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PatMarrNC

Variax opinions requested

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Helix Rack Noob again.  Still in my learning curve, and I'm reading a lot about the advantages a Variax brings to the equation.  I've never been exposed to one, but I have had several guitar synths, so I have a general idea about what synthetic guitar sounds like.  My question for those who use a Variax: how is the latency?  In a Roland COSM device, analog to MIDI has more latency, but the COSM modelling is virtually free of any delay.  If the same thing is true of the Variax, I can foresee one in my future.  Of most interest is the ability to change tunings without latency or audio artifacts

 

Your thoughts? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide. This is a great community, full of smart people. Lots of good information being exchanged here.

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  • No latency that I can tell
  • Tuning is amazing but not entirely free of artifacts depending on what you're doing
  • Modelled guitars are good as substitues but require 'tuning' to fit your need and theres lots of 'model packs' about put together by some very knowledgeable people https://www.vguitarforums.com/smf/index.php?board=138.0
  • My use case is largely live - Standard >> Helix >> PC+ or DT25
  • I chage tuning and guitar models between and within songs using snapshopts
  • For live my rig went from 3-5 guitars, 2 x heads, 2+ x cabs, pedal board, DIs for accoustic to 2 x variax standards (one spare), Helix and 2 x PC+ or DT 25
  • Both standards have been plecked, bone buts put on, and locking trimmng tuners put on - very happy with the feel as a lng term fender player - had a couple of JTV 59s I couldn't love due to feel not working for me
  • Have also used for recording projects and not told people what the guitar used is and never had tone or tuning questioned - including dobro and accoustic models in open tunings and slide

Yes - I'm a fan.

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thanks Waymda! Good information!  Always happy to read positive reviews rather than warnings!

 

So, if I understand correctly, you prefer the standard Variax (the one that resembles a strat) because it also plays like a strat? That is good to know, because my current go-to guitar is a strat, and I love the way it plays.  There is a tendency to think that a higher price means a better instrument, and the standard Variax is the least expensive of all the models, so without your endorsement, I might have discounted it as a possibility.  But I see they are made by Yamaha, and I have high regard for their products. Just bought a yamaha acoustic AC5R and I love it.

 

I mostly play on online streaming sites, and I depend on technology to keep things moving because the audience will click away in a heartbeat if I have to stop to retune  or mess with a pedal. The variax+ Helix ability to have preprogrammed tunings and patch changes embedded in each song sequence, activated by MIDI will provide a hands-free and fast transition from song to song.

 

Thanks for your detailed response. You probably just made up my mind to buy one!

 

Aside from design/appearance does anybody know if the variax features remain the same from model to model?  Do they all have the same guitar models? The same predefined tunings?

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Hey Pat -
 
I have owned the first iteration of Variax (Variax 300 and 600) and currently have the JTV59 and JTV69. I also own the Roland GR-55 which makes use of their COSM guitar modeling. I have noticed no latency with either version of the Variax, either with normal playing or when using a stock or custom alt tuning.
 
I do notice some well known artifacts (faint warble) with the 12 string models and the piezo "Plink" which can be lessened. I don't notice those artifacts when using the GR-55's COSM guitar modeling. But - I WOULD rather be using the Variax for my guitar tones as well as taking advantage of Workbench HD capabilities. I don't think anyone can tell in a live setting or while recording that I'm not playing the real thing. It will ultimately come down to if it works for you.
 
If I was buying a new Variax this late in the game I would probably buy a Standard or a used JTV with the expectation of the next NEW version of the Variax being around the corner - although there is no indication by Line 6 that they have a new version ready to drop.
 
Just my 2¢.
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The current models all come with the same sounds and tunings, and all can be cutomised to suit your needs.

 

And yes the standard plays like a strat and, for me, very nicely.

 

The artifacts mentioned by Hey_Joe are what I was referring to. The warble can be tamed using somethig to dampen the strings between the nut and tuning machines (I use furry hair elastics - the shame), and the plink I tame by running into accoustic IRs (as a blend) - I've had people get very confused about the 'great accoustic sound' coming from my 'strat'.

 

I'd love to see a new generation of Variaxes :)

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Thanks Hey_Joe!  I appreciate you taking time to write such an informative and useful response.

 

I suppose I could run the GR-55 into the Helix, using the GR-55 for guitar modelling and the Helix for amp modeling... but then I'd lose the programmability that would be available when using the two line 6 products together.  Part of my goal in moving to the helix is to increase the automation of my set list. Every moment spent fiddling with a device makes my audience smaller.

 

Your recommendation to buy a standard is the 2nd such endorsement. If the standard has the same feature set as the more expensive models, it would be a no-brainer.; But I'm willing to spend more if it actually get more capability for the extra money.

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thanks again Waymda... you have told me everything I hoped to hear, including some things I didn't know I needed to ask until you told me! Your workarounds for the artifacts are brilliant, and I would have never figured any of that out on my own, so thanks for that information!  Hopefully I won't forget it by the time I buy the variax. 

 

What a great resource to be able to pick the brains of experienced users from around the world.  The internet is awesome.

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I wasn't suggesting using the GR-55 instead of a Variax with the Helix. I was mentioning Roland technology with respect to my experience with both platforms and your mention of COSM use. Variax/Helix control is amazing - even if you like Roland's COSM more it would be hard to pass up what the Line 6 HX/Vax combination allows you to do. I'm a Variaxer - tried and true.
 
There is no difference in the Standard and the JTV functionality, virtually the same guts. The Standard came along after (or just before the official Yamaha acquisition of Line 6). Take a Yamaha Pacifica drop L6 Variax HD tech into it...hence...a more affordable option than the James Tyler models and I think extended the Variax life span of marketability a bit.
 
BTW - there are even more ways to (try to) tame the artifacts based on the years I've been visiting the JTV forum here.
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I realize that you weren't suggesting using the Roland instead of a variax... that was just negative me trying to talk positive me out of spending money.

 

But I'm single, so there is nobody here to talk me out of it for long. So a Variax is probably in my future.  Thanks again for taking time to reply with such helpful information!

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I have a Standard. Use is practice, recording, and (hopefully eventually) live.

 

It's great for practice and learning new songs since I can change tunings and models easily. 

For recording I generally will use a guitar tuned appropriately (not modeled), or else tune the Variax itself so that any artifacts don't show up. 

 

Recording use is mainly the acoustic and clean to slightly broken tones. For heavy distortion I prefer a real bridge humbucker since the palm muting is not great on the standard models (more on that later). I also prefer a neck HB for solos, so I use a different guitar for those recordings. The LP neck model sounds good, but it's just not as good as the real one I'll use for recording. 

 

The recordings for rhythm parts and for clean tones its great. Acoustic sounds convincing in a mix and is so much easier than mic'ing up. I've also used the sitar for a decent Rolling Stones cover. 

 

There's no latency that I can discern. 

 

I replaced the bridge pickup with a DiMarzio single-coil sized humbucker, essentially giving me a Strat HSS, and I like it much better. It was a big improvement for palm muting. I also use a silicone neck wrap (like one of those old Livestrong bracelet things). My palm muting position places my pick right on top of the middle pickup, so I lowered it far down and out of the way. Not to worry, though, since I just use the modeled middle pickup if I want that. 

 

If you're playing for a live online audience and want to change quickly then pairing Variax with Helix is probably just about the best tool you can have. You can change model, tuning, amp, etc all with one footswitch. You can also change those things with snapshots, which is great, too. I have one preset which uses the real magnetic humbucker with high gain for heavy rhythm parts, the modeled single coil for clean parts, an acoustic, and a LP neck pickup for solo. It's pretty sweet. And doesn't take up any DSP on the Helix, so I can have 2-3 amps in that monster preset. Like I said, for recording I'd change it up a bit, but for either live use or jamming or figuring out parts, it's fantastic. 

