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Piezo retrofit for electric guitars / 13 pin MIDI / Helix Variax Model Pack


roscoe5
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To preface this topic, many might say that I should buy a Line 6 Variax, but I used to own one along with HD500x, DT50 amp, and L2m speaker.  I found that I really only liked it for the acoustic sims, and much preferred my traditional electrics (Les Paul Custom, PRS Singlecut Trem, G&L USA Strat, Fender USA Tele, and Jackson USA SL1) into my real amps.  Helix has changed my opinion about the amp models vs. real amps, but I still prefer my USA guitars to the Korean? JTV Variax I had.

 

I was wondering if anyone has experience with a piezo retrofit on a guitar and Line 6 Pod or Helix.  I mainly want to just use it for acoustic sims and acoustic IR's.  Maybe a good acoustic sim model or pedal would be fine.  The Amplitube Acoustic Sim pedal model actually sounds pretty good, even with my Les Paul humbuckers, but I cant seem to figure out how to capture an IR of it.

 

The Fishman Powerbridge system looks promising, and I have an old Fishman/Morley Blender pedal.  Probably wouldnt need the pedal though with Helix routing capabilities.

 

http://www.fishman.com/products/series/powerbridge/index.php

 

Taking it a step further, I'm also wondering if there's any hope Line 6 will put out say a Variax external kit, similar to the Roland GK-3 pickup kit for use with Roland synth.  

 

I see a RakVax was developed for use with Roland GK-3 pickups and Variax guts into a rack enclosure.  This would be pretty cool allowing you to use both Helix and Roland GK Guitar Synths.  It looks like it is still viable, maybe for custom order.  May need a sacrificial Variax though.  Could be a money pit with less than ideal results.

 

http://www.rackvax.com/products/rackmount/rackvax-electric/

 

http://forum.rackvax.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=260

 

GK13 pin to Variax adapter.

http://www.rackvax.com/store/#!/GK-13-pin-to-Variax-Adapter-Module/p/3958715/category=1173774

 

It would be really cool if Line 6 would put some modified Variax acoustic models right in the Helix for use with either acoustics or electrics with (or without) piezo pickups.  Similar to a Fishman Aura pedal.

 

I would consider a USA James Tyler Variax, but I really don't like making that kind of investment on embedded technology that will change.  It seems that Line 6 could accomplish most/all of what they are doing inside a Variax with a split piezo signal and external options and Helix, like the Roland does with the GK system.  I would not be opposed to purchasing pickup kit or adapter box (GK or Fishman, etc.) and a Variax model pack for Helix.  Maybe a "simple" Roland GK to Line 6 VDI adapter would bring current Roland GK users into the Line 6 world also as I don't think Yamaha ever offered a similar solution.

 

In my mind, Variax is Line 6's 1 up on competitors Fractal, Kemper, etc.  I think having to purchase a propriety guitar to access that technology is possibly a turnoff to users that are in that market sector.  Developing an external solution, or integrating with an existing one, would bridge the gap.  I mean, isnt that what Helix is all about anyway?  Nerve center of YOUR rig and all that? 

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I would consider a USA James Tyler Variax, but I really don't like making that kind of investment on embedded technology that will change.

I'll preface this by saying that I really like my Korean JTV69, and I consider the $1K I paid for it to be right on the money as far as build quality and the modeling engine are concerned....but they want nearly 4x the price for the US version. That's insane for a guitar with identical specs (albeit with a quarter-sawn neck), just assembled state-side. Find the right luthier and 4 grand buys a lot of guitar...and you'll actually have a say about the finished product.

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I'll preface this by saying that I really like my Korean JTV69, and I consider the $1K I paid for it to be right on the money as far as build quality and the modeling engine are concerned....but they want nearly 4x the price for the US version. That's insane for a guitar with identical specs (albeit with a quarter-sawn neck), just assembled state-side. Find the right luthier and 4 grand buys a lot of guitar...and you'll actually have a say about the finished product.

