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My Variax pipe dream
by geebake on 2013-02-25 14:41:57.8600

I've owned almost every Variax that's existed. 500, 300, 600, 700 Acoustic, JTV 59, JTV 69. Loved them all. Really. I'm a huge fan and I've always liked them more than some seem to. The JTV 59 in particular is wonderful.

But there's one feature that I've always wanted. And I think it would suit the Variax concept and would make them a more complete instrument.

I want midi! Given that we already have 6 discreet pickups, should it not be possible to split that out to another 13 pin output? I believe that from the 1/4" out, the string signal is summed so there's no point in trying to get it there. What about the digital out? Can that carry 6 discreet signals? I don't know the answer so that is not a rhetorical question. But I'd be totally satisfied with just a seperate 13 pin out if needs be.

Think of the options this would give the Variax player. All of the fantastic modeled tones we already get - plus the option of driving a synth! I would be in heaven. It seems that there's no chance of ever getting this, but I know it would please me and I suspect others.


Re: My Variax pipe dream
by dmpoole on 2013-02-25 15:03:10.0820

I think I asked the same question several months ago and it would be a dream for me.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by musicsingle on 2013-02-25 19:20:12.4790

I also want MIDI 13 pin out.   I asked for it when they first talked about the JTV,  WE NEED IT [at least as an option].

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by CACHERA on 2013-02-25 23:20:22.2830

Yes it is a very good idea !!!

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by Rewolf48 on 2013-02-26 05:04:50.9100

I would be happy to get MIDI out via an HD500.

I know that the JTV can send control data from the Volume and Tone knobs that the HD500 can use as Controller changes - don't know if it is MIDI CC or not, but always in the past it has been said that the VDI carries digital audio and MIDI so it is MIDI that I would expect to be used.

I know that a JTV does absolute pitch detection for Virtual Capo to be set.

Therefore in my idealised world the JTV does the Note detection and passes the MIDI Note On, Velocity, etc over the VDI Cable to the HD500 which outputs it via the hardware MIDI Out/Through Socket.

This at least is (theoretically) possible as firmware only changes.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by dennisrford on 2013-02-26 07:52:04.4830

Are you referring to a 13 pin connector like on a Roland-ready guitar?

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by geebake on 2013-02-26 08:58:37.4110

I would accept a 13 pin out on the guitar itself. If possible and output farther downstream would be better. A breakout box or even an HD series deviece for example. Just depends on whether or not it's possible to get a signal from each individual string at that point.

Actually. To be honest, the more I think about this, there doesn't even need to be a hardware solution. It would be great if midi data could just be transmitted to USB via a Workbench device or one of the HD devices etc. We could then drive soft synths very easilly and be able to send midi out through any standard USB midi interface.

My real interest is in driving some of the hardware synths I have. I realize that many would want to access guitar specific synths so a 13 pin out would probably be more appropriate.

It's clear that all of the tone processing is done inside the guitar. Otherwise they wouldn't work so spleandidly when not connected to a computer. So the real question is whether or not the hardware in the guitar itself could be upated to send 6 seperate signals to some destination that could be sent to something else.

My guess is that this is possible, but L6 has never seemed to have any interest whatsoever and I can understand why to some degree. I do think it would give Variax's a much wider apeal though. A midi capable Variax - particularly if midi and audio could be sent simultaneously - would be able to produce some astonishing things.


Re: My Variax pipe dream
by Inerzia on 2013-02-26 18:39:55.9470

I also think it could be implemented that way, with no hardware change. Just the JTV and a VDI equipped HD, that could output midi both through usb and its midi out port.
That would also be enough to drive some guitar specific synths, if  (as it is the case with GR-55) they have a midi in port.
If I had such programming skills I would have done it for XTL+Vax700, but...

I would love it, and I have already asked L6 for it myself, but I won't hold my breath. Blue skin doesn't suit me.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by davidb7170 on 2013-02-26 20:48:56.2640

I think these are cool ideas, but not gonna happen with this generation of JTV's. I have a midi guitar pickup -- Think it's a Roland G2K -- and a Roland midi interface. While it is a hex pickup -- 6 independent poles, they are kept separate to the output that goes into the Roland interface. The interface works with each string's signal individually. It then decides the frequency (note value), note on, note off, and note velocity - each are then turned into the appropriate midi control signal by the interface and sent to the tone generator, whether it's a midi module, midi keyboard, or their guitar synth to generate the sound. The pickup itself is never actually heard by your ears....

The Variax is 6 individual piezo pickups that pump the actual sound into the Variax DSP -- or digital signal processor, that shapes the sound into what you hear. By the time it comes out the 1/4" jack or down the VDI digital cable to the POD, it is a combined signal of all 6 piezo's that have been molded into the sounds you hear, but you still hear string scrapes and other non musical noises that guitars make, while the midi data would not know what to do with these things or how to represent them. The Variax pitch shifting is not "the string is playing note X, substitute note Y" type of processing that you'd find in midi, but rather "the string is playing frequency X, multiply the frequency by some fixed quantity to Y" that you'd find in a DSP. Every noise it hears, it shifts up or down, depending on the setting. If you're out of tune in standard tuning, you'll still be out of tune in the shifted output. If you're out of tune in midi, the midi note conversion will hunt before it picks a note value midi control number to send to the tone generator -- right or wrong. It doesn't know any in betwen, unless you set up pitch glide controllers, etc.

