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  • BreezSong JAMHUB -- Silent Rehearsal Studio ($300 - $700)

    The JamHub -- Silent Rehearsal Studio

    from BreezSong


    http://jamhub.com/



    At the Nashville NAMM show last summer, a buzz circulated quickly among innovation-seeking show-goers and journalists. It seems that a brand new company called BreezSong had come up with a brand new product called the JamHub. The concept seemed simple enough: a mixer-like unit about the size of a laptop that allows a group of musicians to practice in near silence, with effects and individual volume controls for each channel.



    But the actual device didn’t look anything like a mixer or a headphone amp. It sported a bold, curvaceous new shape, born of the principle that form follows function and owing very little to traditional rectangular form factors. Yet as unique as it was in appearance, person after person who witnessed the demo, or merely looked at this new device responded with, “Aha! I get it!” Apparently, the good folks at NAMM got it, too. The JamHub won three Best of Show awards.







    [pictured: the JamHub TourBus]

    _



    As with any new paradigm, some explanation is in order, so in this Pro Review I’ll try to relay not only the obvious applications but some of the subtler aspects of the JamHub—insights gathered by using the unit over time. As well, I’ll react and respond to the unit’s stated goal of providing a quieter rehearsal alternative for groups of electronic musicians.
    Jon Chappell
    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
    Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

  • #2
    The JamHub is a clever combination of elements drawn from a mixer and headphone distribution amp. It’s designed to be used by multiple musicians in a rehearsal environment, allowing them to practice silently (or nearly so), and giving every musician listening in (whether they plug an instrument in or not) complete control of their headphone mix.



    To use the JamHub, you plug in your instrument and listen to yourself and others on headphones. Electric guitars, basses, keyboards, and drum sets (such as those by Alesis, Roland, Yamaha, Simmons, etc.) all connect readily. Keyboards and electronic drums can usually plug directly in (the 1/4" inputs on the JamHub are stereo), while guitars and basses may elect to go through a multi-effects pedal first. Vocalists and acoustic drummers connect through the mic inputs and will still produce some acoustic sound.



    But here’s the thing: singers and acoustic drums only have to make enough sound to make themselves heard. They don’t have to compete with blasting amps or P.A. systems. This helps keep the volume down considerably. (A singer can turn his mic way up, too, in order to save his voice.) In fact, with the JamHub, you don’t need to have amps along at all, if you put in some time getting your sound together with a multi-effects unit. That saves on setup time and back-muscle strain.



    Once the ensemble is all plugged in and has headphones on, you’re ready to play. Because you can keep the ambient volume down, you can practice in locations you couldn’t normally, or at times that wouldn’t allow for louder levels.



    Being able to play more quietly (controlling your volume electronically now) means you can keep at it longer without experiencing ear fatigue or bothering those in the immediate vicinity. Practicing longer has obvious musical benefits. And as the manufacturer points out, the JamHub eliminates another unpleasant stage-born artifact: volume wars—the phenomenon where musicians gradually turn up over time. The only way someone can get louder on the JamHub is if you turn them up in your mix!
    Jon Chappell
    Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
    Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

    Comment


    • #3
      The JamHub is available in three models: the Bedroom ($300, street), which has 5 sections; the GreenRoom ($500), with 7 sections, USB connectivity, and phantom power; and the TourBus ($700), which adds onboard recording capabilities (via an SD card) to the GreenRoom’s features. The GreenRoom and TourBus ship with one and two remote controllers, respectively, called SoleMix remotes. All three models are identical with regard to the their operation. For this Pro Review, I’m using the mid-level GreenRoom model.



      Jon Chappell
      Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
      Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

      Comment


      • #4
        To get acquainted with the JamHub’s basic operation, take a look at a close-up of one of the plug-in sections:







        From bottom to top, here’s what you’re looking at:



        The edge of the unit has three jacks (left to right): instrument input, mic input, and headphone output. A nice feature is that you can plug a mic and an instrument into the same section and have them available simultaneously, with independent level controls. Moving up, the two concentric knobs on the left control the instrument and mic input levels; the knobs on the right are for F/X level and headphones. Above those knobs and centered in the wedge-shaped section is the center-detented Stage (aka “pan”) knob, which places your instrument in the stereo field. The numbered knobs above the pan are the volume levels for the other sections—the ones that the other musicians plug into. (Note the color coordination between the knobs and the large section numbers across the unit.) The “R” knob is the same as the numbered channels but can be used in recording (more on this later). You use these knobs to craft your own personal mix.



