My friend Pierre Journel from The Guitar Channel (half French, half English podcast) left me with this Variax 700 electric guitar that he had from Line 6 to feature it in his podcast. He asked me if I wanted to shoot a video of this instrument to feature it on The Guitar Channel, and help him to spread the word of mouth about the podcast. As I do like what he does at The Guitar Channel, and as he lend me the guitar for a couple of weeks I told him yes.
Disclaimer: This is not a post officially sponsored by Line 6… I didn’t get any kind of money for this review (which is sad I have to admit)… This post is a collaboration with my friend who runs the podcast The Guitar Channel…
To make something different than the episode #061 of The Guitar Channel, and the funny episode #062 of LCG by the awesome JCFrog, I chose to make a straight 2 parts video review. I more or less did as if I was at a store testing an instrument i.e. a quick tour of the possibilities, and tones via a couple of chords & riffs.
On some parts of the video I’ve played over drums samples because I just felt like it. In the second part there is a sort of acoustic jam made to show how it behaves on a multi-track recording (rhythm tracks & lead). I’ve recorded via the Line 6 Pod Studio UX2, and using presets from the Pod Farm 2 plugin. I mostly used presets with effects to explore the possibilities on different fields.
My impressions about the Variax 700
A couple of years ago, I’ve played with a Variax 500… Well the Variax 700 is clearly different as it is a higher end product.
- The lutherie is excellent.
- The finish is clean.
- The ergonomics is great, especially when it comes to the comfort, and playability of the neck.
As usual with the Variax, it is a bit disturbing when you see it because it lacks visible pick-ups… That reminded of the words of Rich Renken from Line 6 at Musikmesse 2010. The main improvement they could make on the Variax 700 is about tuning machines. These are very good gotoh tuners but with the 2 point tremolo on the Variax I think it could benefit from locking tuners. However don’t think that the guitar will get out of tune as soon as you use the trem arm. No it is not… but a wild, and excessive use of the trem will slightly make you out of tune.
About the tones, I think the Variax is just the most versatile guitar ever. You bet it is regarding to the number of model guitars featured. I am not going to enter the debate on “the Telecaster Custom 1960 model doesn’t sound like a Telecaster Custom 1960” mostly because I’ve never played most of the modelized guitars. I also think this is a useless debate as I think that people who would say this are missing the whole point of the Variax. Let’s come to this point…. The Variax models are made to explore different tones (inspired by famous guitars) and various pickups combinations with just one guitar. This mostly is a tool if not a toolbox well thought when it comes to recording, and studio use.
The tones of the Variax 700 that I liked
- Electric solid body models:
- T-Model inspired by the Fender Telecaster Custom 1960: I found the bite of a bridge telecaster pickup as well as the typical and a little bit dark tone of the neck pick-up.
- Spank Model inspired by the Fender Stratocsater 1959: this model sounds like a Strat on every single switch position, and that’s just what we want it to do!!
- Lester Model inspired by the Gibson Les Paul 1958, 1952 & 1961: no problem either, you don’t have to make an effort to get the thick fat tone of humbuckers, and on the position 2 that models a P90 the tone is distinct from the humbuckers tone.
- Special model inspired by the Gibson Les Paul Junior, Les Paul Special & Firebird V: the tones are crunchy, and biting. They are very close to those expected with P90, and mini-humbuckers. I think this special model is the perfect model to play rock stuff.
- Hollow body models:
- R-Billy inspired by the Gretsch 6120: I really like the bridge position as there is not much of an effort to get some Rockabilly feel.
- Chime inspired by the Rickenbacker 360-12: I love 12 strings guitars, and I’ve found this one very attractive. Obviously it’s not the same as playing a real 12 strings but it has that trebly tone of Rickenbacker guitars.
- Semi inspired by the Gibson ES-335: the 3 positions are convincing though maybe a bit agressive but this could be due to the Pod Farm.
- Acoustic models:
- It’s fair and simple, on the Acoustic switch position all the acoustic models are great. They all have a distinct tone close to what is expected from a dreadnought or a parlor. The 12 strings are also as convincing as the Chime model.
- On the Reso switch position, I really digged the Coral Sitar model… It reminded how much I would like to have a real Coral Sitar (or one of the rejects you can find here and there).
The tones of the Variax 700 that I didn’t like that much, and why?
- Electric solid body models:
- T-model inspired by the Telecaster Thinline 1968: I never really liked the aesthetics of thinline guitars anyway, and for some strange reason the tone of this model didn’t suit me at all. The weirdest point is that I wouldn’t be able to tell you what bothered me with it!!
- Hollow body models:
- The R-Billy inspired by the Gretsch Silver Jet: I found the tones too dark, and muddy on both switch positions. Once again this could be due to the Pod Farm plugin preset… Thing is that I couldn’t find good settings for that model.
- Jazzbox: now this is really weird because I liked the tone of most jazzbox I tried so far but the jazzbox models on the Variax remained unevocative to me. I really can’t understand this fact. Maybe it’s a psychological effect? Maybe I was missing the deep, and large body of a jazzbox so much that I couldn’t be able to hear a jazzbox tone here. That’s just like I was playing with my eyes (as a matter of fact I do that a lot). Anyway, this is a strange thing as I didn’t have the same feeling with the acoustic models.
- Acoustic models:
- On the Reso switch position I was a bit disappointed by the resonator models inspired by the Dobro 1935 & National Tricone. The reason is fairly simple. It lacks one necessary component of these guitars: the dynamics of the resonator. These resonator models do have the typical metallic tone but they don’t have the full possibilities of a resonator guitar.
- The Banjo model but that’s just because I don’t know how to play the clawhammer technique and other banjo techniques, and I regret that. But having a banjo model is funny though…
My opinion about the Line 6 Variax 700
You have to be a moody and conservative character to just phase out this guitar, and as I am not always moody, and I’ll never be a conservative then I like the Variax a lot… Obviously you can regret that it is all about technology as you can regret the fact that you sometimes feel like it is not a real complete guitar that you have in your hands. Nevertheless, the variax is an awesome guitar for studio or home studio use because of the so many possibilities it opens. It is even more obvious once used with the Pod Farm (for example) that allows you to work your tones to reach a good mix. And as for the stage use, people like Tyler of Alive Inc have recently proved me that you don’t have to be ashamed to use it for live gigs.
That’s it for the Variax 700 subjective review… I’ll still have it at home for a couple of days before I’ll give it back to Pierre!! Or maybe I should run with it… I don’t know yet.