Hands-On Review:Line 6 Variax 700 Acoustic
Line 6 Variax 700 Acoustic
Your transport to acoustic utopia.By Victor Thompson
The acoustic guitar has a unique cachet that is undeniable, even to the most ardent electric advocates. It's a testament to the acoustic experience that 60 years after the popularization of the electric guitar, the acoustic hasn't disappeared. In recent years, especially, it has fought back mightily with dozens of new manufacturers springing up to craft fine acoustic instruments. Of course, none of this magically removes the original problems that led to the invention of the electric. Feedback can still be a killer, and getting your instrument's sound amplified properly takes a high-quality pickup system plus a whole rack of electronic equipment.
No matter what technique you use, a mahogany-bodied, solid spruce-topped, steel string dreadnought cannot sound like a cedar-topped nylon-string classical guitar. It just isn't happening. It can even be tough to get two acoustics that are moderately similar to mimic one another without some serious EQing.
For a lot of players, their love of the acoustic extends well beyond the standard six-string dreadnought. What about a classy jazz archtop? Get ready to shell out some serious cash. All revved up over resonators? They aren't cheap, either. Looking to get in your banjo licks? That's a whole other animal with its own unique learning curve. If you're interested in playing alternately tuned guitars for a different sound, then you've either got to get real quick with your tuning changes or buy multiple guitars and keep them all separately tuned for the occasions that you need them.
Instant acoustic epiphany
You can end up spending a lot of cash and time assembling your own private all-star acoustic lineup, and for many players there's simply not enough of either to accomplish the goal. But if you've got an open mind and can accept a helping hand from good old-fashioned American technology, Line 6 can help make that dream a reality. Just as the POD gave new-found freedom to amp and effects coveters, and the Variax was practically an electric guitar orgy, the Variax 700 Acoustic brings the Line 6 experience to acoustic players. There are models based such disparate instruments as a 1941 Martin 5-17 parlor guitar, a 1951 D'Angelico New Yorker, a 1958 Manuel Velasquez Classical, or a 1937 Dobro Model 37 for example. All in one very smart instrument with a comfortable feel.
Line 6 also included models for different tunings that sound impossibly realistic. You can choose between open D, A, or E; DADGAD; low G; high G; drop D; and E and A down one octave at the flick of a switch. A virtual capo function gives you the freedom to move your guitar up a fifth or down an entire octave, and you can apply these alternate tunings or the capo function to separate strings on the guitar. If you customize any of the settings, you don't have to worry about remembering them, because the Variax will let you enter your own presets for specific guitars in specific tunings.
As usual, you can count on Line 6 to use only the absolute best instruments and methods for producing their models. For all the instruments included with the Variax Acoustic
, Line 6 used multiple microphone angles to ensure every distinct timbre and nuance of the sample instrument's voice was captured. Not only does this provide you with absolutely incredible sounds at the twist of a knob, but Line 6 also included the capability to move the microphone placement according to your preference. You can dial up a guitar with the mic right over the soundhole or slide it back toward the bridge for more punch. Want just the body resonance? You can also dial that in. It's that easy, and sounds completely killer in practice, too.
A natural performer
With a smallish, thin body reminiscent of a Chet Atkins SST, the Variax 700 Acoustic
is designed to fit your arms and fingers for the ultimate in playability. There's plenty of room for you to get comfortable for serious picking. The bass-side lower bout doesn't restrict your right arm motion in the slightest, while the cutaway on the treble side features a sweep design that's attractive and functional. Besides the distinctive body shape and size, there are a few other physical features that set the Variax apart. My personal favorite is the cedar top. Not only does cedar provide a clear, resonant voice for the guitar, the red-toned wood also brings a unique appearance. Another individuality is the soft oval shape of the soundhole and rosette.
Performing with amplification is a dicey area for acoustic guitarists-you always have to make compromises in order to be heard. The frequencies that make the guitar sound full and natural are usually the ones that have to be cut to avoid feedback. And the use of a microphone, normally the best way to capture the real sound of an acoustic instrument, is tough to accommodate in most settings. With the Variax Acoustic you have access to the sounds of the most desirable acoustic guitars in history with phenomenal feedback resistance, and you can position the modeled mic to tailor the sound to your needs. Play as loud as you want, dial in compression to be heard over the din of a full band, and stand right in front of the monitor with no feedback problems.
The Variax Acoustic works even greater wonders in recording. Its signal output can go straight to the board without running through a single preamp or processor and you'll never need to set foot in another isolation booth. Getting the correct mic placement is as easy as pushing a button and sliding a fader. You can record delicate acoustic parts without worrying about crying babies, roaring Harleys, or quarreling neighbors. Suffice it to say, your acoustic blues are cured.
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