Music

Yamaha and Line 6 collaboration yields Variax Standard electric guitar

Yamaha and Line 6 collaboratio...
The Variax Standard combines Yamaha guitar building know-how with Line 6 tone digital modeling prowess
The Variax Standard combines Yamaha guitar building know-how with Line 6 tone digital modeling prowess
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Variax HD vintage tone modeling is placed at a player's fingertips via one of two dedicated knobs that sit behind the guitar's volume and tone knobs
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Variax HD vintage tone modeling is placed at a player's fingertips via one of two dedicated knobs that sit behind the guitar's volume and tone knobs
The Variax Standard combines Yamaha guitar building know-how with Line 6 tone digital modeling prowess
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The Variax Standard combines Yamaha guitar building know-how with Line 6 tone digital modeling prowess
The Strat-like double cut guitar has an alder body, one-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, three custom-wound single coil pickups, a proprietary tremolo bridge and a lubricated Graph Tech nut
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The Strat-like double cut guitar has an alder body, one-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, three custom-wound single coil pickups, a proprietary tremolo bridge and a lubricated Graph Tech nut
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Guitarists wanting the classic tones of yesteryear can risk financial ruin by amassing a sizeable collection of original instruments or they can take a much cheaper route and turn to the digital world for help. Line 6 has been modeling vintage guitar sounds for a good many years, with its Variax guitars offering multiple vintage tones on one instrument. Now the company has added a very special new member to its Variax family, the Standard, which represents the first major collaborative effort since Yamaha acquired Line 6 in January 2014.

The Variax Standard combines Yamaha guitar building know-how with Line 6 tone digital modeling wizardry, the latter placing an impressive library of "authentic" vintage tones at the command of the player. If you're a gigging musician that means that you can dial in different guitar sounds using just one instrument, rather than having to swap axes during a break or mid-song and then perhaps modify your playing style to suit a different setup, shorter or longer neck or different gauge strings and so on.

"The process of modeling a vintage instrument using Variax HD technology is complex," says Line 6. "Every facet of the guitar – including the body, electronics and metal parts – influences the way the instrument sounds and responds, and must be captured during modeling. By painstakingly analyzing and capturing every single aspect of the most iconic vintage instruments, the Line 6 team ensured that Variax delivers the sound and feel of the world’s most coveted guitars with stunning detail. The result is accurate and realistic tone reproduction that stays true to the original instruments."

The Strat-like double cut guitar has an alder body, one-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, three custom-wound single coil pickups, a proprietary tremolo bridge and a lubricated Graph Tech nut
The Strat-like double cut guitar has an alder body, one-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, three custom-wound single coil pickups, a proprietary tremolo bridge and a lubricated Graph Tech nut

Available tones are modeled on such icons as a 1959 Strat, a 1952 Les Paul Goldtop, a Gibson Firebird V from 1976, 6 and 12 string Rickenbacker 360 models from '68 and '66 respectively and a 1966 Guild F212. Players are not limited to vintage guitar sounds, though. The Variax HD library also puts resonator, sitar, banjo and tricone models, as well as alternate tunings, at a player's fingertips via two dedicated knobs that sit behind the guitar's volume and tone knobs.

Companion Workbench HD software also allows axe-wielding sonic scientists to mix and match virtual components to create numerous classic, vintage, modern and custom tones and then upload them to the instrument.

Yamaha's part of the equation is realized as a Strat-like double cut guitar with an alder body, one-piece maple neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard, three custom-wound single coil pickups and 5-way pickup selector, a proprietary tremolo bridge and a lubricated Graph Tech nut.

The Variax Standard will be available in three finishes during Q1 2015 for a suggested retail price of US$1,119.99. Visitors to the NAMM Show can get an up close look at the new guitar at the Line 6 booth.

