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James Tyler Variax (JTV-59) Amateur Review

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  • James Tyler Variax (JTV-59) Amateur Review

    Well guys, this is my first post...so go easy...

    Now for a quick back-story...

    I received my Line 6 JTV-59 Tobacco Sunburst around January 7th after pre-ordering in November. I purchased the guitar in anticipation of our annual youth retreat that my wife and I lead worship at, mainly because I am the only guitarist and the song choices required swapping between acoustic and electric quite often. I've never been a fan of "acoustic simulator" pedals and had originally considered putting together an LP style guitar to include dual humbuckers (with coil taps) and a piezo bridge for some passable acoustic tones. However, as I was clicking through the Line 6 website to re-download the manual for my POD X3L for the millionth time I came across a forum post regarding this new guitar. After reviewing all the options that this guitar provided and checking the cost...here's how I thought my value would appear...

    Total Cost ($1,300) = Base Guitar ($1,000) + Guitar Models ($300)

    After playing this however...my value actually came through as...

    Total Cost ($1,300) = Base Guitar ($1,500) + Models ($12,000)

    Now I know some of you will automatically discard my enthusiasm, and I understand completely, so I encourage you to try out this guitar yourself when it becomes more widely available.

    The Base Guitar:

    Here's the highlights:
    • Flat Action
    • Dead-on intonation
    • Nicely filed frets
    • Stable tuners
    • Incredible neck joint sculpting (Must be experienced!)
    • Great tone

    The base guitar is a James Tyler designed, single-cut, set neck, LP-style guitar. I won't bore you with the specs other than it's a mahogany body with maple top sporting Gotoh style tuners and a Graph-Tech nut.

    I fell in love with this guitar the minute I picked it up. I'm a fan of heavy, solid body guitars and this thing delivers. It's quite a bit heavier than my Epiphone Les Paul Custom, so if you're not into heavy guitars you might want to try the JTV-69 (Strat style) or the JTV-89 (Ibanez/Jackson style).

    This guitar plays like a dream thanks to the flat action, smooth frets and the sculpted neck heel. I've never played a guitar with a sculpted neck quite like this one. Where most LP-style guitars have adequate clearance for the bottom strings, I have no problems soloing up to the 22 fret even on the low E string.

    The tone of this guitar is much better than I would have expected. The combination of the guitar body and the pickups give this guitar a clarity that I love. My previous main guitar was an Epiphone Les Paul Custom with a Duncan Custom pickup in the bridge and a Duncan '59 in the neck position. While this guitar sounds tonally similar, it's almost like the difference in switching from a regular television to HDTV. I don't really know how to describe it other than you retain the warmth and the bite but with added clarity.

    The Models:

    Wow, where to begin...the Les Pauls? The Strats? The Telecasters?

    Again, I realize that there are purists out there that will never accept a modeled guitar over an authentic one, but the tones this guitar can produce is nothing short of amazing.

    The first thing I would suggest you do when you get your hands on one is to flip over to the R'Billy position and test out the Model of the Gretsch 6120. To hit a chord and hear the body resonation coming out of the amplifier will bring a big smile to your face. I don't know how they do it, but it's incredible.

    After you get over the initial shock of the 6120, flip over to the Acoustic Models. I used the Martin D-28 model quite extensively while at the youth conference and felt that it sounded even better than my Takamine EF341SC acoustic-electric when amplified. The Gibson J-200 model is extremely nice, if a bit boomy for live use and the 12-string models are quite convincing (although there is a bit of pitch warble if you hit a set of harmonics and let them ring).

    I won't bother to go into the rest of the models other than to say that they all sound amazing. While I don't have pictures to put up right now, you can always visit Line 6's website for pics and sound clips.

    Virtual Capo and Alternate Tunings:

    Ever needed to swap between standard tuning and drop-D during a set? How about from drop-D distorted electric to DADGAD acoustic in the same song? Well, you can with this guitar!

    I won't go into great detail because there's plenty of videos on YouTube already, but believe me when I say that it's almost unbelievable. The sound you hear coming out of your amp will astonish you when you swap from standard tuning to drop-D to DADGAD to a virtual 4th position capo and then to Baritone all with the flick of a knob. The best thing about the implementation of the virtual capo on this guitar is that you can create and save custom tunings on the fly, simply by pressing a knob, playing the notes you want to change to (using 12th fret as virtual nut) and then pressing the knob to save. It's almost literally that easy.

