I’ve mentioned that my husband is an amateur musician who has an interest in recording his own music. Julie recently allowed us to review a Behringer USB link to connect a guitar to a computer, with Butch doing the evaluation and me doing the writeup. She’s now allowing us to review the JamUp Plug from Postitive Grid. The JamUp Plug is designed to work with iOS devices, and it uses the headphone jack to connect your guitar, so you won’t need to buy Apple’s camera connection kit to use it with an iPad. Positive Grid also has the JamUp Pro app that’s a “studio-grade, guitar/bass amp-and-effects modeling app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, with massive updated and innovative features, it again raises the bar for iOS amp-and-effects apps.” Let’s see how they work.
Click on the images in this review for a larger view.
The JamUp Plug is made of white plastic. It weighs about 0.4 ounce and measures about 2″ X 1.5″ (without including the plug) X 0.5″. The plug adds about 0.75″. The front side has a PositiveGrid logo in gray.
One end has two jacks: one for a standard 3.5mm headphone plug, and one for a 1/4″ standard guitar plug. The other end and sides are all plain.
The JamUp Plug is designed for iOS devices. It works with all versions of the iPad, iPhone 3GS/4/4S, and the 4th generation iPod touch. Positive Grid describes it as a “pure analog device without any audio latency” with “optimized circuitry for both guitar and bass, perfect for home practice and recording.” They also say the JamUp Plug’s custom-designed circuitry provides better feedback cancellation and low noise performance.
The JamUp Plug is available at Amazon for $19.99.
Butch says that the JamUp Plug has no latency – none at all. He also says that it introduces no noise to the system. There was no setup required to use the JamUp plug. He just plugged it into the headphone jack on his new iPad, and it was ready to use.
Unlike the Behringer, he didn’t need an adapter to plug in his Sony MDR-NC200D Digital Noise Canceling Headphones to monitor his playing. Butch uses the JamUp plug for practicing at home with only some headphones, but you can also connect an amp, direct PA, or mixer to the output.
JamUp Pro Software
Positive Grid offers a couple of apps in the iTunes store for using the JamUp Plug, but you can you can also use the hardware with GarageBand, AmpliTube, AmpKit, Pocket GK, and most processing and recording apps. You can use the software with other guitar hardware interfaces.
There are two versions of the JamUp software available in the iTunes app store. JamUp Lite is a “full featured iTunes Jam player, phrase sampler, tuner and metronome with 7 amp/effects”; it’s free. The JamUp Pro app is normally $19.99, but is currently on sale for $9.99. Butch used JamUp Pro for his evaluations. Since he already owns GarageBand, he tried the JamUp Plug as an input device for it, too.
Positive Grid describes the Pro version as a “studio-grade, guitar/bass amp-and-effects modeling app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.” The Pro version comes with “6 amp models and 16 effects (new Octave and CryWah), and features the “Tone Sharing” platform, 64-slot preset manager, multi-function Phrase Sampler, iTunes Jam player, tuner and metronome.”
Butch says the JamUp Pro app is the best practice setup he’s seen. He likes the interface and how clean the signal is from the plug. The app has a lot of capabilities to let you define your own setup, use preset collections to achieve certain identifiable sounds, or to even create your own presets that you can share.
The first option is Amp/Fx, which allows you to choose the amp model and the effects chain for the tone you are creating. There are seven slots in the effects chain, one for the current amp model and up to six simultaneous effects.
There are six amp models in the Pro kit, and another 19 models that can be purchased with an in-app purchase. There are six categories of effects:
- NG (Noise Gate) with one effect out of the box and one available to purchase
- STOMP (Distortion) with 4 effects out of the box and 6 available for purchase
- FILT (Equalization) with 1 effect out of the box (no others available for purchase)
- DLY (Delay) with 2 effects out of the box and 3 others available for purchase
- MOD (Modulation) with 6 effects out of the box and 6 available for purchase
- RVB (Reverb) with 2 effects out of the box and 1 available for purchase
Each effect (patterned after famous stomp boxes and amps) is beautifully rendered in gorgeous skeuomorphic design. The on-screen displays look very much like the original analog interfaces to the stomp boxes. Tapping once on an effect in the chain brings up the interface for that device (see above image). Parameters for an effect are edited via pots and sliders, just as in the original analog devices.
Tapping twice on an effect in the chain allows the user to choose from among the devices in the category. Devices can be dragged around in the chain to move them in relation to one another. Want the noise gate just ahead of the amp? Just drag it there and drop it.
The Preset screen is where you recall factory-defined presets of effects chains and build and store your own presets for instant recall. There is one bank of factory presets (with 16 presets) and three banks for user effects (with 16 slots each). The name of each bank can be customized, and the name of each preset within each bank can be customized. Once a slot is chosen, the user can switch to the Amp/Fx view to customize the chain. Saving is automatic (per iOS standards).
The Jam screen is where songs stored on the iOS device can be played for “play along” practice. The “load song” button allows the user to load any song from the iTunes library for playback. Just click play, then play along with the song.
The software also offers indispensable practice aids for speed and pitch alteration. The SPEED pot allows the user to slow down or speed up the song without altering the pitch. Can’t follow that Vai solo because it’s too freakin’ fast? Just slow it down (up to 5x) via the speed dial. The other crucial aid is the PITCH dial. If your guitar isn’t quite in tune with the song, you can modify the song’s pitch without altering the speed.
The VOLUME button controls the overall volume of the song playback.
There’s also minimal support for phrase looping. During playback, press the “A” button to define the start of a loop, then press the “B” button to mark the end. At any point thereafter, press the “loop” button to loop.
Sampler is a fairly minimal overdubbing loop sampler for quick recording projects. Simply press the REC button and play your track. Press STOP when done. Listen to the results by pressing PLAY. To overdub, click the DUB button. The previously recorded track will play and you can record your overdub. Once done, you can save the resulting project via the “SAVE” button. Load a previously saved project with the “LOAD” button.
Note on saving: the SAVE dialog has an option titled “Export to iTunes JamUp app folder”. If you select this during save, the application will create an MP3 export of your project which can be accessed via iTunes when synchronizing the iPad to a computer.
Here’s an example of a recording made using the Sample option in the JamUp Pro app. You’ll notice there are two segments in the file, using different effects for each.
The Store screen is where you purchase additional amp models and effect models via in-app purchases. Each can be purchased individually or in bundles. As of this writing, all amp models are $4.99 each, and individual effects are $2.99 each. An example bundle is the Metal Expansion Pack, with 4 amp models and 4 effect models for $9.99, representing approximately 75% savings.
Finally, the Share screen is where you download presets or upload your own presets. These include the “Tone of the Month”, Top 5 Blues tones, and tones by JamUp endorsees. There are convenient search capabilities within the store. To download a store preset, first click the Preset tab, choose a bank (not factory), then choose an empty slot. Click the Share button, find the preset you want, and click it. The preset will immediately be downloaded into the slot you selected, and you’re off and running.
The JamUp apps are not VST-compatible, meaning they do not utilize the universal virtual studio technology protocols that “interface audio synthesizer and effect plugins with audio editors and software recording systems” (according to Wikipedia). Therefore a JamUp app cannot be used as an effects processor add-in to a more robust recording application.
Using JamUp Plug with GarageBand
Because Positive Grid says the JamUp Plug works with other iOS effects processing or recording applications, Butch tried it out with GarageBand. Butch had been reading about some noise problems people had been complaining about in GarageBand when used with the new iPad. Sure enough, he could hear a hum when using the JamUp Plug. He had read that someone had found the hum was only evident when the recording controls were showing on the screen, so he found that he could stop the hum by flipping the screen to move the controls off screen as soon as he started recording. You’ll notice a bit of noise at the beginning and the ending of the recording he made with GarageBand when the controls were on-screen to start and stop the recording. This noise wasn’t caused by the JamUp Plug, and it work flawlessly with GarageBand. Although, Butch did sometimes hear some static when the Plug would get bumped. This could happen anytime it was bumped, and didn’t depend on the app being used at the time.
Here’s a recording made using the JamUp Plug with GarageBand.
Butch really likes the JamUp Plug hardware. It’s small and light enough to stick in your pocket to take along, and it has no latency and introduces no noise into the system. He says the JamUp Pro application is the best practice software he’s used, and he loves the interface. At about $20 for the Plug and $10 for the Pro version of the app, it’s a feature-rich, inexpensive setup for practicing, recording, or even playing live. It’s a bonus that you can use the JamUp plug with other iOS applications, and you can use the JamUp apps with other guitar interfaces.