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March 2011
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May 2011

Boss eBand JS-8 Review

Eband_js8

I'm always keen to try out new guitar gear to see if it will help me improve my playing.   Boss came out with their eBand JS-8 Audio Player with Guitar Effects a while back.  On paper, it sounds like the ideal device for me:

  • Hundreds of built-in backing tracks & drum tracks
  • Hundreds of guitar tones with easy-to-use interface
  • Modeled amps, cabinets, effects pedals
  • One button recording capability
  • USB, SD card interface
  • Ability to jam along and record over built-in tracks or any MP3 or WAV file
  • Center channel cancel to reduce vocals and guitar on MP3 files
  • Built-in stereo speakers, headphone jack
  • De-caf espresso maker

Ok, it desn't really have an espresso maker, but it has everything else you could dream of.   It's easy to use and BOSS continues to create new backing tracks that you can add.  

Unfortunately, the sound quality from the built-in speakers is pretty weak; It sounds much better with headphones.  Still, it's great for use in an office, bedroom or dorm where you wouldn't want to crank up a full-blown amp. 

Here's a quick and dirty video I shot of the eBand JS-8 to demonstrate the built-in tones and backing tracks.  This was shot using the iPhone 4 low-res VGA camera.

Bottom Line:     It's a good product for any aspiring amateur that wants to practice to backing tracks to improve their playing.  But it's not a professional quality device and not something you could use in a live gig or professional recording situation.  

As with any of modeling devices from Line 6, Fender, Korg, etc., some of the tones are better than others.  And while the backing tracks are decent, you'll definitely outgrow them at some point. So its good that you can add your own MP3 and WAV files.


Brainpool Junk

Junk cover

I happened to stumble across the song "This is Junk" by Brainpool while listening to a podcast last week.  It's a catchy number that sounded to me like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with a top-40 radio vibe.  After digging further I discovered that Brainpool was a 90's postpunk pop group from Sweden who had several hits in the early 1990s, but ditched it all in 2000 to write a rock opera called Junk on the growing commercialism in society.  This was a labor of love that took Brainpool four years to complete.  

The result is a stunning work reminiscent of the best of the concept albums from the 70's and 80's. They've combined classic rock hooks in the style of The Who, The Clash, Oasis, Pink Floyd, ELP, Queen, David Bowie --and Ted Leo.  Not only is the music good, it's eery; like finding a rare unreleased bootleg from many years ago. They performed it live with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra in 2005.

Unfortunately Brainpool never found much success outside of Sweden.  And Junk appears to have been the band's swansong.  So while you won't find the CD in the racks at your local musical retailer, you can get it at Amazon, iTunes, eMusic and CD Baby.  (For some reason the prices are all over the map: iTunes or eMusic are the best price.)  Also several of the songs are available on on PodShow and on MySpace.

Update: Brainpool has been on an extended hiatus in recent years.  Their web site and blog are no more.   But, just when I was about to give up hope, it seems they released a new Christmas song in December 2013 and there could be a new album in 2014.  Heck, maybe the Junk rock opera will finally go on tour!