Variax is the name of a line of guitars developed and marketed by Line 6. They differ from typical electric and acoustic guitars in that internal electronics process the sound from individual strings to model (replicate) the sound of specific guitars and other instruments. The maker claims it is the first guitar family that can emulate the tones of other notable electric and acoustic guitars. It also provides a banjo and a sitar tone. The Variax is currently available as an electric guitar, but modeling acoustic guitars and modeling electric bass guitars have been available in the past.
James Tyler Variax electric guitars
|Period||2010 - Present|
|Body||Mahogany with carved maple top and flame maple veneer|
|Pickup(s)||James Tyler Alnico Humbuckers|
|Black, Cherry Sunburst, Tobacco Sunburst|
- JTV59 is inspired by the archetypal single-cutaways and features time-tested tonewoods, Tyler-designed PAF-style alnico humbuckers and stoptail bridge.
- JTV69 is a classic three-pickup solidbody with alder body, vintage-style Tyler neck and custom tremolo bridge.
- JTV89 has a 3-piece maple neck with reverse headstock, 24-fret rosewood fingerboard and Tyler’s Fast 'n' Flat neck profile.
Each model comes in a US-made or Korean-made version. The Tyler Variax guitars all come with standard pickups as well as the electronic modeling capabilities, whereas the earlier Variaxes had no magnetic pickups. New models include "Standard" and "Suriken"
Models in all Variaxes are based on the following guitars:
- 1960 Fender Telecaster Custom
- 1968 Fender Telecaster
- 1968 Fender Telecaster Thinline
- 1959 Fender Stratocaster
- 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- 1952 Gibson Les Paul "Goldtop"
- 1961 Gibson Les Paul Custom (3 PU)
- 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior
- 1976 Gibson Firebird V
- 1955 Gibson Les Paul Special
- 1959 Gretsch 6120
- 1956 Gretsch Silver Jet
- 1968 Rickenbacker 360
- 1966 Rickenbacker 360-12
- 1961 Gibson ES-335
- 1967 Epiphone Casino
- 1957 Gibson ES-175
- 1953 Gibson Super 400
- 1959 Martin D-28
- 1970 Martin D 12-28
- 1967 Martin O-18
- 1966 Guild F212
- 1995 Gibson J-200
- 1935 Dobro Alumilite
- Danelectro 3021
- Coral/Dano Electric Sitar
- Gibson Mastertone Banjo
- 1928 National Style 2 "Tricone"
Variax electric guitars
|Variax Electric Guitar (300/500/600/700)|
|Period||appr. 2003 — 2010|
|Neck joint||Bolt-on neck|
|Body||Agathis (300), Basswood (600), Mahogany and Ash (700)|
|Fretboard||Rosewood (300, 500 & 700), Maple (600), all with 22 frets|
|Bridge||Fixed (300, 500, 700), Tremolo (600, 700)|
|Pickup(s)||Bridge saddle-mounted piezo|
The earlier solid body Variax electric guitars made by Line 6 were available in four models:
- The original 500 did not have a model number when it came out in 2002, but the manufacturer relabeled it the 500 when they introduced the 700 in 2004. They discontinued the 500 about a year later.
- The "budget" model 300 came out in 2005, was in limited supply by 2007 and was finally discontinued in early 2009.
- The 600 featured a vibrato bridge and all-maple neck with six-on-a-side tuners.
- The upmarket 700 had a carved top, either a hardtail or vibrato bridge, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard. It had three-on-a-side tuners and diamond shaped mother of pearl inlays with an abalone "V" at the 12th fret.
The bridge of a Variax electric guitar has an individual piezoelectric pickup for each string. The instrument's electronics converts each of these six signals to a digital signal, and digitally processes each to emulate the selected sound. Since the system process the strings separately, it can model the effects that one string of a target emulation might cause on another. It can also shift individual string pitches to digitally create alternate tunings instead of pitch-shifting all strings at once.
Some enthusiasts have transplanted Variax electronics and hardware into different instruments. These "transplants" can look like almost any popular guitar, yet produce all the Variax emulations.
Variax acoustic guitars
Line 6 marketed four models of Variax acoustic modeling guitars: the 300 Nylon String and 300 Steel String, which allow varying virtualbody size and mic placement—and the more expensive steel stringed, cedar (later spruce)-topped 700, which pitch-shifts individual strings to provide alternate tunings. The 700 emulates over a dozen rare and desirable acoustic instruments, including an acoustic Indian sitar, rather than the Coral electric sitar modeled in the electric Variaxes. Line 6 produced a rare and final model dubbed the 900, of which only 50 were produced and distributed by Line 6. The 900's were made in Japan rather than Korea as the 700's were. The 900's had a solid body with a semi hollow acoustic style facade sound hole, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard was adorned with diamond shaped mother of pearl inlay instead of the cross design the 700's had, it also had an abalone inlay "V" at the 12th fret. The most publicly recognized Variax Acoustic 900 was used by recording artist James Taylor, while singing the American National Anthem at the opening ceremony of the NBA Finals of 2008, as well as an event hosted at Borders Bookstore. Line 6 discontinued the acoustic models in 2010.
Variax bass guitars
Line 6 offered the same technology for electric bass guitars with the 4-string Variax 700 bass and the model 705 5-string bass, but discontinued them in 2007.
Variax guitars have a Variax Digital Interface (VDI) port that connects them via an Ethernet cable to compatible hardware like the Line 6 POD amp modelers, or through the Workbench interface via USB to a computer. Note that the (300-700) guitar cannot be connected directly to the computer but requires a Line 6 USB interface or POD Live / Vetta. Workbench is also the name of the software that lets users customize the electronic models—change body type, change and move pickups, and adjust volume and tone knobs function. Users can create customized models and tunings and then save them back to the guitar.
- Line 6
- Audio interview with Line 6 founder Marcus Ryle
- Line 6 Variax History by Jim Miller
- Line 6 Variax Sound Clips