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Haven't been reading the forum in a while as all is well with my Variax guitar and HD software - selfish I know. By "all is well" I mean both the guitar and HD software are working as the should. No complaints really but now that I have been using and recording with both products (Variax and HD) I have lost my initial awe at the strides in technology. Still impressed yes, but naturally I am left wanting more.  FOR ME - rarely will I keep a Variax or HD recorded track. I only use them for basic tracking - getting the idea. I still pull out the heavy guns (guitars and amps) for a real take. So my question now is: does anyone have a inside track to whether or not Line 6 is spending development money on improving the current lineups? I am a HUGE proponent of the technology and will support as best I can. Grateful for what has been created thus far - but it just is not quite there yet - for me. Like most that are here, I would love to use one axe for all needs - so cool. Not complaining - just asking.

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They don't invite most of us to the R&D meetings...your guess is as good as anyone else's.

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A guess would be that they aren't doing anything R&D wise with the Variax in a major manner. I suppose they may be doing something but they seem to be focused on the Helix and Helix Native. I base this partly on the lack of popularity of the Variax.

 

I am just now wondering why they don't repackage the old Variax technology at a low price which I think is a big reason why people don't get into the Variax. Whatever model you get, if you subtract what the "computer" in the Variax costs, that's the amount you would probably pay for a normal guitar. The price I last remember being quoted is about $700. Would the old Varaix technology be half that? Could you then put it in a cheap guitar making it a $500-$600 guitar? I think it would attract more people to this techonology. Over $1000 dollar is a lot of money to spend on techonology that seems like no one is sure of. $600 or lower? I think a lot more people would try it. Just a thought in case any L6 people are listening.

 

This is all, of course, speculation and not based on any actual data or anything mentioned officially by Line 6.

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I'm just guessing, so this could be way off. There are three major components to a Variax: the physical guitar and pickups, the Variax hardware and the models. I'm ignoring the power supply for this discussion.

 

The physical guitars span a range from the old Variax 1.x 300, 500 and 700 models to the JTV models, to the Variax Standard and the Variax Shuriken. This is a reasonably wide range of instrument selections, quality levels and styles. Its not clear further innovation here would significantly increase the Variax marketplace. So I'd expect this to be slow changing.

 

The Variax 2.0 hardware addresses some of the DSP limitations that resulted in compromises in the Variax 1.0 features and model resolution. Its hard to know what DSP headroom remains for future features and models, but it possible that the current hardware is no longer a bottleneck for at least some level of innovation. That might mean there's little demand for hardware innovation at this time.

 

So that leaves the models. We don't know how the models are created, but I suspect it has to do with capturing impulse responses of the guitar bodies, magnetic pickups and piezo pickups, and then phase aligning and combining these in algorighms that can efficiently convert the output of the piezo pickups into the sound of the modeled guitar. I'd guess accurately capturing this information in a repeatable way with available select instruments is somewhat costly and time consuming. There may also be limitations to the process that cannot easily be addressed in order to provide more accurate or improved models. These limitations could involve the ability to get accurate, consistent samples, availability of instruments to model, and algorithm limitations to provide sufficient processing speed to avoid latency. So innovation and change here may be difficult too.

 

So where does that leave us? Well first I think it leaves us with a pretty fantastic choice in gigging instrument. I have a 67 Les Paul and an early 90's Strat Deluxe with Tom Anderson pickups. These are really nice instruments. But my gigging instrument of choice is my JTV-69S. Its light, easy to play, sounds great, provides the flexibility I need to be able to do things other bands can't do, etc.

 

But looking beyond this, I hope Line6 eventually opens up the Variax technology to third parties for customization. This would mean providing the hardware for 3rd party purchase and installation into other guitars, and opening up the software for custom guitar models. Making the hardware available would be easy enough, but that could result in fragmentation of the Variax market and reduced higher margin instrument sales for Line6. Opening up the software would require exposing Line6 Intellectual Property to at least the 3rd party vendors and that's a significant market exposure.

 

So these innovations maybe won't happen too soon if at all. Bottom line, I'm enjoying what Variax currently is and I'm not too worried about future enhancements.

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But looking beyond this, I hope Line6 eventually opens up the Variax technology to third parties for customization. This would mean providing the hardware for 3rd party purchase and installation into other guitars...

This I seriously doubt we'll ever see... the oft repeated refrain that there are a grand total of 4 human beings in North America with the required skills to successfully transplant Variax guts into other guitars is always the excuse. Now personally, I find that claim ridiculous...there are plenty of talented luthiers out there who could pull it off, but unfortunately they'd be outnumbered by the legions of half-wits who'll think that all you need to cram the extra electronics into their favorite axe is some Crisco and a running start. Then when they've butchered their vintage Strat, they'll complain to L6...whatever they'd sell the electronics for wouldn't be worth the hassle.

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