Anyone had any experience/owns a LINE 6 Variax?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by OmegaZ27, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. OmegaZ27


    Sep 18, 2005
    I just want to know if anyone out there has had any experience with one. If so, I'm just wondering, where the heck are the pickups? Or how are the electronics? Is there a plate in the back, or is it all closed up? :confused:
  2. Petary791


    Feb 20, 2005
    Michigan, USA
    I played it, and I hated it. Sooooooo synthetic.

    Piezo pickups I belive.
  3. There've been a number of threads on the Variax, which all can be found using the search function on the top right of the forum's navigation.

    Having owned one for approximately six months and recording/gigging/jamming with it, I can tell you a number of things, the most essential being that the experience as a whole was rather negative.

    First off, the bass is rather heavy. I mean it, too. Considering the fact that it requires about six AA batteries, or something to that extent to power it without the DI box, it is clunky to say the very least.

    The upperfret access was also an issue, as it really did not allow for much wanking in the second octave, which of course is something I dig.

    Now for the tone, which obviously is the Variax's market focus.

    I would not go as far as Line 6 does by proclaiming every tone is unique, but I will say this: a couple of the tones, specificially the Rickenbacker, 60's Fender Jazz, and Sting Ray tones are really quite impressive to behold on the basis of RECORDING. When it comes to playing the instrument in a live situation, trust me, if it does not feel like "it," it just will not feel right. The electronics also, while intuitive, were a pain to adjust when switching from one bass to another, as they required more knob fiddling, making it really quite difficult to call up tones on the fly. That is of course, if you did NOT pre-program tones into the bass. A couple of the tones, I should mention, are plain bad. The synth emulation does not track very well, and a couple of the more obscure tones, such as the 8 string, upright, and semi-hollow, sound plain goofy.

    In all, I found that the Variax personally was a novelty that wore off relatively quickly, especially if you spend more time playing live than recording. While I attempt to do both as extensively as possible, I just found it much simpler to own an actual instrument from the roster that is included in the Variax, than ironically enough, owning the Variax with the aforementioned roster. Add to that as well the $1000+ price tag and the fact that its made in Korea, and you have an amalgam of reasons not to dive in UNLESS you are a recording buff with little intention of hitting the gig circuit.

    Oh, and I am in NO WAY ripping on Korean made instruments, just the Variax :smug:
  4. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Phew. Glad i read this thread. I'm not considering one as much anymore. Still, i'd love to try it out.

    To each his own!
  5. HarmonyCentral has reviews too, and they seem to concur with a lot of this TB sentiment, with a few exceptions. I prefer TB now; leave it to TBers to dish the straight dope on anything!
  6. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I was impressed with some of the sounds, and for recording without all the basses available, it does an pretty good job at getting all those tones.
  7. I too tried one. I wasn't terribly impressed. As far as I will go with that one.
  8. Same here. Sat with one for a while and tried the different "styles". Not impressed. I didn't seem to feel there was enough of each sound to warrent it's use and the "synth" didn't track well. Some delay in attack, etc. It's an interesting concept, and the feel was okay, but it needs work electronically.

  9. Every time I have some spare time I go to the music store to put an hour or more on their Variax bass. I've probably put a good 10 or 15 hours into playing it by now. I actually feel like it has solid construction, but for the price, you could be getting so many other great instruments, either used, or new, that would make the purchase of the Variax pointless. The tones are impressive out of one instrument, but I'm of the mind that I'd rather bring two great axes to a gig, than one crappy one. With my Carvin BB75p, i can get close to the music man and jazz sounds with some knob twiddling, and I take my hotrodded jazz bass for a backup. I'm playing in my college's jazz ensemble and mostly use my pbass with flats or my Ergo EUB-5 to get a wholesome walking tone. Until the modelling technology improves, i'd avoid them like the plague. Also, i find them quite ugly to be honest, some wood options would make them more palatable to me.
  10. +1, although I don't know about the "crappy" part. Just not worth the price, that's all, IMHO.
  11. OmegaZ27


    Sep 18, 2005
    Wow. Thanks for all of your replies. I was figuring that the sounds were synthetic. "Cool for recording, bad for live." Basically what I got out of it. BTW, what exactly are piezo pickups? The reason why I was asking is because I'm looking into building a bass with the pickups behind the pickguard. Or is that a bad idea?
  12. vmx_12


    Dec 13, 2003
    Laval, PQ, Canada
    OK. I don't know why I'm replying but I just felt I had to on this one...

    First, nobody will never get the "real thing" out of a modeled electronic device (like Boss GT-6B's amp modelers, Line 6 PODs, or even Tech21's RBI that is supposed to get an Ampeg tone depending on the settings...). The goal of these items is to make all these sounds available to everybody, at either the flick of a switch or a step on a footswitch, at a fairly descent price. I am mainly a giging musician and I play lots of cover songs. I NEED all those sounds. But being just a bar/"corporate event" musician, I'm not making enough money to buy all these amps, effect pedals, and instruments. I'm the kind of guy that prefers to have 80% of everything than 100% of 1 thing. I know, I know! I could do all those songs with MY bass and MY amp with MY sound. But I prefer to have the croud hear what they are used to when they buy the song at their favorite record store. That's just me. Do you prefer to have a lot about a single thing, or a little about many, many things?

