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Variax HX Motherboard Upgrade (suggestion)

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My new ideascale suggestion:

 

http://line6.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Variax-HX-Motherboard-Upgrade/858897-23508

 

The Variax technology has remained static since the HD models were released, but there is definitely interest in additional features such as new pickups, new bodies and acoustic models (nylon), piezo variations and effects.

 

When the HD models were added the ability to access Factory presets was removed because the content now loaded pushed the hardware to the limits. The limits of 6 or 7 years ago... and technology has moved on

 

My suggestion is that Line 6 should offer a replacement motherboard for the existing motherboard that will offer expanded memory and upgraded processing features in all JTV and Standard models without needing a new guitar model.

 

This could use the HX standard of modelling for improved sound quality.

Would allow a much wider library of bodies and pickups to be available including User provided IRs for unlimited variation

Expanded integration with Helix (other VDI hardware) for features such as MIDI Guitar, or effects such as built in EQ that can be altered through the knobs (e.g. Active Tone knob to give a treble boost)

 

Obviously these capabilities require Workbench HX to facilitate.

 

It would extend the life of the perfectly good current range of guitars and increase the appeal because of the expanded sounds and features.

 

 

 

I would certainly be interested in a replacement processing unit that enhanced the functionality without me having to buy a new guitar - obviously

 

Who else would be interested in higher quality modelling and expanded feature set to fit into their existing guitar and perhaps to help Line 6... how much would you be prepared to pay?

  • Upvote 5

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Best idea ever! I can not understand why there is no reply to your idea.

I would spend much, much more money on a Variax-Guitar which is not declared as unsupportable computer-trash after 6-10 years of usage.

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Thanks. Maybe people don't like the idea of being asked for more money...

 

I am happier paying more for additional features if I am not throwing away something that still works well, and this way the basic guitar can have a much longer life.

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Unsure if it is possible at all I'm pretty sure this is something to be considered just for future generations.

But maybe I'm wrong and it is possible or impossible at all for some reasons.

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I would buy an upgrade for all three of my variaxs. This is a great idea

Depending on what was added, I would upgrade 3-12 guitars.

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I'm in, makes perfect sense - they already know the in/out and power protocol, and the form factor for the board, find it hard to believe with those items specified it couldn't be possible.

 

Price?  I dunno - give me a truly next-gen board with more potential and control, and an editor to match, I suppose in the 400/600 range would be reasonable.  

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If you consider the idea further on, you will find yourself thinking rubbish like "Variax ready" instruments from major brands and custom-designers  :o

Because of different instrument characters there has to be some kind of rough classification. But even that should be no witchcraft, if it is only about some sort of rapprochement.

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I didn't want to suggest the latter option because we have been told several times that there are specific adjustments made for each body type for the control variations and (I presume) hardware resonances that need to be neutralised. This is why a. each model has a "specific" motherboard and b. Line 6 won't support fitting into a 3rd party body.

 

I wouldn't be designing a different motherboard layout for each model - too expensive, it should just be a single board that has slightly different firmware.

 

If the intention was to make the processor as generic as possible then as a "dumb ideas person" rather than a detailed technical geek, I would wonder whether some sort of self calibration process (controlled by workbench) could not also include adjusting to any body type assuming that compatible power, controls and connections are present. It has always seemed crazy that the only way to get a custom guitar with variax is to gut a variax.

 

While thinking about this - I bet that Variax 700 owners might like a similar replacement especially if the tuning knob was either optional (I always change over VDI) or was a retrofit.

 

I was also thinking around £500 (= $500 USD !) to upgrade the origially £1000 JTV 69 with new features and modelling was a reasonable target value - it is supposedly about that proportion of the original instrument price.

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I hope this is something that happens. I love my JTV 89F and unless I win the lottery, I'm very sure this will be the last guitar I ever buy (I can hear your eyes rolling but it's true.) If I have to buy another guitar to get the latest Variax "computer" then I won't be getting that. I am content with the guitar as is. Always open to improvement but I'm done spending approx. $1,000 every 5-10 years for the latest greatest.

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If you consider the idea further on, you will find yourself thinking rubbish like "Variax ready" instruments from major brands and custom-designers  :o

...

 

Yes, I think you raise a good point. Let's assume for a moment that any technical challenges could be overcome. There are other considerations. The two that come immediately to mind are IP and logistics.