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firehawkkwah,

 

Thanks for sharing your experience with the Variax. My use will likely be very similar to yours

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Sweetwater has Variax Standards going for $899.99 and one scratch and dent JTV69 SSS maple neck for $100 more ($999.99) right now.
as of 2/17/21
I bought a scratch and dent JTV59 from them 5 years ago and couldn't find one slight thing wrong with it.
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3 hours ago, Hey_Joe said:
Sweetwater has Variax Standards going for $899.99 and one scratch and dent JTV69 SSS maple neck for $100 more ($999.99) right now.
as of 2/17/21
I bought a scratch and dent JTV59 from them 5 years ago and couldn't find one slight thing wrong with it.

Oh, Maaaaan, Joe... you really know how to throw gasoline on the fire!!  Yeah I know, I've been checking prices there and on reverb.com , craigslist and ebay. I just missed the presidents day 15% off sale at Guitar Center.  Considering the fact that I just bought the Helix, I'll probably pay it off then buy the variax.  Buuuuut.. if you see any sales, let me know!

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To me there are several big issues to conisder.

 

You are essentially getting a guitar that quality wise, is about 1/2 of what you pay. The other half is the electronics.

 

It will lose support after awhile. The original Variax's Workbench software does not work in Windows 10 so unless you have an older operating system on a computer somewhere, you can't create any custom guitars anymore. The same thing will probably happen with the JTV's as well. You are not buying a guitar that you can hand down to someone eventually. That is the nature of digital stuff but it still is something to consider when wanting to spend your hard earned dollars.

 

It still does not play perfectly with the Helix. Without having to explain a lot, you need to keep the Variax's vol & tone parameters on Don't Force and keep the tuning on Custom. According to the Helix manual, Don't Force indicates the Helix will do nothing to control it and it will then revert to/reflect what the settings are on the Variax itself at the time. Specifically the manual says "When set to “Don’t Force,” Helix respects the Variax current setting." (Helix Manual page 24) It does not do that. For example,  if you had a custom tuning on your previous patch and go to a patch that has Do Not Force selected on the Helix for the tuning, it will not go to the tuning the Variax itself is set at, it will keep the tuning it was on on the previous patch. So you always have to keep it on Custom and make sure the Variax tuning on the Helix is what you want. They are working on this and I hope the 3.1 update will correct this.

 

If you can live with those things, get one.

 

Having said all of that, I have two. They are so cool.

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22 hours ago, PatMarrNC said:

Oh, Maaaaan, Joe... you really know how to throw gasoline on the fire!!  Yeah I know, I've been checking prices there and on reverb.com , craigslist and ebay. I just missed the presidents day 15% off sale at Guitar Center.  Considering the fact that I just bought the Helix, I'll probably pay it off then buy the variax.  Buuuuut.. if you see any sales, let me know!

I'll throw a little more gas on the fire, I have a JTV-59 with a Roland pickup  and a GP-10 going into a mixer along with my Helix. It's like playing two guitars at the same time, both with no latency and endless sound combinations.  Playing guitar has never been more fun.

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well, Dorfnar, if your goal was to throw more gas on the fire... mission accomplished!  I will probably add a GK-3 pickup too. Because too much is never enough.

 

Next stop:  see what the limit is on my charge card....  maybe I don't have to wait til I pay off the helix...

 

You know, I think Line6 ought to offer a special deal to anyone who buys a helix or a variax. Once they've bought one, they should get a special deal on the other.  It makes sense. Its in their best interest to put more people out there with this combination. 

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Brue58ski,

you make great points and I thank you for taking time to weigh in.  I have a couple of nice guitars to pass onto my son, so a purchase that doesn't meet that criteria is OK with me.  The lowest cost standard would meet my needs, and it's in the price range of a spare guitar, so I'm willing to spend that much for a toy that will keep me interested for quite a while to come.

 

My gigging days are over except for online streaming, and from what I've read so far, a Variax would satisfy all of the needs I have for that scenario.  If I sell half the gear I accumulated for playing live, I can easily buy a variax and have money left over.  That pretty much takes price out of the equation. The other gear is just collecting dust anyway, so I reclaim space in my music room and get a new toy. Winning!

 

As far as the life expectancy of the variax, in terms of its support: I'm 68 years old.  Pretty sure the variax AND its support will outlive me.

