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Main :: Variax Guitars / Bass / Workbench

Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by silverhead on 2009-11-22 09:53:47.3800

I bought a used Variax 300 off eBay and recieved it the other day. I've been testing it out and overall I'm very pleased. Everything works - with one minor exception that became apparent after I changed the strings.I was aware of the piezo sensitivity while changing strings and I was careful - I did not, for instance, drag the curly string-ends through the saddle. I also did a basic setup - truss rod, intonation, and action. No problems. I must say I am pleasantly surprised with the playability of the original neck and fingerboard. I had expected worse from the original 300. I also own 2 ' 70s-vintage great guitars - a Les Paul Deluxe and a Martin D-28, and I can't really say the Variax is much worse to play.

Now the small problem: the high E and G strings exhibit a tonal quality problem that is most evident on the acoustic guitar models but exists throughout all models. The tone is a bit muted especially on the high E, the volume is a little lower than the other strings, and there's a warbling almost flangy sound if you listen carefully. These 2 strings just don't have the brilliance that is usual with brand new strings, and the other strings do have it. You can't really notice it with anything but a clean tone and (apparently) newer strings, but it's definitely there and it bugs me on the clean tones so I want to get it fixed.

From the research I've done on this forum I believe the two associated piezos need to be replaced, and I think if I call Line 6 to order them it probably won't be a problem. I can replace them myself or with the help of an electronic-friendly friend who has good soldering tools/skills. At worst I'll take it to a local guitar tech.

A few questions for you all before I proceed with replacement:

- is there any other probable diagnosis or is it definitely the piezos?

- is it possible that the piezos don't actually need to be replaced - that I can 'clean them up' somehow?

- is it likely that the other piezos will fail soon? I'm assuming they've never been replaced, and I don' know how old the guitar is but it's a 300. Say no more. Should I order a full set and replace them all?

Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to offer opinions and suggestions. I appreciate it.

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by amx05462 on 2009-11-22 13:10:15.8340

sounds  like your telling  my story  with    my 300.  i bought   my  300 off  ebay  . did  a setup  and  found  playability ok as well. the  same  2  strings  seemed  to have less  brightness    than the  others. even  with new  strings.

    a  while   later  i decided  to transplant  it.   i broke   one  of the pickup wires and  couldnt  get a  replacement.  so i decided  to  put  on a  set of  graph techs.

                           it was  like  the  guitar was  sleeping  and  woke up.   imediate  string  volume  increase  and   balance   much better  response.

so  having  said all that  id  suggest  you get a  set of  graph tech pickups.  its a bit of  work  to put them in  but  well worth it.   ive never  had a  problem  since.  the lr baggs  pickups  are  prone  to problems  because of a  few  things.  they float in the saddle  so there  dependant  on string  pressure  for  good ground. also  there  metalic  on the  outside  making  that ground  suseptaable  to  dirt and  corrosion.

   also  the  way line6  put them in the  guitar  without  isolating them  from  the  strings leaves  them   not only open to dammage  from  removing  a  string   but  even  when  putting in a  new  one due to the fact  that  the bridge  ground  is  the  center  screw on the  tail end  of the  bridge  and also keeps the  pcb board  in place  . if this  loosens     and it  does  the  holes  misalign   with  the  holes  in the  back of the  guitar and  the  bridge plate.  leaving you to poke  around  to get the  string  through.

                             if you do  get graphtechs  let me know and ill run you through  the  instalation  on  your  guitar.   you need  to get the  ones  for  import  or  mexican  strat.

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by silverhead on 2009-11-23 07:22:08.9210

Thanks for the suggestion re: Graph Tech ghost pickups. But it makes me wonder - when you changed the pickups, your Variax 'woke up'. Did it wake up with the same personality? Here's what I'm getting at........

The Variax uses DSP algorithms to model many different guitars. The modeling is based on an input signal that the pickups deliver to the DSP. The Variax uses the lrbaggs pickups that deliver a specific input signal to all its modeling algorithms. Presumably, the modelling is considered complete/accurate when the resulting sound is as close as possible to a known target - the sound of the guitar being modelled.

