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Variax Owners: how is Helix + Variax working for you?

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I have a Helix and a Variax Standard. I use them for recording straight to DAW.

 

For Variax Standard or JTV users, have you found certain combos of Variax settings that play well with the Helix? It seems I always end up using the magnetic pickups in my Variax, because the Helix + Variax magnetics sound better to my ears.

 

I'd love to be able to use different piezo-based Variax models that work well with specific amps/cabs/settings — I like having a nice tonal and color variety in the studio.

 

Any advice or tips?

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As an ex-Variax owner, I have to say that the feel of the immediacy of the piezo pickup's reaction time is what turns me off. Tonally speaking, the simulations are quite good but they feel odd. Admittedly, I have not played any of the newer Variaxes but i also know that altering a piezo pickups reactive character is not an easy thing to do.

There's also the way piezos react to dynamics. When you really bang on them there's no way to deal with the way the midrange jumps out. It's a very weird and to me, unpleasant sound. The only way I can think of to deal with it is through a multiband compressor...one with many many bands. But I'd bet it's no panacea either.

Now, the other thing missing is the way real magnetic pickups react to the input impedance of an amp. The Variax isn't really reacting to the amplifier at all. That leads to a very static sound.

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As an ex-Variax owner, I have to say that the feel of the immediacy of the piezo pickup's reaction time is what turns me off. Tonally speaking, the simulations are quite good but they feel odd. Admittedly, I have not played any of the newer Variaxes but i also know that altering a piezo pickups reactive character is not an easy thing to do.

There's also the way piezos react to dynamics. When you really bang on them there's no way to deal with the way the midrange jumps out. It's a very weird and to me, unpleasant sound. The only way I can think of to deal with it is through a multiband compressor...one with many many bands. But I'd bet it's no panacea either.

Now, the other thing missing is the way real magnetic pickups react to the input impedance of an amp. The Variax isn't really reacting to the amplifier at all. That leads to a very static sound.

Hmm,

but the JTV's have magnetic pickups, too... What version variax are you speaking about?  Have you tried the newer ones?

 

I haven't noticed a piezo lag time, but I also have not used it a whole lot yet.  I get plenty of amp reactivity with it as far as I'm concerned, whether I'm using it with my amp or the Helix, but, that could have more to do with my skill level compared to yours.

 

I only just purchased a Variax JTV-69S, have really barely used it yet, and am still coming to grips with it.  I've got different issues than you (I get a lot of pick sound through the magnetics, and string sound I'm not used to against the frets, but that could all be single coil issues and/or playing style issues I need to change, and I don't get it all the time.  I'm still trying to understand what it is.  I've spent all my life with Gibson double coils, and have never really used a single coil Fender style before.  I also need to get it over to my luthier friend to have it set up, which I'm imagining will help some, too.)

 

As far as integrating it with the Helix, I'm still working on understanding all the options I have tonally and technically with workbench and models etc.

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Playin a JTV 69-S with Helix.

No 'tracking' at all. Most flexible for live playing - and studio arrangements.

Hoping for a 'bodyless' (pure piezo) JTV model - with acoustic IR's even more flexibility, I guess...

If you're playin' unaccompanied, modeled sounds sometimes can sound a bit artificial...

Still waiting for the Workbench HD integration.

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I use a JTV59p and it's excellent. Part of the issue I feel is the output from the modelled guitars. I increased the output of the pickups (all positions) on the Strat and Tele models by +3dB and the difference is very noticeable. Much better. This can be applied across the board to suit.

 

Even the stock Les Paul model output is a lot lower than the real thing. In short increasing the gain of the pickups by around +3db (maybe more if you like it that way) helps to bring the models that step closer.

 

I think the HD models in the JTV/Standard range are way better than the old Variax 300/500/600/700 series. I wasnt sad to sell my Variax600 but I would be gutted to lose my JTV59p!

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Hmm,

but the JTV's have magnetic pickups, too... What version variax are you speaking about?  Have you tried the newer ones?

 

I haven't noticed a piezo lag time, but I also have not used it a whole lot yet.  I get plenty of amp reactivity with it as far as I'm concerned, whether I'm using it with my amp or the Helix, but, that could have more to do with my skill level compared to yours.