    I do not own a Variax bass but I tried it, more than once, with as many amps as I could, and I'm more than satisfied with the end result. I had the chance to rent one for a while and I WILL get mine very soon. Of course, you need to tweak the EQ to get as close as possible to the bass sound you want. And of course, the synth does not track as fast as everybody is used to with a regular picking or finger picking bass sound. YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR WAY OF PLAYING THE BASS WHEN IT COMES TO SYNTHS. I'm pretty sure nobody here ever found a device that is up to this job and would play 16th notes at 120bpm. Even back in the Bootsy days, he would play slow funk lines with his synth/filter effects.

    The thing about the Variax, is that I can almost have the same diversity of sounds as my keyboardist. He wants strings? Press that button! Needs a piano now? Press the other one here. How about we do the same thing with our basses? Line 6 made it pretty well. Even with their PODs.

    So all in all, don't expect to get the "real thing" with the Variax. Yes it feels funny to hear the note "fade" when playing the Hofner model while still feeling the string vibrating under your finger. But a real Hofner had that lack of sustain. The modeler is just doing its job. The sound may not be dead on, but it's damn close to it. And it's probably the case for every other modeled bass in there. I just think it's one of the coolest thing that's been available to us, bassplayers, who usually get all those effects and gizmos made for guitars in the first place. And think of the Variax as "tones", not "basses". Go back to your music store, have someone play it for you, sit down, and listen! And if you can, try the Variax with, say, the MM, and an A/B box. I did! And I could not really tell the difference with my eyes closed.

    By the way, if I had one, I don't thing I would gig that original '63 Fender Precision and risk to ruin that fine piece of collection by banging it around, slammin' it on the floor, falling off the stage, etc...
  13. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Piezo pickups are usually built into the bridge saddles or are mounted under the bridge--the kind of thing most acoustic guitars use. They create a signal by sensing the pressure of the vibrating string against the saddle, not by the string vibrating in a magnetic field.

    There's more info down in the Pickups forum...

  14. bassbully43


    Jul 1, 2005
    For the most part i thought it played and sounded like :spit: The low end model is one of the worse basses i have ever played and i think it was around $400-$500 at GC.
  15. hippiesandwich


    Aug 29, 2003
    San Jose
    Affiliated with Looperlative Audio Products
  16. I have had the Variax bass for about6 months, and I still like mine.

    I will agree that it will be at its best in a recording environment. But, since I play live more than I record - I will speak about the live aspects.

    It feels like a Jazz. Heavy & Big. But, I am a large guy & enjoy the large instrument. It does several sounds really well & several not so well. Your amp rig/house PA/monitor mix will have so many factors in what you hear from this bass. So, be sure to have a controlled source when you testdrive.

    It isn't nearly as touch sensitive as a 'real' bass. Hammer-ons, slide up/down, slapping/thumping, etc... real pickups react to your fingers with much more detail than the piezos running at light-speed through a little computer inside this bass.

    I own the Line 6 Vetta (flagship guitar amp) also, and I feel a love/hate relationship with this amp. I feel this way because at times I want a different sound, it can help me broaden my ears & dial in something very out of the norm. But, when I want my sound - I am left wanting so much. I am starting to feel this way more & more with the Variax bass. It is great at being a multi-talented tool, but do NOT try to compare this bass with your favorite J, P, Thumb, Stingray, etc... It will be fine for those who have yet to find a favorite J bass... but once you find it -- the Variax will probably leave you wanting more...

    I will continue to use this bass until I find "MY" tone. I have issues I don't like about it - but, am nowhere near the point of selling it. And I will keep it when I get my next bass.
  17. Wolfehollow


    Jan 21, 2003
    Pensacola, FL
    For recording great... Id bet you couldnt pick out what was real and what was varibassed...

    I wouldnt play it live.
  18. they feel very...plasticy to me...

    if you get the chance, give the middle of the pickguard a couple of raps with your finger, you will see what i mean :smug:
  19. I played one a few weeks back in a music shoppe for about 1/2 hour...

    bass...neck, decent neck...sort of style

    sounds...I liked the Jazz bass sounds and the P-bass sound was good...the rest was definitely NOT my cup of tea

    price...they wanted over $3K AU for thanks...

    for me...I'll pass on a Variax
  20. relayer66


    Oct 10, 2002
    Miura, Japan
    I've had mine for about 6 months now. I have said before I love the way it plays and sounds, and I still do. I don't think it's the best looking bass out there, and I have some basses I prefer, for instance I will never willingly part with my Alembic. For the most part this is a great studio tool. I haven't played live with it, but I wouldn't hesitate to do so. It is not any heavier or clunkier than a Fender Jazz, which it seems to be based on as far as the neck and body are concerned. It's put together better than any MIM Fender I've tried, and seems on par with my Geddy as far as quality. And it can get all those sounds and a lot more. I particularly like the Flea bass sound, having owned one and hating its wide flat neck. The Variax sounds just as good and is as playable as the Jazz bass. Some people love that wide string spacing of the Flea, I don't.
    The batteries are a non-issue, since it doesn't require them if you use the DI box (which is also nicely made). I think some people just can't get with the whole modelling idea, considering it synthetic or whatever, but I'll tell you, the Variax with a brand new set of Pro-steels sounds as good and as woody and natural as a lot of the basses it models. One thing I've discovered is that the strings need to be fresh or the piezos just won't get the sound right. And that's why they may sound so crappy in the music stores. So I change my strings twice as often as I did before. No big deal.