Today we are taking a closer look at the new Jammy digital guitar. One of the first of its kind, this all-digital instrument is entirely portable while providing a 16 fret neck. Paired with a companion iOS app it connects to your mobile device wirelessly and traditionally to your amp/headphones. The question is, does its bold claims of incredibly detailed tracking technology and portability hold up once you actually get your hands on one? Head below the fold to find out.
The Jammy Digital Guitar:
Jammy is essentially a portable digital guitar that doubles as a MIDI controller. It is designed with a collection of sensor technology in an attempt to provide users with the most realistic possible playing experience. It uses a modular body/frame design to make for an entirely portable device you can throw in your backpack. It also sports a typical 1.4-inch connector for amps, wireless Bluetooth for your iOS device and a headphone jack for immediate monitoring. The idea here is that you can bring the guitar playing experience with you anywhere whether it’s on the road with your iPhone, in your luggage for vacation, or just at home with your standard amp setup. But, like most of its competitors, the tech hasn’t quite caught up yet to the loft concept.
Upon unboxing the Jammy digital guitar, you’re greeted with a nice black box in what could almost (not quite) be Apple-worthy packaging. But things go down hill from there. Jammy is split into pieces you can assemble and take a part at will. You get the actual body (the area where you strum notes), a 17-inch snap-on neck and a sort of faux body to make playing it in a typical fashion a little bit more familiar. While these are all standout features you won’t really find on the competition, the overall build quality leaves a little too much to be desired here.
I personally loved the ability to snap this thing apart — I also found that particular process to be much easier and more streamlined than most reviewers apparently — but the whole thing feels a little bit too much like a toy. While the real metal strings are certainly a treat, this is something you’ll find on Jamstik and other competitors. The actual neck and main body is made of a black plastic that creeks and groans once you really start digging in. It almost feels like its going to break if I were to get too aggressive with my playing (and I very much do), although it certainly did hold up in the end.
One particular notable aspect is the ability to take the back panel off the neck portion in order to adjust the tension of the strings to your liking. This is a digital guitar that plays samples so it will never go out of tune, but it is nice to be able to customize the tension on the real strings. The makers informed me this adjustment can have an effect on the sensor technology, but should work just fine anywhere in the range of your typical electric guitar.
Playing a real guitar is not just about strumming or picking a few notes with one hand while the other is pressing down the right frets. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of tiny nuances that are involved here — a series of tiny imperfections that make up a perfect performance. Slides, right and left hand muting, right hand palming, hammer-ons, pull-offs and so much more. Removing any of these from a performance drastically changes the sound and vibe. It is a Herculean task to create a digital device that can track every single one of these subtle (and not so subtle) movements, and is something Jammy struggles with considerably. It is also probably why there aren’t 10 or 15 different digital guitar options on the market.
The fact that Jammy can even mildly track things like slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs and more, is impressive to say the least. It can even handle left handed mutes (very subtly muting a particular string with your left hand while playing) and right handed palming, which is kind of amazing if you ask me. Unfortunately it doesn’t do it quite well enough to warrant the price tag for hardcore guitar players or those just getting started. Yes, it will track slides and things of that nature, but not reliably. Yes, if you play your basic chords or a simple melody it works well. But as soon as you really start to dig in and try to play riffs and ideas like you would on the real thing, it all kind of falls apart.
Even seasoned guitar players – that sound great when they are playing — are actually making tiny mistakes they have learned to incorporate in their performances along with the rest of the aforementioned nuances. Understandably, this can be extremely hard to track for the Jammy portable guitar and its competitors. Jammy has done the best job I have personally experienced thus far in this regard, but you have to play unrealistically perfect to get it. Hey, maybe it’ll make me a cleaner player over time.
Jammy Digital Guitar App:
The companion app comes along with a series of features that actual work quite well. You can get backing tracks, hints for which key to be playing in, a metronome and more. You’ll find the instrument’s guitar sounds (amp and pedal emulations) housed in here. But if I’m honest, they don’t sound all that great. The whole thing is a bit too digital sounding for me personally. It want to hear the crackle of the amp and the hum of the cabinet in-between notes. But you won’t get that here very much, especially when the sensor tracking isn’t functioning perfectly. The sounds are serviceable at best for pros and are probably just fine for beginners. One interesting element to post out here, is that with a simple push of the main volume knob on the portable guitar itself, you can flip through various sounds – from psychedelic delays to heavy metal overdrive – whether you are connect to the app or not.
Where the Jammy really shined for me personally was as a MIDI controller. You can essentially USB-C this thing to your Logic Pro X setup (or any DAW) to trigger virtual instruments of any kind, not unlike a typical MIDI keyboard. Now the same tracking issues arise here, but for me it made for a very interesting new input method for synth sounds and more. It would require some serious MPE implementation to get all of the various playing nuances to track from Jammy to a plug-in so expectations were tempered here. With the latest firmware update, you can send each string through a separate MIDI channel to trigger up to 6 different instruments at once. That’s sort of amazing regardless of the tracking issues. I landed on a number of interesting riffs and motifs along with a series of happy accidents where it didn’t matter how well this thing tracked by guitar fingers.
In the end, Jammy performs about as good as I thought it would. Attempting to track all of the subtle movements that happen during a guitar performance is a near impossible task at this point, despite the fact that Jammy is one of the best do it. Things do get a bit better when you play around with the sensitivity settings for the various sensor tech. And the overall experience has gotten better after both of the firmware updates I applied. But unfortunately, at $500, it is just far too expensive to for beginners and a little bit underbaked for pros.
Having said that, the MIDI implementation is quite interesting here. I could see some serious pros (with their expectations in check anyway) enjoying the heck out of this thing as a strange, happy accident string controller for virtual gear. But until, either, the price comes down or the firmware updates make the playing experience a little bit more reliable, I have to say the Jammy digital guitar is just a great idea (arguably the best of its kind) that isn’t quite ready for prime time.
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