 

I only just purchased a Variax JTV-69S, have really barely used it yet, and am still coming to grips with it.  I've got different issues than you (I get a lot of pick sound through the magnetics, and string sound I'm not used to against the frets, but that could all be single coil issues and/or playing style issues I need to change, and I don't get it all the time.  I'm still trying to understand what it is.  I've spent all my life with Gibson double coils, and have never really used a single coil Fender style before.  I also need to get it over to my luthier friend to have it set up, which I'm imagining will help some, too.)

 

As far as integrating it with the Helix, I'm still working on understanding all the options I have tonally and technically with workbench and models etc.

 

 

You misunderstand me. I never said anything about piezo lag time. In fact what I'm saying is that certain frequencies captured by piezos are too immediate.  Too fast responding compared to magnetics. At least that's what it sounds like to me. Piezo just don't feel the same as the magnetics to me.

I think that there has to be a delay between when the string starts to move and disturb the magnetic field then generate the voltage being sent to the amplifier compared to a string that is almost directly in contact with the piezo crystals that generate the voltage. Maybe I'm crazy but it sure feels like it. I think that the formants generated by an electric guitar are easy enough to replicate these days but the time-based aspects of the signal are either more difficult to simulate or simply have not been taken into consideration.

 

I know that the newer ones have magnetics.  As I said in my post, I have admittedly not tried any of the new ones.

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If you're playin' unaccompanied, modeled sounds sometimes can sound a bit artificial...

 

Exactly. It's also apparent in more quiet parts of a musical passage.

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Use JT59  with my HELIX  and love it.  Best solid body i've ever owned. 

 

Only thing i'd love to see more of in future factory presets  is a decent set of JTV Acoustic model presets for the HELIX.  Like there used to be in the Pod HD 500

 

But its a perfect combination. 

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I absolutely LOVE the Helix Variax combo.  I've had a Variax 300, 600, Acoustic 700, and now own a JTV69 and JTV59.  You could say I'm a pretty big fan of the Variax line :)

 

Everyone has different tastes, but I've never really had any negative issues with them.  They have more or less resolved the palm muting issue that was a much talked about thing on the older generation of Variaxes, but other than that I have no complaints.  

 

After getting my Variax sounds dialed in with Workbench I prefer the tone over the magnetics.  Just like with Helix, or any other digital device, I never liked relying on the stock presets.  

 

I have a nice Strat and a Les Paul Standard that I use some for recording, but I gig exclusively with the Variax guitars.   

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Next time I have a chance, I will have to check out one of the new Variaxes. Not sure I can buy one as I do not know what guitar I'd be willing to part with as I have no room for anymore guit-fiddles.

I wonder though, the original Variax had very little sheen or sparkle in its simulated modelsi is this still the case?

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I have a Helix and a JTV-89F and they are a wonderful one size fits all combination. I play classic rock and for that I want a lot of different sounds that I can change to easily and quickly. I use mainly the Les Paul, Stratocaster, Telecaster and acoustic models. The only time I use the magnetics is on Stairway To Heaven when I want an acoustic and electric sound simultaneously. Everywhere else I use the modelling and only ever get praise for my sound, even from the rest of the band.

The ability to change amp, effects, tuning, guitar type, pick up type and anything else I need with just one footswitch press is fantastic.

As with most things it's each to their own but I can't see me changing anytime soon.

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Most of the time, the audience doesn't know one sound from another (unless it's really bad), but at last night's gig I had 2 guys ask about my rig. I have the Helix and 2 JTV's, a 59 & a 69S. I pretty much gravitate to the 69S (long time Strat guy). One guy recognized the 69S and was wondering how I got such a good sound and where was my amp... The other asked what kind of guitar it was, and said "Line 6, like that amp Line 6?" Said he'd have to look into those. Made my night.

 

I tend to use the mags 90% of the time (I put in DiMarzio noiseless SC'S) and love the quiet operation of them. The original pups sounded great except for the typical hum of SC'S. I use the models for acoustic and for alternative down tunings. No complaints here. I jump from mags to models all the time preset to preset, and snapshot to snapshot. Waiting for the implementation of hd work bench to be added through the Helix, can't come soon enough for me. It'll be in SOME update (c'mon guys!).

 

The sound men we use love my sound and levels. I even out my presets so I don't blow anyone's heads off when I go from clean to overdrive...

