So with the coming of the New Year, I decided to reevaluate my gigging gear needs, and since I’m primarily playing in variety bands that play funk/R&B/standards/pop at casinos/weddings/festivals/occasional daiquiri shop (this is New Orleans, after all), I figured I give the Variax a try. My gig rig has consisted of a fretted and fretless Steinberger Spirit XT-25 through an Acoustic Image Contra amp; primarily for the portability, but also because they just seem to work the best together for an overall great tone. That said, I felt that having more tones at my disposal would be worth it. I wasn’t very hip on the body shape, and felt that I would get a replacement neck to slap on it. I chose an allparts vintage-style Jazz neck, rosewood fingerboard, bound with mop inlays off of the ‘Bay, which arrived before the Variax. The Variax arrived from BassNorthwest a couple of days later: a beautiful sunburst 4-string expertly set-up, right out of the box. I plugged in the directbox/powersupply, then into the Contra. Right away I was pleased with the P and J models; I then did the requisite “Jeremy” lick on the 12-string, “Old Friends” on the Alembic, and some “Roundabout” on the Rick. As many people who have noodled on the bass have said, the synth sounds suck straight out of the gate; it’s when you take the time to adjust the blend/filter/speed that you get some pretty usable (dare I say “kickin’” sounds. Same goes for the other models; you can adjust the pickup blend/pickup placement and bass/treble and save them, which is absolutely necessary to get the sounds to more convincingly replicate what you are looking for. That said, after some tweaking, the Moog model gave way to a perfect “Fantastic Voyage”/”Let’s Groove Tonight” vocoder-esque sound; the modern synth now nails “Flashlight”. I was happy with the sounds, and found to my surprise that I was very happy with the neck: it’s actually perfect for my hands, with an incredibly fast feel to it. I was somewhat hesitant to actually switch it out with the Jazz neck, but I gave it a shot. Well, the bass gods were trying to tell me something, as the Jazz neck ended up having too wide of a heel to fit. I would have to shave off some of the sides in order to do it. So, I put the original one back on, and bought a complete Signature Jazz body off the ‘Bay and now have a kickin’ white Jazz (see: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=223510) Although tweaking the models gets you closer to an approximation of the basses offered, the real key is to alter your attack/playing style. The 12-string model has the tendency to waver out of tune as the software tries to catch up; you need to play a bit more staccato to minimize it, This is most apparent if you try doing the “Jeremy” harmonics. The upright bass is absolutely amazing with a palm-muted light touch. The synth basses don’t take too kindly to string bends, but with an exaggerated vibrato, your “Flashlight” is dead-on. So, last night was the trial by fire at a wedding reception at Latrobe’s in the French Quarter. We opened with “Boogie Shoes”, with the Variax set on the P; next was “Boogie Oogie Oogie” and the 8-string. Throughout the course of the evening, I used mainly Js and Ps, but switched to upright for “Chicago (My Kind of Town)” and “At Last” (which almost made me cry, how great that sounded), Stingray for “Easy” and “Carwash”, Thunderbird for “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Old Time Rock N Roll”, Danelectro for “Baby I Love You” and “Mustang Sally” and the Moog for “Kiss”. By the end of the night, my guitarist was beaming over how good the bass sounded, and I gotta say, I was right there with him. The Variax really outperformed my expectations; the one thing I think I’m going to do to modify it is to replace the tuners with some cloverleaf hipshots. I really feel that for my particular gigging situation, the Variax does an excellent job of giving me 23 of the 24 different basses that it claims to. The 24th is a fretless J, and I gotta concede, it’s a joke Hope this helps someone who may be on the fence about getting one.