JamBlaster - Play music in real time with others from home
The JamBlaster is crazy fast, greatly extends the distances over which you can play together, and offers plug and play ease of use.
What is the JamBlaster?
Our CEO started JamKazam when he grew frustrated that he could not play music with his brother Doug, who lived 250 miles away. JamKazam is a free Internet service that lets musicians play together from different locations in real time, and today musicians use Windows and Mac computers with audio interfaces to play together on JamKazam.
As musicians started using JamKazam, we analyzed the data from their music sessions, and we found that the amount of time spent just processing audio on the computers was often as much or even more than the time required to transmit the audio over the Internet to each other. This blew our minds.
Putting more specific numbers to this, we've found that 85% of the gear in use by our thousands of users today requires 10 to 20 milliseconds just to process audio. This matters a lot because every one millisecond is worth about 100 miles of range on the Internet backbone! Given that the JamBlaster takes less than 3 milliseconds to process audio, the JamBlaster makes a massive difference in your ability to play online in real time!
Today's audio interfaces were designed and built for recording music, not for real-time streaming. And the Windows and OS X operating systems are general purpose technologies, good for doing a zillion different things, but definitely not great at handling real-time audio.
We realized that to help musicians play together in really tight sessions, and to let musicians play from great distances, we needed to build a product that could process audio almost instantly, while still delivering excellent audio quality.
We also watched musicians struggle with driver issues, hardware and software incompatibilities, firewall constraints, and other problems, and we realized that musicians need a product that is truly "plug and play". Something that just works. Thus the JamBlaster.
JamBlaster Band Demos
The JamBlaster is not just a concept. It's real, and it works! We are currently on the fourth iteration of the hardware, and we have the JamKazam application running on the JamBlaster. We've had three bands play together using JamBlasters at each remote location to test and validate the performance and audio quality of the product. Following are videos of the band performances, and the audio in these videos was recorded from the headphone jack so that you can hear exactly what the musicians heard while playing in real time using JamBlasters.
Big Cat: Under the Bridge
Big Cat: Anyday Like Yesterday
Linus Pauling Quartet: Waiting For the Axe To Fall
Jazzy Blues Thang: My Sexy Guitar Man
Isn’t Latency Going To Be A Problem?
Latency exists in all musical performance environments. The speed of sound is so slow that two musicians sitting 10 feet away from each other will experience 10 milliseconds of delay, or latency, from the time one plays an instrument until the other hears it. The key to enabling online real-time musical performance is to keep latency so low that it doesn't interfere with the ability to play in sync. Here's a video that explains why the JamBlaster is the best product available for this application:
The JamBlaster radically reduces audio processing latency, significantly increasing the distance/range over which musicians can successfully play together. In addition to cutting audio processing time, it also reduces something called jitter, which can typically save another 2 to 5 milliseconds in latency during sessions - on top of the savings in audio processing time!
Even so, if distance becomes great enough or an Internet path route is highly inefficient, latency can still become problematic. So there are times even with the JamBlaster that latency can be prohibitively high. JamKazam helps in these situations too by automatically analyzing connections among the musicians in our community and scoring your connections so that you'll know ahead of time who you can play with well and who you can't, avoiding unnecessary frustration. Here's a video that explains more about this.
What Kind of Internet Service Do You Need to Play?
When you get a JamBlaster, you have a device that you know will "just work", and is ideal for playing online with other musicians. The other thing you need is broadband Internet service. You don't need anything special or unusual. Most broadband Internet connections today work fine. Here's what to watch for.
We've found that both cable broadband and fiber broadband Internet services work well, while low-end DSL service often doesn't work well, and satellite/wireless Internet doesn't work due to high latency.
To play in groups of 4 musicians (audio only), you'll want to have Internet service rated at 1Mbps of uplink/upload bandwidth. If you're not sure what your upload bandwidth is, we'd recommend you go to www.speedtest.net and run the test there. It will tell you how much download and upload bandwidth you have available.
And finally, to play in online, real-time sessions, you really need to avoid using WiFi connections, and instead connect to your router using an Ethernet cable. The JamBlaster has an Ethernet port so that you can connect it directly to your home router. If you want to play in a room far away from the room where your home router is located, you can buy a 100-foot Ethernet cable on Amazon for about $10, and then just run it from your router to another room in your house, and then coil it back up and store it when you're done. It's cheap and easy.
The JamBlaster Plugs Into the JamKazam Platform
When you get a JamBlaster, you get far more than just a piece of hardware. You get the JamKazam application, which runs on the JamBlaster, and you also instantly get access to the entire JamKazam live music platform.
JamKazam offers so many great features that we can't list them all here. Following are links to YouTube tutorial videos that demonstrate some of JamKazam's core features, so you can learn more about some of the things you'll be able to do with your own JamBlaster.
The JamBlaster Plugs Into the JamKazam Community
When you get a JamBlaster, you also plug immediately into the JamKazam community of musicians.
