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Smashcraaft

Can a Variax replace a favourite guitar?

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Hi. I never played a Variax but I have a POD HD500x and I am generally interested.

Today I watched a YT-Video clip featuring Glenn DeLaune, presenting the Metal Pack and while he was demoing the Panama and Bogner using a Variax (of some kind) he switched to a LP demonstrating the Marshall.

 

Why should he switch guitars when Variax stands for flexibility?

Can a Variax really replace ones favourite guitar tone wise if the player likes the neck and feel?

 

Or is a Variax more some kind of compromise, for Top-40 cover band guitarists?

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There could be a lot of reasons like:

  • Maybe he prefers the tone of his particular Les Paul / Pickup combination over the '59 LP Variax model
  • Maybe he wanted to demonstrate that the patches work just as well with a regular guitar
  • He might have switched just because Les Pauls and Marshalls are a very typical combination

I'd recommend asking him in the comments.  He's very good about responding.

 

BTW, I had his Monsters of Metal pack when I owned my HD500X and it was outstanding.  Glenn definitely knows tone.

 

You could also send him a message on here and ask him.  His screen name is gangsterusa.

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Thanks, I will contact GD... and your opinion on Variax as main guitar replacement is?

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I think it can easily replace several guitars.  I have a '91 Fender Strat that hardly comes off the rack anymore because the Variax sounds just as good.  It also sounds a bit better than my Les Paul Studio but not quite as good as my ESP LTD-401VF (Les Paul copy) with 36th Anniversary DiMarzio pickups (these pickups are modeled after the PAF's in Larry DiMarzio's personal '59 LP).

 

I like my guitar collection (I currently have 20) but if I had to downsize, my JTV-69 would be competing with my EBMM Majesty for 'last guitar standing'.

 

For a gigging musician the Variax makes even more sense as it can convincingly pull off any of the models in a mix.  The alternate tunings are icing on the cake.

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It all depends on what your needs are. As much as I love the Variax, there are a few things that can hold it back from being preferred over another guitar.

 

I love the alternative tunings, and the fact I can get a really low tuning for metal music, but a lot of metal musicians will not like the fact that the piezo design causes for weaker palm mutes compared to a normal guitar. It's real evident in modern metal amp settings for anyone trying to get a "chuggy" palm mute. The pick attack is muffled compared to that on a regular guitar when palm muting, which can be a turn off to people.

 

Another thing is, if someone wants to be really anal about the Variax, the Variax has a little less presence than a real guitar. It's virtually unnoticeable, but in some situations, the presence on the modeling of a Variax is a little lower.

 

HD improved this dramatically, but switching to models to magnetics, it's noticeable in some certain amp settings.

 

 

Another huge thing, not all Les Pauls sound the same. Even with all the same hardware, there could be differences in some tone from how nature is. It's a different guitar, the pickups weren't wound exactly the same, the wood isn't exactly the same piece of wood as the other guitar, which can contribute to how the guitar resonates with the strings. Let's not forget how much hardware changes have gone through a guitar's life span, whether it's the strat line, les paul line, or whatever.

 

 

I love my Variax, but guitars are guitars, and as a guitarist, you'll want to mess with another guitar sometimes every once in a while regardless if you have a favorite guitar. It's just human nature. You'll want to try something different sometimes.

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Forethought - everywhere you look, you will see compromise, and my opinion is only my opinion, so with this in mind, I'll give my 2c worth...

 

For pretty much my entire guitar playing life, I have been a Strat kinda guy. Oddly enough, even though Hendrix was my first influence, I'll blame Peter Frampton for my opting for, instead of a Strat copy, as my first electric guitar at 13, a black Les Paul copy. My first response a year or so later, when playing a Strat copy owned by the friend of a friend, was that it felt weird - obviously the cut-away was alien to me, and I didn't have much time with it, to get comfortable.

