NGD - Line 6 JTV-59 Variax, love this guitar

cybermgk

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II was looking for something different. I was also looking to get something to do Acoustic tones, in an Electric format. I also, at this time wanted something with a lot of versatility as far as different tonal territory. It is pretty much all I get now.

I looked at Various models with Piezos on the bridge, from PRS, Schecter and others. Now, if certain dealers online had had any stock, that is what I would have now. But, they didn't. But, that made me refind the Variax guitars from Line6. I had always been interested in them. But, the older models had never struck me as 'ready for prime time". These had JUST the Piezo system, had mixed bag reviews on quality as a guitar (and I am being charitable). And, the modelling was less than stellar, with tracking issues, problems with dynamics, palm muting and others.

But, in relooking, I came across the new breed, the Variax Standard, the JTV Series, and the Shuriken.

THe more I read, listened to video demos, the more I wanted. The technology, it appeared, had come of age. It seemed to be "ready for prime time".

For those that are not up on these newer Variax guitars, let me give a little background/info. These are actual guitars, with working magnetic (i.e. normal, passive) pickups. As is, they are really good, even great, guitars on just that. But, that is not their real power. They are modelling guitars. What that means, is they also have piezo pickups under each string. These are the input to on board modelling system, that then outputs modeled guitars. Switch it to LP model, and that is what the guitar sounds like, Tele, sounds like a Tele, Strat, strat, etc.

But, that isn't all it can do with that. At, the same time, you can instantly set it to any tuning you want, at the turn of a knob. Need drop D for a song, turn th knob, and now what is outputted, is the guitar model you're set to, in drop D tuning. Need DADGAD, same thing. Open G, turn the knob. There are a bunch of factory preset tunings (10 other than default standard). THese can be changed. Additionally, there is what is called Virtual Capo. Once you put it in this mode, using 12 fret as nut, you can fret each string at the 14th, and it's like you have a Capo on the 2nd (you can go below zero too). But, you can also set it to what ever tuning. Play a G chord relative to the 12 fret, and you have open G tuning, etc. etc.

Just like the above, you are not stuck with just the guitar model presets. You can use the Workbench software, and create your own guitar. Want Single coils on an LP, no problem. Mini hums on a strat, simple. 3 Pickup Gretsch, sure thing. For electrics, you can use any body type, add what ever pickups, place them wherever on the body (under the strings) angle them any way you want. You can also tune each string for the preset however you want AND set each string's volume level (like adjusting poles). You set the polarity of the pickups, whether the coils are parallel or series. You can even make 12 strings (or 9 strings for that matter, i.e. doubling up on 3 strings, with a different pitch for all 9, or 12).

But, you can also do some things, not possible on physical guitars like stacking pickups. THis is how you can make their modeled PAF humbucker hot, by stacking 2 together. But you can also put a Tele Bridge with a Humbucker Bridge in the Bridge position, etc.

You can also blend modeled guitar with the physical mag pickups. But, you can NOT use the alternate tuning capability on the Mag pickups. But, having a blend of the real hummies and some othe pickups (modelled) pitch shifted is no problem.
I
All of that sounds great on paper. But, it is useless if it doesn't deliver.

Well, imho, it delivers in spades.

First, the guitar itself, with just the magnetic pickups is a fine guitar. I got a deal at Sweetwater on a demo model (after looking at their dent and scratch models). Suffice it to say, I only saw the slight surface abrasion on the back they pointed out (never found others). And a minute with Guitar Scratch Remover, and that was gone. Excellent built guitar, on par with any of the better Korean built brands and models. GRANTED, for just a Single cut guitar, a little more pricey than the PRS SEs, but imho as good, at a minimum, as any PRS SE I have held, or had. Love the natural binding.

Mahogany body, full maple cap, Graphtech Nut, custom designed bridge/stoppiece. Frets were great.

TH JTV line were designed by famed Luthier to the stars, James Taylor. There is an LP form, what I got, a Strat form, and a 'metal' form. Each has different neck radius. The JTV-59 here, is a 12".

THe pickups remind me a lot of PRS pickups, perhaps a little warmer.

