Behind the Scenes: How Jamstack Does Effects
The original concept behind our attachable amp series was to rely on your smartphone to be the brains of the operation. This method had a long list in the “pros” column, but there were a few cons as well:
- On one hand, you were utilising the super computer in your pocket with the capability to connect to the internet, record, and file share.
- Smartphone technology is always improving.
- This tool would provide easy access to all the effects you could dream of using.
- It keeps the cost of the unit down, while still giving you plenty of options and control.
This approach to guitar effects is radically different than anything that had been done in the past, and to this day, we’re the only amp that allows you to plug in your phone directly for effects and recording. For all the reasons listed above, this is something that we’re still very committed to.
- On the other hand, we were trying to bridge the gap between the user experience of the electric guitar and the acoustic guitar. With built in effects that could be optimized for the amp itself (no phone required!), the electric guitar would gain the “pick up and play” quality that is so favourable with acoustic guitars. We knew having the effects of an electric with the convenience of an acoustic would be a magical experience.
Since we first launched the Jamstack we’ve sent out numerous surveys, spoken to the passionate community in our behind the scenes facebook group, and noted that adding built in effects was one of the most requested features for the next generation. It was clear that our customers really wanted it, and it was a necessary adjustment for us to take the user experience to the next level.
In order to incorporate built-in effects into the next Jamstack amp, we knew we were going to have to be a cut above the other available guitar amps. This is a core value for every product we produce - how can we take a leap ahead of everything else?
We figured there was an opportunity to improve upon existing amp modelling technology, because most use EQs and filters to simulate amp-like qualities in your guitar tone. This is due to the fact that the heavy duty processors necessary to run real amp simulation effects tend to be too expensive to integrate into consumer products.
Hugely successful bands like Metallica and U2 have used these types of digital effects for recording and live performance for a long time now, and the results are truly incredible. These effect rack units use algorithms that are modeled by employing a number of advanced techniques on analog systems such as frequency sweeps to learn how one signal in a chain affects another, resulting in something called a convolution. This means the simulation literally does exactly what the analog circuit would do in the same situation. As you can imagine this takes a lot of processing power to run, and can be very costly.
After a lot of research, we discovered a new line of ARM processors that, for the first time, would offer the computational power and affordability that would allow us to filter down these “pro-level” guitar effects into a portable consumer product. So the hardware was promising, but we still had a number of challenges.
There were only a few companies in the world who knew how to write the algorithms necessary to create the true modelling effects we were talking about - and it takes years of expertise to get this right. Luckily, we found one in our new partners at Audified. For decades they have been world leaders in guitar and vocal effects and already had incredible desktop class software.
We got to work porting their algorithms to run on our ARM processor, and created a Systems on a Module that acts as the brain of the unit. Seeing that run for the first time was a really special experience. Now this module can act as the brain for our hardware system, paired with a world class control app, wireless in and out, and the speakers to do it all justice.
It wasn’t easy but we couldn’t be more proud of the result and are so thankful to work with such amazing partners, all with the common desire to make something special. Let us know if you have any questions about our built in effects! You’ll find more details about what you can control in your signal chain in our future blog about the control app.