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UKMark

Thinking of buying a Variax & Helix, advice please...

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Hi All

I have been scouring the posts on this forum as I am considering buying a Variax/Helix combo. But I must admit, the numerous posts from unhappy owners of Variax are a bit of a concern. The main thing I am speaking of is the 'plink' effect, which I assume is similar/related to the 'Pieze Quack' that anybody with an under saddle piezo on an acoustic will be aware of. Or maybe it is something different? In any event, it is a worry. Is it still a current issue? Or have more recent updates and gear reduced/removed it?

 

And the other issues relating to tunings. Do they still exist?

 

The use I have in mind is for the duo with my Wife, she sings, I play. We do a variety of easy-listening style stuff; jazz, blues, bit of country, some acoustic fingerstyle. On paper a Variax would seem to be a great option. Be able to dial up a jazz archtop, 335 blues tone, tele country twang and an acoustic Martin for fingerstyle. That's how it looks to me on paper. What do you think of the fit of a Variax for this situation?

 

Be great to hear of your views and experience with this gear.

Thanks

Mark

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I've had my Helix for about a year and my JTV69 for six months. The combination is killer for me and I've lost all gas for amps and even other guitars. I bought a JTV89F to act as a backup since I gig and if my JTV69 did have a problem, I wouldn't want to have to go back to a standard guitar. I program the guitar model, volume, tone and sometimes alt tunings into each of my Helix presets and snapshots.

I don't have the plink problem with either of my JTV's. I think that condition mostly shows itself when playing metal, but I could be wrong.

The only problem I've had with my JTV's is when I first got the 69, the model selector wouldn't always engage which is a very common problem. Like everyone else, I had to stuff some filler up in the knob, then place it back on. Since then I've had no other problem. But I have to admit, I think that the problem with the model pot not engaging is a design flaw, and I think L6 should have replaced all of the pots on all of the guitars. But that's just my opinion, and I know what that's worth.

The only other complaint I have is the Tele model is kind of dull. Not much twang there for me. But the Strat models sound great as do all the other models.

I did put a Warmouth replacement neck on my 69, but that's a personal choice, not a design problem. The stock neck is a little chunky, I like thin, and the fret wire is a little taller than I like. I'm learning to live with the fret wire on my 89, so it's not that bad I guess. I really do love my Warmouth neck though, so I'm glad I switched it.

I would have no reservations with recommending the Helix / JTV combination to anyone that was interested in them. It's turned my world upside down, for the better.

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Is it still a current issue? Or have more recent updates and gear reduced/removed it?

 

It's an issue that affects some guitars and not others. There's never been a satisfactory explanation as to why that's the case. It can also be exacerbated by certain playing techniques, most notably palm-muting and the use of high gain tones.

 

There's no software "fix", and I doubt there ever will be. Without a universal cause(s), a satisfactory remedy is hard to implement. Despite some recent ultra-vague allusions from one guy "in the know" that there may be some sort of solution on the horizon, L6's last official comment on the matter was "a fix isn't a priority for us right now".

 

The alt tunings are a compromise. Some work quite well and others don't. But this is mostly due to the way piezos work, and not a faulty design issue, per se. Crosstalk can be a problem under certain conditions. Tunings that apply the same correction to all strings generally work quite well. I use 1/2 step down all the time. But others that alter some strings but not others, or those that alter different strings by different intervals can present a problem under certain circumstances.

 

Bottom line is the technology has it's limitations. Overall, I like mine. I don't have the "plink" issue. It allows me to switch from an acoustic tone to crunch seamlessly, and without switching guitars. The tunings aren't quite as versatile as I thought they'd be, but it does save me from having to keep one or more guitars permanently tuned down a half step. Assuming that you get a good one, it's a nice tool to have, but it'll take some time and tinkering with Workbench to make it useable.

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I'm playing a JTV 59 together with a Kemper. I think the Helix is in the same range. I never had problems with the piezos.

A modeler + Variax is a powerfull combination. You are able to choose the right amp, cabinet combination for each model. An acoustic model for example played through a normal amp can't sound really well.

In my opinion if you are familiar with modelers you can't be wrong to choose a variax. Try a Variax at a shop first, because the necks aren't for everyone.

I'm still happy an won't change anything. Maybe the neck if i could.

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I'm playing a JTV 59 together with a Kemper.

So does the Kemper support using Variax? I thought it was a Line 6 only technology?

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No, the Kemper doesn't support to switch the models of the variax. I'm playing like any other normal amp. I have to switch the models at the guitar. But it is very comfortable to choose the amp and cabinet for each model of the variax. I mainly use the T models.

