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Hands-on Review: Portable Guitar Fun with Jamstik 7

My guitar journey is about to enter its fourth month, and I’m happy to say that I’m making slow but steady progress thanks to continual practice. During that time I’ve taken a few road trips, and rather than lug my guitar and amp around, I’ve used the Jamstik 7 ($199.99) from Zivix to continue my practice. In this review I’ll give you an idea of how this compact “guitar” works, and why you might want to pick one up if you’re learning guitar.

The Jamstik 7 Is NOT a Guitar

Right off the bat, let’s get one thing straight. The Jamstik 7 is not a guitar although it looks like one. Instead, it’s an ingeniously designed MIDI (Musical Instrument Device Interface) controller that is you strum like a guitar, with strings and frets like a guitar.

Pick up a Jamstik 7 and turn it on, give the strings a good Pete Townshend windmill strum, and you won’t hear anything except the sound of the pick on the strings. As a MIDI controller, you need to connect the Jamstik 7 to something that can translate the bits it is producing into musical sound. That something can be an iPhone or iPad running the Jamstik or JamTutor apps, or just about any other app (like Garage Band) for Mac, iOS or iPadOS that can take MIDI input.

Design of the Jamstik 7

The Jamstik is made to be portable, and it succeeds in doing that. I have the carry bag for the device, and fully loaded the entire thing takes up a space approximately 19 inches long by 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep (48.3 x 12.7 x 7.6 cm) , and with batteries and a strap it weighs just 1 lb, 11 ounces (765 grams).

The “7” in the name Jamstik 7 refers to the number of frets on the device; it’s not a full length guitar. However, touch-sensitive buttons on the plastic bridge section below the fretboard let you cycle up or down the fretboard. It’s similar to some compact MIDI-based keyboards in that respect — the new IK Multimedia iRig Keys 2 has 37 keys for three octaves rather than the traditional 88 keys found on a piano keyboard.

Jamstik also makes the $249.99 Jamstik+ Smart Guitar, a 5-fret version that relies on standard magnetic pickups and analog fret sensing…more on that later.

At this point in my guitar journey I haven’t moved out of the top end of the fretboard, so I don’t find myself hemmed in by the lesser number of frets.

Using the Jamstik 7

After unpacking your Jamstik, the first thing you need to do is pop open a door on the back of it and place four AA batteries in it for power. Next, you press and hold a button on the top of the unit to turn it on. At this point, a transparent piece of plastic on the bridge section turns red, indicating that it’s time to get connected to something. At this point, fire up the Jamstik app on your device and have it search for the Jamstik over Bluetooth. Once the device and Jamstik are connected, the onboard light turns green.

I had a bit of an issue early on trying to figure out the best configuration for the device. I wanted to connect the Jamstik 7 to the iPhone using Bluetooth and also use a pair of Bluetooth headphones to listen to what I was playing. Wrong. Doing this created a lot of latency, so that I’d hear what I was playing about a second or so after I played it!

I also tried a fully wired connection (USB to the iPhone, with a splitter to plug in headphones). That never worked well for me, either. Fortunately, the staff at Zivix told me that the best way to work was to use Bluetooth for the Jamstik to iPhone connection, with a pair of wired headphones. Success!

This is my practice setup on the road now. I put the iPhone on a surface near me with the Jamstik app open, plug in the headphones, and I’m ready to roll.

Jamstik 7 has a very good guitar feel to it. Since it uses real steel strings, it’s perfect for those learning to play electric guitar — your fingers get used to the feel of the strings. I found that I needed to press just a little harder on the strings than I do on my “real” electric (a Yamaha Pacifica), but that’s actually helped in my regular playing as it’s building up my finger strength.

The Jamstik app that I’m using has a number of purposes other than just making sound — it also shows you what strings and frets you’re pressing on with small yellow dots, extremely useful for beginners. In addition, when your fingers are in position for a specific chord, the app shows what chord you’re playing. That’s great feedback — you don’t want to see that you’re playing a “G” chord when you thought you were playing a “D”! The slideshow below shows various aspects of the Jamstik and JamTutor apps.

As cited in the judge’s order, Apple’s records show it sold more than three million AppleCare and AppleCare+ service plans, where it provided at least one replacement device.

The lawsuit, filed July 20, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks compensation for iPhone, iPad or iPod owners who bought AppleCare or AppleCare+ coverage. The suit accuses Apple of using inferior, refurbished or used parts in device replacements, despite promising to provide consumers with a device “equivalent to new in performance and reliability.”

the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.
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