Several years ago, Line 6, noted for its amp modeling and effects, decided to start modeling guitars as well as amplifiers and effects. This guitar, the Variax 500, was a game changer in many ways. The sounds were incredible. Unfortunately, the guitar itself was absolutely awful. I owned it, used, and recorded with it, but it was almost embarrassing to play live. Fortunately, the company has upped the ante with its new line of Variax models designed by famed luthier James Tyler, including the JTV-59, JTV-69, and JTV-89.
I got my hands on a new Variax JTV-89 recently, and I was incredibly impressed by this revised Variax. All of the shortcomings of the original Variax 500, Variax 600, and Variax 700 have been addressed with these new models. Each model has its own niche, with the JTV-59 and JTV-69 paying homage to the Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster respectively. The JTV-89 is a definitive “shredder-model” with a fast, flat neck and 24 jumbo frets. It also features (thankfully) two hot PAF-style humbuckers. This addition specifically addressed the lack of magnetic pickups in the original models, which gave the guitar a unique look, but limited its sonic options and was definitely a problem if you ran into issues with the Variax electronics.
The Variax JTV-89 plays like a shredder’s dream guitar, and the guitar models are better than ever. It also includes numerous alternate tunings that are shred-friendly. The L. R. Baggs Hex pickup system also offers bridge-based acoustic tones if needed. If needed, there’s also a Variax Digital Interface so you can join all your Line 6 gear together if you use other Line 6 gear. The JTV-89 is light years ahead of previous Variax models, and at a price that’s wallet-friendly.