 

The potential for 'Variax ready' instruments relates to intellectual property (IP). Line 6 has a long standing policy on this. They do not make Variax internal components available in the market.* They manufacture and sell Variax guitars, and that's the only way to get the motherboard and other key internal IP-protected components. Lots of people perform Variax transplants - but they have to buy a Variax guitar to get the components, and Line 6 does not support the transplant process. Clearly Line 6 has crossed this bridge before. When the Variax JTV and Standard products were introduced Line 6 had the option to simply upgrade the internal components of the existing Variax 300/500/600/700 models. They chose not to do that. I see no reason for them to change that long-standing policy now. I expect when a Variax HX technology is ready they will incorporate it into a new line of Variax guitars as they have always done.

 

The other non-trivial issue is the logistics of performing the hardware upgrade. I think this could be a either a support nightmare (a mailout board with DIY installation**) or a significant cost item (requiring installation at an authorized service centre). I can't imagine this being done by someone who is not very comfortable with electronics repair and soldering. So what's the cost of supporting idiots like me who might destroy the new motherboard by trying to install it themselves, or paying the service centers to do it properly and reliably?

 

In any case, there's really no point in even considering the technical challenges unless these two (and perhaps other) issues are resolved in a feasible manner.

 

Having said all that, I would love for the idea to reach fruition. I just don't think it's going to happen.

 

* There was a brief exception to this policy. In the pre-JTV days Line 6 did license the Variax technology to a 3rd party who manufactured the Variax Rack product. This license was not extended to the JTV or later products. I don't know if the Variax Rack product based on the older technology is still being manufactured.

 

** I know this was done before too. I believe the original POD (or some other product long ago) received a hardware EPROM upgrade. The chip was mailed out and users installed it. However I expect that was a simple pop-out pop-in chip replacement that involved no soldering and no motherboard removal. Big difference I expect.

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[…] They chose not to do that. I see no reason for them to change that long-standing policy now. I expect when a Variax HX technology is ready they will incorporate it into a new line of Variax guitars as they have always done.

I'm not familiar with the amount of Variaxes sold, but sometimes it´s as simple as a matter of live or let die  :ph34r:

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Not opposed to the idea, but I'm rather skeptical that Line 6 would do something like this. I think, on a whole, these kind of hardware upgrades have become more and more rare in the MI world; and it's for a number of reasons. I think, for one, things aren't designed so that the end user can open them up and plunk in a new board or whatever, so once you get to that point, it means that users would have to take their equipment to a service center to have the work done. Let's face it, most users aren't going to want to bother with that hassle. So even if it's technically possible, there's probably not that much financial incentive to do it. It's the same reason why Apple doesn't offer hardware upgrades on nearly anything they sell. If people are willing to "upgrade" by buying a whole new device, why bother selling them parts and pieces to upgrade.

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* There was a brief exception to this policy. In the pre-JTV days Line 6 did license the Variax technology to a 3rd party who manufactured the Variax Rack product. This license was not extended to the JTV or later products. I don't know if the Variax Rack product based on the older technology is still being manufactured.

 

 

I don't think Line 6 actually licensed the Variax technology to this company. I think they were taking the Variax guts and putting them in a box. They probably got them from Variax 300s.

 

The only truly licensed Variax products I know of are the old Parker Adrian Belew model and the Shuriken guitars. I imagine the number of both of those sold is probably only measured in dozens.

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I don't think Line 6 actually licensed the Variax technology to this company. I think they were taking the Variax guts and putting them in a box. They probably got them from Variax 300s.

 

The only truly licensed Variax products I know of are the old Parker Adrian Belew model and the Shuriken guitars. I imagine the number of both of those sold is probably only measured in dozens.

 

Oh - I thought the Variax Rack was a licensed product. Thanks for clarifying.

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Not opposed to the idea, but I'm rather skeptical that Line 6 would do something like this. I think, on a whole, these kind of hardware upgrades have become more and more rare in the MI world; and it's for a number of reasons. I think, for one, things aren't designed so that the end user can open them up and plunk in a new board or whatever, so once you get to that point, it means that users would have to take their equipment to a service center to have the work done. Let's face it, most users aren't going to want to bother with that hassle. So even if it's technically possible, there's probably not that much financial incentive to do it. It's the same reason why Apple doesn't offer hardware upgrades on nearly anything they sell. If people are willing to "upgrade" by buying a whole new device, why bother selling them parts and pieces to upgrade.

For me and for many other guitar-players a very good and pretty guitar, which is fitting every need is so much more than a device. In the best case is it something I love and something that is getting even better by age. I could compare this to a good wife if this comparison would withstand reality. But to stay in that comparison... why don't spent good matured mama a pair of nice new ... from time to time?

