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Line 6 Variax Standard

Issue #55

This is all starting to sound expensive right? Thankfully the modern age has afforded us the technology to avoid taking 37 guitars to a gig in the form of the Line 6 Variax.
Stuart Shields


Massive amount of tonal options via Variax HD technology

Extremely well built

Competitively priced


None at this price point


Alder Body

Maple Neck

22 Frets

Guitar Interactive star rating:  5 stars

Line 6 Variax Standard

MSRP £639 (UK)  $1,049 (US)

Line 6 Variax Standard

The Line 6 Variax Standard is billed as a guitar designed to break all of the traditional rules, making the impossible possible by allowing guitarists to swap a high calibre of tones as well as tunings in an instant. But just how good is it? Here's Stuart Shields with the lowdown.

So you’ve got an excellent Strat for that twangy rhythm work in the verse, but wouldn’t it be great if that solo had an epic Les Paul ‘Chunk’ to it? Oh, and that ballad could do with a 12 string acoustic in the chorus and the chime of a Rickenbacker in the verse.  Wait, you know this tune needs a banjo!

This is all starting to sound expensive right? Thankfully the modern age has afforded us the technology to avoid taking 37 guitars to a gig in the form of the Line 6 Variax.

With the Variax, you can summon up 24 different guitar models (and a few more exotic stringed instruments). The facility to scroll through 11 alternate tunings on the fly also provides a much-needed relief to having standby guitars in different tunings or painfully reworking a part every time the singer wants to change the key!

For this review, we’re looking the Variax Standard model. Fans of the ubiquitous Yamaha Pacifica will be pleased to hear that this is the first offspring of the marriage between Yamaha and Line 6. The Standard very much plays and looks like a mid-range Pacifica. The construction reveals other similarities – Alder body, a rosewood fingerboard and a one piece, C profile, maple neck all feel reassuringly familiar. The Standard comes with 3 custom wound Alnico V single coils that are surprisingly responsive. As a guitar, this represents some truly great playability and tone for the price bracket – and this is before we dive into the HD modelling side of things.

How does it work? Well, thankfully everything is controlled via the guitar through, what at first glance, appears to be an additional tone and volume knob. Depressing the ‘Category’ knob disables the magnetic pickups and engages the under bridge piezo. This allows you scroll through a list of models found on ever player’s shopping list. Things get really interesting when you reach the acoustic models, and the 5 way selector now assigns different body shapes and a jaw-droppingly realistic 12 string. My recommendation is that you scroll straight to the fun end of the model spectrum with the ‘Reso’ category where you can transform the Variax into a banjo or a wonderfully addictive sitar. With this all being modelled digitally I expected some kind of latency or perhaps an artificial response. But that’s just the thing – each instrument/model responds true to its nature. Try and bust out a legato run on the banjo model and it be as stubborn as a ...erm ...  a banjo!

The tuning options can be found by turning the 2nd additional control (it’s worth noting that other Variax come with model specific tunings, e.g. the JTV 89 and its banks of metal-friendly tunings). There’s instant access to some everyday stuff here – Drop D, Eb etc. In additional we can call up DADGAD, open G or baritone. It’s worth noting that this does not physically or robotically retune the guitar so at low volumes the acoustic sound of the strings may play tricks on your ears in contrast with amplified sound!

This is all powered by a rechargeable battery, housed in the back of the body. Owners of other Line 6 hardware such as Firehawk and Helix can connect the Variax via an Ethernet cable. This both powers the battery and opens up another level of ‘nerdy tweakings’ – each string can be tuned independently, and models/tunings can be assigned to footswitches. Even without this kit, you can get into some deep editing through the Variax Workbench (free downloadable software). Here we can customise body types, pick up configurations etc. and save them to a library.

The Variax Standard comes in 3 finishes; Black, White and Tobacco Sunburst. There really is no substitute for getting into a store and trying one of these for yourself. I guarantee it will be the most fun you’ve had with a guitar in a long time!

To sum up; excellent quality and playability for the price point and technology specifically designed to make your life easier, and inevitably, cheaper!

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Issue #75

Peter Green / Ivar Bjørnson

Out Now

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