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Don't give up playing live too quick. I'm going to keep doing it until I drop. I just need a lighter guitar and amp, and JTV-69S and Helix provide that.

 

Life's a process, not an end result. Music and the gear that goes with it has contributed a lot of joy in my life. I've had to give up a lot in the last few years. Running was the big one in 2020 - had to get hip replacement and they say no running. I'm not in any hurry to give up playing live with the band.

 

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On 2/16/2021 at 4:12 PM, Hey_Joe said:
Hey Pat -
 
I have owned the first iteration of Variax (Variax 300 and 600) and currently have the JTV59 and JTV69. I also own the Roland GR-55 which makes use of their COSM guitar modeling. I have noticed no latency with either version of the Variax, either with normal playing or when using a stock or custom alt tuning.
 
I do notice some well known artifacts (faint warble) with the 12 string models and the piezo "Plink" which can be lessened. I don't notice those artifacts when using the GR-55's COSM guitar modeling. But - I WOULD rather be using the Variax for my guitar tones as well as taking advantage of Workbench HD capabilities. I don't think anyone can tell in a live setting or while recording that I'm not playing the real thing. It will ultimately come down to if it works for you.
 
If I was buying a new Variax this late in the game I would probably buy a Standard or a used JTV with the expectation of the next NEW version of the Variax being around the corner - although there is no indication by Line 6 that they have a new version ready to drop.
 
Just my 2¢.

Just another viewpoint:

 

spoiler alert - I use roland now but think the variax is possibly the best way to go for what you want, and it definitely wins in the way it integrates with helix.

 

Details:

 

I've recently moved away from variax to the gr-55 (again).  I find the magnetic pickups of the roland system to sound a little superior for 12 string and acoustics (but both systems are simultaneously great yet flawed), and as I have it installed on my les paul I also find it great to be able to bring up a stratocaster (I can switch between neck and bridge+middle pickups with the gr pickup switches... all a les paul player ever wanted LoL).  I found the strat emulations of the variax to always have sustain issues when you get to the quiet endings of notes, where as the roland doesn't.  Also I can put it on my best guitarist, not what line6 sells.  Conversely, the pickup on the gr-55 makes noises if you hit it, and isn't the most stable thing, and can have weird feedback issues (gk-3 gets that way after a couple of installs/adjustments).. variax piezo pickups though have gone through their share of not working right at times too over the years, in most models.  I like having my own guitars, not the line6 guitars, as my main workhorse instruments, so gk wins in that way for me.

 

BUT - the modern line6 guitars are very good instruments, and I particularly am interested in the headless one in standard scale.

 

Variax is great.  I prefer the Roland system, but I'm a nerd, geek, what ever you like to call it - I'm a software engineer and audio engineer.  So I love the complexity of the gr-55, and actually wish it was deeper than it is because I keep running into limitations that ought not to be there imho.  So it isn't a problem for me to play an axe that requires a second floorboard and a big plastic hunk of electronics attached to my guitar... I'm good with that.  For looks though, variax wins, unless you go for built in gk roland pickups which require serious permanent modding of your beloved instruments.

 

I have custom setup my gr-55 stereo outs so one output does real and modeled (cosm) guitars, basically without effect, and the other does synths, also "mostly" without effects (fx are hard to separate in the gr 55 stereo outs, but a couple can still be used individually like that).  Then I put the guitars through my helix lt, and the synths currently direct into the 2nd input of my powered speaker.  I may use the helix for a synth reverb/delay effect path one day also, but I prefer the separation of entities right now. 

 

Variax being entirely united between helix and guitar though - THAT IS THE BEST SYSTEM TO USE BY FAR.   I prefer my roland tone and capabilities, but the variax easily wins for how well united it is.  Totally great system, the variax.  Back when I used my xt live and a variax 300 (highly modded), that was amazing enough.  And I used it professionally like that for soundtrack work.  And the helix invited me to try again, so I had a modern variax on loan, and it was a nice instrument with variax along for the ride.

