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davidderekmoss

Spending time tweaking in workbench has significantly improved my JTV

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I just wanted to share some of my experiences (and frustrations) when using the JTV.  I have done some tweaking in workbench and the guitar is now a dream; if you spend some time with this guitar it really is a work of genius and incredibly playable/musical. 

 

Here is what I did: 

 

Set each presets' string volume: I did this not using the global string volume but the string tab for each preset. It took some time but it was worth it. Prior to doing this I found on many of the presets some of the strings were thin and others were too 'present'. In many cases the string volumes were out by a significant degree eg 50 50 50 100 80 100. In most cases I found my top E string was the quietest and weakest sounding in each preset. It seems strange that the individual string volumes were so far out, you think they would nail this in the factory!

 

I then boosted the preset volume by between 3-6db for to compensate for string volume reductions 

 

I also - in also most every preset - increased the pickup level by between 3-6 db for each preset pick up. 

 

I tried to get the levels roughly the same between presets, as for me I find this much more musical - prior to doing my level tweaking I found the models with lower volume less appealing. Now I have levelled each preset out some of my favourite models are the ones that I 'skipped' prior to the above. 

 

If you are not happy with your JTV I would strongly suggest doing some of the above. I was about to get rid of my JTV but now I absolutely love it and can't put it down. The models shine through much better now and there is no longer the frustration of playing 'thin sounding' strings on many of the models. 

 

I now need to find a decent amp for the guitar - currently i'm using headphones, but previously I have played it through 'normal amps' and been v disappointed. I haven't tried it through an amp since doing my volume/pick up tweaking so it might sound alright now. Has anyone got any suggestions for amplification? 

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3 hours ago, davidderekmoss said:

Has anyone got any suggestions for amplification? 

 

You could spend the rest of your life soliciting suggestions and get a different answer from everybody you ask. What are your needs? Playing at home, live, both? Jazz, Slayer, or a Duran Duran tribute act? Bottom line is, there's no one answer, for any guitar... be it a Variax, Tele, or Gretch Silver Jet.

 

Want to do it all? Buy a Helix....

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I tried doing the string volume thing, using global settings. It took the life out of the guitar. I probably should have gone back and raised the preset volumes, but I didn't, I just reset the strings back to default.

When you said:   "In many cases the string volumes were out by a significant degree eg 50 50 50 100 80 100."  Did you lower the bass  strings 50% and the G to 80%? It seems like doing it preset by preset might mess with the accuracy of the models. 

I'd like some way to set the individual string volumes using an accurate meter. Doing it by ear seemed like a real gamble on accuracy. I used the input meters on my DAW, but even that was less than optimal. Maybe I should try opening a spectrum analyzer in the DAW and see if that gives me a good reading. I think I'll give it another shot doing it that way.

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yeah that's right, bass strings were way out on the strat model for instance - I think I had to reduce the bass strings to about 45% to match the string volume of the top E string. Much more playable now. The top E string had the lowest volume on almost all models, not all though. The reason the global volume string function doesn't work for me was due to the fact the 'model string volume disparity' was not even across the models; therefore the global string volume function was the wrong tool for the job. Another tip: I didn't adjust all the models in one sitting - I adjusted a couple at a time, enjoyed playing with the models, then moved on to a couple more - doing all the presets in one go is too much a task! I am amazed how much better the strat, tele, semi models sound - but all models in my view have better definition now. 

 

My approach to setting the string volumes was to use a blank preset on helix - no effects, amps etc - and set the volumes so the guitar strings are evenly distributed in terms of volume/presence etc. I didn't use a DAW, just my ear and I wasn't aiming to get the volumes perfect, just much more playable. The guitar is so much better now. I just need to sort out the amp side of things now. I'm thinking of going FRFR.