There are thousands of musicians on JamKazam today. And with your JamBlaster, you can play seamlessly with other musicians whether they have a JamBlaster or are using a computer and audio interface. Countless jams have already been played on JamKazam. Many great friendships have been made. Bands, both virtual and real-world, have been formed.
The JamKazam community of musicians is a welcoming environment for creativity. Whether you are an advanced player or a beginner, young or old, you will find similar people with whom you can play. There are musicians on JamKazam who are into rock, jazz, blues, classical, bluegrass, country, electronica - and even smaller genres like celtic music.
Our users really enjoy the JamKazam service today, and the JamBlaster is going to make it even better. Here's a video of what some of our users have to say about JamKazam:
Following are tech specs on the JamBlaster:
JamBlaster Computing Resources
The JamBlaster includes a quad-core 1.2GHz ARM processor, 1GB memory, 8GB storage, and GigE Ethernet network connectivity. It runs a Linux operating system with an optimized real-time kernel, and the entire system has been designed, architected, and optimized end-to-end to deliver blazing audio processing speed.
JamBlaster Audio Quality
The JamBlaster uses premium audio components throughout to deliver superb audio quality on par with audio interfaces that were designed only for recording. The JamBlaster delivers up to 24-bit, 96kHz premium audio. Frequency response for mic/line/instrument inputs is 20Hz – 20kHz +/-0.2dB. THD+N is -107dB for mic inputs and <-100 dB for line and instrument inputs.
The JamBlaster features two Neutrik combo ports on the front, so you can plug in either 1/4" (TS) or XLR style connectors. Each input port can be individually set to accept line level (lo Z) or instrument level (hi Z) inputs, and each input port can be individually set to supply 48V phantom power if needed.
The headphone port accepts a standard 1/4" TRS connector from your headphones.
The horizontal cutout labeled "MIC" on the front of the JamBlaster is a built-in chat mic you can use to talk with other musicians while in sessions.
The Ethernet port on the rear of the JamBlaster is a GigE Ethernet port, and the JamBlaster must be connected to your home router using an Ethernet cable (not included) for Internet connectivity. We are considering supporting WiFi USB sticks via the USB ports on the rear of the JamBlaster, but WiFi usually causes substantial latency and audio degradation, so we are not committing to enabling this capability. We will continue to consider it as a possibility as routers improve over time.
The JamBlaster includes 8GB of onboard storage, and the Linux operating system and JamKazam application that run on the JamBlaster use less than 1GB of this storage. For musicians who want more storage capacity for recordings, we plan to support a short list of "certified" USB memory sticks that you can buy and plug into a USB port to expand the JamBlaster's storage capacity.
This button is available in case troubleshooting is needed on the JamBlaster. For example, it can be used to hard reset the box to factory defaults.
The JamBlaster's power supply (included with the JamBlaster) is rated for 100-240VAC 50/60Hz, so it works with both North America's standard 120V/60Hz and Europe's standard 220V/50Hz power infrastructure. Please note that the physical power supply plug is a standard US plug type, so if you live outside the US, you will need to use a plug adapter (not included), but not a power converter.
- Compatibility with Recording SoftwareThe JamBlaster may be connected to Windows and Mac computers using a USB cable (not included), and will act as a "normal" audio interface when used in this configuration, so you can use it with your favorite recording software (e.g. Avid ProTools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, Reaper, GarageBand, etc.).
The JamBlaster is controlled using a companion app that can run in a standard browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Or you may control the JamBlaster using a companion app that can run on iOS or Android tablets and smartphones.
What Else Do I Need?
If you play an acoustic instrument like a violin, trumpet, or piano, you'll need to use a microphone to capture the audio from your instrument. If you don't already have one, we'd recommend the GLS ES57, which is a knockoff of the pricier Shure SM57, much cheaper and still very good quality and sound. You'll need an XLR cable to connect the mic to the JamBlaster. You can also use this same microphone to mic an electric guitar amp equally well.
If you play the drums, we've found that using two mics works just fine - one down on the kick, and one up above for snares/cymbals.
If you are going to sing, you'll need to use a microphone to capture the audio from your vocals. If you don't already have one, we'd recommend the GLS ES58, which is a knockoff of the pricier Shure SM58, much cheaper and still very good quality and sound. You'll need an XLR cable to connect the mic to the JamBlaster.
If you have an electronic instrument, you can typically plug that into the JamBlaster using a 1/4" TS connector. This would cover things like a bass guitar or an electronic keyboard, for example.
One of the nice things about the JamKazam app is that it can automatically duplicate mono signals into stereo signals, so you can use just one port per instrument, and still have great stereo audio.
