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


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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.


JH_main.jpg
[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.
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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!

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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.

JH_family.jpg

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

JH_closeup.jpg

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.

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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.

JH_top.jpg
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.

JH_back.jpg

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.

JH_carry.jpg

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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.

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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.

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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! smile.gif

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
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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
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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 (smile.gif), 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!).

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Using the JamHub assumes the wearing of headphones. This is what makes your music “less disturbing” to outsiders and keeps the mix and volume—two separate things, and both controllable under the JamHub—manageable in your own ears.

But are there other uses or advantages? Yes, as I found out in my acoustic-guitar duo setup this weekend.

A friend came over to jam on Saturday. We typically sing a couple of songs in harmony, and then I show him some guitar moves and new songs. He’s a school teacher and a singer/songwriter-type, and though he has an acoustic-electric (a Yamaha FGX730), he rarely plugs in. I don’t think he’s changed the 9V battery since he bought the guitar.

I wanted him to try the JamHub because I thought it would be a novel experience for him. But it also simulates a studio-recording environment, and this was instructive—for both of us.

First of all, if you’re not used to headphones, it can take a moment to get oriented. I forget this, but my friend reminded me in words and deeds. Once he adjusted, though, he was thrilled to be hearing his voice with stereo reverb. Because the sound was coming over headphones instead of from across the room, he was able to lower his head and adopt a more intimate delivery. He seemed to really tune in to blending more than when we face off in my living room. If you’re feeling shy about a new song or your abilities to perform it, the JamHub can actually bolster your confidence.

For simplicity, I put his vocal mic in a different section from his guitar. “Number 1 is your vocals, Number 2 is your guitar,” I told him. Now, the JamHub allows both instrument and vocal to be plugged into the same section, with separate level controls and effects on the vocal mic. But here, I had "sections to burn" so I did it this way.

When we were through, I asked him what he thought. He said some interesting things. He liked hearing his voice and guitar more upfront, because he said it helped him concentrate and he could hear his voice with greater clarity. He absolutely loved the reverb. (I warned him that reverb was addictive.) He said that it made the experience a little more formal, like being in a recording studio rather than two guys in a room, but he rather liked that, and thought it helped him focus. I offered that it was good technique to learn to be on mic and to listen to your guitar over a monitor instead of just acoustically, and he agreed.

On the flip side, he said it was a relief when the headphones came off because his ears got sweaty. I conceded the truth of this, and noticed that in my own use, I often adjust the cans, lift them off momentarily, etc., and otherwise let my outer ear breathe. Noobs have to learn this.

But then he said the most interesting thing of all: He said he wished my guitar was a little softer, that he sometimes had trouble hearing his own. Despite my explicit instructions at the beginning, he simply forgot to adjust the mix as we started playing. Once in a while he tweaked his own vocal mic, between songs, but he either forgot or didn’t realize he had control over the whole mix. Note to self: when using the JamHub with people unfamiliar with mixer-type operations, encourage frequent tweakage. If they’re not fiddling, they’re not getting the full benefit of the JamHub.

The full band rehearsal is two days away. I’ll have to prep for that, as the guys don’t know I’m using them as guinea pigs. So I’ll need four sets of circular over-the-ear headphones and as many headphone extension cords.

And I must remind the guys to tweak liberally. And to remove the cans when they step back to grab their beverage. Not that they’ll remember that last bit. …

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Any reason high quality in ear plugs wouldn't be "as good as" high quality over the ear headphones? I realize audiophiles and music engineers will have some advanced theories to draw from, and that would be welcome information. I'm also very interested in real life experience from those of you who have studio experience. The thought behind my question is "for practical purposes" for discerning musicians using a jamhub.

Thanks to everyone for helping me get closer to making my mind up.

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Quote Originally Posted by MIDIme View Post
Any reason high quality in ear plugs wouldn't be "as good as" high quality over the ear headphones? I realize audiophiles and music engineers will have some advanced theories to draw from, and that would be welcome information. I'm also very interested in real life experience from those of you who have studio experience. The thought behind my question is "for practical purposes" for discerning musicians using a jamhub.
I'm sure Jon can speak to this, but I assume decent earbuds would work just fine, and some might even help keep out more of the ambient noise. My current faves are the Monster Cable Turbine Pro earbuds, which are absolutely phenomenal but unfortunately, have a price tag to match (the Turbine Pro Gold phones list for about $300). You'd probably need an extension cable, though, as most earbuds are designed more to plug into something that's in a pocket or shirtpocket.