Long story short, once I got my own '71 Strat around 1983, I knew this one was a keeper, and I still marvel at how it feels in my hands - the back of the neck had been sanded back to such a silky smooth feel, nothing compares to it. Ever since then, I've been trying other Strats, (and other styles too,  FWIW - e.g. Gibsons etc), and I never felt anything good enough, to take me away from playing my favourite. Finally, I decided to put together a replica of the '71 so I didn't wear it out from gigging - it's already had two re-frets, and there's not much finger board left to allow for another one, so I knew I had to "retire it" so to speak. The replica isn't too bad at all, but still lacks the mojo of the original.

 

Then along comes the opportunity to buy a Variax 600 new, and it was on sale, and so I jumped on board the digi-train. I always liked the sounds of different guitars, but couldn't come at Gibsons because of the chunky, glossy necks, and I worked on the neck of the Variax, to improve the feel, and also, to get closer to the dimensions of the '71 Strat, so I could have the best of both worlds - the playability, and the array of sounds.

There was always something I wasn't quite happy with - the tremolo was unstable, and after a while the metal fatigue at the pivot points caused chunks to fall off the bridge assembly, making it even worse. At this point, I had been reading for a while about Vaxplants, and decided it was time to transplant the guts of the 600 into a Strat copy, which I worked even harder at getting the neck feel, to be as close to the original '71 Strat as possible. This time I'm as happy as I've been for a long time, having the flexibility of sounds of different "types" of guitar, along with the exact guitar specs I want. I went on and bought another 300 "donor," and now I have two Strat clone vaxplants, (one maple fretboard, and one rosewood), simply so I have a back-up when gigging live, in case of string breakage.

 

As far as sound is concerned - for live situations, it's all you could ask for in a guitar. Clay-man suggested the variax lacks some "presence". I'd debate that - as he says also - all guitars are different to a degree, and if I was recording professionally in a studio, I'd opt for a real guitar with real tuning, through a real amp, in order to feel as "real" a response from the components as possible. In a live situation, it's simply not so important, and I'd rather accept the convenience, and flexibility of the variax and all it offers, than lug around multiple guitars, in order to be able to be able to get through the kind of gig that's on offer these days.

 

Of course I'm talking about the legacy variax, (no longer supported), and though still readily available second hand, realistically the JTV range, and Standard are the better option nowadays. If you're a Strat fan, the Standard would have to be the way to go, even if you have to alter it a bit to suit your hands. It's obvious what the JTV's are modelled on style-wise, and it should be evident if one, or another, is more suited to your preference.

 

It's a big decision to buy one without being able to try it out, but you just gotta accept that as a guitarist, you're gonna have G.A.S. sometimes. The best therapy is to work through it! :rolleyes:

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... but a lot of metal musicians will not like the fact that the piezo design causes for weaker palm mutes compared to a normal guitar. It's real evident in modern metal amp settings for anyone trying to get a "chuggy" palm mute. The pick attack is muffled compared to that on a regular guitar when palm muting, which can be a turn off to people.

 

Another thing is, if someone wants to be really anal about the Variax, the Variax has a little less presence than a real guitar. It's virtually unnoticeable, but in some situations, the presence on the modeling of a Variax is a little lower.

 

HD improved this dramatically, but switching to models to magnetics, it's noticeable in some certain amp settings

Thank you all. I am really overwhelmed by the answers and your efforts to explain things clearly.

 

Did anybody ever tried to record the differences in presence and especially palm muting?

And in which special situations do you switch from modeling to magnetics?

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Oups... after realizing that my new Relay G10 would (of course) no longer work, Variax lost some of its magic for me :/

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I love this type of question! It gives every one of us guitar geeks an opp to talk about our guitars!

 

To me, there is a fundamental flaw in the question. One doesn't necessarily purchase one guitar with the expressed purpose of replacing another guitar. That's why one poster in this thread has 20 guitars. Each one is unique. Even if they are made by the same manufacturer and are the same model.

 

One doesn't purchase a Swiss Army knife to replace their other knives.

 

One shouldn't purchase a Variax with the hopes that it will sound exactly like your Les Paul so that you can now retire your Les Paul.

It's just a guitar that has the options that it has and does what it does. And given all that it is capable of doing, it doesn't do what my Roman Pearlcaster does.

 

The question should be "is the Variax a good guitar?" I'd say yes it is. And in concert with my POD HD500 or my FH1500 it becomes a great guitar.

 

I spend absolutely ZERO time wondering whether the Variax Les Paul sounds like a Gibson Lea Paul. I try to focus only on sculpting a tone that is going to convey the emotion of the song I'm playing. Sometimes the Variax delivers exactly what I need. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the Roman delivers, sometimes it doesn't. My favorite guitar is the one that gives me what I need at any given moment.

 

Bottom line...I'm not replacing anything because I have a Variax. It's just another tool in the toolbox.

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Oups... after realizing that my new Relay G10 would (of course) no longer work, Variax lost some of its magic for me :/

Well you wouldn't be able to power the guitar, or control model or tuning changes from the POD...but as long as you're not horrified by the concept of being dependent on a battery, there's no reason you can't use a Variax with a wireless. You just have to get used to switching things on the guitar itself.

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Thank you all. I am really overwhelmed by the answers and your efforts to explain things clearly.

 

Did anybody ever tried to record the differences in presence and especially palm muting?

And in which special situations do you switch from modeling to magnetics?

 

Well, I'm just being brutally honest for the sake of information, though these things, personally do not really bother me. Every once in a while, maybe the palm muting could be tighter. You can compensate through what you dial through your amp.

 

The presence difference is very noticeable when you run the guitar into a completely dry signal. Let's say, a POD with an absolutely clean patch.

Switching from Spank to magnetics on a 69s clearly shows the presence difference between modeling and magnetics.

Magnetics has a certain snap sound to the attack that the modeling is lacking.

 

The thing about this, is that you're going to be running your guitar through an amp, which restricts frequency response even more, so the lower presence isn't going to be as noticeable, though in some clean amp situations, it can be a bit noticeable, but like I said, that's what the dials on the amps are for.

 

As for palm muting, it's been a known thing for a long time. There has been improvements made, but it's still lacking a lot of tightness a real guitar has when palm muting.

I've explained before, the reason this occurs, is because your hand is blocking vibrations to the piezos when you palm mute, so you're killing a lot of frequencies that are vibrating from your palm to the nut of the neck, that get sucked into your hand before hitting the piezos, especially the high frequencies.

This is not a problem on normal pickups, because normal pickups sit IN FRONT of your hand where the string vibrates, not behind your hand.

 

I've suggested they do something to detect when you palm mute (They obviously have already, if they enhanced palm muting), and then temporarily higher the presence of that string's signal to compensate the frequencies that were killed off.

 

It's obviously possible, as like I said before, I've made the palm mutes sound tighter through treble boosting effects, but ultimately it makes non-palm muted notes sound way too sharp, so I have to find a perfect balance.

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I have the Variax 500 and I still regularly rotate to it.  I love the dead quiet sound.  My house has a lot of electrical interference so much that hum buckers aren't quiet let alone single coils.  Changing strings to half wound really improved the plinky squeak I would get moving around the neck on the Variax.  Does it replace my other guitars?  Not in the sense I would sell off any of them as each is unique and special to me, but it gets played more often then the others.  I did try to go the roland gk3 / gp10 route but I never was completely satisfied with the sound of all the models.  I hated that it was more complicated to change models then my variax.  I wish line 6 would make a lefty variax again.  Not to replace my old 500 but at least so I could have one that is still supported via the software.  I can't even install workbench on my macbook pro.  Luckily I have an older macbook air that still has it installed.  I like the ability to create models.  

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Can anybody tell me about the latest Firmware, which is accessible for the Variax 600?

 

And do you ever watched this Old-School-Tech-Guy doing the palm-mutes for demonstration?

(sound-demo starts on 4:50)

 

Does not sound totally bad to my ears, but it is of course not just a special guy, it is a special boomy hizz & fizz '80 sound, too :D

Sounds sometimes like he is rubbing his plectron over the strings, while he does palm-muting.

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