Variax - Opinions

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wattingwatting Frets: 2
The missus has given me the green light to get a new guitar and I have been looking at getting a Variax to pair with the Firehawk I got last year to do some recording (just messing around at home, nothing too serious).

Does anyone have any experience of the Variax standard?  They look okay, but not great.  I much prefer the look of the James Tyler models, but they are quite a lot more and they look quite difficult to get hold of now.

Any opinions much appreciated.  Thanks in advance.
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Comments

  • axisusaxisus Frets: 7360
    I've never seen them before. They look a lot better than the originals that's for sure. I'd happily get one but I haven't tried them. I have an early variax that I bought a few years ago for a transplant job. I noodled with it for a while and it was fun, although it's been in the loft for an age now. I should get it out again.
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  • rossyamaharossyamaha Frets: 1221
    Variax as a tool is excellent. The modelled sounds are exactly the same in both the standard and tyler ones. It's just the guitar itself thats different. Obviosuly the magnetic pickups/ hardware too. 

    If you want to cover a lot of ground it's really useful. I have some gigs coming up with some songs that simply couldn't be performed properly if I wasn't using a Variax. I have to go from clean strat to acoustic to gainy les paul to 12 string acoustic back to a les paul. Yes it could be done all on an electric but I want things to sound right. I'm using the Tyler 69. If it's just for messing around or recording, just have fun with it. 

    Disclaimer! All views/ comments by me are my opinion and not that of Yamaha Music.

    Just so you know.

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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 10039
    I've written his before, having had both an "original" Variax and one of the JTV models.

    I really wanted to like them - which is why I tried twice.

    Ultimately, I determined that they weren't for me, for two main reasons.

    1.  I spent more time fiddling with the software, creating Frankenstein guitars and tweaking them, re-tweaking and re-re-tweaking ... than I did really playing the guitar.  Maybe that's just personal discipline, but I used it more as a toy than guitar.

    2.  It was a perfect "jack of all trades".  When I play a Strat, it sounds like a Strat because I know I'm playing one, and my playing style adapts.  I play it like a Strat, it sounds like a Strat.  All is good.  When you flick the Variax switch/knob to the Strat position, you're still playing the same guitar as you were 2 seconds again when it was a 12-string acoustic.  You don't adapt your playing style for the different feel of the different instrument, because it's still the same feel/instrument.  Consequently, it doesn't sound like a real Strat (or 12 string acoustic, or 59LP, or reso, or whatever).

    That was my experience.
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  • MotorhateMotorhate Frets: 236
    I have a pathological hatred of anything Line6. I've never got the wow factor from anything they've ever produced. I remember when the Variax came out and it was hailed as being a revoloutionary piece of kit. I remember playing one in a local music shop and thinking how crap it was compared to a Squier Strat that was sat on the stand next to it.
    Guitars: ESP Viper | BC Rich Mockingbird Pro X | Jackson RR5 | Washburn Custom shop Idol | Schecter C1 Stealth | Schecter Blackjack AX-7 | Washburn “Billy Club” Idol | Washburn “Nick Catanese” Idol - Amps: Peavey 5150 60w Combo | Peavey 6505 120w head | Peavey JSX 120w head | Blackstar HT-1 Combo

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  • SassafrasSassafras Frets: 8360
    I seem to remember Mr Edge having a Variax acoustic type thing in his arsenal so you'd be in good company.
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  • thumpingrugthumpingrug Frets: 740
    I have a JTV69 and I really like it.  Had it for quiet a few years now and I still turn to it.  Works really well connected to my PodHD.   If i were gigging and needed a variety of sounds I would have no problem using it though I take TTonys point about it not quite feeling right.  However I can forget that for the convenience of a pub gig when most of those listening are half pissed and won't notice.    The variax standards are based around a Pacifica if i recall correctly so a very good base.


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  • wattingwatting Frets: 2
    Thanks all for the opinions.

    I think rossyamaha and TTony perfectly sum up my 2 trains of thought on this at the moment.  One half of me thinks it would be perfect for recording different parts for home demos, also I really like the idea of the acoustic/different instruments and tunings.  Then the other half of me thinks, I already have a Strat and a Tele, as well as a couple of humbucker guitars, which cover most sounds I want to make, and this probably won't match up to those.  Plus I would spend more time editing sounds than I actually do playing.
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  • vasselmeyervasselmeyer Frets: 1706
    I had an early Variax 300 model for a couple of years and I actually really liked it.  Once you get used to the fact that you can flip from a Strat to a  Les Paul to a Tele to a  resonator at the flick of a switch and adapt to how you play each model it it was pretty cool.

    In the end I moved it on, not because it wasn't useful but that Ifound myself moving towards fatter chunkier necks and didn't enjoy playing it as much as my other guitars. I did consider a transplant but in the end, the electronics in the 300 turned out to be too much hassle  to transplant and I sold it to somone who would use it more than I could.

