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Which Variax is for me?

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I'm a very happy POD HD500x user and due to the number of different tunings my bad uses, I'm thinking of buying a Variax. Problem is, I can't afford a new one at the moment.

 

I play in a rock band, Alice in Chains, Poison, and some lighter stuff like Ed Sheeran (don't ask...), and I'm not sure how the Variax does with the heavier music. But the different tunings have me thinking about it. I was thinking about getting an older one because they are pretty cheap. My question is, since I've been on the fence for a while, should I just wait until I can afford a new one, or would an older one sound good enough to get me hooked on them? And which model should I be looking for?

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Although the older ones are great, there's a lot to be said for the newer models having magnetic pickups and the ability to switch tunings on the fly. Another thing to consider with the older models is that replacement parts can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.

 

I had a Variax 500 for 12 years, which I really enjoyed, but there's no way I could back now that I have a JTV-69.

 

My recommendation would be to save up and try to get one when the occasional great deals pop up.

 

BTW, I've used both models for some really great downtuned or alternate tuned metal (Soundgarden, Velvet Revolver, Devin Townsend, Keith Merrow, etc...)

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Guitar Center has a 15% off deal this weekend...you can get a Standard for $679. I was dead-set on getting a JTV59 but it seems that every "new" one out there was made in 2012! Sweetwater shows serial numbers of all the guitars they sell so you can choose exactly the one you see. All of the date codes are 4 years old on the JTV's but it seems all of the Standards are 2015's. Kind of odd but it may be something to consider.

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Thanks for the replies! The Standards and JTV's really look amazing. I probably will wait for one of those.

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Sweetwater has (at least yesterday they did) a 59 in the Scratch & Dent that was made in 2016!  I almost went for it but decided that I don't need another JTV.

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I know you are using a POD HD500x but if you ever plan to buy a Helix you should keep in mind that Helix supports only the later Variax models - JTV and Standard. If you purchase an older model like the Variax 300/500/600 they are not supported in Helix.

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Thought I was the only one who though that Leesteel. I have used my 500, heck when I bought it back in 2004 it was just a Variax no number after it for years at club gigs out door festivals in 92 degree heat, Casinos ect .My Original 500 has never let me down. Now that I have Elixer nano web strings on it I am even more happy with it. These strings give mine a even more realistic sound in my opinion and its a $6.00 upgrade. The nickle strings coated tame down the treble and piezo tone. The j200 thru the pa now sounds like John Lennons sound on the early Beatles records and the Tele bridge sounds like James Burton trebly but with some (body fullness) not just treble. I have a Brian Setzer Gretsch so I can compare and now my variax has a very full Gretsch sound. I like the fact that I can play the sounds of guitars I don't own and even the ones I do own with out have to constantly change guitars to keep the show going. I have done opening shows for big names and If you only have 30 minutes to perform you can't change guitars every song.lastly I like the no pickups idea as I can play anywhere on the guitar without having to dodge pickups when picking.

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I have upgraded to locking tuners and GHOST saddles on all 3 of mine and I swear by these guitars.

They feel good, they play well and they are not too heavy to wear all night. I don't miss or need any mag pickups.

 

I have a few mag pickup guitars if I need that.

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Wow, you guys are making some great points about the 500.  Thanks for the info!  Not sure what I'm going to do, but I see a few of those on ebay and at guitar center for around $300... that is a heck of a deal!

 

If I buy one used, will it come with software to do custom guitar setups?  Workbench or something?  I know I've seen HD workbench for the newer ones, but will I be able to get something like that if I buy a used older one?

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Workbench does not come with the 500 BUT for about $99.00 you can get it and it works great with workbench. I adjusted my string levels and pickup put per model with workbench and made custom tunings ,Custom guitars like for instance a Mosrite ventures sound,Danelectro long horn Bass, And Dwayne Eddy Gretsch sounds. Etc You can make any sound you want and things that aren't possible Like put a P 90 pickup on a strat and combine a tele bridge right on top of the p90 all kinds of goofy stuff not possible in the real world to get unique sounds.

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There are 1 or two on eBay that come with the USB interface. It is a clear plastic box. If you are lucky, you can pick one up that has all the extras. You can download the Workbench software for free.

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I have both and IMO the JTV 69S is far superior to the 500. (and they are still in production)  I like having mag pickups and I like WB HD.  The JTV also has a much better battery system. (which many don't need or use)  I would only go for the 500 if it was dirt cheap - and I would expect to have to upgrade the piezo pickups which is not a trivial job.  Yes - the Ghost pickups are far superior to the standard ones that come with all Variax guitars.

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I'm a very happy POD HD500x user and due to the number of different tunings my bad uses, I'm thinking of buying a Variax. Problem is, I can't afford a new one at the moment.

 

I play in a rock band, Alice in Chains, Poison, and some lighter stuff like Ed Sheeran (don't ask...), and I'm not sure how the Variax does with the heavier music. But the different tunings have me thinking about it. I was thinking about getting an older one because they are pretty cheap. My question is, since I've been on the fence for a while, should I just wait until I can afford a new one, or would an older one sound good enough to get me hooked on them? And which model should I be looking for?

 

I was in your same boat. Honestly, if you can, save up for the new ones. If you're getting one off ebay, then why not get a JTV used? Used JTVs go down REALLY low these days.

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The beauty of a Variax is it's lack of magnetic pickups.  just sayin'

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I have both and IMO the JTV 69S is far superior to the 500. (and they are still in production)  I like having mag pickups and I like WB HD.  The JTV also has a much better battery system. (which many don't need or use)  I would only go for the 500 if it was dirt cheap - and I would expect to have to upgrade the piezo pickups which is not a trivial job.  Yes - the Ghost pickups are far superior to the standard ones that come with all Variax guitars.

Sorry, the 500 (and presumably all older models) benefits more from the Ghost upgrade? Or all models (incl JTV and Std) benefit equally?

 

I'm in the market for my first one too, and it's a lot to digest. The prices on the older units are quite tempting (because yeah, who doesn't like the idea of a couple dozen very legit guitar sounds for $250), but at the same time, buying old hardware that relies on fully unsupported software may not be the best idea.

 

The beauty of a Variax is it's lack of magnetic pickups.  just sayin'

Fully agreed. And to me personally, the less they look like the usual Big G- or F-branded fare, the better. A Strat has no business sounding like a Martin, so why keep the Strat visual paradigm (unless that's specifically what you're going for)?

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I was mulling over buying a variax standard as with my hands I prefer the Yamaha neck.

Then I thought what the heck why not be cheeky and ask a local Yamaha dealer if they would take my Yamaha 112v that I got off eBay for £60 in part exchange?

I got a £99 trade in which swung the deal.

The dealer had the full range off colours and whilst the emerald green looks great I was reminded how a school friend's green 112J showed more nail marks on it than any of the rest of Yamaha's in class.

I've gone for black so I will be a slave to careful cleaning.

I for one can't work out the price difference between the standard and the JTV's as they both give access to the same HD workbench?

In the UK the difference between standard and JTV is over £200, and as the purpose of the HD workbench is to make them sound like something else, £200 for a bit of aesthetics is hard to justify for me.

 

The Variax comparison chart is here so you can work out what you're getting for the price difference:

http://line6.com/variax-modeling-guitars/resources/

It's early days but as I traded in a 112v the variax will be kept and noodled with for many years.

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