Review: Line 6 Variax 700 Acoustic Modeling Guitar

You Gotta Try It To Believe It

In 1996, Line 6 began developing guitar effects using trend setting modeling technology. They created what became a huge hit in the original Pod, a kidney bean shaped device that modeled sought after guitar amps, effects and speaker cabinets. In 1994 they released the Variax 500 Modeling Guitar and later the upscale Variax 700. This review features the Variax 700 Acoustic Modeling Guitar.

Line 6 Acoustic Modeling Guitar

What's All the Fuss About?

In the fall of 2004 I read a review of the Line 6 Variax Acoustic 700. It was touted as a milestone in guitar development, able to "model" many different famous top of the line acoustic guitars.  The article bragged that it could sound like a 1941 Martin® 5-17 and 1946 000-28, a 1954 Gibson® J45® and 1951 SJ®-200, a 1973 Guild® F412, a Gibson Mastertone Banjo, a Dobro, Mandola, an Indian Sitar and a few others. 16 acoustic instruments in all!  I was getting excited but I still had that feeling like, "Oh yea? Prove it to me!". I knew the next thing I had to do was find one and try it out. I soon learned that this was not going to be easy. I tried out 5 of them before I found one that didn't have a flaw in it. Seems that Line 6, in it's haste to launch it's new wonder guitar, failed to get all the bugs out.  Finally, at Guitar Center in Nashville, Tennessee I found one that worked. And yes, thankfully, the wait was worth it. Read on to learn the good, the bad and the ugly about this intriguing instrument.

3 Toggle Switches

Take A Look Inside

The Line 6 VARIAX Acoustic 700 Modeling Guitar is a unique six-string acoustic electric guitar with a custom bridge, featuring a translucent carved cedar top over a mahogany body, a one-piece mahogany neck, and a very comfortable 24-fret rosewood fingerboard with deluxe pearl snowflake inlays. Playing it reminds me of how I used to feel playing my 1974 Les Paul Standard.

Oh yea! It has 16 sound models based on some of the best sounding guitars in guitar history including classic 6 and 12 string acoustic steel and nylon string guitars, resonators, a Dobro, and several exotic world plucked string instruments from Japan and India .

The piezo pickup on the VARIAX Acoustic 700 captures the vibrations of each individual string, and those signals are processed through the on board software algorithms that comprise the physical and acoustic properties of the modeled guitars. You can choose which model you want with an easy to reach model selector knob, which doubles as an access control to a set of on-board alternate tunings - a very handy feature for live performance, eliminating the need for multiple, separately tuned instruments on stage.

There is a 1/4" TRS analog out input, and a proprietary digital I/O connector you can use with the Line 6 Vetta (TM) modeling amplifier. The supplied direct box, to which the guitar connects to and uses as a power source, acts as an audio conduit so you can run your signal to a guitar amplifier via 1/4", and/or a mixing console or acoustic guitar amplifier via XLR.

The Variax 700's output can be sent directly to a PA system via the included direct box, a recording device, or any standard guitar amplifier. The sound can also be split and sent to two different sources. It's like having a studio full of fine acoustic instruments right at your finger tips.

Three sliders control the Line 6 Variax volume and the included compression feature. (See picture) Mic Position and Tone Shaping can also be controlled with another slider as well as individual string transposing allowing you the option of tuning the Variax in any imaginable combination of notes such as drop D, open chord or any altered tuning you can think of.

Here is a list of the acoustic instruments modeled by the Variax 700 1941 Martin® 5-17, 1946 Martin® 000-28,1960 Martin® D-21, 1954 Gibson® J45®, 1951 Gibson® SJ®-200, 1933 Selmer® Maccaferri, 1951 D'Angelico New Yorker, 1958 Manuel Velazquez, Guild® F412, 1935 Stella® Auditorium, 1939 National Reso-Phonic Style "O", 1937 Dobro® Model 27, Gibson® Mastertone, Mandola, Japanese Shamisen and Indian Sitar.

The Edge of U2 Playing His Variax 700

I have owned a Line 6 Variax 700 since February 2005. If you are considering purchasing one I thought you might like to hear the opinion of someone who has owned and used one for the last three years.

