass...;)

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I'm getting problems with sustain around the 12th fret and up. Notes dying way too fast regardless of amp gain.

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I'm getting problems with sustain around the 12th fret and up. Notes dying way too fast regardless of amp gain.

Ditch the neck. It's awful anyway. I'll bet you $100 the problem disappears, or at the very least, substantially improves. Go with an ebony board. Might sound a little darker, but you can tweak to compensate, and you'll get a bit more sustain.

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Ditch the neck. It's awful anyway. I'll bet you $100 the problem disappears, or at the very least, substantially improves. Go with an ebony board. Might sound a little darker, but you can tweak to compensate, and you'll get a bit more sustain.

 

Well, Cruisinon, one of the factors of getting the specific guitar I got was for a maple neck. I'm willing to part way with the neck one day, but I'd like to keep it in the maple range.

 

I wouldn't rule out the fact that the neck is hurting the sustain though. 

 

Could it be a truss rod issue?

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Could it be a truss rod issue?

I doubt it. The amount of relief affects playability, certainly...but sustain, not so much unless it's wildly out-of-whack. Too much relief, and the strings are flapping in the breeze, too little and they're sitting on the frets and buzzing.

 

But sustain is more a function of the inherent resonance (or lack thereof) of the guitar itself. It's a bolt-on, so you're losing a great deal right there. Might wanna check the mounting bolts...wood moves. Over time they loosen, even if you're not swinging the thing around your head.

 

String guage will also make a difference...a heavier string rings longer.

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I doubt it. The amount of relief affects playability, certainly...but sustain, not so much unless it's wildly out-of-whack. Too much relief, and the strings are flapping in the breeze, too little and they're sitting on the frets and buzzing.

 

But sustain is more a function of the inherent resonance (or lack thereof) of the guitar itself. It's a bolt-on, so you're losing a great deal right there. Might wanna check the mounting bolts...wood moves. Over time they loosen, even if you're not swinging the thing around your head.

 

String guage will also make a difference...a heavier string rings longer.

 

So the neck was moving a bit up and down, so I tightened the screws as much as I could.

Sustain did not improve.

 

Like I said, sustain is pretty low from about 11/12 and up on the strings, but below that, the sustain is just fine. It's weird.

 

I did lower the pickups and it helped a little bit, but other than that the sustain is still like 2-3 seconds.

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So the neck was moving a bit up and down, so I tightened the screws as much as I could.

Sustain did not improve.

 

Like I said, sustain is pretty low from about 11/12 and up on the strings, but below that, the sustain is just fine. It's weird.

 

I did lower the pickups and it helped a little bit, but other than that the sustain is still like 2-3 seconds.

 

If sustain is dying in the upper register that sounds like a setup issue to me, tech the guitar with a new set of strings and see what happens. 

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If sustain is dying in the upper register that sounds like a setup issue to me, tech the guitar with a new set of strings and see what happens.

+1...

 

How old are the strings, Clayman? New set couldn't hurt.

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+1...

 

How old are the strings, Clayman? New set couldn't hurt.

 

Not that old. I replaced it with a set of elixirs a month ago.

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Similar to the Godin xtSA ( pic below) , I added a  Super-Vee Mag-Lok to my JTV-69 to help improve sustain  - details here:

JTV-69 Tremolo Setup

http://www.vguitarforums.com/smf/index.php?topic=9371.0

 

I've found that the older TremSetter can significantly help with the sustain of a floating block guitar:

 

http://store.hipshotproducts.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=115

 

For a time I would install one in every floating block guitar I had (even a 1990 PRS Custom that needed no help with tuning stability), just for the tonal and sustain improvement.  It makes the trem feel different, but it is a nice compromise between blocking the trem and leaving it full floating.

 

From my brief look inside a JTV69s trem cavity, I see no reason why it wouldn't work in one.

 

FWIW, as a primarily Gibson player, I adore the neck on the JTV69s.  It's terrific IMHO, but definitely unique.  However it's easy to see that a person that likes a more Fender vintage feel might not like it.

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Well, Cruisinon, one of the factors of getting the specific guitar I got was for a maple neck. I'm willing to part way with the neck one day, but I'd like to keep it in the maple range.

 

If you were looking for a JTV maple replacement neck, I just listed on on Reverb - http://rvrb.io/variax-jvt-69-lg3

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Not that old. I replaced it with a set of elixirs a month ago.

 

Which Elixirs did you use? The old "Polyweb" Elixirs in particular can really sound dull in comparison to non-coated strings. I remember pulling a set of Elixirs off a while back and replacing them with non-coated strings and it sounded like I had pulled a wet blanket off my guitar.  The sound really came alive. Might be worth trying some good old D'Addario, GHS, or whatever brand string with no coating. Also, if you are using a noise-gate in your effects, make sure it is not kicking in too early and killing your sustain.