 

No doubt. I paid $3k for my Les Paul Custom.  Even used JTV USA guitars have come up on eBay for $2500'ish I think, and JTV is starting to get a bit old for tech.  Although it still sounds great.

 

Dont get me wrong...I did like the JTV, I just liked my guitars better.  I actually purchased it open box for $799 from Pitbull Audio I believe.  So the price was right where i wasn't really regretting anything.  Sort of wishing now I hadn't sold the JTV/HD/DT/L2M "dream rig", but I had a friend that wanted it all as a turn-key package and offered me a good price for it.  I wasn't using at the time, so I let it go...let it goooooo.

 

Roland GK pickups are still viable tech, although the Roland processors have evolved.  Kind of ugly hanging off a guitar too, so I think there is room for improvement there.  With the foot editing capability of Helix and external expression pedals, I dont HAVE to have all of the controls up on the guitar.  I think just a piezo bridge/pickup with an electric guitar input and stereo and/or dual output (or VDI!) to Helix with some level trim pots (even small ones) would suffice for now.  I wouldn't even mind if it was a box on my guitar strap.  

 

Hey Line 6...I don't see a Line 6 Relay wireless solution yet with VDI connection yet.  I wouldn't mind if separate magnetic & 6-transducer piezo connectivity was wrapped up in a Line 6 Relay wireless solution strapped to my guitar strap with a Relay box with VDI out on my pedalboard.  Otherwise, just a guitar strap box with magnetic and 6-transducer piezo connection to VDI cable with a Helix guitar models pack will do just fine .  Throw a Roland GK output jack on there too if you like   ;)

 

I'm thinking $500-$600 would be my budget for a retro/external solution, whether it be a future Line 6 solution or pieced together Fishman piezo bridge or Roland GK solution.  I'm trying to have some faith in Line 6 this time though and may at least hold out until Summer NAMM ;)

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Pheww...

 

Guess you can't put everything into one single box...

 

And maybe we miss the forest for the trees that way (midi / audio / pickup / modeling / simulation /

 

synthesizing / [...] / [...] / [...] ...

 

At least things get slightly confusing (at least to me) ;) ...

 

I'm quite happy with the JTV (Korea) & Helix, though.

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I have installed Graphtech Ghost piezo systems in 4 different PRS guitars. I really like it, and  it's fairly simple to install yourself. I had a 20 foot custom made stereo cable made to use with them. You have the option of adding their Hexpander board that uses a 13 pin MIDI plug. The Ghost install can be done without permanent mods, the Hexpander would require a permanent hole drilled for the 13 pin jack. 

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I have installed Graphtech Ghost piezo systems in 4 different PRS guitars. I really like it, and  it's fairly simple to install yourself. I had a 20 foot custom made stereo cable made to use with them. You have the option of adding their Hexpander board that uses a 13 pin MIDI plug. The Ghost install can be done without permanent mods, the Hexpander would require a permanent hole drilled for the 13 pin jack. 

 

Holy crap, that may be perfect!  I need to dig in a bit, but my PRS single cut trem (from my Tremonti wannabe days) is gathering dust.  It do like the PRS's splitable humbuckers for single-coil sound.

 

Now if Line 6 would put out some Helix guitar/acoustic/bass models to internally process the 6 (or more) separate piezo signals.  I would be up to spending $100-200 on those in lieu of buying a Variax again.

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Holy crap, that may be perfect!  I need to dig in a bit, but my PRS single cut trem (from my Tremonti wannabe days) is gathering dust.  It do like the PRS's splitable humbuckers for single-coil sound.

 

Now if Line 6 would put out some Helix guitar/acoustic/bass models to internally process the 6 (or more) separate piezo signals.  I would be up to spending $100-200 on those in lieu of buying a Variax again.

