Line 6 Variax 500 modelling guitar (2003)
This guitar was my fortieth birthday present. We were in Melbourne for some reason and I went into Cranbourne Music to try it out, since there were none available in Tasmania at the time. Being a computer programmer I was interested in what it could do. I was keen on getting a black one to complement my Telecaster, but they only had a red one in store. It wasn’t as smooth to play as my Telecaster, having chunkier frets and a rounder neck profile, but the range of sounds available were amazing. They had a black one in their other store, but I decided to go home empty handed and think it over. It turned out that the black one came with a pearloid scratch plate which frankly looked horrible, so I soon decided to go with the guitar I had tried and had it shipped over from Melbourne soon after.
This is another Korean built guitar, the most unusual in my collection. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are no visible pickups. In fact there are individual pickups for each string in the bridge, so that the sound of each string can be modified individually by the built in computer. The computer software contains mappings between the input signals from the pickups and the relative outputs which would be generated by different classic guitars such as Fender Strats and Telecasters, Gibson Les Pauls, Rickenbackers and even acoustic guitars, banjos and sitars! This means that with a flick of a switch you can change your guitar from sounding like a 1970 Martin 12 string acoustic to a 1959 Strat.
In addition, you can hook the guitar up to a computer and create your own models by selecting body types, pickups and their positions and also retuning the guitar. I have models that give me open G tuning at the flick of a switch, or I can play with an acoustic tone with the lower string detuned by an octave to sound like I am accompanying myself on a bass.
The sounds aren’t exactly the same as the originals, but you can get an amazing range of sounds from a single instrument. You can read more about how it works on the Line 6 website.