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15 hours ago, PatMarrNC said:

Brue58ski,

you make great points and I thank you for taking time to weigh in.  I have a couple of nice guitars to pass onto my son, so a purchase that doesn't meet that criteria is OK with me.  The lowest cost standard would meet my needs, and it's in the price range of a spare guitar, so I'm willing to spend that much for a toy that will keep me interested for quite a while to come.

 

My gigging days are over except for online streaming, and from what I've read so far, a Variax would satisfy all of the needs I have for that scenario.  If I sell half the gear I accumulated for playing live, I can easily buy a variax and have money left over.  That pretty much takes price out of the equation. The other gear is just collecting dust anyway, so I reclaim space in my music room and get a new toy. Winning!

 

As far as the life expectancy of the variax, in terms of its support: I'm 68 years old.  Pretty sure the variax AND its support will outlive me.

 

Well, I'm not retired yet but age wise I'm not far behind you. It's interesting that I also am starting to make purchasing decisions based on current life expectancy. No one told me that was going to happen. No one told me about the hair in the ears and nose either!!!! Get ready for it all you youngsters. And let me say again, Variax is the coolest thing ever, especially when combined with the Helix, despite it's "flaws". Especially if you're a bedroom rocker. A bit expensive if that's all you do I guess, but if you can afford it, totally worth it in my opinion. Maybe the LT instead of a full on Helix.

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21 hours ago, brue58ski said:

The original Variax's Workbench software does not work in Windows 10 so unless you have an older operating system on a computer somewhere, you can't create any custom guitars anymore.

 

The old Workbench does work on Windows 10.... although Line 6 doesn't suggest it will, and you do need to install 32 bit Java separately prior to installing Workbench. It requires jumping through a couple of hoops, but it does work fine. 

 

Here is a link to what is involved...
https://line6.com/support/topic/59142-how-to-install-the-original-workbench-on-windows-10/

 

 

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I still own the "1st Variax", and a JTV-69. I pull them out on occasion, play them a while and then put them away. 

 

My ears can't seem to get past the artifacts introduced, but I know it's just me because most rave over the features it has, and they are all impressive.

 

I wish there were a way to limit that strange "after" effect noise I hear/feel, and Have tried many things including string sizes both smaller and bigger.

It's like drinking a diet coke for the first time after years of drinking regular ones lol. 

 

So, in a few weeks/months I will pull my JTV-69 out again. ; )

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2 hours ago, spikey said:

I still own the "1st Variax", and a JTV-69. I pull them out on occasion, play them a while and then put them away. 

 

My ears can't seem to get past the artifacts introduced, but I know it's just me because most rave over the features it has, and they are all impressive.

 

I wish there were a way to limit that strange "after" effect noise I hear/feel, and Have tried many things including string sizes both smaller and bigger.

It's like drinking a diet coke for the first time after years of drinking regular ones lol. 

 

So, in a few weeks/months I will pull my JTV-69 out again. ; )

Spikey, thanks for the honest feedback.  I know it ain't all flowers and rainbows, so I appreciate hearing a reality check.  Thanks for taking time to voice your thoughts on the matter.

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2 hours ago, codamedia said:

 

The old Workbench does work on Windows 10.... although Line 6 doesn't suggest it will, and you do need to install 32 bit Java separately prior to installing Workbench. It requires jumping through a couple of hoops, but it does work fine. 

 

Here is a link to what is involved...
https://line6.com/support/topic/59142-how-to-install-the-original-workbench-on-windows-10/

 

 

Thanks Codamedia! Good information!

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Donkelly,

thanks for taking time to write such a detailed response. You have a lot of information to share, and I appreciate your willingness to share it!  As stated above, I have a couple of GK-3 pickups installed on various guitars that rarely get used, and if there is clearance for it on whatever variax I end up buying, I'll probably go ahead and install one on the variax. That way I'll have all the integration between the Variax and Helix, PLUS guitar synth and COSM modeling where it may be preferable.

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17 hours ago, amsdenj said:

Don't give up playing live too quick. I'm going to keep doing it until I drop. I just need a lighter guitar and amp, and JTV-69S and Helix provide that.