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yeah that's right, bass strings were way out on the strat model for instance - I think I had to reduce the bass strings to about 45% to match the string volume of the top E string. Much more playable now. The top E string had the lowest volume on almost all models, not all though. The reason the global volume string function doesn't work for me was due to the fact the 'model string volume disparity' was not even across the models; therefore the global string volume function was the wrong tool for the job. Another tip: I didn't adjust all the models in one sitting - I adjusted a couple at a time, enjoyed playing with the models, then moved on to a couple more - doing all the presets in one go is too much a task! I am amazed how much better the strat, tele, semi models sound - but all models in my view have better definition now. 

 

My approach to setting the string volumes was to use a blank preset on helix - no effects, amps etc - and set the volumes so the guitar strings are evenly distributed in terms of volume/presence etc. I didn't use a DAW, just my ear and I wasn't aiming to get the volumes perfect, just much more playable. The guitar is so much better now. I just need to sort out the amp side of things now. I'm thinking of going FRFR.

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You could spend the rest of your life soliciting suggestions and get a different answer from everybody you ask. What are your needs? Playing at home, live, both? Jazz, Slayer, or a Duran Duran tribute act? Bottom line is, there's no one answer, for any guitar... be it a Variax, Tele, or Gretch Silver Jet.

 

Want to do it all? Buy a Helix....

 

I want to use the JTV live - every time I have used it live  I have been disappointed  (using a real valve amp) - for some reason it just looses the JTVs definition. I've got a Helix recently and currently I am plugging into the FX return of my acoustic amp - which sounds ok but not as good as through my headphones for some reason. If I can get the JTV to sound like it sounds through my headphones in a live context - I will have a very flexible and usable set up. Anyone else got any thoughts on amplification? 

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JTV + Helix is great with a good flat speaker, but for live use where you want the amp behind you experience you just need to add Powercab. It simulates 6 different speakers in a 1x12 and had a flat mode designed for Helix, and you can connect digitally taking a line from Powercab to PA when you need to.

I use an L2t speaker which is good as I use a lot of acoustic models and can’t justify a Powercab yet.

The part that you perhaps missed from the global string levels process was going into each model and boosting the patches back up to match the pickups. That would then be the basis for the adjustments you have done here.

The best way I have heard it described is that as we know “all presets suck” (because of variations in the user scenario) why would you expect Variax to be any different? You should expect to tweak it to suit what you want it to do.

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thanks for this - the power cab sounds good, i will look into it - prob quite expensive though! 

 

i didn't realise 'all presets suck' - I thought the guys at line 6 would be better at tweaking than me - but i guess each guitar is different even in the digital world - I would say line 6 should explain this in the variax manual, after tweaking the guitar it is loads better. I bet loads of people don't bother. 

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All Presets Suck is an unofficial quote from Digital Igloo (Eric Klein who is Product Manager for the Helix) found regularly on the monster Helix thread on the gear page forums. It reflects the fact that no matter how much time they spend on making a patch sound perfect with their guitar players in their studio when creating the factory presets... it will sound wrong to everybody else using different gear in different locations. 

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Variaxes are just guitars made of wood like any other; no two Strats sound or play identical, no two Les Pauls. Each lump of wood will resonate differently and any perfect factory setup is blown the moment you take it out of the box in a different temp and humidity, change the strings adjust the truss rod ....

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This is an interesting thread, and I appreciate the time that the original poster took to perform and explain/document the results he achieved. My biggest problem doing anything where there is near-infinite variability and subjectivity, is deciding what sounds or looks better than the original iteration. I have the same problem adjusting images on my computer, for example. I'll see a tutorial demonstrating how someone has optimized and adjusted a photo in before/after thumbnails, and often either can't tell the difference or don't really think the 'finished' version is visibly better than the original.

 

It's a real bugaboo for me with my JTV-59. I've had it for 5 years or more, and it's been sitting there unused for much of this time. I expected it to be leagues better than my first Variax, purchased when the were introduced in the early 2000s. That guitar was my go-to for years, but I never really warmed to the JTV-59. I had high hopes for the HD models, but found them to be a HUGE disappointment -- thin-sounding and weak. My old 500's models sounded much better, to my ears, in nearly every instance.