Midi - actually hex output on a Variax would be possible if the separate piezo outputs were split off before the the DSP processing, and routed to a 13 pin cable, but was not apparently the design worked into the guitars by Line 6. The output of that jack would need to do the note to midi conversion in some outboard device, as the DSP is not capable of that function. Several folks on these boards have added the Roland hex pickup and used outboard guitar processors. They seem to be happy with their outcomes. Some have just used the surface mounted pickups, some have done some pretty involved installs because they wanted the wires moved internal to the guitar. Do a search here for midi conversions on Variaxes, and you'll see quite a few discussions on their angles on the subject. Inclusion of a midi option on a Variax would be a total redesign of their product -- pretty major redesign.

My 2 cents.


Re: My Variax pipe dream
by phil_m on 2013-02-27 06:28:46.8340

As I noted elsewhere, I just don't think that Line 6 sees enough of an upside to adding MIDI capability to the Variax to do it. They don't make any MIDI-based processors, and really, it's just adding another layer of complexity that they'd have to provide support for. Some people have been asking for this kind of capability ever since the first Variax came out over 10 years ago, and I just have never seen any hint that Line 6 has any interest in doing it.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by geebake on 2013-02-27 08:17:29.4480

Actually, you can't send midi into the Roland GR line. At least not for note data. They can only be triggered via the 13 pin in. Supposedly this is due to very specific algorythms used to handle guitar slurs and strumming input.

But midi via the HD midi outs or USB would be sufficient to drive soft synths or other hardware synths. Just not those specific Roland devices.


Re: My Variax pipe dream
by Inerzia on 2013-02-28 15:14:03.4660

I don't agree about the dimension of the redesign, Dave. Just the same way you're guessing the actual guts of the JTV series are not capable of doing note to midi conversion with the right firmware, I'm guessing they are.
Just programming needed.
My AXON AX-50 guitar to midi interface has far less processing power than the JTVs, and has to deal with latency and other issues the JTV wouldn't suffer.
I think JTV firmware can be programmed to output midi data through the VDI, and out of the pod's midi out port (or usb). In this scenario, the pod would just be repeating the signal and providing the physical midi and/or usb connection, not processing anything, or at least, not on the midi area.

That's new functionality, and although L6 have provided lots of it for free over the years, I'm not asking for that. I would very gladly pay for such an upgrade to my existing gear.
Anyway, I hear you all, naysayers, and somewhat agree with the different points of view, because I don't really think L6 will step into that territory, maybe ever.

As Phil said, it's added complexity, and I might add that midi guitar is not, and probably has never been, that popular, but then again, Marcus Ryle used to work at Oberheim, and he is a keyboardist, so I don't think that the company is so far off from the midi/synth side of things.
Would it be so outrageous if variaxes could do midi guitar as well? I don't think so. Most guitarists I know think that variaxes are gizmos anyway, I say let's give them more reasons!

Possible? Yes, I think so

Likely? we'll see, but, as I said before, I'm not holding my breath

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by clay-man on 2013-02-28 17:36:03.4220

I don't think you need "Midi specific processors" to do midi tasks. They've worked with plenty of midi stuff with the POD controls. It's just a matter of having a type of pitch tracker to process into MIDI notes. I don't think it would be too hard to program for them. If they're so concerned about making money, I'm sure that adding midi capability would skyrocket their sales.

Roland is competing with modeling with their synth pedal, so why shouldn't the Variax combat synthesis with a MIDI port on a Variax?

Like someone said, it could be done via VDI cables to a POD and the POD could be the one processing the MIDI stuff.

You nail a market like that you'll be sure to get a lot more customers.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by rchibnik on 2013-03-01 14:15:42.5240

Nobody mentioned this - Parker used to offer an Adrian Belew Fly with Variax electronics and midi out, along with a sustainiac pickup. Total cost was $10k which is uber steep but it was possible the best of all worlds - Super light guitar with a carbon fiber neck that plays like a dream; Variax modeling of vintage instruments (no built in alternate tunings but you could probably get that with workbench and a POD) MIDI interface for a Roland VG or another synth, and some awesome pickup combinations.

Unfortunately the guitar is no longer made (Sweetwater may have had an exclusive) and they never upgraded it with JTV software.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by player99 on 2013-03-01 15:28:10.6690

Parker has dumped the Variax gear for the Anteries Autotune...the same as the Peavey guitars.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by rchibnik on 2013-03-02 07:52:30.9400

Seems like a step backward - Autotune just gives you custom tunings, if I"m not mistaken. The new Vax gives custom tuning plus modeling.

Whatever. I love my Parker Fly, but I find myself playing the JTV more often; Its heavier to be sure, but more satisfying in many ways.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by geebake on 2013-03-03 13:12:47.8670

The Aututune thing has modelling as well tough you have to pay to get much of it. See the website.

Re: My Variax pipe dream
by clay-man on 2013-03-03 21:58:19.0890

Autotune tones are pretty bad from what I've heard. I'm not going to stop arguing how bad of an idea it is using magnetic pickups for modeling multiple pickups/guitars.

Their intonation is impressive, but paying for each preset is moronic.

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