Noone following this blog could have missed that I use my guitar with my iPhone all the time. There are numerous apps that provide virtual amplifiers and cabs, effects, miss etc. Newest on the market is JamUp from Positive Grid. The guys at Positive Grid sent me a copy of the Pro version of JamUp to try out.
JamUp has six main features: Amp simulation and effects (signal chain), presets, jam (to backtracks), sampler and tuner.
The amp simulation and effects is the heart of any app of this kind. JamUp has a visual signal chain where you can drag and drop pedals in and out of the chain to easily turn them on or off. There are seven slots for noise gate, pre-amp pedals like dists, overdrives and compressors, the amp and cab, eq, delay, modulator and reverb. You can drag and drop these seven slots to any individual order (like placing the amp last and delay first if you want to).
Presets are saved signal chains, a total of sixteen presets grouped into four groups of four each. To update a preset with the current signal chain, just hold the preset button. Presets can also be named.
Jam is a backtrack player. It can import songs from the iTunes library on your phone. JamUp also registers as a handler for music, so you can import backtracks via email or apps like DropBox. Imported songs can be looped in full, you can loop a region and you can change speed and pitch.
Sampler is a a looper with dub functionality. You can record your playing, play it back looped and then overdub the loop with new playing. Loops can be saved and loaded. To keep your rhythm there’s a built-in metronome that you can set manually or by tap.
The tuner is pretty basic like in most other amp sims, but is full screen and has large analog dial.
This I Like
Positive Grid allegedly put a lot of time into the amp modeling and signal processing, and it shows – the sound quality is excellent. In the short time I’ve tested it so far (a couple of hours) I managed to create really good high-gain tones – usually a difficult area for digital amp sims. Badly implemented amp sims have artifacts fizzle, and those really stand out more the more you crank up the gain.
The signal chain is really easy to modify and I like that you can see all of it and easily change the order of units and switch them on and off by dragging and dropping.
The Jam part has features that I have wanted since I started using amp sims on my phones. The most important one is the ability to create a custom loop. It’s infuriating when you’re practicing a solo to have to sit through the start of the song or having to create a custom backtrack of just the solo part. The slow-down feature is also great, the best practice of new songs is playing them clean at slower speed and then increasing to full.
The sampler/looper feature is nice for say whipping up a 16 bar rhythm to have as a background for solo improv.
It might be a small detail, but the tuner’s large display and analog dial makes it easier to tune more exactly than in AmpKit, which has a smaller digital display.
The patch preset system has just 16 slots, but to be honest I can’t say I use more than three of four patches. I really like that the patch buttons are quite large, they will work much better in rehearsal or live compared to say selecting a patch from a drop down menu.
This Needs Work
The biggest flaw of JamUp is the lack of proper recording. I use the recording feature in AmpKit all the time. I sometimes record myself practicing just to get a feel for where I am learning new songs. It’s amazing how much worse a recording can sound compared to how you think it sounds when you play. Improvisation is also always helpful to record, to analyze and pick out good parts from bad.
Even more I use the fact that AmpKit records dry. I’ve recorded lots of my song demos on the phone actually. It’s not easy getting “home studio time” with a daughter of 2 years, and when that time occurs she’s usually sleeping right next door to the studio (a.k.a. our bedroom).
Another thing I miss a bit is complete freedom in the signal chain. You can’t place more than one pedal of a kind in the chain (so no placing five delays in a row) and you can’t pair an amp with a different cab. To be quite honest though, this is probably not a problem in reality for almost anyone…
JamUp Pro has the rehearsal and practice functionality of Amplitube with speed changes and loops in backtracks, sound quality comparable to AmpKit, and a few tricks of its own up its sleeve (like the sampler). Unlike Amplitube it also handles docking port audio devices like the Apogee Jam, lack of which is an absolute show stopper for me. I’m going to use JamUp to learn new songs since its easier than in AmpKit.
However, the lack of recording is a bit of a problem for me, as I use my iPhone rig quite extensively for recording. Some features, like the sampler, would be even more useful with a separate recording feature.
The software is still in its first version, the competitors made leaps in new features and sound quality with new versions – I expect nothing less from JamUp. My biggest advice to Positive Grid is to add a recording feature, that records dry and has built-in reamping and that exports both dry and wet signals. To really excel, make the recorder multi-track.
I’m going to follow the development of JamUp and thank’s to Positive Grid for letting me try out the full version!