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Investigating Variax guitar and bass...opinions?


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We're planning to relocate overseas next year for a "trial year."  If all goes well, we plan to return to the US after that year then move, with some of our stuff, PERMANENTLY overseas.  I have a pretty large collection of expensive and vintage instruments.  I am looking for something that would minimize the (expensive) shipping, especially for that trial year.  I'm primarily a bassist but also play lead/rhythm guitar if there's no one else available.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know there was only one Variax bass model.  On the other hand, which Variax guitar would be the best choice?  Don't want to pay more than, say, $900-$1k.  Not interested in the Shurikin models but the others may be on the table.  I'm unsure what models have what features but a requirement is various tunings.  I do a lot of slide in open tunings, fiddle with DADGAD on occasion, and dropped D. 

 

The extra power box seems to be missing in most of the ones I've found for sale.  Is the box really necessary?

 

Stephen Wilson

Pensacola, FL

Line6.com

 

 

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On 6/23/2022 at 2:51 PM, sornord said:

On the other hand, which Variax guitar would be the best choice?  Don't want to pay more than, say, $900-$1k.  Not interested in the Shurikin models but the others may be on the table.  I'm unsure what models have what features but a requirement is various tunings.  I do a lot of slide in open tunings, fiddle with DADGAD on occasion, and dropped D. 

 

The extra power box seems to be missing in most of the ones I've found for sale.  Is the box really necessary?

With respect to tunings, all the models, starting with the original 500, can accommodate them. But the oldest generation Variax guitars are now nearly 20 years old. My original 500 still works fine, but that's pretty old technology now, and isn't going to last forever, despite the fact that you might be able to pick one up for a very good price. (300/500/600 series models) There are far fewer 700 series guitars available, and they nearly as old, despite being 'upgraded' instruments. I'd definitely stay away from them because of age and rarity.

 

A minimum for your search, I'd think, might be a Korean James Tyler Variax.  (JTV). There was a significant upgrade to their alternate tuning capability, with several tunings already available at the touch of a switch, and just about anything you'd want could be programmed and saved into a program slot. And there's the virtual capo, allowing easy key changes without hanging anything on the neck of your guitar. They're also running an HD update on the original  guitar 'models', although some have expressed preference for the older models! One disadvantage -- the first run of the JTV is now around 10 years old, or older, with few firmware updates -- the last of which was a long time ago. The batteries were also problematic. There's no reliable source for a 3rd party replacement, despite ads on Amazon claiming to be just that. And it's even getting hard to find an expensive ($49) original equipment battery from Line 6, Sweetwater, Sam Ash, etc.

 

I'm not the owner of the newer Yamaha-made Variax standard, but it has the latest electronics and I imagine the tuning capabilities are similar to the JTV (or maybe even  better?) 

 

The power box would certainly be a plus, especially in cases where you can't rely on the battery. One alternative is to power it through a VDI cable connected to a compatible Line 6 device, but that ties you to an expensive floor-mounted effected unit. Cool? Yeah. EXPENSIVE way to power a guitar, though... If you're leaving behind some vintage amps, it could be a good way to go to get some cool sounds.

 

Lastly, If you're purchasing used, you could build your own external power supply. Beware:  It's not supported and a warranty killer, but it's quite easily accomplished. The power requirements are known. Unless the thread has been removed, you can reference it and see what some of us have done to create such an alternative voice. It was allowed to exist for a time, with the appropriate warnings about not being supported. Take a look for the thread in the JTV section. It's not difficult to build, and mine has been working without incident for 3 or 4 years.

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