This the first install I did. It's a CU22. This is the only install I've done that has a permanent mod, I drilled and installed a micro 3 way switch . On the last 3 I did not install a switch. I just turn the volume off on the either one. To route the piezo saddle wires, I notched the pickup ring and ran them through the same hole the pickup leads go through into the control cavity. They are aligned with the strings, so from the front you really don't notice them.

DSC07024_zpsfvucvi3k.jpg

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To route the piezo saddle wires, I notched the pickup ring and ran them through the same hole the pickup leads go through into the control cavity. They are aligned with the strings, so from the front you really don't notice them.

 

 

I would be just fine with the little wires showing.  Better than screwing in and clamping on a Roland GK3 pickup.

 

I guess if it really bothers me, I could collect the wires in some black heat shrink tubing or tape and maybe pass that through the outer face of the pickup ring.

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When I installed them into a tun-o-matic bridge on a Schecter, I drilled a 3/8" hole under the bridge and met it with a hole into the bridge pickup cavity. Ran the 6 wires through the 'tunnel' into the bridge pickup cavity and then into the control cavity. If the control cavity had been closer, I would have skipped going into the bridge pickup area first, and drilled the intercepting hole from the control cavity. Completely invisible install that looked like it came out of the factory that way.

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When I installed them into a tun-o-matic bridge on a Schecter, I drilled a 3/8" hole under the bridge and met it with a hole into the bridge pickup cavity. Ran the 6 wires through the 'tunnel' into the bridge pickup cavity and then into the control cavity. If the control cavity had been closer, I would have skipped going into the bridge pickup area first, and drilled the intercepting hole from the control cavity. Completely invisible install that looked like it came out of the factory that way.

I buy/sell/trade guitars so often, I try not to do any permanent mods. If I did, this is the way to do it.

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I haven't done any retrofits but I can tell you that my EBMM Majesty piezos sound amazing, especially through that Taylor acoustic IR and into my PA.  I also have a Korean JTV-69 that I really like.

 

As for the VDI wireless solution, it would require 3 separate channels, which would be very costly.  DI recently started a couple threads on here asking if people would be willing to pay $1000 for VDI wireless.  From what I've read, the overwhelming response is no.

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So, because I have a PRS trem model...no holes required.  Wires will go through the trem block.

 

Also, there is a video of a guy who did this to his PRS and installed a $28 Seymour Duncan triple shot pickup ring switching system.  He was able to fit the electronics in the controls cavity.

 

http://www.seymourduncan.com/accessory/triple-shot-flat

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZLOs23Vx6o

 

Some nice sounds from a PRS SE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UcOdf6vLs0

 

So looks like a $200-$400 project depending on if I attempt the 13 pin MIDI system.  I might go for the package and put aside the GK portion for now if I can.

 

If the PRS is a success, I may attempt it with y Les Paul.  Since I have to get the SD triple shot pickup ring switch anyway, I can notch that for the wires.

 

Thanks again for your help guys!  I'll try to get the Mark V power amp + cab and Mesa 20/20 power amp +cab IR's posted soon, and maybe try to take another stab at an IR of the Amplitube Acoustic Sim,  as a thank you :)

 

PS: Line 6, give us something compatible with Graph Tech Ghost piezo system 13 pin MIDI kit  ;)

 

http://www.graphtech.com/products/brands/ghost/product-detail/pk-0440-00-ghost-hexpander-midi-preamp-kit-(advanced)?id=282d984d-b16d-4dc1-b591-650224e7c53d

 

http://www.graphtech.com/products/brands/ghost/product-detail/pk-0680-00-ghost-acoustic-phonic-hexpander-preamp-kit-for-guitar-(complete)?id=d6d7984e-b0d1-47c5-b53f-24af005f54c2

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Line 6 Idea Scale Posted

http://line6.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Helix-Variax-Model-Pack-and-13-pin-MIDI-compatibility/817048-23508

 

Helix Variax Model Pack and 13 pin MIDI compatibility

 

Develop Helix Variax Model Pack(s) for non-Variax guitar/bass owners.

