With a few well established guitar effects apps such as AmpliTube and Ampkit already on the iOS scene, it might seem a bit overambitious to launch a new guitar effects app. Any new app would have to set itself apart and offer something the existing players do not.
So what does new effects app JamUp Pro from developer Positive Grid, offer?
Here's what Positive Grid's website has to say:
Up until now, the tone experience on iOS hasn’t really developed to give the full dimension and response of a mic’d up rig, and other solutions haven’t really provided the amazing user experience that guitar players should have on their iPad or iPhone. We decided to take this challenge head on to ensure JamUp truly re-creates the experience of playing through the most coveted guitar amps, and in some cases, way more fun.
Positive Grid's aim in developing the JamUp app (available in Lite and Pro versions) was to improve on current apps sonically. Really, although it's nice to have dials that go up to 11 and a lovely UI, in the end for guitarists it's all about their 'sound'
So, how does JamUp sound?
JamUp sounds great! We especially noticed a crispness on the more ramped up, distorted setups which was a very welcome find.
If you get the settings right (we had to pare back the humbuckers on our Epi Les Paul) the clean sounds are clear and resonant, sharp when they need to be and mellow with plenty of well rounded low end when dialled in.
Hybrid MESH Amp Modelling
This great sound comes from acute attention to detail in the amp modelling. In fact, Positive Grid have a whole page dedicated to describing the detail and parameters considered in their sound modelling.
Here's a little bit of what they have to say:
From the high level preamp and poweramp distortion, tone stack design, to the low level bright capacitor, blocking filter, cathode cap, power amp sag, and cabinet impedance interaction. We developed a unique MESH modeling technology, not only to capture the exact nuances of each amplifier in its killer setting, but also incorporated the dynamic performance of each model.
We could do no better than this demo video from Positive Grid's YouTube channel. Take a minute, grab a pair of headphones and listen to these sample run-throughs for a good range of sound demonstrations:
Both the AmpliTube and AmpKit apps have a jam function, as well as some other amp adds. So while this feature is not unique to JamUp we like the straightforward interface they use and the slightly beaten up, vintage UI is both clear and welcoming.
It's really easy to enter the Jam screen, load a song, set the tempo (0.5 for us usually), pitch and backing track volume and away you go. You can be jamming away sooner than it takes to read that last sentence out loud.
This is a brilliant tool to learn new songs and work out those riffs and solos that fox you when you hear them at normal speed.
The chromatic tuner continues the easy to use, vintage styling. It combines a lovely looking note wheel interface that helps you quickly identify the note you're playing, with a more accurate colour coded meter that helps you to fine tune your guitar.
It works well in practice and seems to be as accurate as any other iPad tuner we have used.
The effects chain in JamUp really impressed us because it is simple to access, simple to use and easy to change or modify the signal path. The drag and drop approach to adding and moving effects in the signal chain is the least complicated approach we've seen so far and works very well.
This all adds up to an effects interface that, while not as visually polished as AmpliTube for instance, offers a straightforward, accessible level of interaction that novices and more experienced players will appreciate.
We were also impressed with the quality of these effects pedals. They all performed as we expected them to, and some, like the Chorus, Flanger and Tremolo sounded cleaner and more authentic than other guitar effects apps we have tried.
Here's another video from Positive Grid, this time demonstrating the various effects found in JamUp Pro:
Sound-on-Sound Phrase Sampler
This one-man-band sampler and overdub feature is fantastic for working out song ideas, recording solo riffs over a rythm track or just trying out sounds. It works a lot like the recording / overdub function in the synth app Animoog if you have used it, but you can adjust the recording length here in JamUp Pro.
It would be nice if there was an undo available instead of the 'clear all' function for when you mess up an overdub, but it is still a useful and potentially powerful tool to have built-in.
Check out the video below for an idea of what can be done with this Sampler feature in the right hands (not ours!):
Whilst we have mentioned areas above of the JamUp Pro app that stand out to us particularly, there is more to the app. Here is a full spec list:
- 6 multi-stage hybrid amp models
- 6 matched convolution speaker emulation
- 14 studio-grade stomp box, racks and processors
- Supports up to 7 amp/effect simultaneously
- drag and drop signal path
- Sound-on-Sound phrase sampler
- iTunes Jam Player with loop, speed and pitch control
- Built-in chromatic tuner, metronome and 16 user presets
- Compatible with JamUp Plug, and most other adaptors, see the full list
Effects (JamUp Pro)
- Dunlop Fuzz Face
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Boss OD-2 Turbo Overdrive
- Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
- Custom Flanger
- Mad Professor Mellow Yellow Tremolo
- MXR Phase 100
- Maestro Echoplex EP-2 Tape Delay
- Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
- Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb
- Fender Spring Reverb Unit
- MXR M-102 Dyna Comp Compressor
- Boss NF-1 Noise Gate
- Custom 4-band EQ
The Complete Package - JamUp Plug
In addition to the JamUp software, Positive grid have followed a similar pattern to IK Multimedia and Agile Partners/Peavy in releasing hardware to go with their app. The JamUp Plug is a little different though and we think it is a good thing.
Why this is a good thing
This dangles off of your iPad/iPhone limply and then has the guitar and headphone cables connected to that, which has caused us to inadvertently pull the iPad forward off its stand, not to mention the tangling problem.
Addressing this issue, the JamUp Plug fits directly in to the headphone/mic socket on top of your iPad, sitting flush against it, meaning less trailing cables to worry about.
This helps guide the guitar cable and your headphone cable down the edge of your iPad, as you can see above, and reduces cable tangle and clutter. In our opinion this is a big plus for the JamUp Plug.
The JamUp Plug is cheaper than most of its competitors at $19.99 from Amazon.com, but the construction feels a bit 'plasticky', especially the 1/4" instrument cable input which doesn't have the usual metal ring and guide channel, so we are not sure how this will hold up over time.
Having said that, we didn't experience any problems at all with the unit we reviewed so there is no reason to expect problems, we are just comparing the JamUp Plug with it's more robust looking fellow guitar interfaces.
You don't have to use the JamUp Plug with the JamUp app, but its price and lack of dangling cables would certainly recommend it.
The website states that JamUp App also supports most available iOS guitar adaptors:
- Positive Grid JamUp Plug
- Apogee JAM
- Alesis IO Dock
- IK Multimedia iRig
- Peavey AmpKit Link
- PocketLabWorks iRiffPort
If you are after an easily accessible, authentic sounding and feature packed guitar effects app with that vintage vibe, JamUp Pro is just your thing. We like using it a lot and at the moment it is our main guitar amp modelling app.
If you're not sure, there is a free version JamUp Lite available in the App Store which has just 1 Amp and 4 effects but a fully functional sound-on-sound sampler, jam player and tuner. You will easily get a feel for the app by trying out the Lite version.
This review was based on the JamUp Pro app, which is available for $19.99 in the App Store and gives you full access to every amp and effect available without the contentious in-app purchases.