Hands-On Review:Line 6 Vetta II & Variax Combo
Line 6 Vetta II & Variax Combo
A thing of beauty... the ultimate guitar tone and amplification systemBy Josh Farens
Those guys at Line 6 never sleep. A year ago when they came out with the original Vetta, we all declared it the guitar-amp-to-end-all-guitar-amps. Nothing, we thought, could top this ultimate modeler. Well, something has. After a lot of obvious hard work, Line 6 has now popped the Vetta II
on us, and again I am blown away.
The Vetta II trumps the original Vetta in the usual "more and bigger" ways: more amp models, more stomp boxes, more presets, and plenty of power. It also has a number of qualitative improvements: improved models across the board and a number of new Line 6 models that are bad to the bone. Contributing to its overall sound is a power section that gives better performance beyond its pumped-up wattage. Perhaps the biggest difference is in connectivity, which I will explain shortly.
One's first face-to-face meeting with the Vetta II can be intimidating. It hits you with a lot of lights (some of them flashing), two screens, and numerous buttons. Though scary at first, the lights and controls quickly become meaningful, and once you get the hang of them, they are easy, fast, and make perfect sense. The manual walks you through it all in a few pages.
Nothing, however, makes the Vetta II weigh any less. This is no wimp amp. To put it nicely, it's substantial. Its heaviness, however, is actually a major plus-the result of a stoutly built cab, two 12" Celestions with beefy magnets, and what must be a load of circuitry.
Vetta II has 150 watts of stereo power (2 x 75). With this much power it can drive the two Celestion 12s at mega volume with ease. It's a monster "fourth" stack, and you can add extra cabs to make it a full stack or two separate half stacks, each powered by different amp models. They can be played simultaneously or you can toggle between them. If anything, the Vetta II is flexible.
One good thing about all this muscle and its stout build is that the Vetta II can truly have the physical presence and volume of the Marshalls and Soldanos it models. It can sound like them and feel like them. I've always wondered about the sense of putting powerhouse amp models in a smaller, lower-wattage amp. You'll get good sound in the living room, but in a big room and cranked, it just won't cut it. The Vetta II will.
I gave it the volume test by setting it up on my back porch and treating the neighborhood briefly to my version of Woodstock. Believe me, this sucker can get loud and sounds great when cranked. The loudest, meanest rock or metal will be no problem. It is designed and constructed for professionals playing on big concert stages, and I'm sure it will be used. It also sounds fantastic at lower volumes (which is not true of a number of the vintage tube amps it models). It also is professionally equipped for studio use, analog or digital, with stereo balanced direct outs, AES/EBU in and out, and S/PDIF, so it is perfect for the studio too. Miking options are also included in the models.
The most important thing about any amp is its tone. My main consideration as I went through the presets was to judge if they truly captured the essential character of the amp each used by switching off the effects and listening to the naked amp. While I didn't have the various amps to make head-to-head comparisons with, many of them are familiar to me and I was impressed. The models are incredibly convincing. In addition to classic models, there are two dozen amp models that are exclusive Line 6 originals. It's like having a treasure chest of never-before-heard monster tube amps at your disposal. With 73 amp models in total (including all the new tones from Line 6's acclaimed HD147), there's plenty to choose from to find your own tone. The Line 6 people I talked to stressed that they had upgraded their modeling to a new level, and I definitely could hear it in the amp sounds, the stompbox sounds, and the studio effects. I especially liked the quality of the chorus and the reverbs are really nice too. Studio grade all the way.
Before those of you who already own an original Vetta get yanked out of shape that your amp has been surpassed, I should mention that all of the sounds and models of the Vetta II are available to you, and it's free! You can download the Vetta II software at line6.com.
One especially notable feature of the Vetta II is its two-amps-in-one feature. It lets you choose two entirely different amps and run each of them at full power, either blended together for really unique and powerful effects, or completely independently with each going to a separate cab. For an even bigger sound, kick in the Double Tracker. This handy feature can automatically tweak subtle pitch, timing, and dynamics variations between the two amps with every note you play, re-creating live the sound of double tracking in the studio.
The Right Connections
The Vetta II has all the connections you could want for about any application, but there's a new kind of connection that warrants highlighting. It's an 8-pin computer-type connection. There's one for the Variax 700 guitar, set into an XLR-type plug-in to prevent damage if you pull on your cord too hard, and another standard-type for the FBV foot controller. These are in addition to the standard inputs.
When I was given the Vetta II to try out, I was also given the FBV foot controller and a Variax 700 guitar. These two pieces aren't essential for Vetta II operation, but when used, they expand the possibilities of the Vetta II significantly. For one, the Variax 700 adds its guitar models to the realm of choices you get from the Vetta. It also gives you a totally digital signal from the guitar bridge all the way through the amp until the signal goes to the speakers. The setup is unbelievably quiet and, since there are no magnetics, completely free of pickup hum. With the foot controller connected, all the switching of the Vetta and the Variax 700
can be performed from the floor. You can switch instantly between a crystal-clear acoustic, to a model of a Les Paul through a Marshall stack. This setup is truly the ultimate in flexibility and control.
It's off the point, but I'd like to say a few words about the Variax 700. It is a really nicely made, wonderfully playable guitar. I also really like its looks. The design is vintage in character but uniquely its own. I'm a sucker for a nice-looking guitar, and the Variax 700 qualifies in my book as a beauty. I can see a lot of players choosing it for its coolness, apart from its great modeling features and its integration with Vetta II.
Line 6 Edit
Another cool feature of the Vetta II is editing via computer. This software (called Line 6 Edit) has just been released, and I was given a preview of it by Line 6. Editing on the Vetta itself is easy enough, but when you connect the amp to your computer (via a MIDI to USB interface), you get to see the entire signal chain all at once in a clear graphic representation.
If you want to change the routing, all you have to do is click on a stomp box or whatever and drag-and-drop it into a new position in the chain. The graphic interface is well designed and makes the signal chain very clear and easy to understand. You also make these changes in real time so you can immediately hear how the change actually sounds. For those who don't know what it means to put one effect before another, or arrange things parallel or in series, the Vetta II will teach them all the nuances very quickly. The software for this feature is just out and available on tonetransfer.com, along with thousands of preset tones of songs and artists that can be downloaded directly to your Vetta II.
I haven't gone into much detail about the Vetta II's models, effects, and presets. If you are interested in finding out more, I suggest you go to the Line 6 website. They have extensive information on the Vetta II. I do hope I have sufficiently conveyed how exciting I found the Vetta II to be.
If you're a gear hound, the Vetta II will let you play all day on every amp you've ever dreamed of owning, and every stompbox or rack effect. If you're in a band that plays a lot of covers, the Vetta II will give you the right sound for every song. If you're mostly into recording, the Vetta II is fully equipped to facilitate the process and lets you choose the amps, effects, and setups for sounds that will make your music distinctive and high quality. If you've gone power mad and have stacks of speakers to drive, the Vetta II is also available in a head version with all the same features and 300W of power. In short, this amp is a thing of beauty, and Line 6 should be very proud.
Features & Specs:
|Vetta II Combo||Variax 700 Guitar|
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