Now, if you change the pickups you also change the input signal to the DSP algorithms - and it sounds like it's a noticeable change since it woke your guitar up.  But now the same software algorithms are being applied to a different input. Won't the output now be different? How close is the resulting output sound to the desired target/model sound? If the Variax designers had used the graph tech pickups, would the algorithms they settled on  to produce the desired tones be the same ones?  How close are the graph tech induced sounds to the original lrbaggs induced sounds? If they're different, what is the Variax now modelling?

I don't know if this is even a reasonable question/consideration....... but changing the pickups makes me wonder about the final sound. It seems like you consider it to be a superior sound - but is it still the sound that it was originally designed to be? Or has its personality changed?

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by amx05462 on 2009-11-23 13:52:42.6010

the results  were   the  same  modeling  but  it seemed  more  powerful  and  certainly clearer cleaner.   i guess the  best way to describe it   would be  like  i took a  mute  off the  guitar,  it was in my opinion   a  much better  sound.  i wouldnt go back even if they gave me  the   baggs  pickups   for  nothing. best of all the  guitar has been  trouble  free since.

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by silverhead on 2009-11-23 14:49:37.3280

Thanks - appreciated.

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by goblin_king14 on 2009-12-04 09:17:39.4210

I am giving serious thought to the 300 model, and I sort of planned on changing to a graphtech system.  I would like to know what is involved in changing the bridge/pickups out, if you wouldn't mind either explaining or linking me to useful information.  I don't necessarily want very detailed instructions, but I'd like to know what I'd be getting into if I chose this path.

Re: Variax 300 - piezo problems?
by amx05462 on 2009-12-04 12:29:25.9140

first of all   this  is  the   part number      PN 8000-00   import strat

  take  measurments  for  saddle  height   and  from the  back of  the  bridge  plate  to  the  front  of the  saddle.  this  will get you very close  for  intonation.

   remove  the  strings    remove  the  bridge  plate  screws. the  four corner   ones.   mark the harness plug   with a  marker  for   direction.  one  of the  plugs   can be  reversed so i adopted  this  procedure. a simple  line   from the plug   to there it goes  with a perminant  marker.   remove  the  pcb   board  mounting  screw.     de solder  all the  pickups and  remove  them.

heres  the  tricky part......

                  the  graph tech  pickups   come  with a  plug  in connector  on each.  cut  that of    then you have  to seperate  the  wires.  i used a  small wire  cutter  and  worked my way  up the  length  to  within 1/2  inch of the  pickup.  once  seperated   you have  to strip the  ends .  a  wire  stripper  wont  work   because   there  fine  wire  so i did  it with a  small butane   torch   it melts  the   insulation off  leaving  a  clean  wire  end.  if you   get them  red  hot  dont  worry   it wont  hurt a  thing.  on the  silver  ones  i stripped  1/4  inch   on the  blue  ones  i stripped  1/2  inch   feed  the  wire  through  and  put your  pickups  in place  now   put  the  wires  in there  respective  hole   on the  pcb board  from  the  back  side.   ive  come  to the  conclusion  that this  works  better.   by the  way  dont  shorten  the  wires  leave  them full lenght.   this  way  if theres a  mistake  you have  plenty  of  wire left to try again. once  there  soldered  in   then  take all the  blue  wires  and  twist them  together  and   crimp  then  solder  them  into a loop connector  that will  fit  over  the  screw     that  holds  the   pcb  board  on to the  back of  the  bridge  plate  .  this  positively  grounds  all the  pickups. once  that is  done  you have  to get all the  wires  under  the  pcb  board   abd  tighten  the  screw to keep it  in placebe sure  not  to have  any wires    in the  holes  your  strings go through.  this  can be acomplished   with  either  some tooth  picks  or   tiny dowels.tighten  the  nut  and  screw  together  .  thats  what holds  everything  in place.  i put a  second  nut  to lock  it  up  because  that  tends  to work loose .  if you dont  have a  second  nut   melt  some  solder on the  screw  threads.

   thaats  it  plug  in your   harness  and  re  install the  bridge  plate.   rough  in the  pickups   restring  the  guitar  and  do your  final   intonation.

                           in case  you   are  wondering  why   i had  you put all the  wiring  behind  the  pcb  board ........   the  company in its  wisdom  chose  to  run  the  strings  through   the  cavity   all this  stuff  is  in  but  didnt  put  in any kind  of  string  guide . this  lessens  greatly  the  chance  of pulling  out  a  pickup  wire.

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