On the JTV models with 5 spot selection switches, the model banks are setup, such that if on a strat model, and position 1, it's a strat Bridge tone. Doesn't have to be, you can redo them so each position is a different guitar. On the LP form, like mine, the JTV-59, for Strat models, you use the 3 way with what would be the neck tone knob on an LP, but is a push push (and the alternate tuning selector). When pushed it switches the 3-way from 1-3-5 to 2-3-4, for use with 5 position guitars. Though again, for a particular model bank (switched to with the knob at the neck vol position) gets you 5 different guitar model presets. They CAN be anything. For instance, I created a custom bank with a 5 burst presets, with P90s in all 3 positions, and an additional Neck and bridge pos burst with mini hums. That 'neck volume' knob also is push-push to turn guitar modelling on or off.

The normally Bridge Vol and Tone, are a global Vol and Tone. THOUGH when using an Acoustic model, the tone actually switches mic positions, for the modeled tone.

But, I have to say, the modeled guitars are just great. Some are just excellent, like the strats, LP, both Humbucker burst and P90 Specials. Teles are good, the Ricks good etc. And, the Acoustics, are just the best Acoustic tone, from an Electric I have ever gotten. And frankly, they sound better than the best Acoustic/Electric through it's Piezos, because it is modelling a Mic'ed Acoustic. Granted you really need to use an Acoustic amp for best result on those. But, um, using a Modelling amp, voila. 12 Strings are great, etc.

THere are a few that I think lack a little. Not a fan of some of the Resonater models. And Line 6 decided for realism, so as some pickups have less output, the models are less loud, sometimes. There are several people in the Variax Community, with tweaked stock presets, to make them all the same volume AND as loud as the magnetic hummies.

Do the models sound exact? Yes, no, Maybe. Pull 10 50 Les Pauls, and they won't all sound the same. Differences from real, are along that level of different, imho. So, if not exact, pretty damn close, and regardless, sound great to me The Stock presets, one needs to tweak a little bit to get one that sounds just like the guitar's magnetic pickups (so that you can seamlessly go from magnetics, to a alternate tuning, say.

My biggest fear was there would be latency. Nope, nada, none at all. Not in the modeled guitars, and/or alternate tunings.

EVERY pitch shifter I have ever tried has always fallen short, except for limited uses. Not the alternate tuning here. It is probably because 1) it handles each string individually, but also 2) it is using the Piezo input, more for what string was played, a dynamics and then adding that to the modelling engine to produce the final tone out. Not sure that makes sense. But, it truly was a jaw dropper for me.

Overall, I smack myself for not going this route earlier. If you are running a Helix, where you can make guitar model, tuning etc part of the Helix preset, and thus just switch what you need for a song, a set, part of a song, etc, with just s toe switch, this is a no-brainer.

The ONLY concern I have is the durability of the electronic magic. The two knobs look to possibly be a future fail point. But, Sweetwater comes with a 2 year warrenty. And, all else fails, no modelling, it is still a great Single Cut, Humbucker guitar.

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fleahead

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Congrats, I use a 1st gen 600 and have been a convert for years, although I use my LP when an LP is needed. Everything else sounds good to me, and I still break into a Southern drawl when I use the banjo, lol
 

cybermgk

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The other nice thing is the 'single coil' models have zero hum. The entire guitar has zero noise.

THe other thing is, as easy as it is to switch to an alternate tuning (not that doing that with a normal guitar is that hard, but it is literally a fraction of a second), it really inspires, and exploring playing in different tunings, experimenting, learning the ins and outs. Never really spent much time in that regard. I am now..
 

fleahead

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Oh listen I used to be "Rick" in a Cheap Trick tribute band and while I used 6-10 guitars during the evening, "The Flame" made it great - 12 string acoustic and then Boom! LP into a Marshall

And yeah, I love the tuning aspect - I always have, especially when the Robot crap came out - no changing string tension, no premature wear on strings going up and down.....

I have drop D in acoustic and electric, Nashville tuning Tele, open "This" and "That", 7th fret capo acoustic.... just totally gear stuff
 
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