    The Cons:

    There was a problem with the initial shipment of JTV-59s that came out due to a shipment of bad 3-way switches which would cause you to not be able to swap models on some guitars. My guitar experiences this occasionally and I have received an RA number to ship it back to Line 6 for repair. Thankfully there were no problems during the youth retreat and I could have always used the magnetic pickups if needed, but it's still a bit depressing to have to send a guitar this nice back for repair. Hopefully this issue will not occur again on future shipments of guitars.


    This guitar was a great surprise to me. I've tried Variax guitars in the past (300, 500, 700) and was not all that impressed with the models. This newest version (with improved processing) however would probably cause even the most hardcore purist to stumble when doing A/B sound tests.

    If you use multiple guitars for your sets or would like to experiment with different guitars while song writing, I highly recommend checking out the JTV series from Line 6.

  • #2
    Virtual capo question. I'm assuming instead of acting like a capo it actually just raises all th pitches is this correct? Say I'm playing a real guitar (note the slight) and I put a capo on the second fret and am playing in A (so G chords). If I want to throw a minor 2nd chord (Bm) I could slide up to the 7th fret and bar

    But with a virtual capo i would think I would need to play:

    Am I right? So it's more accurately a Transpose than a capo?
    I need pictures of your drummer in his booth/cage/room http://drummersbehindglass.com


    • #3
      Originally posted by travisvwright View Post
      Virtual capo question. I'm assuming instead of acting like a capo it actually just raises all th pitches is this correct?
      You are correct, it works just like the transpose function on a keyboard...but "Virtual Transpose" just doesn't sound as cool as "Virtual Capo"...

      Basically it digitally changes the pitch of each modeled string based on your programming (no effect on the magnetic pickups)...so if you use the "Virtual Capo" to move you up a whole step, even though you're playing a standard G chord as 320003, it sounds like you're playing an A chord. If you play the same G chord and use the "Virtual Capo" to move you down a whole step it sounds like you're playing an F. In fact, if you want to take a new approach to playing a guitar solo harmonized in 5ths you can (assuming you're using a Line 6 dual chain device) route the magnetic pickups through one amp chain and then a guitar model that has been digitally transposed up a 5th to a separate amp chain with a single Variax cable.

      Speaking of that...there are lots of neat things you can do by splitting out the models and magnetic pickups that I didn't touch on earlier. If you have a Line 6 device with Variax input you can do lots of cool things (assuming a dual chain capable Line 6 device with Variax input...Vetta II, POD X3, POD HD, etc.):
      • Want to run two separate guitars through 2 amp chains? Route your Variax model through one amp chain on the Line 6 device then route the magnetic pickups through a separate chain using a single Variax cable. (Example: Martin 12 string model direct out to the PA and the magnetic pickups through a Marshall JCM800 model...or how about a Banjo through a tube preamp out to the PA and the magnetic pickups through a Soldano model?)
      • Want to run two separate guitars through 3 amp chains? Route your Variax model through two separate amp chains on the Line 6 device via the Variax cable, then run the magnetic pickups through a separate amplifier or device via the 1/4" jack. Example: A Strat model through a JCM800 model panned hard left and a Bogner Uberschall model panned hard right with the magnetic pickups run to your spare Mesa Dual rectifier half-stack sitting in the corner of your bedroom
      • Have an extra Line 6 device and want to run two separate guitars through 4 amp chains?....well, you get the picture...

      Anyway, hope this info helps...


      • #4
        Sounds great. I had a '77 Ibanez 2618 arrive yesterday, so i won't be buying a new electric for a while, but when I do I'll consider these. Tyler only recieves high praise for his work and from what I've heard this is an incredibe guitar even without any of the modeling.
        I need pictures of your drummer in his booth/cage/room http://drummersbehindglass.com


        • #5
          I can't believe I never saw this. Sorry for the resurrection.

          I am hoping to get my paws on a used JTV-69 (that sunburst just makes me wanna play it...)

          I say used because I know someone will hate the modeling, and I'll get it way cheaper. Absolutely cannot wait.