The Jamstik+ is an interesting accessory that won’t replace your guitar but should be useful for beginners who need to learn the ropes or sound design enthusiasts.
Let’s start by saying that I don’t play the guitar. While I can string a few chords together and make something that resembles music, I’d hardly class myself as a professional either. So when we had a chance to try out the new Zivix Jamstik+ Smart Guitar, I was naturally interested to see what this expensive mobile accessory was capable of. At £249.95 it can be hardly considered cheap and honestly, you could get a brand new guitar plus a few lessons for the price alone.
Taking it out of the box, we were a little disappointed by the build quality. While the Jamstik is most definitely sturdy and strong, the all plastic construction may leave some people wanting a little more considering the price. It’s also quite small, with just five frets in total. It has the full six strings like a conventional acoustic, each of which is authentic and not some cheap plastic imitation. We found it a little difficult to hold at times, accidentally hitting the wrong chord. This could be because I’m bad at guitar… but I handed it to another person in the office who can play and he said the same thing.
Setting up the Jamstik+ was pretty straightforward. You download the application and turn the device on. Running on a rechargeable battery, we were able to get a few hours of use before it needed juicing up, which is ample time for a bit of practicing. The connection is made via Bluetooth and if all goes well, the application will pick up the Jamstik+ straight away. Zivix has several apps on the store depending on what you want but we decided to give the standard one a spin, which offers a mix of tutorials and fun features.
The layout of the application is very easy to understand and it’s clear they’ve spent quite a bit of time on the user interface. The fretboard takes up the bottom potion of the screen and gives a visual view of what chords you’re playing at any given time, useful if you want to practice. A dropdown menu lets you pick the scale of your choice, this will then be displayed on the fretboard so you can stay in key. There’s also a metronome tool if you need help following tempo, plus plenty of options to customise the volume and tuning of each string. Sound is generated from the smartphone itself, with the Jamstik acting as nothing more than a MIDI controller with which to send note data. Perhaps the coolest thing about Jamstik+ is its ability to work as a wireless MIDI device with any compatible client, making this much more of a sound design tool than we previously thought.
There’s a few acoustic guitar sounds to get you started, with more available for purchase in the store. Prices range from reasonable to quite steep; with the most expensive packs costing a heavy £4.79. The combination of tools had me playing a rough melody in a few minutes, though this was where we began to encounter a few limitations. For one, there’s no ability to do slides or bends. We assume that this wouldn’t be a hard feature to implement, so perhaps in a future update Zivix could add this in as an extra. Secondly, there’s a small bit of latency that can make things a little confusing when trying to play something with a faster tempo. It’s not enough to make you feel detached from the experience but definitely noticeable. For someone who is a hardened guitar pro, this could become an annoyance. That said, we understand this is a tool for learning rather than shredding a fast triplet riff.
While tit does have some limitations and the price is a bit steep, the Jamstik+ is an interesting MIDI performance instrument that goes far beyond the standard mobile field. If you want to learn guitar this product could definitely help, but it could be equally as useful when brought into the studio for some experimentation.