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I don't disagree about the logistics aspect; obviously authorised service centre is the best option, but the changeover would be a lot simpler than changing the motherboard or graphics card of a PC something that a large number of electrically aware people can do without destroying so many that the product is not viable. It should not require a soldering iron just a screwdriver and unplugging and replacing connectors.

 

A whole Variax Standard is now only £500, so there should be a reasonable margin if the volume of motherboards includes new production plus a reasonable percentage of old guitars being upgraded

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I don't disagree about the logistics aspect; obviously authorised service centre is the best option, but the changeover would be a lot simpler than changing the motherboard or graphics card of a PC something that a large number of electrically aware people can do without destroying so many that the product is not viable. It should not require a soldering iron just a screwdriver and unplugging and replacing connectors.

 

A whole Variax Standard is now only £500, so there should be a reasonable margin if the volume of motherboards includes new production plus a reasonable percentage of old guitars being upgraded

 

Percentage-wise, how many guitarists are "electrically aware"? Probably not a ton... Something that seems simple to you could easily be daunting to most other people.

 

The other thing I see here is that you're kind of assuming that whatever is done with a new Variax, that it will maintain the same controls as far as the model knob and alt tuning knob. I wouldn't be surprised if Line 6 doesn't decide to update things on that front as well. So it might just be that trying to give an upgrade path might limit them in ways they don't want to be limited.

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Is there something that you know as an occasional beta tester that we shouldn't know about?

 

[if I got that question right it should be similar to "when did you stop beating you wife?"]

 

:)

 

With respect to the controls I haven't tried to make assumptions about what may or may not be practical - the reality is that original Variax (e.g. 700) had volume, tone and model selection while JTV and Variax standard had exactly the same controls + tuning selection. Both had power over TRS Jack and VDI, and 6 piezo channels while JTV added Magnetics. It is not impossible to imagine a replacement board that connected as a minimum to the common 3 controls, power and jack and also supported magnetics and tuning selection as optional controls plus also optionally any new control that may be added such as touch pad. It may require optional adaptors on the connection for backwards compatibility.

 

I think that for many the variax range as guitars has limited appeal because of limited range of body styles, but also because it has built in obsolescence while a quality guitar can last many years.

 

Like that '58 Tobacco Sunburst Strat in the same auction as an old vintage pedal of mine - the Strat is now estimated at £12K to £14K, older variax such as 300, 500, 600 are worth a few hundred and barely integrate with anything current.

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Is there something that you know as an occasional beta tester that we shouldn't know about?

 

[if I got that question right it should be similar to "when did you stop beating you wife?"]

 

:)

 

.....

 It's not quite the same as the wife-beater question, but it is a meaningless question because our answer is the same regardless of the circumstances. The answer is always No. It may be true, or it may be false but required by our NDA. In either case, the public answer is No so you can conclude exactly nothing from it.

 

Having said that, the answer in this particular case is No. :lol:

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Sorry but I have a "somewhat" related question that I can't seem to find an official answer to.

 

Has there been any definitive comment about future JTV updates? Was 2.0 the last or is there potential for future tweaks and/or additions? Just got my variax and it looks like 2.0 has been out quite awhile...

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v2.21 is the current firmware. If you connect to Monkey,

the Firmware version should all come up and a notice of

the current version would be displayed.

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Silverhead,... as I recall the variax rack wasn't our product, it was

some guys who bought some boards and did the rack. I imagine it

failed because we wouldn't support servicing,... especially since it 

wasn't our product, and that would fall into my lap.

 

As far as Stevic McKay's prototype guitar goes,... he was in town for some

Line 6 promo stuff, brought me his proto guitar to troubleshoot for him,.... NICE!

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Silverhead,... as I recall the variax rack wasn't our product, it was

some guys who bought some boards and did the rack. ....

Yeah. I knew it wasn't a Line 6 product but I thought the internals were licensed. Phil_m cleared me up on that. You're likely right on the reason for failure.

