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282 Posts

Posted - 05/11/2005 :  11:40:30  Show Profile
Anyone have any experience with these?


I am thinking about retrofitting (rout and install) the piezo version on my Variax 300 body.

Comments or suggestions?


Edited by - Dag6 on 05/13/2005 16:22:56


268 Posts

Posted - 05/12/2005 :  07:00:20  Show Profile
This Tremolo is another variation on the fender strat type, and requires a full strat type trem body route. BTW-I tried this Point Trem in the 80's, and found it no better than any other knife edge fullcrum design.

The problem is the V300 locates the DSP PC board electronics under the pickguard in an existing deep route which occupies the same space where the trem springs would go. Relocate the DSP board.

Edited by - stevek on 05/14/2005 17:19:01
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884 Posts

Posted - 05/12/2005 :  13:04:43  Show Profile  Visit darc's Homepage
In light of Steve's points, you'd have to be *really* in love with your V300 body to justify the work involved. I think you'd have a much easier time finding an affordable trem-equipped guitar you like, and doing a retrofit w/ the Variax electronics. And you'd probably wind up with a superior guitar in the process.
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282 Posts

Posted - 05/12/2005 :  16:24:26  Show Profile
Thanks guys, I really appreciate your input.

I am certainly not in love with the 300 Agathis body...

However, this is what I mentioned to Ernie and company on another thread, "all" I want is:

1) a high quality neck and fretboard. The 700 is still a possibility but I had my sights on a custom Warmoth compound radius to my specs.
2) a high quality trem. The 700 is marginal (noisy with tuning issues...)

- Warmoth currently doesn't do 300 bodies OR trems
- CST and Miller seem way too busy and expensive for a custom ax.
- I would "like" to have high quality mag pups also...
- I don't mind butchering the cheap guitar but would be more hesitant with the 700.
- I love the VariFly but it is a bit pricey and Nathan used 500 guts and removed the mag pups.

So I was just looking into the possibility of "experimenting" with that beautiful 300 body... route the sh## out of it by putting in a trem and possibly mag pups by moving the existing 300 housing (the 5 way is too close to the strumming area for my taste anyway).

But, alas, poor Yorich, the trem cavity may be the show stopper. Isn't there an issue with most trems (kahler, rose, etc.) that won't allow putting the Variax bridge saddles on them and no piezo wire holes?
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Posted - 05/13/2005 :  08:09:37  Show Profile  Visit darc's Homepage
Well, I still think you're looking at considerable expense to get the 300 to work right, and the plot really thickens if you consider routing and wiring for mag pickups as well. Here again, you would win by settling on a guitar that already had mag pickups installed.

There was another thread about a guy who was eBaying Fender Squire conversions - his work might give you some ideas. He claimed the bridge could be modified to use Variax saddles w/ relative ease. I'd also look into any and all affordable trem guitars with piezos. Import Parkers have been recommended (if you can't sink the money into a Nitefly for instance), and there are probably a few low-cost Godin's that would make fine hosts as well.

Not sure what your luthiery skills are like, or whether you're looking for a hobbyist's project vs a practical solution, but when you start routing for pickups and a fundamentally different bridge, wiring for said pickups, swapping out a neck... Well, a lot of issues will arise, and in the end there won't be much left of your original 300 anyway.

Edited by - darc on 05/13/2005 08:10:52
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282 Posts

Posted - 05/13/2005 :  10:34:37  Show Profile
Thanks for the detailed response, darc.

My "luthiery" skills suck (like my rusty chops )but I'm doing this project with a good friend who has a fair amount of luthier experience, routers, etc. We are doing this for fun but would like to produce a nice playing trem Variax.

I have read extensively about the other conversion projects (Squire, SG, Tele, CST, Fly, etc.) and am trying to organize my options and make the right decisions.