Here is the good, the bad and the ugly about this guitar. Where this gem really shines is in playing live. After I bought mine, I let a friend play it on stage through the house system so I could go out and listen. The acoustic parts sounded like the acoustic tracks on an Eagle's Album, beautiful. Test 1 passed, A+.

I next used it in the duo my wife and I have, performing for tourists here in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where we live. This guitar is so much fun to play. It sounds awesome, to begin with. But what is so cool are all the tools you have at your fingertips. One turn of the rotary dial and I've got a 12 string for the opening of Hotel California.

Another turn and I have an "old" acoustic sound for some early Robert Johnson blues tunes. Still another turn and I've got an altered tuning, dropped D or open E for slide. Where has this thing been all my life?

O.K., what about the bad and the ugly? Well, actually there isn't much bad or ugly. My only real complaints are when recording. The natural sounds are a little tinny going down but a little eq can fix that plus you can download the Workshop software to get the tones just like you want them.

My only other complaint is in the 12 string mode. The lower 4 strings are doubled like a real 12 string. But the high E and B strings are not. I don't quite understand how they could develop this amazing guitar but were unable to get a doubled sound for the 2 high strings. I called line 6 and asked them this question but they had no answer.

The only other bad thing actually turned out great. The first Variax I purchased turned out to be a proverbial lemon. Long story short, I had a lot of technical trouble with it. Eventually, Line 6 said they couldn't fix it and (here comes the great part) overnighted me a brand new one complete with new warranty. Needless to say I was ecstatic and very impressed.

I thought I had won the lottery because I really loved this guitar and I was getting a brand new one. With all the nightmare experiences most of us have had with companies who don't give a rip about you after the sale, I was not only happy to be getting my new Variax, I was also glad to have found a company that really cared about it's customers. I knew then and there that they had a customer for life in me.

I hope this review of the Line 6 Variax 700 Acoustic Modeling Guitar was helpful. If you want one try either Guitar Center or Sam Ash. The both carry Line 6 products. Any questions email me at russmediagroup@gmail.com. Good luck. Joe

Variax Workbench Software

Customize Your Variax 700

When you use the Variax® Workbench™, you have a complete list of guitar parts you can trade in and out. Have fun with it and create your own unique sounding guitar. Having Workbench, is just like having the greatest pickups, controls, and bodies of the best guitars available, right at your fingertips. 

The USB interface and software created just for the Variax family of guitars lets you see and hear the changes you make to your custom guitar in real time. Try  a humbucker pickup on a semi - hollowbody, Gibson 335 style guitar tuned downto Eb. Doing that was never before possible, but it is now. Hook it up and have a blast! 

 

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Comments 4 comments

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

good review I am send this link to my cousion


Joe Russ 7 years ago from Kill Devill Hills, NC Author

Thanks for visiting my page, Lgali, Glad you liked the review. This is an amazing guitar. I've had mine since 2005 and it is so versatile and so much fun to play.

Good luck to youJoe


Willoww 6 years ago

I just went to Guitar Center in California. They said they don't carry this guitar (the guy said he never even heard of it!). Then I called a store called Banana's At Large in Marin County CA, they said they don't carry them anymore because they had customers that had problems with them. They sound incredible are they really fragile or prone to problems because of all of the techno-sofware, etc? Can't even find one to try.


Riddek109 6 years ago

i owned one and it is worth buying especially if you are recording, i liked it most for a loop pedal because you have everything you need all in one, the only thing i was unsatisfied about was no built in reverb or tuner, you can put batteries in it, but the charge only last 2 hours, only good for an emergency i guess and it does have a virtual capo sounds ok as long as you drone out the strings but i like the regular capo vs the virtual one, alternate tunings are great, overall i got me another one and i found them used on guitar center, 1 for 450 the other for 500, and it is worth it, just get a descent acoustic amp and it will sound amazing you wont be dissapointed, the variax hooks up to a xt live but if you dont have the electric variax, its not worth buying, its better to buy workbench at your local guitar store it comes with the connector for your variax, for a 100 vs buying the xt live, hope this is helpful to anyone

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