        For example, if you’re a vocalist, you might dial in the other singers a little higher than you would the guitar and bass. Guitar players might take the opposite approach—putting the singers just high enough to hear where they are in the song, but allowing the bass and drums to come through a little more prominently.



        The best part is, this is your mix. You don’t have to clear it with the sound guy, you don’t have to negotiate with other musicians on a compromise mix, and no one else even has to know how you like your mix. (So you don’t risk offending the backup singer by having her completely dialed out.)



        Other than setting levels for yourself and the others in the ensemble, you can add effects to your own mic output. This has the most benefit if you’re a singer or a miked acoustic guitarist. There are 16 effects, including reverb, phaser, flanger, chorus, and delay.



        The effects are decent-sounding, though you can only control the level; all other parameters are fixed. I wish that the effects were available on the 1/4" input, as it would be useful to put ambience, phaser, or flanger on instruments that go in there, rather than just the XLR input. But I recognize that that would limit the independence of being able to use both the mic and an instrument inputs simultaneously; the assumption is that you can provide effects via a processor for the 1/4" input.
        Jon Chappell
        Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
        Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

        Comment


        • #5
          The sections of the JamHub tell almost the whole story, as there’s no real “master” section to contend with, except for the 1/R switch (explained later), phantom power indicator, and FX selection knob. The center region at the top may look a little different from the sections lining the edge of the unit, but it’s really just another section—identical in function and controls—just laid out in two line. This is the “R” (for “rear”) section. The jacks for the R section are on the unit’s back panel.





          The R section is just like the ones below, except that the controls are arrayed in two lines rather than in a wedge shape. The connections are on the rear panel.





          To complete the tour, take a look at the back panel. You see the aforementioned R section jacks (1/4" input, mic, headphone out), AC power connector, USB jack, and the slots for up to four remote controllers (two on each side of the unit). The TourBus has an additional connection: the SD card slot for onboard recording.







          One more thing: I noticed that none of the mfr-supplied product photos show the scale of this unit—which is impressively compact. So here’s a photo of the GreenRoom (which is the same size as the top-of-the-line TourBus and slightly larger than the BedRoom) being carried easily in one hand, and a shot of the same unit next to my 15" Dell laptop.



          Jon Chappell
          Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
          Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

          Comment


          • #6
            It's about time someone got around to reviewing this. It was one of my pick hits of the show.
            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

            Comment


            • #7






              Quote Originally Posted by MikeRivers
              View Post

              It's about time someone got around to reviewing this. It was one of my pick hits of the show.




              Glad to hear it, Mike. I know other "industry pundits" such as yourself were also impressed.
              Jon Chappell
              Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
              Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

              Comment


              • #8
                Steve Skillings, designer of the JamHub, pointed out something to me that I had to fix in an edit above. I had initially referred to the individually numbered sections as "channels." This isn't correct, as each section really accommodates 3 channels: the XLR input, and a left instrument and a right instrument (via the TRS connector). As mentioned, the XLR and 1/4" inputs can used simultaneously and have separate input-level controls. So that really makes the BedRoom a 15-channel device and the GreenRoom and TourBus 21-channel devices. This is just one of the ways in which the JamHub is unlike a conventional mixer; you can't look at the numbered sections and equate their number to "channels" the way you'd do with a mixer.



                You can use the sections' stereo inputs for stereo instruments (like keyboards or drums) or for the stereo outs of a multi-effects.



                You could also employ a Y cord, and have the separate 1/4" mono plugs that carry the L and R signals from the stereo plug go into the outputs of two different mono instruments or effects.
                Jon Chappell
                Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  BreezSong prepared a short, 30-second video that sums up the concept of the JamHub neatly, without using words.



                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oykGBiowyAQ
                  Jon Chappell
                  Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                  Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Honestly I don't get all the hoopla, I've been doing similarly with any number of smaller mixers and ancillary devices to suit.



                    Sure it's arguably more all-in-one-ish, but maybe not though as you can rack-mount up some Behringer gear in an SKB case.



                    When you factor the total cost to outfit a full band with this stuff the same could be accomplished with more versatility and flexibility conventionally.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've been waiting for a review of the audio quality of the product. Any chance someone can comment on this?
                      MIDIme

                      Comment


                      • #12






                        Quote Originally Posted by Chumly
                        View Post

                        Honestly I don't get all the hoopla, I've been doing similarly with any number of smaller mixers and ancillary devices to suit.



                        Sure it's arguably more all-in-one-ish, but maybe not though as you can rack-mount up some Behringer gear in an SKB case.



                        When you factor the total cost to outfit a full band with this stuff the same could be accomplished with more versatility and flexibility conventionally.




                        Hi Chumly, your solution is exactly what I thought too when I started to think about the silent rehearsal studio concept, but as I dove into it soon I realized that it could be done much better, and for less money, with a device designed specifically for the task.



                        For example, you can't create a unique stereo mix (and level) for each musician and have a global effects engine, and offer a remote for people stuck behind their gear (like a drummer) with any assembly of conventional gear that I found. And believe me, I looked for months and months and months!



                        The original JamHub proof of concept was made by taking an assortment of mixers (8 Tapco mixers), cables and a custom made switching/splitting box and soldering them together into a new configuration and then mounting this on a 2-foot by 4-foot shelf/board ... and the whole thing cost me $700 in mixers, cables and parts like tie wraps, Velcro and two power strips for the 8 mixer power supplies. And that design didn't have effects in it, nor the capacity of the BedRoom model ... which streets for $299 and fit's in a backpack. Also, it was tough watching the band fumble around trying to make quick, fine adjustments to their mix with the proof of concept. With the final JamHub, it's easy for me and my bandmates to make adjustments on the fly ... there are no "extra" knobs to worry about, just look at your section and tweak ... super easy.



                        I thought it would be a "simple" thing to build at first, but once I got into it, I realized that using conventional gear to get there was not possible. You simply can't make an easy to use, easy to set up, easy to transport, fully functional device with existing gear ... at any price. So we decided to create something designed optimally for the task of silent rehearsals so that we could bring the cost down, make it portable and make it simple to use.



                        I hope that helps!

                        Steve
                        www.JamHub.com

                        Comment


                        • #13






                          Quote Originally Posted by MIDIme
                          View Post

                          I've been waiting for a review of the audio quality of the product. Any chance someone can comment on this?




                          Hi MIDIme,



                          I'm obviously not a "neutral" party to how it "sounds" but I can tell you that mathematically the JamHub systems are acoustically transparent. From 20Hz to 20kHz the frequency response changes are less than 3dB SPL (and actually down to 15Hz and up to 23kHz if you want to get crazy with your testing).



                          For those who are not into techie stuff what that means is that a JamHub won't change your sound at a level that your ears can hear. What you give it is what you get (unless you crush the preamps ... but you'll get a red "clip" LED when you do that and you can adjust your trim to get rid of it).



                          Steve
                          www.JamHub.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Thanks for that info, Steve, and welcome to the Jam Hub Pro Review!



                            "JamHubSteve," as you all may have guessed, is the JamHub's designer. Feel free to ask him any question you'd like about the unit.



                            Chumly, for me the essence of your concern was dispatched in Steve's phrase that said:
                            "For example, you can't create a unique stereo mix (and level) for each musician and have a global effects engine, and offer a remote for people stuck behind their gear with any assembly of conventional gear that I've found."
                            Before Steve beat me to the punch (), I sat for a while trying to imagine the "a la carte" solution to this, and couldn't see how you could do it with conventional line mixers and headphone amps. The fact that this solution comes in an elegant and compact package seals the deal. Chumly, you're no stranger to a technical challenge, so if you know of gear that approximates the functionality of the JamHub, you're welcome to spell it out here.



                            But I betcha it's not as elegant--and that's part and parcel of the JamHub's appeal. Remember: 15/21/21 channels (BedRoom, GreenRoom, TourBus), 16 effects, unique stereo mixes for each of the 5/7/7 sections, remotes, phantom power, and a really nice interface (let's not lose sight of that!).
                            Jon Chappell
                            Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                            Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Speaking of the remote, I didn't include a photo of that. Here it is:







                              The cord is just about 2" shy of 12 feet, which means that the remote itself extends a full 12 feet beyond the JamHub.
                              Jon Chappell
                              Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jon_chappell
                              Check out my website: http://jonchappell.com

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