Vox JamVox Computer Interface System and Modeling Software
Originally published in Guitar World, February 2009
Is the practice amp obsolete? Maybe not yet, but if you own a computer it’s pretty hard to resist the allure of amp and effect modeling software, especially since most packages provide a ton of tones and effects for a very modest investment. Of course, the big trade-off is that you need to settle for playing through wimpy computer speakers or headphones, unless you want to fork over a few hundred more bucks on a decent set of monitors.
The Vox JamVox is an all-in-one software/interface/monitor package designed for practice and jamming applications. Whereas most amp/effect modeling software is designed for recording applications, JamVox includes a variety of helpful practice tools, such as the Guitar XTracktion (GXT) function, which cancels or isolates recorded guitar parts from WAV, AIFF, MP3, WMA or AAC audio files. It also has the ability to loop a section of a song, transpose a song’s pitch without affecting its tempo, or change the tempo without affecting pitch. JamVox even includes a metronome, 100 drum patterns and a “guitar karaoke” CD that has backing tracks to 28 well-known classic rock songs.
JamVox is an integrated hardware/software system featuring amp/cabinet/effect modeling software with music library, basic recording and GXT functions and a USB audio interface with two three-inch speakers and a wide variety of input and output jacks. The software is compatible with Windows XP and Vista and Mac OS X (10.4 or higher).
The software’s modeling section has 19 amp models, 12 cabinet models and 54 effect models for programming a wide variety of tones. Amp models include outstanding Vox AC15 and AC30 emulations as well as “UK,” “Tweed,” “Black,” “Boutique” and “Modern” variations. The effects consist of 18 “pedals,” 12 modulation effects, 11 delay effects, 12 reverb effects and noise reduction. Programming tones is easy—just drag and drop the desired amp/speaker combination and effects to the program window in any order you desire. Individual control panels for the amp and one selected effect unit appear under the signal chain display. Note that a maximum of six effects are available at once (two pedals and one modulation, delay, reverb and noise-reduction effect each). A tuner and pickup modeling functions are also included.
The monitor features a USB jack, a 1/4-inch guitar input, an XLR mic input, mic, output and monitor level controls, a headphone output, expression pedal and footswitch jacks, and stereo aux/line inputs and outputs. A dedicated driver keeps latency at a minimum when using the JamVox software, but the monitor can also function as an two-in/two-out audio interface with 16-bit 44.1–96kHz input and 24-bit 44.1–96kHz output when used with ASIO/CoreAudiodriver software packages.
JamVox is worth the price of admission for the sound quality of its amp and effect modeling section alone. The monitor’s speakers do a good job of providing big amp sound, but the tones maintain their amp-like characteristics even when the line outputs are connected to much larger studio monitors.
The GXT function is probably the JamVox’s most interesting and unique feature for guitarists who want to learn how to play their favorite songs. This is not an automatic function—depending on the nature of the recorded material, it can take a bit of effort to isolate or remove a guitar track satisfactorily. GXT provides functions similar to notch, high-pass and low-pass filters, allowing you to select low- and high-frequency targets, stereo positioning (for removing or isolating guitar parts panned off-center, for example), bandwidth and gain. Note that GXT will remove or isolate other audio content in the same range such as vocals and snare drums, and the final result can sound unnatural.
Once you’ve mastered the GXT function, the software makes it easy and fun to learn guitar solos and parts from your favorite songs, first by isolating them and then by replacing the original performance with your own. The tempo and pitch transposition features also work well, although sound quality diminishes at more extreme settings. As a DIY learning tool, JamVox is without peer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Most amp and effect modeling software is useful only for recording, but JamVox takes the concept one step further by providing practice, learning and jamming functions. It’s an exceptionally helpful tool that can help beginning to intermediate guitarists sound and play better faster than they ever imagined.
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