Line 6 James Tyler Variax & Pod HD Pro – Cross Review

Last month I’ve received the Line 6 Pod HD Pro and the James Tyler Variax. And I’m having a lot of fun with both. Basically, having these two items is like having an endless world of guitar tones to explore. That’s overwhelming but cool.

Whether you are a home-studio musician or a touring guitarist, the Pod HD Pro & James Tyler Variax duo is a killer combination. Once you get over the inevitable tweaking-for-hours sessions, you are left with a great combination to serve your creativity.

Rather than a proper review/demo I tried something different here. First, I’ll talk a little bit about the James Tyler Variax, and then about the Pod HD Pro. Then, I’ll finish this blog post with audio samples. These are like short 1 minute proto-compositions in different genres. If you have specific questions I’ll be glad to answer you.

James Tyler Variax

The long awaited Line 6 guitar is finally available. The original Variax always had its fans but it was also criticized a lot whether for the digital modelling side or the lack of magnetic pickups.

Not only it always gave the impression of an incomplete guitar but most important, in case of a powering issue, the Variax was useless.

The James Tyler Variax fixes the major flaw of the original Variax. The brand new James Tyler Variax is now equipped with a set of magnetic pickups. The Line 6 team also improved it with new functionalities.

The James Tyler Variax is now available in 3 versions made in the U.S. or Korea. My impressions about the JTV-69 Korean model are below. This is the HSS Stratocaster like version of the new Variax from Line 6.

The JTV-69 : The Variax is a Real Guitar Now

So Line 6 partnered with luthier James Tyler to design the lutherie, and the pickups specs of the 3 JTV models.

The JTV-69 ergonomics, and playability are similar to a Stratocaster. The humbucker bridge pickup is very good. It has a lot of punch, and clarity. As for the single coil middle, and neck pickups, I think they lack some character (I guess that the pickups of the US version are different). These single coil pickups sound a lot like Stratocaster pickups.

The JTV-69: Boosted Variax

Line 6 took advantage of this design change to improve the Variax conception and models.

Some playing nuances such as palm muting have a better rendition than the original Variax. I can’t be a 100% affirmative because the last time I tried a Variax is a bit far but it seems that the models of the James Tyler Variax are more realistic. Of course, I’m not comparing the models to the original guitars. The major advantage of the Variax is to put the biggest tone range under the hand. To me the only unsatisfying models are the 12-strings acoustic models. The do well in a mix but when played alone they still have this unnatural feel.

The models selector switch of the JTV-69 is very intuitive (much more than the JTV-59 selector): you just need to rotate the middle knob to select the type of guitar, and then each position of the pickups selector switch allows to select one model. Nothing tricky.

The nex big improvement of the JTV-69 is the alternate tunings selector. It allows to switch from the standard tuning to one of the eleven alternate tunings presets (including one custom that you can set yourself). I particularly liked the baritone preset… It has a lot of rumbling possibilities.

Of course, you will have this eternal dilemma that will never be set. You don’t play a 12-strings guitar just as you would play a Telecaster or a Rickenbacker, etc…

Nevertheless, all these guitar tones right between you hands is still a creativity booster! It even might be a source of inspiration!

Pod HD Pro

Last year I had the Pod HD 500 for several weeks before I sent it to one reader after an epic giveaway. The Pod HD Pro is the rack version of the Pod HD500.

Both Pods share the same amplifiers, and effects models : HD amps models, and Line 6 M series effects. The philosophy of the Pod HD is pretty much the same as the Variax : to bring you the most versatile tone range in one device. From that point of view the Pod HD Pro is as successful and as overwhelming than the James Tyler Variax.

The Pod HD Pro has the same flexibility of use than the Pod HD 500. You can use either the Pod HD Pro Edit software of the front panel of the device to chain up to 8 effects. You can also use the dual tone function. The signal will then transit via 2 amps-effects paths. However, some models consume a lot of DSP. So you better be careful when you want to chain that much effects. It can force the reboot of the Pod HD on some rare occasions. You can control de DSP consumption on the front panel screen.

The Pod HD Pro offers a lot of connectors and functions possibilities. You can plug it into any amplifier or a Line 6 DT series amp (via the Link connector) or on a sound console.

As for me I found my favorite sets that perfectly fit to my use of the Pod HD. I used the S/PDIF connectors to plug it via my sound card, and I used the USB connector. Both methods give the same sound quality. At least, I didn’t notice a difference. Now I am using it almost exclusively with the USB method. This allow to use the Pod HD Pro as a sound card.

Basically, everytime I record a guitar or bass track I use the Pod HD Pro as a sound card. I can then monitor the recording through the Pod. And when I am mixing the tune, I use my M-Audio sound card as my DAW will automatically switch to it when the Pod is off. Notice that you can also plug a microphone into the Pod to record instruments or vocals.

The device seems to be very solid, and it should be fine for the touring guitarists. The only thing that I missed a lot was an expression pedal to use the Pod at its full capacities (wah, whammy and other expression effects…). Yeah… It’s already in my wishlist!

Now, let’s hear the audio samples would you? These are short tunes… Less than 1 minute each… Different genres to see how the James Tyler Variax, and the Pod HD Pro behave in a mix. Every instrument is the James Tyler Variax except drums and basse tracks. The bass was played through the Pod.

If you have a question, the comments section below is made for that purpose.

James Tyler Variax & Pod HD Pro by Muzicosphere


About Sem

I am the founder of Muzicosphere (that also exists in a French version). In 2011, I also created Guitar Fail, the Guitar LOL place to be. And before that I created GAS a GoGo, a gear giveaways blog in French.

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