    In terms of the emulated sounds, they are 95% of the way there in isolation and I would say indistinguishable  from the real thing in a live or studio mix.
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  • Si_Si_ Frets: 347
    I had a JTV69, I really liked it although the neck is VERY thick.  I found the ability to switch tunings, sounds, go to 12-string, then to a les paul then an acoustic, it's brilliant for a gigging person as it covers everything in 1 guitar. I always had mine handy for a few songs, or as a backup.


    I did find mine very heavy though, heavier than my Les Paul Custom (Which is a beast)
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 6671
    I wouldn't want one for home use & recording, but if I had a gig where I needed umpteen sounds and there wasn't space or time to have multiple instruments (some kind of live musical or supporting a tribute singer thing maybe) I'd definitely look at one.
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  • I had the 500 series, as a guitar very uninspiring to play, however as a tool it's without peer. 
    I used my tele for regular electric, put slightly heavier strings on Variax to make me play it differently and used it for slide and acoustic work. 
    I also depend a few times with a 60's covers band and when they say Pretty Woman in D having the dropped Baritone setting made it so easy. 
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  • guitars4youguitars4you Frets: 2028
    edited January 12
    I think they have  benefits for certain songs, plus deliver a 'quirky' voice that you might need for a particular song 

    For example - can you justify buying a Ricky 12 string for just say Mr Tamborine Man - Could you justify the cost of an electric mandolin, just for the end of Maggie May - Furthermore can you play a mandolin, when the Variax will allow you to just play guitar parts with a pseudo mandolin voice - Also for live work in a covers band it may well allow you to use just the one guitar for many songs and offer that versatility - As a recording tool, again I can see the point of it to layer an additional voice, maybe a sitar, on one track, when you would never buy one, or indeed be able to play one - So that is its positive options

    On the negative - it doesn't sound like a Strat or an LP or a 335 or a D28 - so IMO not a serious tool

    In short - I think it has a useful 'gimmick' approach that some will need for live and recording
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  • steersteer Frets: 72
    I know for a fact that if I got one, I would spend about a year just dicking around with the various settings instead of actually playing guitar properly, much like I do when I get a new multi-effects pedal. I want a variax, but am resisting for this reason. 
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  • impmannimpmann Frets: 5101
    It depends on what you want but don't write it off without trying it.

    I know I'm biased - I worked for 10 years at Line6, I was head of guitar quality at one point - but the JTVs were the best guitars L6 made. The 'chassis ' were made at World Guitars in Korea - who make PRS SE, LTD, Shecter, Burns and Chapman (amongst others) and the wood stocks, fretting etc is exactly the same quality as these brands. I know this because I visited the factory in Korea and oversaw them being made!

    Where they become 'Marmite' is the neck profile. I never understood and never will the choices made about these. The 69 in particular isn't a typical Strat neck profile, nor is it a one I particularly like but apparently this is a production-ised copy of the Tyler neck... which is a lift from a worn '69 Strat neck owned by either Tyler, Landau or one of the other 'cats' associated with Tyler. I forget...

    Anyway point is, it doesn't appeal to all, so you need to try it.

    I had the prototype Variax Standards around my desk for some time. If you like Pacificas, you'll get on great with the chassis as it's pretty darn near identical bar the lack of contours. They are a friendly feeling guitar but ultimately they do feel like they are made to a price - which they are. Hopefully the woeful trems have been sorted on the production versions, though.

     The variax concept is very powerful if you want to cover a lot of sonic ground quickly and conveniently. I'm not going to get drawn on whether or not they sound like the real guitars - but the comment about feel is valid and important. No it won't feel like you are playing a 335 for example and that may matter when playing a part using that sound - only you can say if that's important or not. 

    Also so if you are using one at home bear in mind that if you are using alternate tunings, you need the amp significantly louder than the acoustic sound of the strings otherwise your ears will pick out both - and it sounds horribly discordant.

    So try one - you may like it. Buy with your own ears, though. Not someone else's from a forum!
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  • mikeyrob73mikeyrob73 Frets: 1074
    "So try one - you may like it. Buy with your own ears, though. Not someone else's from a forum!"


    possibly the best line ever on this forum 
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 13809
    "So try one - you may like it. Buy with your own ears, though. Not someone else's from a forum!"


    possibly the best line ever on this forum 
    I'd recommend buying with money - and if possible - someone else's....
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2103
    I had one of the very early ones so the newer ones may be better, but I ended up selling it on.  The neck was nasty, but the biggest problem for me was the tonal compromises.

    You are never going to get the acoustic sounds right with a plain G string instead of a wound one.   If you put a wound G on then it compromises it as an electric.

    Also, I don't think the Strat model quite works without a trem bridge, and the scale length is an important part of the guitar as well.  With a 25.5" scale the LP sounds will be compromised, and with a 24.75" scale the Strat/Tele sounds are compromised.

    Some of the later JTV models give you the option of the 59 or 69 style depending on what you use most, but I expect that the Strat sounds won't quite work on the 59 and the LP sounds won't quite be right on the 69, and you still have the problem of the acoustic sounds being wrong with a plain G.