If you are a multi-instrumentalist, or if you are a drummer who already has 5 mics on your kit, and two input ports is not enough, we recommend using a simple analog mixer like a Behringer Xenyx 1002B. These are inexpensive and offer loads of inputs. You can plug tons of gear into the mixer, and then connect the audio outputs from the mixer into the inputs on the JamBlaster. Analog mixers add no latency, so this is a good solution if you need to connect lots of instruments.
Other than that, you'll need a computer that can run a browser - ideally Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or IE - to run the user interface to use all of the features of JamKazam and the JamBlaster. Or you can do the same thing on an iOS or Android tablet. Or you can run a subset of the features to control the JamBlaster and play in sessions on an iOS or Android smartphone.
Who Can Buy the JamBlaster?
JamKazam can sell and ship the JamBlaster to individuals who live in the following countries:
United States, Canada, and Mexico
United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Austria
Brazil and Argentina
Australia, Japan, and South Korea
Please note that shipping charges vary by country, and will be added to your total when you check out. We're sorry that international shipping charges are so high. Based on problems we've seen in other projects on Kickstarter with backers not receiving their stuff, we have opted to use UPS Worldwide Expedited, which ships using air and is door-to-door verified. We cannot ship to PO Box or APO addresses. Also, please note that JamKazam will ship the JamBlaster to you, and that you as the consumer be will responsible to pay any customs duties, taxes, or other charges that are due and payable for the purchase of the JamBlaster under the laws of your own country.
Finally, please be aware that the user interface of the JamKazam service and the JamBlaster are currently only available in English. While we do intend to localize the interface to support other languages at some point in the future, we are making no definitive commitment here, and have no committed timeline for this effort. So you need to be able to use the English interface if you plan to buy a JamBlaster.
Schedule to Finish and Ship the JamBlaster
If you're like us - salivating over getting your hands on the JamBlaster - then you're going to want to know when you will actually get the device. The short answer is that the first units in volume will be made available in August.
We've already built JamBlasters in small quantities for engineering and test use, but to execute a larger manufacturing run, we have to order and secure all the parts we need. Some of the parts require months to receive from when we order them. So it will take 4 months just to get the parts we need based on published lead times. Then it will take 1 month to manufacture and test the boxes. This is what is driving the timeline, pretty simple really.
While we're sitting around waiting for parts, we'll also be busy putting finishing touches on the JamBlaster as follows:
- We need to run the JamBlaster through FCC, CE and a couple of other tests required for certifying consumer electronics products as safe. This is always a pain, but we've done it many times.
- We need to add the JamBlaster control features into our browser interface so you can control the JamBlaster from computers and tablets using the same browser interface that JamKazammers can use today on our website.
- We need to build a JamBlaster companion app for iOS and Android smartphones so you can also control the JamBlaster from smartphones, as using the standard browser interface will not work well on these smaller screens.
- We need to finish up work that's already underway on the JamBlaster's "hidden" features, like self updating and so on.
Ready to Order Your JamBlaster?
The only way the JamBlaster will make it the rest of the way to the market and to musicians like you is if you help us meet our Kickstarter goal. So if you're in, here's what you do.
Go back up to the top of this page. Then look at the right column as you start scrolling down the page until you see the "Pledge $199" to "GET ONE OF THE FIRST JAMBLASTERS" Reward box. Click that box and follow the steps from there.
Or if you want an even more stellar deal, get 3 other friends together, and click the "Pledge $599" to get a 4-pack of JamBlasters at just $149 each. This is what you'd pay for just a run-of-the-mill audio interface, while the JamBlaster is *both* a computer plus interface in one, and way faster than your other options.
And thank you for joining us in our quest. You're going to love the JamBlaster...
T-Shirts & Other Ways to Help
If getting your own JamBlaster doesn't make sense for you right now, you can still help JamKazam along the way by buying a t-shirt or just contributing whatever cash you can to help us. We've raised a little bit of seed funding, but most of the money we've invested is from our own back pockets, and most of us are still working on this for free, some of us without paying jobs at all - yikes! If you'd like a t-shirt, they are available in the colors/styles below. You can buy the t-shirt reward in the right column, and you'll be able to choose your color later when the 30-day Kickstarter is done. You can also use another reward near the top of the right column to contribute $10 (or more if you feel moved to do so) just to help us. Thank you for your support!
Risks and challenges
As with all technology projects, there are risks and obstacles. Working on the free JamKazam app and Internet service, and working on the JamBlaster, we've already overcome more risks and obstacles than you can shake a stick at. Some of the risks that remain on the JamBlaster are:
- We still need to conduct and pass FCC/CE certification testing, and this can require modifications if we have radiative or conductive emissions issues. Even if we do, we should be able to absorb changes into the existing timeline.
- We still need to secure parts, and lead times can vary. Hopefully there is not a shortage in any key parts, and if there is, we would attempt to find these parts in different markets.
- There are still optimizations we need to make to the JamBlaster so that it behaves well in larger sessions, and so that making recordings does not impact streaming audio quality in sessions, as well as more general optimizations and stability work.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)