Product page: Variax Standard

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6 comments
Horizontal Gophers
Sorry but I'm not buying it, figuratively and literally. I've been playing a collecting over 40 years and you won't convince me a single coil PU will emulate a humbucker with any degree of 'believability'. I personally think a good hybrid modeling amp or all-tube with pedals is a more versatile, honest and affordable option for opening up your tones. Just my opinion. WR2
Adrian Haselhuber
Hi WR2, I'm the product manager for this guitar at Line 6. We don't use the magnetic pickups for modeling. There are piezo crystals embedded in the tremolo bridge that pick up each string separately. This is the source signal that we're feeding into our onboard modeling engine. I would hope that you will find time to visit a local music store and play one of our Variax models (there's a James Tyler version too). It is pretty cool to have all kinds of different guitar sounds and custom string tunings at your disposal. Hit me up on FB if you have more questions. All the best!
Facebook User
I've had a Variax 700 (fixed bridge version) since 2004 when I was lucky enough to get endorsed by Line 6, and I've just paid way over the odds for one of the last retail JTV-89 models before they vanish off the shelves. I also had a deal with Gibson, who gave me a Les Paul Studio, a LP classic, and I have my own small collection of pretty decent guitars - strats, ESP, early Charvel, a Nuno Washburn, SG, etc etc, so I have a fair idea of what 'real' guitars sound like. I play thru Marshalls, Rivera, Boogie, and a couple of handmade valve oddities. My 700 has no magnetic pickups, but I can say without hesitation that it is a peach of a guitar - feels great, plays great, sweet intonation - most importantly of all: the models mostly do their job handsomely to my ears. OK - so I don't have a 59 LP or a 61 strat or a LP Junior with P90s (my favourite model for lead) to do a blind A/B comparison, but having used the guitar live and in the studio for 10 years in a professional context, it has never let me down, and it has given me a convincing range of tones that no other guitar I've tried can offer. I'm not a big fan of the acoustic models, and I fell out of love with amp modelling a long time ago (I had a Vetta II head, a POD and an X3Live over the years), but having a bunch of solid-bodied axes in one, with different tunings, custom levels and P/U configurations at the flick of a switch - hell, what more do you want? I love my Variax. I use it almost every day. There is far too much 'woo' and nonsense talked about 'vintage' tone, mostly proliferated by collectors who don't even play the guitar, trying to justify the silly money they spent on some ancient plank or other. Yes, guitars all sound different to one another. But great tone is mostly in the fingers of the player. If Hendrix played your £99 guitar he would still sound like Hendrix, and if you played his favourite rare guitar you would still sound like you. Sorry if that's hard to accept. Just for the record: I don't work for Line 6, my professional relationship with them ended many years ago, but in my opinion they really did change the rules of the game, and I am personally very happy that it happened in my creative lifetime. So Horizontal Gophers, no disrespect, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I'm sure I'd be jealous of your collection - you're not obliged to subscribe to new technology, or to get on the bandwagon - but don't slag it off until you've tried it - you might actually like it!
Todd Black
As a gigging musician I am very intrigued by the technology of this guitar, especially the different tuning's at your finger tips. Question is are there any latency issues when soloing? I've played other pedals that de-tune your guitar but the technology goes berserk when you try to solo with them.
I'm also curious about the durability, last thing I need is to accidentally bump the tuning knob or guitar selector in the middle of a song.
Anyone have any gigging experience with one?
Peter Piluk
It is hard to explain to someone who hasn't played one of these but this guitar isnt using a single coil to simulate anything. The different guitars that are being modeled are faithful reproductions. When I was auditioning mine at my local music store, I spent over two hours playing it on two separate days comparing it to as many different guitars as I could. The one thing I discovered is the majority of the included models sounded very real.
The most amazing thing about this guitar was, while I was playing the different models, I would ask the customers and staff to identify the type of guitar I was modeling. I was surprised that about 60-70% of the time, people identified the correct model. Did people say I was playing the '59 Tele...no but they could identify I was playing a Tele as opposed to a Les Paul.
Some of the models sound better than others and in my opinion the most accurate reproductions are the Tele, the Strat, the Les Paul, the Gretsch 6120 and the 6 string Rickenbacker.
Make no mistake, there is a learning curve to get the best out of this guitar. The included models all have their own character and that carefully crafted tone you worked out for your Strat with Texas Specials will need to be tweaked with each model.
I would think that it is a mistake to purchase this guitar online after reading a few reviews and watching a couple videos. You need to play this guitar and compare it live with a few guitars. Only by getting it into your hands will you find out if it is right for you.
For the record, the standard guitar, without the modeling on, sounds amazing. I tried the SSS and the HSS versions and was impressed with the stock pickup sound. The build quality was better than many of the Teles and Strats in the same price range I was considering for purchase. I ended up purchasing the SSS version.
Ken Goldberg
I have been playing the Variax 500 since it was initially released and can tell you without a doubt it does exactly what it says. Plays great, sounds great and as much as I love all my (normal) guitars it has become my go to. Having recently added the pod 500x and dt25 to my gear list I can honestly say that the term 'dream rig' is right on the money. My only hope is that they will release this new standard in a left handed model so that I can make use of workbench HD and use the 500x as an interface instead of the original workbench and usb interface. That is the weak link and remains a grand pain in the ass.