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Re: Add amps to the model

10/20/2003 1:18 PM
giustd Re: Add amps to the model
"Because then they couldn't soak you for another $1500 for the amp"  
10/20/2003 1:59 PM
Mark Hammer

My guess is that it simply complicates the tool. The intent is to have one guitar on one strap with one cable, and flick a switch instead of picking up one guitar and putting another down. That's an admirable goal, though whether they accompished it is another thing. Certainly the inclusion of several simulated effects chains in a few of the custom voices makes one ask for on-board signal chains, and there may well be that sort of capability, with the on-board port mentioned in the GP article. My guess is that at the moment they have an existing ready-to-use product in consumers' hands and will unveil a software development tool and hardware (cable, etc.) at some point, since undoubtedly it is not cost-effective to start producing another more complex instrument and gut sales of the Variax when they can turn the "product extension" over to the user. They are probably also waiting for consumer feedback to determine the form of that development.  
For whatever other shortcomings it may have, the rotary switch and 5-way pickup "selector" are refreshingly simple to use. Adding amp sims, and modes into the mix starts to make the thing more complicated than a gigging musicians would likely want. Besides, there are some things you'd rather have at your feet, as opposed to requiring you to take your hands away from the strings when they are otherwise occupied. Fiddling with mode switches, and keeping track of getting from patch/model A to B when it involves more than just a guitar change is just too complicated for some contexts, regardless of how feasible it might be. Hell, part of the appeal of the Variax *as* a guitar is the clean lines and simple complement of controls.
10/20/2003 9:27 PM

We fiddled around with one of those a short while back. It had some "interesting" sounds, but none of us could guess which setting was supposed to be exactly what, other than "an acoustic thing"..."bright, kinda Fendery"..."some kinda humbucker setting..I'd guess". It seemed to play kinda "middlin"...certainly not gonna mistake it as a buttery Les Paul. Which is maybe a drawback. I prefer Fenders to be a "little" higher on the action, so I can dig in, and Gibson-type stuff to be low and loose for noodling. Different guitars just make me play completely differently. I'd rather drag two around to get the different feel and sound, then just one....I get stale enough with options:D Besides, for a real gig, it's probably a good idea to have two anyway. For the price, I'll buy 2 or 3 good Japanese Fenders or a decent guitar AND amp before I spend that much on a novelty. But that's just me. i suppose it could be useful for some things and some folks.  
10/21/2003 1:07 PM
Mark Hammer

I'm pretty sure it's not "just you". I'd probably do the same thing too, and for the same reasons: a) different *physical* guitars make you play differently, and b) having a string break on the one-that-does-it-all is not exactly a crowd pleaser at gigs.
10/21/2003 3:34 PM
it's not you.. it's me. ;) I actually have heard things like this from a lot of players.  
two thoughts on it..  
1 - I've heard it said that someone else's guitar always has a song in it, eg: you borrow your friend's axe and the differences in it inspire you. Perhaps the most famous example is George Harrison writing "here comes the sun" on Clapton's 12 string (if the legends are to be beleived anyhow!)  
2 - I often would use an acoustic at rehearsal to help me think more "economically" while coming up with various guitar parts, esp lead breaks. The difference in feel dramatically changed the way I approached things and I would be taken in directions I would not have been on an electric.  
Different electrics, or amps, or pedals will change my approach as well. I don't find that unnusual really. There are guitar parts that just don't work with some equipment - esp WRT overdrive.
10/21/2003 4:22 PM
Doug H
Re: Line-6 Variax
I tried one out a few months ago and had a similar experience as you. I did like the simplicity of the controls. I tried a few of the guitar models, but couldn't quite figure out how to get at some of the other sounds. (Of course, I had 2 impatient kids with me and was distracted a lot too.;-) The different guitar sounds did sound different, but how "accurate" they were was anyone's guess. First, I'm not horribly familiar with what all the real guitars are supposed to sound like. Second, they had it plugged into a... you guessed it, modeling amp, so the signal chain was modeled to death at that point. Yeah, the les paul sounded like a les paul compared to the strat, which sounded like a strat compared to the les paul model. But there were other differences that seemed more subtle, as you found too. Maybe some of the differences would become more apparent through a different amp, cranked louder than acceptable music store volume.  
Overall, as a guitar I didn't like the feel of it. This is just a general observation, not based on the expectation of "feel" with "sound" that you and others mentioned. It was just too light for me and didn't feel right. Maybe it's not the weight, because a strat or les paul feels fine to me, and there is a big weight difference with those. But something about the Variax just didn't feel "solid" to me, like I expect from a well-made guitar. I don't know much about guitar construction, it may be perfectly fine, but it just didn't feel right.  
For a few hundred dollars, I think this would be a fun and novel toy. It could be useful for home recording and so forth. But for the $1000+ price tag I see them going for, I think they have some more work to do.  
10/21/2003 5:05 PM
Mark Hammer

More valid comments. One of the reviewers in GP described it as a $300 guitar with $600 worth of on-board electronics, or something like that. I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but the physical instrument itself left something wanting. On the other hand, when an instrument is supposed to cover so many bases, just exactly what IS it supposed to feel and look like? If I were Line 6, I don't know where I'd start. The only other "generic" guitars I can think of are the various guitar synth controllers that came out from Roland and Ibanez a decade back, but these accompanied a sound generating technology that made no pretensions to mimicking any exsiting physical instrument so how they felt/looked/handled was moot, beyond simply providing access to notes, tracking well, and not needing physiotherapy after 45 minutes' use.  
I don't know if Line 6 has any plans to make the technology exportable to other guitars the way that the Roland GK hex pickup is exportable, or even the waythat Parsons B-benders can be installed on a bunch of different instruments with routing. The GP article also implied tremendous development possibilities via the port, without articulating what those would be. Perhaps they are collating user feedback on what was "missing" for the purposes of develping development software. It is certainly a powerful engine in there, but whether it can be transformed into something that makes users happy in the specific manner they WISH to be made happy is another thing.  
Ah yes, trying out gear in a music store with kids in tow. Nothing like worrying if your 5 year-old is going to knock that $5k PRS off its stand. At least if you bring the wife or girlfriend along, they're in a position to think you look cool with an instrument in your mitts. Kids just seem to have an affinity for the phrase "I'm bored", and a sudden need to urinate, that takes a little glitter away from a trip to the music store. Find me a music store with an enclosed supervised trampoline in the back and THEY'LL get my business. :)

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