 

Last summer, I had the opportunity to fill in for a guitar player in a 'classic rock' band, which would seem to be an ideal situation for the versatility of the JTV. Turns out that I preferred the sound of the mag pickups, and didn't use a single modeled guitar for any of the 40-some songs that I played with them.

 

I'm now, at least, comfortable with the physical aspects of my JTV-59, but am still totally underwhelmed by the models. Maybe I can get inspiration from this thread to try to make some improvements! Thanks to the O.P.

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cbrillow: I know how you feel, I bought mine 5 years ago and although I found the guitar useful to compose/record etc I was always underwhelmed when taking it to a live format. 

 

I have also spent lots of time fiddling about with the guitar, including problems with the firmware/connectivity to workbench HD. I also think the amplification you use is crucial to getting a 'representative' sound out of the guitar - I still haven't cracked this - plugging into a normal amp seems to mess with the models' definition etc in my view. 

 

I have got the guitar sounding really good now; and is probably my favourite guitar listening through headphones - just need to crack the live problem now! 

 

Good luck with yours - potentially they are great guitars. I think balancing the modelled sounds with the mag pickups is important in a live context also as it is very tempting to just go to the loudest option when playing live, particularly when trying to cut through the mix/lead lines etc. 

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rewolf: yes spot on with your observations re one guitar is never the same - i don't know why they (line 6) don't say this to future customers. Out of the box they sound ok, spend some time with it and you have yourself 28 or so guitars that are more less the real thing. Pretty amazing really. 

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cbrillow : one other thing... to make sure the edits you are making are progressive ie making things better . Start from a blank preset on Helix or a new track in a DAW. That way you get the JTV sounding at it's truest ie can hear here string volume problems etc, - also if you can make it sound good on a blank preset/track when you load it up with an amp you are much more likely to like the results.  

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Very helpful thread. I experimented with the OP's settings this morning and got promising results. So thank you! In the interest of adding more constructive info to this thread, I'll throw in some of my own insights. One of the biggest helps to the overall tone of the Variax and control of palm muting was given to me by Stevic Mackay. He suggested using a string wrap or mute above the nut (so between the nut and the tuning machines). Really helps quiet sympathetic vibration and tighten things up. Another big help comes by way of my own experimentation with the work bench. I found that both modeled body types and pickup types can have more or less of that wonky, over-compressed, plinky sound you hear primarily on pick attack. Of the models I sampled, the strat (Spank) model was by far the worst ofFENDER;) What to do? I ended up using a neutral body for that model. I also found that the Gibby (Lester) body and bridge humbucker sounded the most natural to me. Since the issues with over-compression of tone and plinky pick attack occurs independently (with either pups and/or body types), combining a body type and pickup type suffering from this malady creates a perfect storm. My suggestion is to experiment with different body types and pickups to find the most natural (or even neutral) sounding combination, given your specific needs. Good luck and thanks again to the OP for this thread! I've been looking for a Variax optimization guide for a while. This is a good start. I look forward to hearing more suggestions from other Variax users.

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On 5/28/2018 at 5:33 AM, specracer986 said:

I

When you said:   "In many cases the string volumes were out by a significant degree eg 50 50 50 100 80 100."  Did you lower the bass  strings 50% and the G to 80%?

As I would see it: The B string is 80% not the G - Bass strings all50 G100 B80 E100 reading the above.

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I didn’t touch the global string volumes, I changed the preset volumes for each preset. Also the only way to do it is by ear in my view. I would play around with each of the models one at a time, do a couple a day. 

 

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On ‎6‎/‎7‎/‎2018 at 5:45 AM, ginster said:

As I would see it: The B string is 80% not the G - Bass strings all50 G100 B80 E100 reading the above.

Another case of my eyes and brain not connecting. 

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