The Line 6 Variax Shuriken is the latest Variax guitar, created in conjunction with 12-Foot Ninja guitarist Steve “Stevic” Mackay, and it’s a force to be reckoned with. It connects via VDI to Line 6’s Workbench HD software and allows the user to endless tweak presets that can be turned on and cycled through very easily. It’s available in 25.5” and 27” scale lengths, and feels like a solid, well-built guitar.
The 25.5” scale length Shuriken is sleek, finished in black satin and feels fast. The distinctive body shape is comfortable to play, but is a little top heavy, and it includes a gig bag that is well padded and would keep the guitar safe in most situations. The Shuriken includes adapters and cables to connect to Line 6’s Workbench HD software, which is where the Shuriken really shines. Workbench HD gives the player the ability to choose from 50 models of guitar and countless pickup and tuning combinations.
Once installed, the Workbench HD software left me floored. The guitar itself features single volume and tone knobs, as well as two notched knobs to cycle through tunings and customised guitar models. It has a single bridge pickup, a five-way pickup switch so the player can select different pickups, and further customise the pickup selector itself. One feature that struck me was the customisable tuning, where each string can be cycled through at increments of a semitone. I love this because I’ve always struggled with how different tunings feel. A guitar tuned, intonated and set-up in standard never feels right in a dropped tuning, etc. The Shuriken does away with this problem, because the guitar is always set-up and tuned, but the software changes the tuning. Further to this, Workbench HD can change the volume of each string. I’m a fan, and I haven’t even got to the guitar model reproductions.
The Workbench HD software allows the Shuriken user to download model, tuning and string presets to the guitar itself. Scrolling through the models, there’s an array of guitars to choose from such as Les Pauls, Gretsches, a big body acoustic, Telecasters and Rickenbackers to name a few. Once a model is selected, the pickup position can be customised, as well as the angle and volume of the pickup. This allows the pickup selector to also act as a killswitch if required. Something that struck me about the reproductions was how accurate they are, in that they can sound unpleasant. At times the acoustic was too boomy, and some pickup options made the guitars sound too thin. I love when gear can be pushed too far, and this is a testament to how accurate the Shuriken and Workbench HD software really is.
It’s important to note that while the Line 6 software reproduces the sound of these with great accuracy, it’s reproducing their recorded, direct sound. Similar to the Shuriken’s software counterparts, such as the Line 6 Helix, Kemper or AxeFx, these units will never replace the actual gear they’re reproducing, nor will they sound specifically like whatever amplifier or guitar they’re emulating. But recorded, or played through a real amp, the Shuriken will faithfully reproduce everything it claims to.
In conclusion, the Shuriken is phenomenal. Once the Workbench HD software is installed it’s very simple to create and save presets. For people who tweak or love to experiment, it’s heaven. The Shuriken can become any number of normal electric guitars at the push of a button (well, the scrolling of a knob, but that’s less poetic). I highly recommend the Shuriken to creative players who want options, or who want to experiment and to create something new.
Hits and Misses
Easy access to 24th fret
Workbench HD software is great