Hands-On Review:The ultimate jam partner, an easy composing

Boss has been a hot company recently. Its BR-8 has rewritten the price/features equation for digital recorders, and now the JamStation is ready to redefine the relationship between man and machine, at least in the area of electronic practice partners. The JamStation is a hip, high-quality accompaniment generator for guitar players mainly, but for others, too. And it also has an integrated track recorder, so it can serve as a composer’s tool. For both purposes, it’s sure to prove another big Boss hit.


Better than a band
While nothing can really top the experience of jamming with your mates, the JamStation does offer some advantages over the real thing. You don’t have to put up with canceled practices because one of the guys couldn’t make it. The JamStation is always available, ready to provide you with a four-piece group to play with. Better yet, all these pieces are under your complete and total direction, not wild and unruly like real musicians. It never drinks up your beer and you never have to order a pizza to keep it happy.


Makes practice perfect
The JamStation comes complete with 200 preset styles/songs. All you have to do to get a full-on jam started is power up, pick your groove, hit go, and start jammin’. These onboard selections cover a wide range of styles and arrangements: numerous rock grooves, blues, jazz, R&B, modern dance, Latin, world, and country. The backing tracks consist of drums, bass, and two instrument parts, for which you can select the voices. There are enough grooves here to keep you practicing or jammin’ away boredom-free for a long time.


Compose with ease
If you do get tired of the provided arrangements or are more into writing, you can use the JamStation to put together your own tunes. It also lets you store your ideas and recall them later for more development. It’s made for works in progress.


Putting your own songs together, as ideas, is quite easy and intuitive on the JamStation. There’s no creativity-killing sequencing involved. You begin by selecting a style that fits your needs, and then input specific chords and their forms to transform the groove into your own arrangement. It’s easy. You just point to the location, designate the root note, then select from a choice of forms and voicing. The process is facilitated by JS-5’s EZ Compose, a unique interface that eliminates hidden menus. You simply move the cursor to an item (a style or a chord) and then use the Value Dial to change it. Quick and easy. Each song permits up to 26 user chord choices, which is an ample number unless your music is extremely heavy on the changes. Use it as a sketch pad, and then jam along to develop the song.

The JamStation would be a cool machine if this were all it offered. Its added audio track – a first of its kind feature – puts it in a zone of its own. It lets you add a real audio track to your machine-created backup sketch. For song writers, especially those who don’t write on paper, this is a very useful tool. It lets you sketch ideas with sound. Its input can be set for guitar, mic, or line level sources, so you don’t have to play guitar to find it useful. Anyone writing vocal parts will find it a valuable tool. And although other parts are provided in the 4-part backups, any individual part can be muted during playing, so even bass player or keyboard player writers can use it. It’s flexible.


Recording is simple
You use it to capture and develop ideas, and the process is easy enough that it won’t interfere with your creativity. All you have to do is select the song you want to add a track to; select the audio track function; adjust the recording level; set the count in to either off, 1 measure, or 2 measures; then press start. The whole thing only requires you to push four buttons and then, of course, play or sing your track.


Sound quality
When writing or practicing, you don’t really need a great sounding accompaniment, and most accompaniment machines don’t give it. They provide something adequate with impeccable time. With most machines, Latin grooves, reggae grooves, or anything that swings or is at all funky, forget it. The JamStation gives you very high-quality sounds based on the JV-Series Synthesizers. And the groove styles are especially cool for a unit of its kind. They can inspire you with the feels they provide.


The quality of its sounds and the ease of its controls even make it suitable for live performance. Fire the rest of the band. Hire the Jam-Station. And keep all the gig bones for yourself. An optional loop play function repeats up to two sections of a song, so you can alter arrangements on the fly when you want the long version. An optional footswitch can be assigned to trigger the loop or the part-mute function, enhancing its usefulness for live performance.


SmartMedia ™ storage
Using a standard 64MB SmartMedia card, you can expand the JS-5’s recording time to a full 68 minutes, so if Dead-style endless jams are your thing, you can go for it. The cards fit in a shirt pocket, are commercially available, affordable, and can also be used to back up your song data, freeing more room for more new songs. When you’re on a creative roll, you can just keep rolling.

If you write songs or need a good back-up band to help you grow as a player, the JamStation can be an ideal piece of gear for you to have – one you’ll use, enjoy, and benefit from greatly. In short, you’ll get your money’s worth. Musician’s Friend now has them on the shelf and ready to ship for as low a price as you’ll find, guaranteed. Give the Friend a call and start jammin’ in just a few days.

JS-5 JamStation Features:

  • 64-voice polyphony
  • Instruments: 128
  • Drums: 16 kits
  • Effects: reverb, chorus, plus 40 inserts
  • Styles: 200 preset x 8 forms
  • Songs: 200 preset, 200 user
  • Tempo range: quarter note 20 - 260
  • Resolution: 96 per quarter note
  • Audio track recording time: 1 min. 58 sec. (long mode), 1 min. 35 sec. (hi-fi mode) SmartMedia cards expand time up to 68 min. 5 sec.
  • Connections: Recording input jack, output (L, mono, R), headphone jack (stereo mini phone) FS-5U footswitch, PCS-31 footswitch cable