Please note: Jack Campbell, CEO of DVForge, claims that the JamPods we and other reviewers have received were mistakenly shipped as review units. Campbell states that the units were hand-assembled display models that were not intended to be fully functional. We’ll revisit the JamPod when we receive replacement units.
Forget charts, forget lessons, forget instructional videos. Many musicians learn their best licks from playing along with recordings. The difficulty of doing so is that you have to achieve an audio balance that allows you to hear both the recording and your playing and such exercises with an electric guitar cranked up to 11 can be disruptive to those around you. To address these issues, music manufacturers have created personal amplifiers that not only allow you to listen to an electric instrument jacked into the amp through headphones, but also plug in an additional audio source such as a cassette deck or CD player.
DVForge has released
JamPod, a $30 device that brings this scheme to the iPod. Regrettably, the JamPod unit I received is far too typical of other DVForge products I’ve examined—great idea but of poor quality.
Like many iPod accessories you’ve seen, the JamPod plugs into the the top of dock connector iPods, connecting to the iPod’s Audio and Remote ports. Up top you’ll find a 1/8” headphone jack for your headphones and an input jack used for connecting your instrument to the device (the JamPod includes a 2’ cable that bears a 1/4” plug on one end and an 1/8” plug on the other for connecting your instrument to the device). The JamPod also features a volume wheel that adjusts the output of both the iPod and instrument.
Because this volume wheel adjusts both the iPod and instrument’s volume, getting the correct audio balance between the two is a little tricky. The best first step is to adjust the volume on the instrument and the JamPod so you can hear yourself play. Then use the iPod’s wheel to adjust the music volume.
A Question of Quality
When I plugged the JamPod into my 40GB 4G iPod and then jacked in my headphones, I could hear only the left side of the mix. Wiggling the JamPod restored the right channel. I unplugged the device, examined the connectors at the bottom, and discovered that the audio connector was loose. I plugged it back in and wiggled it into a position so I could hear both channels. As soon as I plugged in the included guitar cable and, in turn, plugged that cable into my Chapman Stick (a ten-string electric instrument that you hammer rather than pluck), I heard an annoying buzz. The buzz was worse when I plugged the JamPod into my Alesis keyboard.
Of course I received a bad unit and will endeavor to get a new one, but this kind of thing is fairly typical of my experience with DVForge products. In the past I’ve dealt with a variety of DVForge accessories that had problems—a MIDI keyboard with five dead keys out of the box, a Bluetooth mouse that tracked terribly, and a speaker system that included a speaker jack too large to fit in the receptacle designed for it. While it’s possible that I’m the one unlucky soul on earth to receive this many products with quality control issues, my faith in coincidence is waning.
The JamPod is a great idea and one that I hope DVForge will endeavor to execute without the accompanying quality issues.