Top positive review
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Jamman Stereo Sampler/Looper by DigiTech
on June 2, 2011
(Note: Why several sites have this listed as a "Bass Pedal Tuner" is a mystery to me. It's not specifically for bass, and it's certainly not any kind of "tuner." What it is, is a stereo digital sample-and-playback looping unit.)
I like this unit, mostly. I knew what I was looking for in a looper, and I researched the available options before settling on the Jamman Stereo. For the most part I got what I was expecting.
+ The unit is compact, and very solidly built
+ Controls are (mostly) self-explanatory
+ Excellent sound quality on the samples, with very low noise
+ Good internal memory capacity
+ Expandable memory, using common SD digital camera memory chips
+ Simple to use; shallow learning curve
+ True stereo input and output available
+ Adjustable tempo and quantization available
+ "Single play" and "infinite repeat" options
+ Accepts direct input from: instrument, mike, audio-player
+ No batteries needed
* I found it very easy to start working with this unit, record, playback, overdub, and erase functions are simple to implement through footswitch control. Sound is clean and high quality, and most of what I need to do can be done with hands-free operation. The unit accepts SD memory up to 32GB, which provides for 6-hours of storage; more than sufficient for any of my planned applications.
+/- "Reverse playback" option is kind of silly and useless
+/- "Snap"-type footswitches, rather than soft-touch
+/- No way to set a loop for a specific number of repeats
+/- No phantom power on mike XLR input
+/- No "on/off" switch
+/- Need for wall-wart & power cord offsets the convenience of not needing batteries.
* I might use the "reverse" once in a blue moon for a special effect, just becuase it's there, but if it wasn't there, I wouldn't miss it. Still, people were apparently clamoring for this feature, so I suppose they had to put it in.
* More of an annoyance for me is the use of small snap-type buttons for the footswitches. I find this particularly awkward (and noisy) when tapping in tempos. For that function I greatly prefer a soft-touch, more or less silent switch, and also the large rubber pad of the original Jamman. But then, I don't use the tap-tempo feature that much, so it really isn't that big an issue.
* It also would have been nice to be able to pre-program a loop to repeat a specific number of times -- 3, 6, 15 repeats, etc. -- and automatically stop. Instead, your choice is single play, or infinite repeat until the "stop" switch is hit. Again, not a big deal.
* I rarely use mikes, so lack of phantom power is NBD for me.
* I prefer devices I can /turn-off/ without having to unplug them.
But... I can live with all of this.
- Many "fingers only" controls and the unit sits on the floor
- No quick way to switch from internal memory to SD card memory
- Loops stored in memory are designated only by number
- Quantization is touchy and not always accurate
- No way to trim or boost input signal level
- Significant tempo adjustments seriously degrade the sound
- Can't switch loops in "real time"
The first three of these are not a big deal for me, but they may be for some people.
* A lot of the controls on this unit are not footswitch-accessible, so if you do a lot of post-loop manipulation (I don't), you're going to be bending over a lot. For $35, you -can- buy an optional 3-button footswitch to put a few more of these functions at your toe-tips.
* Internal loops are numbered 1-99, and SD-card loops are 1-99 plus a "card" LED lit. If you need to get from loop #78 in internal memory to #14 on the SD card, there seem to be only two ways to do it: you can use the loop up/down footswitches to step through either 35 or 178 loops, one at a time; or you can use the knob on the unit to scroll through all of the internal loop-slots until you get to the SD-card loop-slot you need. I've not found any way to quickly jump from one loop to another if they're not adjacent numbers.
* If you actuallly store 198 loops (or even more than 20), remembering that you need to call up # c-35 in the chorus of the 5th song of your 2nd set might be challenging in a performance situation. Would have been nice if the Jamman had a slightly larger display and a feature for assigning a short mnemonic -name- to each loop. I deal with this by having a coded "loop playlist," but this is definitely an area that could stand improvement.
* Quantization (theoretically) works by setting a time signiture, tapping in a tempo, and then recording your material, which is then auto-quantized to the beat you set. However, I found the unit a little flakey in setting the end/repeat point of the loop. With some practice you can get the quantized endpoints to work right; but with the same amount of practice you can get the endpoints right manually, /without/ quantization, so this feature, as implemented, is rather useless.
* Input level: In transfering audio tracks from my computer to the Jamman I ran into a problem that I've experienced with other digital-audio devices. With a fixed input level, audio signals with long fade-ins often start out too faint to trigger the recording circuitry, so the first part of your loop will be cut-off. I've devised various work-arounds for this, but having an input level boost/cut trim-pot on the Jamman itself would make the process much simpler. Of course, if everything you do is at death-metal volume, this probably won't be an issue for you. :-)
* Tempo of loops may be adjusted, but outside of a limited range the sound will rapidly and noticably degrade. (To some extent, this is to be expected with any digital recording device costling less than several thousand dollars.) Depending on the particular kinds of sounds recorded, I found that tempo changes of about +/- 5-10% were the cutoff for acceptable sound. If you want a loop to play back at, say, half-speed, you're better off recording it at that speed to begin with.
* Again, for me all of the above quirks are relatively minor, and I can live with them. I saved the most annoying for last: Hitting the "loop-up" or "loop-down" footswitch while a loop is playing does /not/ switch loops in real time; it changes only the display. To change loops you have to 1) select the new loop; 2)stop the currently playing loop, and 3) start the new loop -- each step requires a separate footswitch operation.
...This last quirk is the main reason I give the Jamman four stars instead of five. It would be immensely useful (to me) to be able to switch loops either in the middle of a loop, or even at the end of a loop, by hitting only one switch, with no loss of continuity in the sound. Instead, you have to hit /three/ switches, and -- no matter how fast you do this -- there will be a noticable break in the sound. Essentially, each loop is treated as an independent, stand-alone entity, and the concept of using several loops in a single piece apparently didn't enter the engineers' heads when they designed this unit.
To summarize: I spent more time discussing "cons" than "pros" because my experience has been that not knowing what your equipment /can't/ do can be more of a show-stopper in performance, than not knowing something that it /can/ do. But, bottom line:
...I like this unit, it does 95% of what I need, and
most of what it does, it does very well.
For me, it represents good value for the money, and I highly recommend it for those whose needs are as uncomplicated as mine.
One final tip: Shop around -- I've seen this unit sold for anywhere between $229 and $339. It's worth the $299 list price, but not more.