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I highly recommend the combo. I did have the plink, but sent it off to L6 for repair and it has been fixed. I think there's still a little excess high end that could probably be fixed by using a coated string, but it no longer bothers me. I don't use the models all that much, though - the magnetic pickups are actually really good and the guitar plays great. The main thing I like is that I can use the Helix to do things like switch between a clean setting on the neck pickup to a heavily distorted setting on the bridge pickup just by tapping a footswitch. It was really irritating trying to do this before the Helix/Variax, but it now requires no fiddling on my part. I can also do things like lower the tone control for certain sections or add an acoustic model on top of the magnetics (or switch back and forth between them). There are just so many things I can do now that are super handy for live playing. Totally unnecessary in the studio (but I will probably still record with the Helix, at least), but incredibly useful for making my live rig "drunk proof" - "Durr, this button says 'verse,' I guess I'm doing that now!"

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I've pushed a Hd500x and a 59 through about every combo that you can come up with.

I haven't used the Helix so I can't speak about one of those. If your interested in REALLY using and getting the most out of the acoustic models, FRFR is going to give you the most usable set-up. I'm using 2 Lt3's  in this combo.

 

 Plus, it doesn't sound like you need a 100w amp head w/ 2/12 cabs to fit what you described. You can always break the speakers down for PA or monitor work also, giving them a multi-purpose use. Need one only? Just take one. Need two? you get the idea. You don't have to buy L6 units as there are better, lighter ones available now a days. If you need horsepower, Break out your old Fender or Marshall and twist the knobs off of 'em.

 

I however, would read the posts here CAREFULLY, and give my purchase a good long thought. These are real people with real issues, despite of everyone wanting to live in "Candy Land". L6 never goes back and fixes anything. IMHO ! They just seem to let us live with it, until they bring out the next new thing to replace whatever "IT" is. As far as I'm aware...Nothing has changed with these guitars since issue.Just bring out the new Yamaha Variax. 500's lasted two years, Hd500x hits the deck. Next up.....the Helix...etc. Same thing happened with their amp line-ups. More new stuff.....what problems with the old stuff ?     Maybe it's not supposed to last any longer than that?

They have up-dated the new Spiders 'tho'. ??? Plus, be aware that you will more than likely have to ship any problems back to L6, you can get that drift for yourself by reading what customers have said here.

 

In short, these can be really, really, great sounding rigs. After a lot of effort on YOUR part. And quite a bit of time spent on your computer, 'cause that's where your headed FIRST.

They can also be frustrating, bug-a-boo loaded monsters that end up sitting in the corner.

But I think most of that falls on L6 and a very poor business model that they seem to want to follow.

 

                                      Hell, It's only money,

                                                                       But folks who have it should spend wisely.

 

                                                 The birth of the Guitar, A Primal Twang.

                                                                          Shawn

 

PS.  Buy from Sweetwater.

       The extra years of warranty saved me many  $$$$$

       on more than one occasion. Plus, they gave me exchange

       credit on a couple of warranty returns.

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I highly recommend the combo, especially for your application.

 

I have a plink-free JTV-69 and it sounds and plays great.  I have other guitars that get played more frequently but I never travel without the JTV.  It's just covers too many bases to even think about leaving it at home.  I currently have over 20 guitars and if I had to whittle that down to just 3, the JTV would definitely fill one of those spots.

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The main thing is to make sure you can return it in case it has the plink or some of the other issues. Make sure it works perfectly.

 

I believe Line 6 has stated that they are no longer researching the plink issue because they are putting their resources into other things. They didn't so much say they would never revisit it so there is always hope. But I have a suspicion that there is new Varaix technology being explored and if that's true, the plink issue will never be resolved with the current software.

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The main thing is to make sure you can return it in case it has the plink or some of the other issues. Make sure it works perfectly.

 

I believe Line 6 has stated that they are no longer researching the plink issue because they are putting their resources into other things. They didn't so much say they would never revisit it so there is always hope. But I have a suspicion that there is new Varaix technology being explored and if that's true, the plink issue will never be resolved with the current software.

 

They did say they that, but my own experience is that you can send the guitar to them and get it fixed under warranty. My guitar sounds great now.

 

The Helix is an incredibly simple to use piece of gear despite what was said above. You can do a lot of fiddling, but you can also get a lot of great sounds with very little fiddling.

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They did say they that, but my own experience is that you can send the guitar to them and get it fixed under warranty. My guitar sounds great now.

 

The Helix is an incredibly simple to use piece of gear despite what was said above. You can do a lot of fiddling, but you can also get a lot of great sounds with very little fiddling.

It is true they are still honoring all warranties. There are still many stories about the plink not being fixed even after sending it in. I had an experience where I went through 3 JTV89f's before finally getting one that worked although I had to turn the 1st string all the way up in workbench for it to be equal with the other string's output.. And i was told that there was nothing wrong with any of them. Until I had a local Line 6 repair place witness and report what was happening. That's a long story that at least was resolved.

 

I still think there is new Variax technology on the horizon. Very much just my opinion though.

I have a Helix. That with the Variax is all I need. Even if there is a new and different Variax, I am VERY happy with where I'm at now after chasing Line 6's developments since the XT. Happily chasing them I might add.

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