It is interesting that you mentioned Godin, originally I was looking for 13 pin output also, so this led me to B Moore and Godins. The Moore contoured body shapes looked problematic for a transplant (if I was to keep the mag pups and 13 pin capability) so I settled on a Godin xtSA. I went in and played one a few times and really like the guitar. I measured the body and opened the 300 up and measured the guts. I contacted RMC (the maker of the xtSA bridge piezos) and tried to verify that they would be compatible with the Variax/baggs circuitry. BTW here is what RMC said:

"The guitar saddles have a source impedance equivalent to about an 820pF ceramic capacitor. The output energy will appear as voltage in a high input-impedance preamp or as current in a low input-impedance preamp. The RMC saddles have a linear dynmic response. The dynamic response of the the Baggs, Fishman or Graph-Tek pickups is more logarithimic which means more compressd. As a result, all else being equal, the Variax sounds should be more punchy with the RMC saddles."

So the Godin looked promising but...

- First, the "full metal jacket" 300 guts housing would be a tight fit. So building a custom shaped shielded housing is a possibility...
- Second, ideally I would like to be able to run both the 13 pin and the vax at the same time. That means I would have to split (Y solders) the 6 piezo leads and that brings up signal issues. A 6 pole switch is a possibility (know where I can get a 6 pole/single throw?)...
- Third, I'm not completely sold on the neck and pups of the Godin and it would be an expensive mistake if it didn't work.

So I'm still exploring ideas...

- Do a cheap Squire transplant and replace the neck?
- Butcher the 300 body, put in trem, pups of my choice and replace the neck?
- Attempt the Godin transplant?
- Forsake the mag pups/13 pin and do a Varifly?
- Build a custom body?
- Have a custom body built to spec?
- Buy a 700 trem?
- Wait for the Belew VariFly
- Wait for the 900

You get the idea... I respect the collective wisdom of the ION forum so any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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268 Posts

Posted - 05/14/2005 :  17:28:05  Show Profile
Lets step back and review a few things.

The 300 guts are mounted in an awkward metal shielding to benefit mass production. You could easily remove everything and breakdown all the components to the bare essentials and get rid of the "full metal jacket" - as shown here:


Then you could get a Strat w/ trem - and install the piezo saddles and guts similar to this fellow in the UK:


Use conductive shielding paint for the DSP board.

If you intend to mix passive pickups with variax guts on the same guitar, there is a looming posibility that the EMI digital clock noise from the Variax DSP board itself may inject noise into your passive PU output signal - so extra shielding is advised, and DO locate the DSP board in a seperate route far far away from the passive pickups. Model the 500/700's DSP board body route location,and spray conductive paint (and Ground it!) and you should be good to go.

Edited by - stevek on 05/14/2005 18:29:07
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268 Posts

Posted - 05/14/2005 :  17:32:31  Show Profile
Looking at the pics of the 300 vs the 500/700 DSP board I observe that the 500/700 uses three AKM AK4528 CODECs:



While the 300 DSP board only uses Two AKM devices:

I suspect the 300 uses the AK5385 4 channel A/D for four of the string conversions.

While the remaining two strings use the stereo A/D portion of the AKM AK4528.

The DAC portion of the AKM AK4528 generates to onboard TRS output.

The 500/700's DSP board has 3 stereo DACs - Only one DAC is currently needed. Thus the cost trimming of the newer 300 DSP board.

THis is pure conjecture, but In theory, the 500/700's DSP board's archetecture with 6 A/D's and 6 D/A's MAY lend itself to be a more ideal platform for a future a Variax version which could perform the mythical "re-axe" ing function. That is to lay down a basic track with strat tones, and change it during mixdown to a Les Paul tone. But the missing link is a 6 channel VDI to USB 2.0 audio box with ASIO driver. Hopefully this project is in the Line6 R & D lab as we speak!

Edited by - stevek on 05/14/2005 18:25:07
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282 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2005 :  10:56:25  Show Profile
Excellent info and observations, Steve, they are very much appreciated.