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Yeah silver,... you've seen my set-up and work load, the last thing I needed was to take on

servicing for some else outside of Line 6. :D

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Great idea - sadly there are government agency bureaucracy hurdles (FCC/CE) in many jurisdictions around the globe that often make it illegal for a company to sell upgrade faster DSP boards, into older products for consumers to install. 

https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/398

 

 

For example this practice was made illegal in Japan a few years ago. 

http://musicthing.blogspot.com/2006/02/vintage-synths-to-be-banned-in-japan.html

 

and at the end of the day - Line-6 must be profitable, and often that runs head on against the idea of offering upgrade PC board with faster DSPs for Varaix owners to install themselves 

 

Similar issue occured for GIbson 1st run 2007 era Robot guitars. in 2009 Gibson announced to dealers that upgrade kits would be offered for the consumer to install, but the legal team nixed that idea after they reviewed the FCC/CE compliance and service center cost burden.

 

Its more profitable ( and be able to comply with FCC  / CE / WEE  regulations in different countries ) by  simply  marketing a whole new model 

http://incompliancemag.com/topics/news/you-cant-make-this-stuff-up/

 

write a letter to the new government regime in Jan 20, 2017 

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Right,... restrictions on dual use products and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act

of 2002 (SOX) to add to all that. :)

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That last one went right over my head - I don't get the connection between SOX and an embedded audio processing device. And I don't get the dual use aspect.

 

:huh:

 

In my simple mind as a standalone item, it is no different to a replacement component in a personal computer such as graphics card or those many expansion boards for a Raspberry PI.

 

But don't bother with the details - the built in obsolescence of a Variax is an issue for many; potential purchasers and existing owners. I certainly don't earn anything like enough money from music or my day job to be able to afford a new £1000 guitar more frequently than once every 10 years or more - hell I am still working on upgrading an early HD500 into a Helix and I have been working on that since it was announced  :(

 

 

You can purchase replacement boards for a JTV - presumably these can be fitted by an owner into their existing guitar without insurmountable difficulties or breaking all of those regulations: http://www.fullcompass.com/prod/277278-Line-6-50-02-0320-4

 

If actively selling such a device is all that it is about, then perhaps I am suggesting that in future it might be discovered by somebody that the motherboard of Variax HX should it ever exist is "accidentally" compatible with earlier guitar bodies, and they will announce this revelation on some forum in a way that could allow few enthusiastic people with the right sort of skills to copy their example and miraculously extend the useful life of their guitar.

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I have seen somewhat similar issue come up in my particular part of the world involving UL and LED light fixtures. When UL tests and approves a fixture, they test and approve the whole thing - the LED chips, boards, driver, housing, etc. The thing with LED fixtures is that the vast majority of companies who make them don't make their own drivers (a driver is basically a power supply), so they are beholden to OEM manufacturers. Well, there have been some instances where a driver manufacturer suddenly discontinued a driver, and therefore, the whole fixture is suddenly now not UL listed. The NEC doesn't necessarily require UL listing (it requires some sort of listing with local code officials being able to decide what that is) but most local code officials do. So I have seen code official reject shipments of light fixtures because the driver they were shipped with was different than what was on the original spec... So yeah, unfortunately, it's the regulatory world we live in now.

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SOX,... any board with processor IC that can be programmed for criminal purposes

are restricted. Computers that are used in manufacturing that program such devices

are not allowed to be connected to the internet, for fear of being hacked from the

outside. Such computers have to be stand-alone and isolated.

 

UL (Underwriter Laboratories),... anything that is directly connected to the mains has

to UL rated. AC adapter/converters have to be UL rated, while the device they plug

into don't. Though, those devices downstream have other things to comply with, like

FCC Part 15.

 

Variax motherboards have limited real estate space and a host of things they need

to comply with. It's not a matter of spending two weeks programming an R-Pi or Arduino.

And since this stuff is sold internationally, there are those things that need to be

complied with and certified for,... and that takes time.

 

Unfortunately for some, they think it's a matter of solving issues where Captain Kirk saves

the ship in the span of a one-hour TV series episode. Definitely not the real world.

 

Such is the world of product creation in this industry.

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But don't bother with the details - the built in obsolescence of a Variax is an issue for many; potential purchasers and existing owners. I certainly don't earn anything like enough money from music or my day job to be able to afford a new £1000 guitar more frequently than once every 10 years or more - hell I am still working on upgrading an early HD500 into a Helix and I have been working on that since it was announced  :(

It's not a matter of income, more of ethic and moral. To be honest I could afford a Variax / Helix-Bundle every month but that's not my style of doing thing (nore am I good enough to justify such spendings). I love my POD because it works for me and if it would break today I would get another one tomorrow. But I like the idea to play loved physical instruments a lifetime and I'm esoteric enough to believe, that these wood with strings attached recognizes my love and gets some good tone and inspiration back ;)

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