BTW I'm also glad to see this review, I was wondering if it worked out in practice as well as it does in theory.
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Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
I'm sure Jon can speak to this, but I assume decent earbuds would work just fine, and some might even help keep out more of the ambient noise. My current faves are the Monster Cable Turbine Pro earbuds, which are absolutely phenomenal but unfortunately, have a price tag to match (the Turbine Pro Gold phones list for about $300). You'd probably need an extension cable, though, as most earbuds are designed more to plug into something that's in a pocket or shirtpocket.

BTW I'm also glad to see this review, I was wondering if it worked out in practice as well as it does in theory.
To be perfectly honest, I hadn't considered earbuds, simply because I don't use them, and because I have enough sets of over-the-ear cans to service up to four musicians + myself. I use either AKG 240 DF's or K271 Mk II's as my personal sets, and I have various other quality cans--AT-M50's, etc.--to go around.

Craig's right, of course; earbuds are shorter (my K271's have a 10-foot cord), necessitating an extension cable. But in-ear monitors are commonplace for live performance now, even in high stage-volume situations. So this should be fine.

This is slightly off-topic from the functionality of the JamHub (I do want to keep things germane here), but perhaps Steve or others can weigh in here, as it speaks to the gestalt of the JamHub experience.
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Quote Originally Posted by JamHubSteve View Post
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! smile.gif

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
I've only done this with a duo: eDrummer, backing tracks, me on guitar / guitar synth and both of us singing, using a Mackie 1604 VLZ providing four separate sub-mixes usable as independent monitor mixes or as (the usual) effects sends, however to give the eDrummer ease of independent monitor mix control I gave him his own Mackie LM-3204 as a sub-mixer.

The headphone amps were integral to the Mackie 1604 VLZ and the Mackie LM-3204. The Mackie 1604 VLZ was (of course) the mains mixer as well. The eDrums were stereo sub-mixed prior to sending to the Mackie 1604 VLZ.

To the best of my recollection there was not anything that he or I could not have in our monitor mix independent of the other, nor was the eDrummer's own sub-mixer absolutely essential (just a lot more convenient and flexible).

Basically it was our live setup without any of the mains. We both used IEM's for practice and for live, and the eDrummer played to a click that (naturally enough) only he would hear.

I was putting together a much smaller version of the same for convenient silent practicing at his house but we never stayed together for more than a few years. Perhaps I'm missing something but I don't recall any problems getting what we wanted in our IEM's and the mains.
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I received a couple of PM's questioning the shape of the JamHub. Specifically, "Why is it curved like a watermelon slice?"

Well, the reason it looks more like a slice of watermelon than a Sicilian pizza (that's what they call the rectangular version of pizza in the northeastern U.S., anyway) is because this angles the sections out in a fan shape. Instead of a straight line that favors only head on, perpendicular viewing, the fan shape (out to about 160 degrees, or not quite an entire semi-circle) makes line-of-sight viewing more favorable for musicians standing in a rehearsal space.

In fact, the further out you stand from the unit, the more space you have between you and other musicians while maintaining the optimum, perpendicular view to your particular section. The more musicians you have, the further out you'll need to stand (unless you like rubbing shoulders and getting smacked in the face with the bass player's headstock).

For example, look at points A and B, which could be two musicians standing close to the unit. Then look at point C and D, which would be the same two musicians maintaining their straight-on view, but further back, presumably to accommodate another musician in between. Obviously, the distance between C and D is much greater than between A and B, and this equates to how far apart the two musicians are from each other while keeping the (optimum) viewing angle constant. Certainly there's a geometric term for this principle, and I bet Steve knows it! smile.gif

JH_curve.jpg

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This looks like a great review.

For all those who don't understand the big deal about it, I will say that it is indeed possible to replicate most of what the Jamhub does, you just need a lot more money than the price of admission for this unit. I think the next least expensive way of having this much control for this many performers is to use a digital mixer. The cheapest one with this many stereo outs is probably the MOTU 896mk3. Plus you have to add a headphone amp with individual inputs. That's a total cost of $1200 if you can find everything for cheap.

JP

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Quote Originally Posted by JamHubSteve

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Hi Jon, I've lost a few posts in this thread ... can we assume they are gone forever given the recent downtime at HC? I'll recreate them if that is the case, no worries.Thanks, Steve

 

I apologize, Steve. I've emailed tech support about this issue. Honestly, I think perhaps the path of least resistance is to simply repost, and I'm hoping you have your comments backed up in a text file of some sort. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
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