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Which Elixirs did you use? The old "Polyweb" Elixirs in particular can really sound dull in comparison to non-coated strings. I remember pulling a set of Elixirs off a while back and replacing them with non-coated strings and it sounded like I had pulled a wet blanket off my guitar.  The sound really came alive. Might be worth trying some good old D'Addario, GHS, or whatever brand string with no coating. Also, if you are using a noise-gate in your effects, make sure it is not kicking in too early and killing your sustain.

I used both, but try using poywebs.

I don't think they sound dull at all. They sound much better than the overall tone my string will live through, because within a few days, the new sound of regular strings go away, while polywebs, is just 1 step below the sound of new strings but many steps above a set of regular strings after a half to a full week.

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I used both, but try using poywebs.

I don't think they sound dull at all. They sound much better than the overall tone my string will live through, because within a few days, the new sound of regular strings go away, while polywebs, is just 1 step below the sound of new strings but many steps above a set of regular strings after a half to a full week.

 

If you are in a very humid climate or sweat a lot when you play or have acidic sweat then coated strings can be the way to go but overall I find they dull the sound somewhat and can impact sustain and brightness. I do find the Nanoweb Elixirs to sound much better than the Polyweb but I generally try to avoid coated strings because they just don't sound as good to me although some of the newer formulations are not too bad. Just trying to throw something out to help with your sustain issue, hope you get it figured out.

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If you are in a very humid climate or sweat a lot when you play or have acidic sweat then coated strings can be the way to go but overall I find they dull the sound somewhat and can impact sustain and brightness. I do find the Nanoweb Elixirs to sound much better than the Polyweb but I generally try to avoid coated strings because they just don't sound as good to me although some of the newer formulations are not too bad. Just trying to throw something out to help with your sustain issue, hope you get it figured out.

 

The sweat from my hands rusts strings fast, so it's a no brainer to use elixirs. I tried Cleartones, but they're garbage as my sweat literally eats through the coating itself.

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I'm getting problems with sustain around the 12th fret and up. Notes dying way too fast regardless of amp gain.

 

I can't promise it will help, but you may want to superglue the frets. I've been doing that with a lot of my guitars recently (the cheapos and Gibsons). StewMac has a newsletter that deals with it. You wick thin superglue into the tang slots, eliminating the air gaps. At the very least, it eliminates flyer frets, but the cork sniffy thing it does is eliminate dead frets and increases the contact between string and fretboard and, in theory, it increases sustain. 

 

The larger sustain block would be part of a solution, but it seems that's not an available one. 

 

There's always a Fernandes Sustainer, but lord knows what kind of electronic hijinks might be involved to keep that from squealing like a pig. I'd guess that Gary Brawer in SF has probably done at least one Variax/Sustainer installation (he's the guy for this), and it would be worth talking to him about it (though you're talking a chunk of bucks to buy the kit and have it installed). 

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Any way to improve sustain on my variax?

Two other easy things to check that don't require modding the guitar, assuming the issue is not that the neck relief needs adjusting and the strings are touching the frets. You would probably hear buzzing if this was the case though:

  • Make sure the pickups are not too high. They are ultimately just magnets and if they get too close to the string they can kill the sustain. Lowering the pickups can improve sustain. Too far away from the strings and you will lose some punch though.
  • Check the angle of the bridge when you press down on the strings. If it is tilting forward too much this can also affect the sustain. If so tighten up the springs on the tremolo block just a bit.

 

Note: The problem with the sustain could be below the 12th fret as well but less audible.  The shorter the string length that is vibrating, e.g. fretted above the 12 fret, the more noticeable the loss of sustain becomes.

 

 

Update: Looks like rewolf48 already mentioned the issue of pickup height so you already probably investigated that.

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Two other easy things to check that don't require modding the guitar, assuming the issue is not that the neck relief needs adjusting and the strings are touching the frets. You would probably hear buzzing if this was the case though:

  • Make sure the pickups are not too high. They are ultimately just magnets and if they get too close to the string they can kill the sustain. Lowering the pickups can improve sustain. Too far away from the strings and you will lose some punch though.
  • Check the angle of the bridge when you press down on the strings. If it is tilting forward too much this can also affect the sustain. If so tighten up the springs on the tremolo block just a bit.

 

Note: The problem with the sustain could be below the 12th fret as well but less audible.  The shorter the string length that is vibrating, e.g. fretted above the 12 fret, the more noticeable the loss of sustain becomes.

 

 

Update: Looks like rewolf48 already mentioned the issue of pickup height so you already probably investigated that.

 

It's one of the first things I went to and it helped, but it compromised magnetic pickups tone. Obviously it becomes less hotter and less warm when I back it off, so I have to find a balance.

 

It helped a little but not dramatically.

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