Anyone Loving their Variax / JTV59 + Kemper Rig?

  • I picked up a JTV59 about a year ago hoping to find something to provide some flexibility in giving me good-to-great electric and acoustic tones, as I'm a utility infielder for a church band (electric lead & rhythm + acoustic).

    So far, the experience with the JTV59 has been very underwhelming, and I've only really users it for oddball stuff like a resonator, where the tone is close enough.

    My normal guitars are a PRS McCarty, Suhr SSH, Collings OM and Taylor T5. I'm thinking maybe my expectations for the JTV are too high, but if anyone out there is really happy with theirs, I'm open to suggestions :)

  • I own the JTV-59P and my honest opinion ... its P90 pickups and the build quality of the body is great!!! Would always use this for recording (or live).
    The guitar sim and the tuning switch is a handy feature for song writing only (no need to swap the guitars all the time and retune them to whatever fancy tuning). But as you already stated, the quality of the guitar sims is underwhelming, especially if you own and play other great guitars. ;)


  • I own a JTV - 69. The magn. pickup are quite OK.

    The models do not convince me so I do not use it in a live performance.
    The KPA can not make a better sound if the basic sound of the guitar is not as good.

  • I think the JTV ('69 in my case) acoustics are incredible when compared to the simulation competition. My hopes that I'd be able to avoid purchasing a real acoustic and all the dramas involved in trying to create an ideal, quiet space for mic'ing were realised when I first heard them. IMHO, for non-solo (exposed-and-serious) work, the JTV acoustics are a no-brainer. As a bonus, my "sensitive" fingers needn't be toughened up for the purpose of laying down acoustic parts. Overall, I'm very-happy.

    Haven't tried 'em through the Kemper yet. The original intention was to record them direct and process them ITB with EQ, compression and a little realistic space.

    I will however try them through a commercial pack aimed specifically at piezo-acoustic sources, but which the maker told me should also work well for "conventional" acoustic sounds. The vendor's one of the best-known out there, so it shouldn't be hard to find this pack if anyone's interested. I won't mention names lest the thread be moved to the commercial sub-forum.

  • I've got the Variax Standard. It's decent enough. I have a 58 Gibson Special and with a bit of tweaking in WorkBench I've managed to get the Variax to sound like a 60 year old vintage guitar. Not bad.

    The 58 Strat though, sounds nothing like my Custom Shop 58 Reissue Strat.

    I think with these you've got to think about the audience. Do I bring 3 guitars with me to play the songs and risk damage/theft, one guitar to play lots of different types of songs, getting by but not really achieving the tones I recorded the songs with, or one guitar that can kind of get somewhat close-ish the type of tones I want, while still having good tones with the right profile/preset with some tweaking?

  • I've got the Variax Standard. It's decent enough. I have a 58 Gibson Special and with a bit of tweaking in WorkBench I've managed to get the Variax to sound like a 60 year old vintage guitar. Not bad.

    The 58 Strat though, sounds nothing like my Custom Shop 58 Reissue Strat.

    Hey Phil, glad you're happy-enough with the standard.

    However, if you're referring to one of the 300 / 500 / 700 line, of which I'm very-familiar as I wrestled with and tweaked a 700 for 4 years in trying to get it to stay in tune, you may be shocked to hear the difference between the JTVs and the original series VariAxes.

    For one thing, that classic piezo "plink" was eliminated. It seemed to creep through to varying extents across all model presets.

    Also, both the acoustic and electric models improved drastically in their authenticity, both tone and playing-wise. If you're at all curious, I suggest you take a listen, mate.

  • Hey, @Monkey_Man

    I've got the most recent model. I like it for what it is. Its not the best guitar in the world and it's nowhere near my custom shop stuff, but it's a good guitar to test lots of sounds out. I hope they go the way of amp modelling/profiling and step it up.

  • I've had my JTV-59 for about four years now. It's the only axe I take to gigs, whether in a bar or in a church.

    I think the "Lester" down-switch model is GREAT, and a pretty close match to the magnetic pickups, too. I use the Tele and 12-string "Chime" models a lot. I like "Spank" on the "blue" up-switch model. I use the sitar on a Bon Jovi song, and the banjo on some of the worship songs (behind the leader's acoustic guitar) and for an occasional gag in a bar when I launch off into Dueling Banjos. I also wrote a custom mandolin-like tone that sees occasional use.

    I use the "Acoustic" down-switch model exclusively. I've had to teach myself how to play the JTV in a very particular way to achieve a passable acoustic tone. Basically, I move my picking hand way up over the neck pickup, and strum very, very lightly with a slightly exaggerated wrist motion. As long as I don't forget and start wailing on the strings, it works great. I sure wouldn't mind having a Taylor 300-series, but I get by.

    I make pretty extensive use of custom tunings and the virtual capo. I go to drop-D often at the bar gigs. I use 1/2-step down for a Garth Brooks song. I use DADGAD 1/2-step down for a Steven Curtis Chapman song called "Do Everything". I use open-G and a slide for ZZ Top's Tush. Now if I could only play slide guitar.....

    Having said all this, a few months ago I took my trusty Pre-2K American Tele with Duncan PAFs to a bar gig and tore into some favorite tunes (that's the guitar in my profile pic 2017-09-02). I could immediately tell the tonal difference between the real thing and the Variax emulation. It wasn't a HORRIBLE difference, but there was some special sauce that's missing when you use the models.

  • I agree with Timtrace. I have a JTV 59 which I use at all my gigs. However, it's not the only guitar I take. Interesting as the acoustic models are, I can't get a really good sound from them in a band situation so I use my Takamine for acoustic stuff.
    I own a 1990 ish Japanese 1957 reissue Strat. Despite this guitar being all stock hardware, the Spank models just don't have the ummph that guitar delivers,
    Finally, I have also noticed a slight hiss in the signal when using the Variax models, especially through headphones. This is not enough to stop me using it, it is a great guitar to use in a covers setting, but I assume that the hiss is produced by the CPU on board the guitar. Still love it though!

  • I love mine. I prefer the real pickups over the models and only use them if I play in different tunings or need a specific sound for certain songs. Having the tuning options alone saves me from taking 6 extra guitars to a gig. The Strat tones wasn't to my liking until I tweaked them a bit.

  • I still have my JTV 69 but use it only as back up guitar or in the big band. (depending on the styles we play - the real PU's are not so aggressive and rocky as a Strat or a Tele.)
    The models do not convince me so much.
    The transposing function is great but when the basic sound is not so good - it does not help.
    Since I have the Kemper I feel the difference in sound quality much more than before.
    But anyway - it is versatile in a cover band and is not really bad in the mix.

    The better one is the enimy of the good.