Variax Bass 700 (Line 6) Review

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by westland, Mar 13, 2005.

  1. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    I received my Variax Bass 700 yesterday and wanted to give a quick review of my impressions over the first day of hands on use. :cool:

    I bought the Sunburst, which actually looks better in the flesh than Line 6’s beauty shots suggest (umm .. perhaps time for Line 6 to get a few more shots on their website). I actually had a chance to see the wholesale price (it was listed on my customs tag), and the markup appears to be 100% street (i.e., $1200 versus $625 wholesale).

    As someone else mentioned, the quality is in line with Japanese Fenders – pretty good, though my Ritter and Modulus Genesis feel better; lower action, tighter strings. The Variax neck is varnished … I’m going to try Gary Willis’ trick with the 00 steel wool, and scour the back of the neck so that it will feel slicker. The bass is dead quiet (nice) when plugged in directly. The DI box seems to introduce hum … it’s case’s ground is separate from the output cable’s ground, and it hums (not good … I wonder if there is an easy fix for this?). I’ve been plugging my base in directly to the Korg Pandora with a normal cable. This is supposed to drain the batteries (11 hour life), so I purchased two additional battery boxes (about $0.90 each) to have backups.

    My background: I’m a reasonably decent pianist who (perhaps through a perverse obsession with blues, boogie and stride basslines) got interested in bass guitar about 6 months ago (I own a Ritter Roya 4, Genesis 5 with Bartolini pups, and a Steinberger for travel … well … because I can). I mostly worked the first 3 months getting my muscles up to speed, and once I got a feel for the fretboard, most of my piano theory carried over easily to the bass. So I’m a novice at the bass, and I'm sure that my ear isn’t as developed as some of the other posters to this forum. As a pianist, I know what I want my bass accompaniment to sound like for a particular piece. So I’ve got a mixed, but in fact reasonably opinionated take on what I want the Variax bass to do.

    That said, I couldn’t be more pleased with the Variax. Just the ability to select different sounds is loads of fun in itself. A couple of other posts here take issue with the accuracy of sounds. Perhaps it’s my background, but accuracy is less important than whether a particular sound works musically. The Variax sounds are close enough, and nice enough that their sounds will work fine musically, particularly after tweaking controls (which you can’t do on many of the original instruments .. at least not easily). So for accuracy, maybe it’s not perfect (but then new models will be downloadable from Line 6’s web); but musically, for ensemble playing, it’s an improvement over the original instruments because of the tunability of their sound.

    My experience. I have no idea whether Variax's P and J bass models are accurate; but they sound great after a bit of tweaking with the blend and tone controls. I’m running the Variax through a Korg Pandora (PX-4) and find that some bass models work well with some amps and cabinets, and not so well with others (I’ll probably get a Pod Pro soon, as it’s quieter than the Korgs).

    The models that I’m most interested in are the Jaco fretless J-bass and the two acoustic basses. I wasn’t that crazy about the Jaco-bass, but I suspect that marine epoxy growl requires the right amp-cab combo , so I’ll keep playing with it. The acoustic sounds , especially the Kay upright, are great! I don’t know if they are accurate, but the Kay really swings; and I can get a glissando without hearing the change from fret to fret … and without having to learn to play a 40” scale fretless (which I’m sure would kill my hands). This alone is worth the price.

    The other basses may actually be better for educating me about what these basses sounded like – what a Rickenbacker or Danelectro sounds like, for example – because I’m certainly not planning on scouring bass shops just to play one. This gives me a feel for what sorts of music they work with.

    So far the Variax bass is well worth it’s price, in my opinion. It’s competently and solidly constructed, looks great, and is quite playable.