The Line 6 Variax 700, released in 2004, brought a carved ash top and translucent finishes to the popular series of modeling guitars.
Some of us make gear, some of us play it, and in our case, some of us work at a media company that aims to keep everyone informed. That’s why we facilitate this discussion every month. There are certain conversations that need to take place just between us gearheads.
We thought it made a lot of sense to get a dialogue going between you, the Premier Guitar reader, and the engineers at Line 6. The company is best known for its significant contributions within the realm of digital modeling. Based out of Calabasas, CA, Line 6’s gear offerings cover the gamut, ranging from guitars to pedals to amps to wireless systems and more. It is the POD, of course, that paved the way for many of the company’s product lines. Still going strong after first hitting the market more than 10 years ago, the POD’s ability to give guitarists easy access to a slew of amp models and effects, all within a highly-portable kidney bean-shaped device, changed the way many hobbyists and professionals approach tone.
We remember a day when many players scoffed at the idea of 1s and 0s being practical ingredients for shaping tone. Those purists are decreasing in number, though. It’s just too easy to make good use of digital technology, whether it’s via an amp chock full o’ tones, an amazingly versatile pedal, post-production tweaking in a DAW, dialing in settings onboard your guitar or lining up tonal combinations for an entire gig within a single floor unit.
Although a certain part of the gear industry will always believe that technology and evolution are bad things, the other part of the industry continues to move forward. Quite frankly, this seems an opportune time to put Line 6 in the “Go Ahead and Ask” hot seat. Following are the questions you submitted (selected by our editors from a pool of online submissions) and the answers from the gearheads over at Line 6.
1. Do you guys have a glorious stash of gear that all your models are based on? Can I enter this chamber and play around? Please?
Yes, we have a pretty awesome collection of amps and effects units that our sound engineers base their modeling on. A favorite amp of ours is a 1953 Fender Wide Panel Deluxe that we call “Julia.” If you are ever in Calabasas, CA, come by and we’ll tell you the story.
2. I’m a huge fan of the Variax guitars and basses. I’m wondering if there are any plans to create new, updated versions of those instruments?
We have just checked with our attorneys, and we can’t say anything about unreleased products.
3. With all the developments in modeling technology by other companies, what do you guys have planned to take things to the next level?
As pioneers in this space, we like to think we are continually pushing the limits on what our gear can do and what we deliver to our customers. We are continually refining and developing our amp and effects modeling to deliver more than what the competition does. The most recent examples are a free software update we just released for POD X3, which includes 12 new effects, including a Vocoder (because the POD X3 Live has a mic input, how cool). We’ve also recently introduced Spider IV and Spider Valve MK II amp lines, which in addition to offering 16 amp models, up to 4 Smart FX simultaneously, and hundreds of presets, has our new Smart Harmony effect that can perform diatonic harmony for any root note (A through G#) from a unison to a ninth interval above or below the root note. You’ll definitely want to check that out.
4. Does Line 6 intend to pull people away from analog effects and tube amplifiers over time, or is the intent to focus on selling better and more gear to players who are already fans of digital and modeling equipment?
The answer is not either/or. There are a lot of players who are immediately drawn to digital modeling for the ability to have access to a vast array of authentic-sounding tones and effects. Then there are those who reluctantly come around when they are exposed to our digital modeling through friends and fellow players and are surprised by the quality of the modeling and convenience and flexibility of our gear. These are people who don’t believe it until they see it, and we hope to expose as many of these people to our gear as possible.
5. Many of us feel that amp emulation is the future of electric guitar, but that it isn’t 100 percent there yet. When do you think amp emulation will be so good that even the old-timers will give it their stamp of approval, and what will it take to get there?
At Line 6, we recognize that tone is subjective, and the gear you use to get your tone is a personal choice. In other words, nothing is right for everyone, but we are never content with ourselves and are always striving to improve our gear to make it as appealing to as many players as possible. We are overwhelmed by the number of players who rely on Line 6 gear across all genres, ages and levels—from amateur players we see on YouTube to touring pros like Brad Paisley, Trent Reznor and The Edge—to get the tone they want.
6. I’m wondering if it is possible to combine a Variax, an X3, a Backtrack, and a Relay into one single monstrous, cohesive system of gear (to go with my own amp of choice)? Are you guys working on this?
Hmmmm… a guitar that models everything, captures everything and then transmits everything wirelessly to an amp. That sounds cool. We’ll call it the GuiPODiaX3TrackLay. We’re going to get right on it.
7. Are there any plans for a lower-wattage version of the Bogner Spider amps? Many people do not need a full 40 or 100 watts, but a 15-watt, affordable version with maybe a 2x10 cab would be awesome.
The Spider Valve Mk II is our newest version of the Line 6 partnership with Bogner, which combines Line 6 digital modeling and Bogner tube design. The great thing about these amps is that because of the modeling and tube design, they sound great even without pushing the tubes. For these amps you don’t need a lower wattage to get a great sound at a lower volume.
8. Do you plan on releasing just the Variax guitar hardware sometime in the future, so players can just install it in the guitar of their choice?
Wow, you guys are really into the Variax. We really wish we could say something, but we can’t.
9. What is the reason your Spider series comes without a Variax direct digital input?
In order to keep our Spider amps as affordable as possible, sometimes we have to make tough decisions about what features to include and exclude. This is a feature we have included on some of our higher-end—and more expensive— gear, but felt it was a smart trade-off to make in order to keep the Spider amps priced in a range where the most people could afford them.
10. Are you going to release new Variax models include 24 frets and an advanced tremolo system?
All right, we get the picture… you guys want a new Variax. Well we’re about to announce something that has been in the works for several years, and it is going to make you very happy. Check Line6.com for updates.
Next month: For next month’s “Go Ahead and Ask,” head online to premierguitar.com/goaheadandask and let us know what questions you’d like to ask Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars.