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March 2012
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May 2012

JamVOX III - Quick Test

Screen shot 2012-04-28 at 11.58.17 PM

I downloaded the trial version of Vox's JamVOX III software to put it through it's paces.  For those not familiar with the JamVOX, this is a software-only version of what was originally a software package that worked exclusively with Vox's own desktop speaker and computer/guitar interface.  Now that they've ditched the hardware, it's somewhat more flexible.  You'll still need an interface cable to connect your guitar to your computer, but those are easy to come by.  I tested both a Line6 GuitarPort and an IK Media Stealth interface and both worked fine without requiring any special drivers or fiddling.

So what is JamVOX?  In a nutshell, it's amp & effects modeling system that also doubles as a basic guitar recording system and has a number of unique capabilities for guitar players.  

  • 19 Amp models, 12 Speaker cabinet models 
  • 57 Effect models (Reverb, Delay, Compressor, Wah, Chorus, Phaser, Distortion etc)
  • Very basic looping and drum tracks
  • Guitar Extraction Technology (GXT) that lets you isolate or cancel out guitar parts
  • Ability to share guitar tones and GXT settings online
  • Plug-in support for Digital Audio Workstations (VST, AU plugins)
  • Available for Mac and Windows PC

Overall JamVOX III appears to be quite an improvement over prior versions. Better usability and much better GXT (guitar extraction technology) for "canceling out" guitar parts from existing songs.  The idea is you can take any MP3 file and with just a bit of fiddling, eliminate the guitar parts (rhythm or lead) that you want so that you can play that part instead.  It's a cool idea, but in earlier versions, there was quite a bit of distortion to the rest of the sounds.  In JamVOX III, the results seem much better.  

The guitar tones, amp emulations and effects are a bit disappointing.  They aren't as good as those I've used with Line 6, or my Zoom G3 multi-effects pedal.  But this is somewhat a matter of taste and depends on how much tweaking  you're willing to do. 

Here's my first sample, using the Beatles song "I've got a feeling."  In just a few minutes I was able to create a nice classic rock tone and then cancel out the John Lennon rhythm guitar part.  My playing is pretty sloppy, but otherwise you can get a feel for how JamVOX sounds from the video.  JamVOX also has some nice features for automatically changing the GXT settings at different parts of the song. (That's how you can hear the first few bars of the rhythm guitar from the recording, before I start playing.)  JamVOX also lets you shoot video with the backing track, just as I've done below.  (Though it would be nice if there was a count-in feature!)

I must admit that the first time I played along with the JamVOX using the GXT feature to cancel out the rhythm guitar part, it was kind of freaky.  It really does feel like some kind of alternate universe where you get to play with the Beatles or whatever other band you have in mind.  You can still hear the drums, vocals and bass pretty clearly and although I don't really show it in the video, it's a cool feeling.

While not perfect, JamVOX III does a very good job and makes it easy to create backing tracks from just about any song. Your mileage may vary, depending on the complexity of the song and how much effort you put into it.  The ability to share guitar tones and GXT settings online with other JamVOX users could be the killer feature that enables people to dive in and use the product on songs they know and love with a minimum of fuss. JamVOX appears to have a pretty vibrant community of users, but I was unable to test out the library of online settings to see how many songs have received the GXT treatment.  

JamVOX III is available for half price (just $49) during the initial launch until May 30.  This seems like a steal for anyone who is looking for a fun way to practice and record.  And the update is free for existing customers. 


Buying a Bass

Hofner icon

I played bass tonight at my regular blues workshop.  Normally, I play guitar, but our bass player was out and we always have too many guitar players anyways.  So I tried my hand with a heavy Kramer bass.  For several of the songs ("Killing Field", "Early in the Morning", "Ti Ni Nee Ni Nu") the bass and one guitar are generally playing the same riff, so it wasn't a big difference, other than the fact that the bass has a much bigger scale.  At 34", it's quite a bit larger than the 25.5" of a Strat or a Music Man.

Nonetheless, I think it would be handy to be able to play bass on occasion.  So I'm wondering about the short-scale 30" models like the Hofner Icon (or "Beatle Bass") shown above or the Fender Mustang bass shown below.  

Fender_mustang

The Hofner style "violin" bass is based on the model that Paul McCartney made famous early in his career.  From what I can tell, there are lots of "knock offs" of the violin bass model out there, but the Hofner version seems to be the lightest, weighing in under 6 lbs, or roughly half the weight of the Kramer I played.  

The Mustang bass has been used by many players, none of whom played with the Beatles.  My guess is it's not as light as the Hofner since it's a solid body.  I'm sure there are tradeoffs in the tone, and all that, but honestly who really knows?  I also tried out an Ibanez Mikro bass, and that was pretty fun.  

Or maybe I should buy a Steinberger bass.  That's not a shorter scale, but the headless design makes it more compact.  Not sure if its any lighter or not.  And I've no idea what kind of amp to buy.

So if you have an opinion (even an uninformed one) let me know.  Or if you want to sell me a good condition bass and amp, that would be fine also