You can select an instrument type from a list including a six string acoustic, twelve string acoustic, clean electric, harp, banjo, or the sitar because why not? Each instrument is represented very well.
Also included is the jamTutor app which is reminiscent of something like Rocksmith for those looking to learn to play, practice or just bang around in open play.
Our opinion of the software is that it does the job, but not as well as Rocksmith and isn’t as full featured.
Also included is the JamMix application, for those who want to Jam with a backing drum track or have a mini Ableton type of DAW. Again, it’s not bad for a freshman effort, but it’s not going to be used for any actual mixing.
PLAYABILITY AND FEEL
One of the things we immediately noticed while using the Jamstik is how it doesn’t feel like a real guitar, which as an experienced guitarist will know, is something that can hamper your ability to focus on playing and we will tell you why.
The strings are regular guitar strings and feel fine, the strings can be changed to any strings you may purchase for an electric guitar.The neck and fretboard is really the source of the problem as the neck is made of a thick plastic. While not cheap, it does though lack the feel of a real guitar. The fretboard is lacking as it has a layer of plastic on top. This made it feel like you’re not really playing a guitar, as the all too familiar feel of the strings being pressed against a wooden fretboard was missing. Perhaps having a textured fretboard to try to mimic the feel of wood would help alleviate this feeling.
While actually playing it was hard to get used to the feel. Playing single notes were hard felt, and we had an issue where the notes were not being registered and the wrong notes were being played. Although full chords and strumming worked well we also occasionally got phantom notes being played.
On the plus side, the Jamstik can connect to your PC or Mac via the USB cable used for charging. It is supported in most DAWs as a midi device, which we tested in Ableton with the plugin Massive. We were surprised when it worked well in such a scenario, until the phantom notes reared about. While the device is interesting in theory the execution seems to be just a bit off.
Also the string mute button is placed well at the bottom of the strings so you can mute the strings by hitting it with the back of your strumming wrist.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND ANALYSIS
All in all, the Jamstik is a product that we have a hard time figuring out who it is intended for, beginners are better off getting a real guitar and taking lessons or picking up a copy of Rocksmith. Musicians on the go would find the inconsistencies of note accuracy and lack of playing techniques that get picked up irritating, as well as the issues mentioned before about the feel of the instrument.
Maybe we can make a case for someone wanting to compose using a guitar as a MIDI controller as opposed to using a keyboard. Also, there may be some individuals who may have had some experience with a guitar in the past, but are looking for something a bit different. On the other hand, it may also provide a different learning experience for those who may be having difficulty learning to play a real guitar.
We would also like to point out that just recently Zivix started a new campaign for the Jamstik+, where they have added a pickup to aid in the feel of the guitar, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, which should help with the registering of appropriate notes. Check out the promo video below and their Kickstarter Campaign here!
While we like the idea and think that in the future Zivix can improve upon the product, there just isn’t a lot that seems fully fleshed out. At the price of just below $300 it puts itself up against real guitars and mid level MIDI controllers. Perhaps at a price below $200 we would be more willing to recommend the Jamstik to a larger audience, but unless you really want a portable MIDI guitar controller that you can connect wirelessly to your devices we feel there may be better alternatives.
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