Line6 has been good (if a little slow) about add-ons to existing products (WB, L6 Edit, flash sound upgrades, etc.) So if your conjecture is correct, it may be worth getting the 700 trem, avoiding the conversion work and working on my playing skills until the next software upgrade
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268 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2005 :  23:18:19  Show Profile
Originally posted by Dag6

Excellent info and observations, Steve, they are very much appreciated.

It took some time to analyze the DSP board differences.

>Line6 has been good (if a little slow) about add-ons to existing products (WB, L6 Edit, flash sound upgrades, etc.) So if your conjecture is correct, it may be worth getting the 700 trem, avoiding the conversion work and working on my playing skills until the next software upgrade

BTW - There is a dealer on Ebay who sells the 700's twice a month for $965


I got my amber trem 700 just 10 days ago from this dealer. The guitar is gorgeous. Yes its important to actually focus on actually playing the damn thing, instead of using your time figuring out body routes, and wiring diagrams, etc.

Edited by - stevek on 05/15/2005 23:19:31
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884 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2005 :  08:00:44  Show Profile  Visit darc's Homepage
Interesting. Takes on a whole different light if you and a buddy interested in/ accomplished in guitar work are looking for a fun project to experiment with, as opposed to trying to find the most practical solution so you have a playable axe in hand ASAP.

"Do a cheap Squire transplant and replace the neck?"

If you want a strat, very good solution. If you hunt around for the *right* Squire, you might not even need to replace the neck. It's every bit as probable that you'd opt to change the pickups in the long run. Personally, I don't see the appeal in a guitar with both mags and Variax guts - I'd rather a 2nd guitar whose body hasn't been comprimised for mag output - but that's just me. If you keep the mags you'll need some additional routing to make way for circuit boards etc.

"Butcher the 300 body, put in trem, pups of my choice and replace the neck?"

Modifying the 300 is about the least practical way I can imagine arriving at a trem guitar with magnetic pickups, but you might learn a lot and have some fun if that's your aim. Do not mistake this as being the "cost effective" approach; I think in the end you'll be surprised at what you spent LOL.

"Attempt the Godin transplant?"

Similar to the Squire but IMO a better guitar. Again, if you keep the mags you'll need some additional routing. If you start w/ one of their Roland-ready products and manage to keep that intact you will have something *very* special, but of course that's a more expensive platform to muck with. My only hang up about the Godins is they tend to be heavy, but who knows, by the time you're done routing, the conversion might actually lighten it up.

"Forsake the mag pups/13 pin and do a Varifly?"

Definitely gets my vote LOL. You can't beat that neck and if it's a USA you can't beat the bridge. Forego the mags and you won't have to cut it up much either.

"Build a custom body?"

Similar undertaking as modding the 300 really.

"Buy a 700 trem?"

Never played one, but if you dig the trem, that's the easiest solution by far. No mags, I guess you really need to decide whether that's a priority or not.

"Wait for the Belew VariFly"

Ha ha, but don't hold your breath, and be prepared to sell a car or two. (Also, arrive at the store before I get there to buy the same one.)
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386 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2005 :  08:49:38  Show Profile  Visit paults's Homepage
I'll add my two cents about transplant options-

For the price of a new V700, you could buy a V300, and a used (insert your favorite brand of tremelo equipped guitar here- Fender, PRS, Parker, etc). Fire up the router, and you'll have a versatile guitar that feels right to you.

If you like the 300 neck, but want a trem, strat bodies are all over eBay-just pick your color and price range.

I also assumed that I would want mag pickups in a transplant until Workbench was released. Now that I've had a chance to work with it, I don't see the need for them- In addition to the sounds one would expect to get, I've nearly cloned the sounds of vintage Hamers, a PRS CU22, a modern Strat (I'll post all the patches after a little final tweaking). If you spend some time with the software, doing A/B comparisons with whatever sound you think you'd miss without mags, I think you'll be able to zero in on it.

My 500 guts are going into a Hamer (unless I find a beater CU22 first). Life's too short to play an uncomfortable guitar.
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282 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2005 :  10:07:56  Show Profile
Originally posted by paults
Life's too short to play an uncomfortable guitar.

Agreed, the 300 neck (even nicely setup) just doesn't cut it for my tastes and age

Excellent perspectives, guys, again much appreciated.

To be clear, the Variax sounds with WorkBench are incredible. I have very little to complain about there. Oooodles of fun.

Again the primary issues for me are:
- Sweet neck/fretboard
- Decent, stays-in-tune/noiseless trem

The mag pups are a minor issue for me and have only two purposes.
- Live Backup (could be accomplished with just brining another ax, probably a good idea anyway)
- Blending into Variax sounds or replace them on some tunes for palm muting and other subtle piezo tone issues. For 98% of the tones/techniques I use the "pure" variax is fine. I guess I thought that the addition of mag pups on a variax just makes the whole package more versatile particularly if I could blend the outputs.

SteveK, as a new owner of a 700, are you satisfied with the neck/fretboard? Is the trem smooth, quiet and does it stay in tune? Are you planning locking tuners? New nut?

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268 Posts

Posted - 05/16/2005 :  12:02:17  Show Profile
I grappled with all the above concepts in this entire thread. I'm a mature player, prefer a chunkier neck profile which the 700 provides over the 300. I got it for $965 on ebay ( see link above). I have several guitars, ( '61 strat, '61 SG Special, '74 Les Paul Standard w/ Duncan JB)

The 700's Neck profile is already quite a lot like a Warmouth neck type feel, though the fretboard radius is more '60's fender than gibson. My 700 did require truss rod adjustment, and a few frets required slight polishing. I'd be pissed if I shelled out $1600 for this, I believe Line 6 underestimated the wide variance in fretboard quality control from their suppliers. But after a good setup with fret level and dress, its a fine guitar.

Tweaking with Workbench is good for endless hours of fun, though the 700 lacks the snap of my '61 strat.

My present issues are:

* Microphonic Saddles: All is wonderful on headphones or low volume - but plug into a Vetta with hi gain patches at a volume to compete with a rock drummer at stage volume - I have terrible microphonic feedback. I'm presently in communication with LR Baggs regarding this.
EDIT - We have located a solution to this here:

Circus69 wrote
"I called Line 6 tech support because my Variax 700 w/trem would make a high pitched squealing noise, more so on high gain patches, even at low volumes. There is a ribbon cable from the piezo saddles to the circuit board, connected via a detachable male female jack. The cable passes through a pair of flat "doughnut" RF Ferrite cores which are supposed to remove noise/interference. Most computer VGA monitor cables have these as well. The tech support guy suggested passing the cable an extra time through these ferrite cores (under the DSP board). There is just enough length on the cable to do this. He also asked if I was handy enough to do it. If not, he suggested I get it to an authorized Line 6 repair shop. It took all of 15 minutes and my problem was solved. I guess the internal electronics can produce more noise than expected."

You can see the RF Ferrite cores at the timestamp 1:40, and 3:03 minutes into the Nathan Shane Variax 500 Piezo saddle video here:

* Sticky Nut. The 700 Trem (LR Baggs X-Bridge)is a nice smooth fulcrum style design similar to a Strat Plus/EB MusicMan Luke. But the 3 on a side headstock creates a non straight string path at the nut - which makes the D & G string go sharp after any whammy bar dives. I'm going to install a Graphtech Nut and Planet Waves Locking Tuners, which hopefully will address this problem.

UPDATE: I installed the Planet Waves Locking Tuners - Used some Nut files to open up the Nut slots a wee bit, and used a dry bar of Ivory Soap to lube the Nut - Trem now stays in tune quite well. This 700 has now become my main axe, and I'm thinking of getting another as a backup.

Edited by - stevek on 05/28/2005 18:01:47
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