    In the OPs position, if he already has 3 or 4 decent electrics, I'd recommend getting an acoustic and a decent mic for recording it.
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  • I've owned 4 when I was playing pro. I wouldn't bother 
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  • enteeentee Frets: 78

    I have a 700, and love it.  I tweaked it to get the sounds I wanted and the tunings I used, and maybe fine tune it once a year if I need something else.  I love the fact I can swap to an alternate guitar/tuning mid track.  It has been excellent for recording and for general practice but not sure it would 'work' in a live environment.

    It sits very nicely in amongst my other electric guitars, and I wouldn't get rid of it.

    Vox 24, Variax 700, Epiphone Dot Studio (Cats Whiskers pups, custom inlay, custom pickguard), Gretsch 5238T (P90s/B3), Gibson Les Paul Zoot (rainbow),  Gretsch 5135 PS,  'Graick' G2312TVR.
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  • TTony said:
    2.  It was a perfect "jack of all trades".  When I play a Strat, it sounds like a Strat because I know I'm playing one, and my playing style adapts.  I play it like a Strat, it sounds like a Strat.  All is good.  When you flick the Variax switch/knob to the Strat position, you're still playing the same guitar as you were 2 seconds again when it was a 12-string acoustic.  You don't adapt your playing style for the different feel of the different instrument, because it's still the same feel/instrument.

    But do you play the same through a clean amp as you would a distorted amp?  Or even on the bridge pickup vs the neck pickup?  I do know what you mean but I did find I changed my playing style when switching models.

    A mate had one ages ago, I thought it sounded ok (better than I expected) but I didn't like the neck on it personally.

    watting said:Then the other half of me thinks, I already have a Strat and a Tele, as well as a couple of humbucker guitars, which cover most sounds I want to make, and this probably won't match up to those.  Plus I would spend more time editing sounds than I actually do playing.

    If you already have a strat, tele, and some humbucker guitars then I'd say the Variax is going to be redundant for recording.  A real acoustic is going to sound better, and your guitars will also probably still sound better than the Variax models.
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  • peteripeteri Frets: 241

    I can only echo the comments here - I think they're a good effort, but the concept is flawed.

    If you like playing the guitar the system is mounted on, and as has been said - need a 'quirky sound' for one song, they're great.

    To me where the concept falls over is that it can't change the feel of the guitar - a Les Paul plays very differently to a strat because of scale length and neck angle/profile.

    Let alone factoring in the bend response of the strat vs the hard tail les paul etc.

    Modelling can never help with that

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  • TrudeTrude Frets: 183
    I have a Vx 500 transplanted into a Tele custom. As a live tool in my Stones tribute it's indespensible (open G, acoustic, sitar etc) but outside of those gigs I almost never get it out of the case. 
    For recording I think the only time I'd consider using it over my "real" guitars would be if I needed a specific sound that can't easily be had any other way (ie sitar or quacky strat in my case)
    Trading feedback here
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  • guitars4youguitars4you Frets: 2028
    Trude said:
    I have a Vx 500 transplanted into a Tele custom. As a live tool in my Stones tribute it's indespensible (open G, acoustic, sitar etc) but outside of those gigs I almost never get it out of the case. 
    For recording I think the only time I'd consider using it over my "real" guitars would be if I needed a specific sound that can't easily be had any other way (ie sitar or quacky strat in my case)
    I've known one or two do the transplant bit - generally more serious players who want an actual better guitar
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 2103
    I wonder if the VG Strat concept is a bit better.  You can use it as a conventional Strat most of the time with the magnetic pickups but have the option to switch to other stuff when you need it.

    The problem is that if you put the electronics in a high quality guitar and they will be obsolete and unmaintainable 10 years down the line.

    The other option is some kind of bolt on extra like the Roland stuff.  At least that would be upgradeable and replaceable.
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  • richardhomerrichardhomer Frets: 13809
    The ideal evolution of the concept would be a replacement bridge which transmits the required data to drive the electronics wirelessly to a floor board, so it can be fitted to an existing guitar and upgraded when technology moves on.
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  • TrudeTrude Frets: 183
    The ideal evolution of the concept would be a replacement bridge which transmits the required data to drive the electronics wirelessly to a floor board, so it can be fitted to an existing guitar and upgraded when technology moves on.
    Yep - I think Fishman made a first step towards this goal with their TriplePlay thingy.  Still a bit fiddly though I heard.
    Trading feedback here
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  • wattingwatting Frets: 2
    Thanks for the opinions everyone.  I guess it kind of confirms that if I got one I'd only be using it for weird/different sounds rather than replacing my other guitars.  I will definitely try one the next time I am in a guitar shop, but for now my I will move my GAS on to another target.
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  • In a blind listening test I defy anyone to tell it apart from a strat, LP 335 etc it's as accurate as can be. 
    The problem as some have already stated is the feel of the neck profile. Now if I had the system in my tele I would love. However if you had the same V profile of your fave 57 strat, would you play it like a strat when using LP sounds? By having a bland no make feel to neck it's up to player to play guitar the way the model dictates. Sound wise it cannot be faulted, no it may not sound identical to your 58' Reissue LP but then again another Gibson LP will sound different. 
    It will not replace your fave guitar, but it will negate the need to carry so many guitars. 
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