Hands-On Review:The PODxt Live/Variax Connection
The PODxt Live/Variax Connection
Line 6 melds two brilliant technologies to streamline recording
By Sarah McEwan
Line 6's two hottest brain children--the PODxt Live and the Variax--are joined at the head to create a one-stop guitar or bass solution that makes recording a whole lot simpler, quicker, and more fun.
Dawn of an age
You probably know about the PODxt Live by now. Line 6 created it when they realized the POD amp and effects modeler was being used as much onstage as in the studio. Originally, the point of the PODxt Live was to make all the POD's many virtues available at the tap of a footbutton onstage. The Variax--Line 6's revolutionary modeling guitar--was just achieving wild popularity when the PODxt Live was on the drawing board. So Line 6 designed the PODxt Live's settings to actually control the models on the Variax, just as if the player were turning the selector knob on the guitar (or bass, in the case of the Bass PODxt Live).
This revolutionized what could be done with modeling onstage. Bringing only a single guitar, amp, and footpedal to the gig, a musician can be playing, say, what sounds like a '58 Les Paul Standard through a Fuzz Face, a '68 Super Lead, and a '67 - 4x12 Marshall cab. With a single touch of a footbutton, the same guitarist can instantly be playing what sounds like a '60 Tele Custom through a Vibratone and a '65 Blackface. And that, my friends, is cool.
Onstage in the studio
Though the PODxt Live was primarily created for live performance, combining it with the Variax creates awesome possibilities in the studio. When you're in an expensive pro studio on somebody else's dime, whether or not you get called back generally depends on how well the session went while you were there. Especially if you're dealing with a picky producer, it can save hours of headache to be able to crank through a lot of guitar and amp models without lugging out tons of equipment (especially if you don't own tons of equipment).
As always, proper preparation prevents poor performance. The approach I used was to sit down with my PODxt Live and my Variax and spend a few serious days pinpointing and creating patches that really work for me. Most of these were either already in the PODxt Live's 48 dedicated recording presets or were minor tweaks of these. You've got 64 spaces to save your own presets (plus 48 live performance presets). I ended up with 24 presets that cover pretty much every studio contingency I run into.
Playing in the studio is like any other gig--you have to have your act together now, not 20 minutes from now. So if you want to be the go-to studio ace on your block, having a giant stable of killer axes and amazing amps all available lickety-split really puts you in demand.
Even if you record alone in your basement, the ability to access a lot of options as quickly as you can punch a button might make the difference between another tune in the can or a frustrating night wasted searching for the right sounds. Unless you're one of those rare souls with a bulletproof muse, it's easy to find yourself totally uninspired to play by the time you've spent hours changing out gear chasing your tone.
So I recommend you do as I did--spend a few nights really getting to know your setup without trying to record. Then you'll be ready to blast through your handpicked, groomed presets for a truly rewarding recording session. The PODxt Live makes it easy with a direct Variax input that eliminates the need for a separate power source, a USB port for direct connection with your computer, headphones out for latency-free monitoring, mic simulation including various placements, MIDI I/O/thru for controlling the PODxt from sequencing software, left and right audio outs with level control, and aux input.
One of the great strengths of both the PODxt Live and the Variax is that when you select a preset, you're by no means stuck with the tone you've got. It is a vexing fact of recording that the tone you hear when you're playing is often slightly different when you listen back to the recording. Often this is just a result of the new musical context. Exaggerated highs on another instrument track, for example, could drown out the highs on your lead guitar track. So you need more treble. With the PODxt Live/Variax connection you can easily adjust that or any other parameter on the fly, either via the guitar or the PODxt Live, without affecting the other parameters. Each guitar model, amp model, and effect model is designed to behave like the original equipment being modeled. Typical amp controls on the PODxt Live and guitar controls on the Variax make it all come natural.
Having said all that, Line 6 obviously extensively tested each model in actual playing situations, not only through studio monitors. The guitar and amp models actually sound more realistic in context, whether onstage or in the studio.
Pick your poison
Whether you're connecting the Bass PODxt Live to the Variax Bass 700 or the PODxt Live to the Variax 300, 600, or 700 guitar, there is no question you're in for a superior studio experience. Even if you had all the vintage instruments, amps, and effects modeled by these combinations, there's no way you could have as smooth an experience using them in the studio. As always, Line 6 has thought it all through and worked it all out so you don't have to.
Features & Specs:
Variax Bass 700: