Line 6 Variax 700 Bass Review

I’ve reviewed the Variax guitar, but what about its bass brethren? The Line 6 Variax 700 bass is more subtle but arguably more effective as a modelling instrument. Why? Read on…

Item: Line 6 Variax 700 Bass

Inspiration: Much of what I write hear will echo the thoughts I have on the Variax 600 guitar I reviewed earlier. I actually got the bass version before the guitar one thanks to a swap with a mate, and I’ve used it a lot on recordings. All the presets with a couple of exceptions are pretty good, and you do have the opportunity to adjust the settings and then “save” them.

Image: For a bass that cost north of $1000 when they were available at retail should have a bit more “wow factor” to it in my mind. That said, it’s a solidly built and well set up instrument. The shape and overall look are a bit more acceptable than the guitar version so that’s a plus. Like many Variax guitar owners, people have ripped the guts out and put them in other body shapes. On the bass front, you have to check out the Variax transplant that this guy did – simply amazing!

Investment: As I said, mine was a swap so no real investment but I do think this is an instrument well worth hunting down on the second hand market (they are no longer available new having been discontinued back in 2008). What would I pay? Maybe $600? Maybe more given that I do find it incredibly versatile in the home studio.

Intrinsic Qualities: The Line 6 Variax 700 bass features 24 models. As I said with the guitar version, you have to think of it as a bass with a bunch of different sounds, rather than one which models 24 different guitars. Once you get that in mind you stop being critical of that fact that the some models don’t sound exactly like the original instrument – you just accept that it’s a different sound. Some of the models are pretty damn good (according to those reviews I’ve read from people who own the original models they are based on). I particularly like the Kay upright model, the Rickenbackers (where I have owned a 401 in the past) and the Musicmans. Not so great are the bass synths or the Tacoma acoustic. All the standard Fender sounds are pretty good too.

Intangibles: The upright sound is the reason I often reach for it, but I always end up trying out a few others when it’s set up. As with the guitar version getting hold of the Variax power supply is pretty important as I runs through batteries pretty quick.

I do like the bass version more than the guitar because it doesn’t sound quite as processed. It’s also the only bass I have strung with roundwound strings as I’ve got flats on everything else so whenever I want a brighter sound it’s the perfect tool.

If not this then: There’s no real alternative for this so it’s a pretty easy decision – unless you are set in a certain set of sounds that you could get from a couple of original models. The only thing better would be the whole transplant thing and making it more customised in look and feel, but the electronics are fine as is.

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The new format for doing a brief reviews of the various bits of great that I use is called the “I” Test: 7 categories that are a bit different from the standard review that reads like it’s lifted from a guitar magazine. My “I Test” takes into account not just the performance characteristics (as normal reviews do) but also addresses the real reason we buy stuff: the 7 “I”s – what’s the Item, Inspiration (why did I get it), Image (what’s it look like), Investment (bargain or just lust), Intrinsic qualities (what does it do), Intangibles (sometimes the reason you got it doesn’t fall into any other category!), and If not this then… (did I look at alternatives).

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