 

Life's a process, not an end result. Music and the gear that goes with it has contributed a lot of joy in my life. I've had to give up a lot in the last few years. Running was the big one in 2020 - had to get hip replacement and they say no running. I'm not in any hurry to give up playing live with the band.

 

I hear ya, Amsdenj!  "Never say never"... who knows what the future holds, right?

 

Having said that, there are a lot of online music streaming opportunities. Whereas they were once the place where amateurs went to get their moment in the sun, covid has forced a lot of pros to streaming, so audience expectations are a lot higher now.  Its nice to keep your gear set up in a streaming space and never have to schlep gear up stairs or across town.

My other hobby is animation, and a lot of streaming sites are compatible with OBS studio, which allows green screen. This lets me add background animations to my shows.

 

A lot of sites also allow tipping, so you can make money playing online. Not a lot, but  its like busking.  If you're bored, jump online for 30 minutes and make a little money.

Really, the availability of online streaming and the lack of work involved have made it the better option, as compared to playing out.  But I play solo, not with a full band. With a band, the real gig would make more sense.

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I've been a JTV user since they were released in 2011. As others have said, JTV's are really cool, and have many advantages especially since you have a Helix. Unlike others, I really like the JTV guitars; I have a 59 and 69,  like the feel of the necks, they have been totally solid players, the quality of the components is very good. I used to bring 3-4 guitars to a gig, now(if I ever play out again) 1 will do. Here are my bullet points:

  • They are on par with the quality of a MIM Fender, PRS SE, or similar guitar
  • The mag pickups are very good, no need to replace unless there is a specific pickup tone you need
  • Most of the models are good, but not great. There is a different attack envelope because of the response of a piezo pickup. With the Helix ability to blend the mag and modeled pickups, you can get better sounding models too. My favorites are the Strat, Les Paul, Gretsch, Rickenbacker and Danelectro. The Tele and the Les Paul Special  are ok, but not great. The ES-335 doesn't sound like any I've heard- very nasal sounding. But having the option to try out all the guitar models is great fun and good for gigging or recording. 
  • Integration with the Helix is the bomb.com. Unlike Brue58ski, I don't have a problem with Helix changing guitar models. When building a preset, I load a Custom tuning at standard tuning- problem solved. The ability to change guitar, amp, and effects with the stomp of a footswitch is just amazing, especially when playing covers. Also, the VDI connection eliminates the need to keep the battery charged.
  • Alternate tuning on the fly is indispensable for me. Especially with the Helix.
  • Palm muting with the models doesn't sound or respond like the mag pickups. It was improved in the last software update but not totally solved. Either use the mags or adjust your technique and accept the difference in tone.
  • Other guitarists will be confused and amazed when you go from a Les Paul into a Marshall, a Strat into a Deluxe Reverb, a clean Martin acoustic, and a Ricky 12-string in a Vox- all in one song... Just say "it's all in the hands"

I love mine, play them all the time, and hope they don't drop the Variax development.

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On 2/18/2021 at 4:32 PM, brue58ski said:

 

It will lose support after awhile. The original Variax's Workbench software does not work in Windows 10 so unless you have an older operating system on a computer somewhere, you can't create any custom guitars anymore. The same thing will probably happen with the JTV's as well. You are not buying a guitar that you can hand down to someone eventually. That is the nature of digital stuff but it still is something to consider when wanting to spend your hard earned dollars.

 

 

What you talking about man,???? Workbench HD work perfect on windows 10 for  Variax Standard and JTV 59 NO PROBLEMO on WIndows 10 for years now§

Already connected My JTV 59 on Workbench today!

 

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1 hour ago, gtrman100 said:

I've been a JTV user since they were released in 2011. As others have said, JTV's are really cool, and have many advantages especially since you have a Helix. Unlike others, I really like the JTV guitars; I have a 59 and 69,  like the feel of the necks, they have been totally solid players, the quality of the components is very good. I used to bring 3-4 guitars to a gig, now(if I ever play out again) 1 will do. Here are my bullet points:

  • They are on par with the quality of a MIM Fender, PRS SE, or similar guitar
  • The mag pickups are very good, no need to replace unless there is a specific pickup tone you need
  • Most of the models are good, but not great. There is a different attack envelope because of the response of a piezo pickup. With the Helix ability to blend the mag and modeled pickups, you can get better sounding models too. My favorites are the Strat, Les Paul, Gretsch, Rickenbacker and Danelectro. The Tele and the Les Paul Special  are ok, but not great. The ES-335 doesn't sound like any I've heard- very nasal sounding. But having the option to try out all the guitar models is great fun and good for gigging or recording. 
  • Integration with the Helix is the bomb.com. Unlike Brue58ski, I don't have a problem with Helix changing guitar models. When building a preset, I load a Custom tuning at standard tuning- problem solved. The ability to change guitar, amp, and effects with the stomp of a footswitch is just amazing, especially when playing covers. Also, the VDI connection eliminates the need to keep the battery charged.
  • Alternate tuning on the fly is indispensable for me. Especially with the Helix.
  • Palm muting with the models doesn't sound or respond like the mag pickups. It was improved in the last software update but not totally solved. Either use the mags or adjust your technique and accept the difference in tone.
  • Other guitarists will be confused and amazed when you go from a Les Paul into a Marshall, a Strat into a Deluxe Reverb, a clean Martin acoustic, and a Ricky 12-string in a Vox- all in one song... Just say "it's all in the hands"

I love mine, play them all the time, and hope they don't drop the Variax development.

thanks for the great response GTRMAN100!

You mention the ability to blend the modeled tone with the magnetic pickups.  Does the Variax cable also capture the mag pickups? Or do I need to have a conventional cable plugged in to get both signals?

 

Also, am I correct in thinking that the variax cable is NOT included when buying a variax? In other words, when I order the guitar, will I also need to order a cable?

 

 

 

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Yes, the DI cable carries both mag and model signals. Here's the cool thing: you can use Variax Workbench to create blended guitars with both mag and models, or you can use the Helix to have separate inputs for mag and models, then process them separately. 

 

The VDI cable is not included with the Variax. You can get one from Line 6 or Bestronics makes good ones too.

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Note that the Variax magnetic pickup signals are digitized in the guitar and sent as digital signals on the VDI cable. What this means is that the Helix auto impedance for the guitar input has no effect on Variax. There's a few models, like the Arbitrator Fuzz doesn't work well with Variax and VDI. 

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On 2/19/2021 at 8:15 AM, spikey said:

My ears can't seem to get past the artifacts introduced, but I know it's just me because most rave over the features it has, and they are all impressive.

 

This is not a 100% solution, and YMMV....

 

I like to run a TILT EQ at the front of a Variax preset and roll the high back about -20 to -30. This really solves the "plinky" tone that gets under my skin... and gets rid of it at the beginning so effects and amps respond more naturally. In general I find a Variax to feel "cold" for lack of a better term.... this helps me in that regard. 

 

 

 

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On 2/19/2021 at 5:29 PM, gtrman100 said:

Yes, the DI cable carries both mag and model signals. Here's the cool thing: you can use Variax Workbench to create blended guitars with both mag and models, or you can use the Helix to have separate inputs for mag and models, then process them separately. 

 

The VDI cable is not included with the Variax. You can get one from Line 6 or Bestronics makes good ones too.

wow, that is definitely cool Gtrman100... Is variax workbench a free program that I download from the line6 web site?

I pulled the pin and ordered a scratch & dent model from Sweetwater yesterday, so I'll be needing that pretty soon I guess.

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:

 

This is not a 100% solution, and YMMV....

 

I like to run a TILT EQ at the front of a Variax preset and roll the high back about -20 to -30. This really solves the "plinky" tone that gets under my skin... and gets rid of it at the beginning so effects and amps respond more naturally. In general I find a Variax to feel "cold" for lack of a better term.... this helps me in that regard. 

 

 

 

 

what a great idea, Codamedia! Thanks for sharing the idea. Even if it isn't a perfect solution, it gives me a starting point, and I appreciate that!

