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December 2014
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Line 6 JTV-59 Variax Electric Guitar Review

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Line 6 JTV-59 Variax Electric Guitar Review







Line 6 has evolved considerably since the release of their first product—the AxSys 212 amplifier—in 1996. Even though the AxSys proved popular, it was the POD that really launched their name into the stratosphere. It wasn’t the first amp emulator, but none quite had the massive impact on the industry like that little red bean did.

The company has exploded in the past decade, capturing the attention of countless musicians and recording enthusiasts with their updated POD models, Vetta amplifiers, and Variax modeling guitars. Recently, they teamed up with noted luthier James Tyler to build several new guitars with Variax circuitry but new body styles, neck shapes, and pickup compliments. The JTV-59 is among these new models.

Varia-tions of Tone
Line 6’s versatile Variax has always had the same attractive, well-balanced body since its introduction. This James Tyler design, however takes obvious inspiration from Gibson’s 1959 Les Paul Standard. The body is comprised of a three-piece mahogany back with a two-piece carved flame maple top, along with a 24 9/16” scale mahogany set neck capped with a rosewood fingerboard. The entire guitar weighed in at just a hair shy of eight pounds, and is very well balanced.

A high standard for build quality is evident everywhere on the guitar. Fretwork was spot on, with smooth and perfectly rounded edges. The neck heel is sculpted and highly contoured, though there’s plenty hold on for deep bends beyond the 12th fret.

The Variax was originally designed to model a multitude of famous guitars, so traditional magnetic pickups weren’t used on the original models. But in response to demands from players, Line 6 and James Tyler decided to add them into the new Variax models, so players can switch between magnetic pickups and the Variax’s emulated models. On the JTV-59, two PAF-style humbuckers are controlled with a traditional three-way switching system and volume and tone knobs. The other two knobs on the body are for activating the Variax’s modeling circuits and controlling the model and tuning models. Also, when in Variax mode, the 3-way, volume and tone knobs are also encoders that control parameters in the modeled guitar. There’s also a custom-designed Tyler stop tail bridge and saddle combo, which houses an L.R. Baggs Radiance Hex piezo pickup system for the Variax modeling circuits.

The original Variax guitars gave players a ton of flavors to work with, but the models in the JTV-59 and the sounds of the magnetic pickups could keep the most obsessive tone collector probing the possibilities of these guitars for hours on end.

On the side of the body you’ll find a ¼” jack for plugging in a ¼” cable and sending the magnetics and models into an amp, and a specially-designed RJ-45 jack for connecting to compatible Line 6 hardware, such as POD and Variax Workbench. The ¼” is also a TRS cable for hooking up to the optional direct box that is also an A/B switch so you can send your electric models to your amp and your acoustic guitar models directly to the sound board.

One of the coolest features on the new Tyler Variax models is Line 6’s free Workbench software, which you can use to virtually design your own guitar from the ground up—including the body wood and shape, pickups and pickup placement, and pretty much any other factor that ultimately affects a guitar’s tone. Once you’re satisfied with your custom model, you can save it in either of the two custom slots in the JTV-59, and it can be accessed up by a simple turn of the guitar’s MODEL control. You can also change and save every model in all 10 model positions.

The JTV-59 contains the entire up-to-date compliment of Line 6’s guitar emulations. There are a total of 28 emulated instruments, ranging from golden-era Gibson and Fender electrics and acoustics, to Rickenbackers, Gretschs, and Martins. There’s even some specialty instruments including a Coral Sitar, Gibson Mastertone Banjo, and a 1928 National Tricone resonator. The Variax circuits are powered by a removable lithium ion battery, which holds a maximum charge of 12 hours of play time.

In addition to the JTV-59’s impressive array of instruments, the guitar also has 11 alternate tuning options that can be used with any of the selected instruments via the Alternate Tuning knob on the body’s top. Want to apply a baritone tuning to the banjo model? An open D tuning to one of the Gretsch models for some down home Delta blues slide work? With a simple flick of the tuning knob, this is entirely possible. You can even make your own custom tunings and replace any of the tuning banks—except for the Standard tuning one—with your own custom tunings on the fly without hooking up to a computer.
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