 

Dave

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Lots of good info here, thanks. I'll continue to play around with my Variax to see if I can get some tone combos I like with the Helix better than the pure magnetics. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to:

 

1. Line 6 adding Work Bench integration in the Helix

2. Fremen's Variax Pack (Helix + Variax presets)

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I have a JTV59 and a JTV 89F and use them with the Helix.  I am also a past owner of HD500X, X3 Live etc.  One thing that is extremely impressive to me is how the Helix reacts to the different Variax models and volume roll off.  The system "feels" or reacts much better to the dynamics of my playing than the previous systems.  Me personally I use the models much more than the magnetic pickups or I will use them in a combination patch (such as having a good acoustic variax patch and then use the magnetics for a distorted tone in the same Helix patch and switch using the pedal.

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The JTV-69 I have is nice but there are updates thats needed on some models. To me the Strat is just too mild sounding (stated elsewhere) compared to my real ones.

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The JTV-69 I have is nice but there are updates thats needed on some models. To me the Strat is just too mild sounding (stated elsewhere) compared to my real ones.

 

 

That was what I found with my original Variax as well. Like the upper and lower frequency range of the models were filtered off - like you were already playing through an amp and speaker.  I couldn't get any sparkle out of the Strat and Tele models.  As a whole the models sounded kinda dull.

Likely, this was a way to mitigate the pinginess of the piezo saddles.  Not sure how they can get around this.

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Love gigging with my Helix and JTV, especially with snapshots. I use the up and down footswitches to select among patches five patches: acoustic, Vox, Fender, Marshall, and Mesa, each of which have matching effects. I use the top row footswitches to select four different JTV models (guitar, pickups, and tuning) along with turning on matching effects. I use the bottom row footswitches and the toe switch to switch effects on and off and to toggle between amp settings: distortion, modulation, amp gain boost, and output volume boost. The expression pedal is volume or wah. I have one powered wedge monitor in front of me, facing me, and I send one XLR out to the front-of-house mixer. Everything is mono.

 

I also run a keyboard through the Helix to use the volume pedal and to share the monitor.

 

I should do like Rush and put something behind me like a washing machine or a chicken roaster.

 

I miss how different guitars each have a different look and feel, but it's a minor compromise for the simplicity, speed, and variety I get with JTV and Helix. As the next song comes up on the set list, I select a patch to choose my amp model and select a snapshot to choose my guitar model. During the song I use might turn on and off effects and boosts. Very easy and very powerful.

 

I don't do any recording, so I have no opinion in that area.

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That was what I found with my original Variax as well. Like the upper and lower frequency range of the models were filtered off - like you were already playing through an amp and speaker.  I couldn't get any sparkle out of the Strat and Tele models.  As a whole the models sounded kinda dull.

Likely, this was a way to mitigate the pinginess of the piezo saddles.  Not sure how they can get around this.

 

Try using Workbench HD to balance string levels and try different body models. If you want to bring the sparkle and spank back to the Tele and Strat models, try using the Masonic Plank body. I find this results in better sustain, and more natural Fender tones. I even use it on the Les Paul models to brighten that model up a bit.

 

Also experiment with different picks. Piezo pickups react to pressure and tend to be very sensitive to different picks. I find lighter, smaller, less pointed picks tend to work a lot better with the modeled instruments. I love the V-Pick Tradition with mag pickups and use them almost all the time on my regular guitars. But with my Variax Standard, using the models, I found the V-Pick Euro sounds a lot better. It seems to react better with the piezo pickups, avoiding the high pressure transients that a heavier pick might produce that aren't musical, and seem to generate that dreaded "banjo" tone.

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The JTV-69 I have is nice but there are updates thats needed on some models. To me the Strat is just too mild sounding (stated elsewhere) compared to my real ones.

That's why they make workbench :)  It took me some time, but I got really happy with the strat sounds.  It needed some boosting and adjustment to get it to where I wanted it.  

 

I did a video for a request someone made on my YouTube channel about getting good strat sounds with Variax.  

 

https://youtu.be/rCC53oxoBpU

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I am glad that Workbench is there to fix it, but I was hoping for a redo. I should know better  :P

 

Good info on applying WB to repair and adjust.

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@amsdenj's tips are good, I've tried his Variax suggestions before (like using the Plank body) with very useful results. Also, Glenn DeLaune's Variax patches are good, and are helpful for learning how others use Workbench to create custom tones, or make improvements to the existing ones. I especially like his Les Pauls and Strats. Much better than the stock versions.

 

Here's the link (scroll down to the image of the Variax guitar on the left) https://glenndelaune.com/patch%20downloads.htm

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Glenn DeLaune's Variax patches are good, and are helpful for learning how others use Workbench to create custom tones, or make improvements to the existing ones. I especially like his Les Pauls and Strats. Much better than the stock versions.

 

Here's the link (scroll down to the image of the Variax guitar on the left) https://glenndelaune.com/patch%20downloads.htm

 

I didn't know Glenn had created actual Variax patches. Are these actually Helix patches or something that gets integrated into the Variax itself as a custom model? I've never messed with Workbench so am totally unaware of how this would work. I looked on YouTube to see if Glenn had some demos of the Variax patches but found nothing.

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They're Workbench files that can be loaded into Workbench, then you can upload the presets into your Variax so they are stored in the guitar. You can upload them into any slot, such as your "Custom" tones. Its easy to get the hang of after you've spend a little time with Workbench HD. If you own a Variax its worth doing, as Workbench really opens up the power of the Variax.

 

I don't think there are any videos of the presets, but they are well worth the $6.99 in my opinion!

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They're Workbench files that can be loaded into Workbench, then you can upload the presets into your Variax so they are stored in the guitar. You can upload them into any slot, such as your "Custom" tones. Its easy to get the hang of after you've spend a little time with Workbench HD. If you own a Variax its worth doing, as Workbench really opens up the power of the Variax.

 

I don't think there are any videos of the presets, but they are well worth the $6.99 in my opinion!

Good to know, thanks much.

 

By the way, of potential interest to owners of both Helix and Variax, Scott from The Helix Channel is in the midst of creating a Classic Rock Variax presets package that is shaping up nicely in my opinion -- taking advantage of the use of snapshots to switch seamlessly between Variax models/tunings and related Helix tones on songs that have, for example, parts with 6- or 12-string acoustic and parts with cleanish electric and higher gain electric etc.

 

Examples here:

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They're Workbench files that can be loaded into Workbench, then you can upload the presets into your Variax so they are stored in the guitar. You can upload them into any slot, such as your "Custom" tones. Its easy to get the hang of after you've spend a little time with Workbench HD. If you own a Variax its worth doing, as Workbench really opens up the power of the Variax.

 

I don't think there are any videos of the presets, but they are well worth the $6.99 in my opinion!

I'm also interested in these settings, I'm new to Workbench.Do you have to assign them to a specific spot. Or can I just upload them and they overwrite the previous settings?

 

TIA

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Gk9 -- yes, you can assign new or edited models to a specific "slot" in your Variax. If you upload Glenn's custom models into Workbench, you can audition them, then choose which ones you want to upload to and save in the Variax. If you do that, they will overwrite the previous model. But, those get backed up in a file on your computer, so you can recall them if you want. Its really quite easy when you get the hang of it.

 

The most work right now is that Workbench HD won't work directly with Helix. You have to power your Variax from its charged battery, connect it to the Workbench dongle with a Variax (or ethernet) cable, connect the dongle to your computer with a USB cable, connect your Variax with 1/4" guitar cable to an amp (or Helix) to audition the sounds, and then run Workbench. Its pain in the toucas, but someday Line 6 will add support to Helix and Workbench so they work directly together. (In the meantime, vote up Workbench integration on IdeaScale here: 

 

http://line6.ideascale.com/a/ideas/search?templateId=0&discussionID=51424&tag=&query=Workbench+HD&date-submitted=&daterangepicker_start=&daterangepicker_end=&date-last-activity=&daterangepicker_start=&daterangepicker_end=

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Brilliant, thanks Soundog,I've not got a Helix atm, I'm only really a beginner, well maybe past the beginner stage but not great.

 

I'll reward myself with a Helix if I ever get worthy of one.

 

Using an Amplifi atm which is great for my abilities.

 

I uploaded someone else's Variax bundle which was a normalized bundle. ( think I did right ) just thought I'd try someone else's who play live.

 

Thanks again.

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