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I own an old Variax Acoustic 700, and use it for coffee house and winery gigs during solo acoustic sets for special tunings. Line 6 abandoned the Workbench software, so I have to keep an old Mac laptop specifically for use with the guitar. So, my comments echo @Brue58ski's. I'll have my old strats for many more years and the value keeps going up, but the Variax will get harder and harder to get support and hardware for. Its like owning a Model-T after awhile; you have to learn how to maintain it and where to buy parts.

 

Even so, I bought a newer used Standard at a good price a couple of years ago, and keep it around mainly for special tunings in the studio. Its good for that, I think (I wouldn't own it for banjos, sitars, dobros acoustic guitars, etc). There are artifacts with some tunings, but they are usually buried in a mix.

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On 2/19/2021 at 10:48 AM, gtrman100 said:

Unlike Brue58ski, I don't have a problem with Helix changing guitar models. When building a preset, I load a Custom tuning at standard tuning- problem solved. The ability to change guitar, amp, and effects with the stomp of a footswitch is just amazing, especially when playing covers. Also, the VDI connection eliminates the need to keep the battery charged.

 

Just to be clear, I never said I have a problem with the guitar model parameter although I never keep the models parameter on Don't Force so I may have a problem but don't notice it since I'm never on Don't Force. I think you may be referring to the Varaix tuning parameter which I referred to and do have a problem with. It sounds like you have the same problem but use the same work around I do. It is the work around I stated in my post. Maybe not so eloquently, but it 's what I do as well. I just wanted the OP to have full disclosure about what's not right with the Variax. I still love my Variax and am happily using it with all of my workarounds. I do hope they fix it soon though. it's been a few years.

 

The main problems for me are.....

 

Can't preset the Volume or Tone knobs. When I do, if I switch to another patch, it stays at the previous patches Volume/Tone setting. Now, It will switch to the current patches setting if I hit the switch again. So the work around for that is to keep them on Don't Force i.e. never use them. In regard to the Helix's tuning parameter, if I have a custom tuning on one patch, say DADGAD, and I switch to another patch that I want to be in standard tuning again, it will remain on the DADGAD tuning from the previous patch if I have the parameter on Don't Force. So I have to keep all of my patches Tuning parameter on Custom and keep it on a standard tuning (or whateveer tuning) as you do. Bottom line, the Don't Force option does not work the way it is supposed to according to the manual. I can and do work around it but it's not working properly. I still love my Variax/Helix combination. And will continue to even if it is never fixed. But wanted the OP to be aware of the issue.

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thanks to everybody for your input and suggestions! I ordered a scratch & Dent JTV-69 from sweetwater and it arrived yesterday... which means I spent the entire day playing with it.  So far, very happy with what I hear.  I am a man who embraces workarounds. Its an imperfect world, and as long as I get from point A to point B one way or another, I'm a happy camper.

 

One observation is that the 12 string guitars don't sound as "12 stringy" as I'd like, so I'd like to hear your suggestions for enhancing the sound of a 12 string. Especially for the solo in the Byrds/ Tom Petty song "Feel a whole lot better when you're gone"

 

Also, I know that leaving the regular 1/4" cable plugged in drains the battery... but is there any similar disadvantage to leaving the Variax cable plugged in? What do the rest of you do regarding the variax cable? Keep it plugged in? Or take it out when you shut things down?

 

 

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I case my guitars when the day is over - I HATE duty guitars.

No problem leaving the VDI plugged in for as long as you want.

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Good for you! Tons of fun in store for you.

 

Re 12-string, use Workbench to adjust the Fine-tuning and Mix for each string for one of the factory 12 strings. Beyond that, the Workbench HD manual has a section on creating 12-string models that's quite useful. You should be able to get that Byrds Rickenbacker 12-string sound.

 

There is no harm in leaving your cable plugged in unless someone might trip on it and stress the connectors. If you leave it plugged in, make sure your power source (Helix, Variax A/B supply, etc) is shut off when you're done jamming, just to prevent leaving the electronics running more than necessary.

 

Spend some time learning your way around Workbench...it unlocks the power of the Variax.

 

There's also this link of some nice presets to play around with and learn more about tweaking stuff.

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