I have an opportunity to pick up a used, but apparently very good condition James Tyler Variax JTV 59 in Tobacco Sunburst for $550. I've never played one, but am so intrigued by the guitar and it's technology. I'm am not an advanced player, so the idea of having one guitar that can sound like so many different ones sounds fun.

I know these retail at around $1499, so the price sounds right. Anyone have any experience with one of these? Any thoughts on if I should grab it?

Thanks in advance!
Never played one, but they seem cool as all hell from the Youtube videos I've watched. And if i could go back in time about 5 years, I'd buy a Variax instead of the 20+ guitars which have taken over my apartment.

Not that I don't love my guitars....but I could really use the space.
Quote by peskypesky
Never played one, but they seem cool as all hell from the Youtube videos I've watched. And if i could go back in time about 5 years, I'd buy a Variax instead of the 20+ guitars which have taken over my apartment.

Not that I don't love my guitars....but I could really use the space.

Ha! Now I would love to have 20+ guitars, but I think my wife would move me out with them! That's really what intrigues me so much about this. I'm not naive enough to think think this is going to sound precisely like the Les Paul's & Strats, but I'm sure it gets close enough with the benefit of only one guitar.
They're pretty nice. Quite heavy, though, more so than other LP-style guitars. Also, the stock 'real' pickups aren't terribly great; bank on replacing them if you think you'll want to use them as a backup to the simulated sounds often.

Otherwise, they're good-quality MIK guitars and this generation of Variax tech is really nice. Make sure you have a way to update the firmware (check the Line 6 site for details).
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I have the JTV-89F (Floyd). I've also got the original Variax (the 500 series).

The 59 is a very nice guitar and the price is good (though you should know that prior to the newer models' arrival last year, there were price drops to well below $1000 for new ones). All of the usual caveats for any guitar apply, and make sure that all of the Variax bits are working as intended. The MIK guitars come with a single battery and a soft case. The battery is a stock vidcam item and can be had on the aftermarket for much less than what Line 6 is asking, and the case maker for the MIA items is in downtown LA and can be persuaded to produce one for you (at an eye-opening price). You can probably get the Hipshot tuners from the MIA version easily enough as well, if that matters.

What's nice about the 59, just as guitars go, is that it has a shaved neck heel that's a LOT more comfortable than a standard LP, especially for working with the upper frets. It's also the only Variax with a 24.75" scale.

The Variax electronics were originally designed to work with a five-way switch, but to accommodate the way most people play an LP-style guitar, the pickup selector switch is a three-way, with the 2 and 4 positions that you'd normally use with the five-way requiring an additional switch movement. The other Variax models (69 and 89) use the five-way. Don't forget that you're working with just a master volume and master tone, so don't be reaching for a second volume/tone if you're very used to the traditional LP quad of controls.

The firmware keeps evolving on these. Last year Line 6 introduced an upgrade that bumped the models to "HD," to take further advantage of the much more powerful processor on the new gen models. The more-powerful processor was already beneficial, removing nearly all of the "artifacting" that could show up on complicated models (such as a 12-string used with an alternate tuning). The piezos are LR Baggs exclusives, and much improved over the old guitars as well.

The pickups on all the JTV models are Tyler's design and quite good. On the 59 they're a very decent PAF-style and modern enough for most folks. The theme on a Variax is versatility, and they are that. If you need a more specific sound, it's not terribly difficult to replace them. A better choice is to get to work with the downloadable Workbench software and build what you want there. You can even elect to add one of the models that mimics the JTV 89's more powerful pickups.

You'll be pleasantly surprised at how good the models really are; the tele, strat and 335 are outstanding, and you have the advantage of playing all the single coil style guitars with no hum or noise whatsoever. I have electric 12-strings, and my first impression was that the models were okay but not quite there, but I did have someone approach me after a show and ask me what kind of 12-string I'd been playing (he liked it). You'll find that the acoustic models are also very good, but you're not going to hear how good they are through a guitar amp. Just as with the real thing, you need a wider-range amp to reproduce them, and remember that they're designed to mimic a miked acoustic, not a real acoustic playing in air.
Last edited by dspellman at Mar 25, 2014,
Oh, one other quirk...
The Line 6 modeled the individual guitars very well, which means that the higher output humbucker guitars will be louder and the single coil guitars will have less output, just as they do in real life. Keep that in mind when switching between them. Judging them from a single amp setting won't do.
Thank you so much for the info. It made me feel more confident in my decision. SO I BOUGHT IT! Spent a couple hours tonight playing with all the various settings and had a blast. Like I said, I'm not an accomplished player, so I can't tell you if the sounds are comparable to the vintage models. What I can tell you is that the vast majority sound great and it was fun as hell trying them all out. I can't wait to get to work on the Line 6 Workbench software.

I think I got an insane deal. I feel a bit bad because it seemed like the guy was a little desperate, but im sure I'll get over it! I received the guitar, 2 batteries, the case, the charging station, the proprietary computer cord, and a 50 foot extended cord that can hook up the guitar to Line 6 PODs, etc. I think the extra battery and the cord are around $50 a piece.

I'll give an update after I get some time with her, but so far, so good!