 

Develop some sort of 13-pin MIDI compatibility (13 pin to VDI adapter?) for use with Graph Tech Ghost Piezo systems, and maybe Roland GK systems.

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Don't overlook this option!  I've been using the GR55 GP10's the last 4 years in live gigs. I've just recently switched to the Helix. 

 

I've installed several of the GK kits into my guitars, so I consider myself an expert in this area. By the time you've spent the money on the variax just to get the guts and the graph tech options, this autotune kit does essentially the same thing in terms of a "variax". but w/o having to use the 13 pin cables. They are doing what Variax should have done all along and selling just the guts so you can put it in the guitar you actually want to play that doesn't look like lollipop! I know they rave about these on vguitar forums and they have a $300 discount price through their website. 

 

http://www.autotuneforguitar.com/products/products.php?category=Custom_Installation_Kits_7

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Don't overlook this option!  I've been using the GR55 GP10's the last 4 years in live gigs. I've just recently switched to the Helix. 

 

I've installed several of the GK kits into my guitars, so I consider myself an expert in this area. By the time you've spent the money on the variax just to get the guts and the graph tech options, this autotune kit does essentially the same thing in terms of a "variax". but w/o having to use the 13 pin cables. They are doing what Variax should have done all along and selling just the guts so you can put it in the guitar you actually want to play that doesn't look like lollipop! I know they rave about these on vguitar forums and they have a $300 discount price through their website. 

 

http://www.autotuneforguitar.com/products/products.php?category=Custom_Installation_Kits_7

 

That's interesting too.  May be a bit more invasive than I want to go.  I bet I can find a Peavey AT-200 in a few local Peavey shops to test it. It seems to have the same tech.

 

The Graph Tech Ghost option seems more appealing at this point.

 

I still would like to see Line 6 put out a solution as we should be able to control and edit within the L6 ecosystem.  Seems like a no brainer to me to put out a $200-$300 kit and Variax model packs.  I dont know how much processing power Variax models take and the impact on Helix.  Maybe the processing would remain in the Line 6 Variax kit.

 

But coming back up to 30,000 feet, I think a stereo piezo/magnetic signal from a guitar split into current Helix I/O run through an acoustic IR block would be just fine for me at the moment.  A $200 uninvasive upgrade to a guitar and nothing further required from Line 6.

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That's interesting too.  May be a bit more invasive than I want to go.  I bet I can find a Peavey AT-200 in a few local Peavey shops to test it. It seems to have the same tech.

 

The Graph Tech Ghost option seems more appealing at this point.

 

I still would like to see Line 6 put out a solution as we should be able to control and edit within the L6 ecosystem.

 

I would test those just as a "baseline". The kits now are much better than what those At-200's had in them. I miss the alternate tunings and different guitar models my roland equipment had, but not the 13pin cable. You can even use a wireless setup with this. The autotune kits have much better response than the variax and roland kits as well.

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I would test those just as a "baseline". The kits now are much better than what those At-200's had in them. I miss the alternate tunings and different guitar models my roland equipment had, but not the 13pin cable. You can even use a wireless setup with this. The autotune kits have much better response than the variax and roland kits as well.

 

That's some good info to consider too, thanks!

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From some of the feedback so far, it seems that maybe some sort of Line 6 VDI to 8/13 pin adapter box (and maybe 1/4" for lesser functionality), likely with a small gateway circuit board inside and/or Variax processing, and Variax model packs, either in Helix, or the adapter/Variax box, would allow many people to integrate the guitar part of their rigs in the Line 6 Variax system.

 

I feel user guitar Variax integration would be in the spirit of what Line 6 has achieved with user amplifier, MIDI, and computer software integration with Helix.

 

Maybe they can call it HariaX ;)

post-1189006-0-18568300-1460656182_thumb.jpg

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