Snap-on amp lets play anywhere guitarists rock app-based FX
Travel guitars with built-in speakers and effects have been on the market for an absolute age, but we've seen a number of dedicated instruments recently that have embraced our modern digital world to include smartphone integration. What if you already have a six-string workhorse and don't really want to stump up the extra cash to buy a smartphone-friendly axe? That's precisely the problem that the JamStack was designed to solve. It's a portable guitar amplifier that snaps onto a strap peg and makes use of a connected smartphone to tap into an almost infinite universe of app-based digital effects.
The JamStack project began with electrical engineer and self-confessed tinkerer Chris Prendergast mutilating his guitar to add a smartphone and make use of its arsenal of digital sound capabilities and output the tones through a small speaker installed in the instrument.
Fueled by suggestions and encouragement from friends, he subsequently created a basic prototype (covered in cardboard) of a speaker and smartphone mount that could be attached and detached from pretty much any guitar at will – in a similar way to the Standley acoustic guitar stand. This led to a somewhat slicker proof-of-concept design and a Kickstarter crowdfunding launch to get the JamStack onto the strap pegs of mobile guitarists.
The creator promises effortless pick up and play convenience, where the portable speaker is popped onto a guitar's strap button, with polymer padding on all contact surfaces helping to protect the host instrument from scratches. A fold-out stand sports its own strap button and serves to keep the JamStack in place, as well as allowing it to be used as a standalone smartphone music speaker.
The device rocks two built-in speakers powered by a 10 W amp, and is reported to offer great tones at both high and low volume settings. Its integrated battery is said to be good for up to 8 hours of continuous play, it tips the scales at under 2 lb, includes its own volume knob and there's a headphone jack for not-so-public sessions.
The JamStack will also come with a spring-load, adjustable smartphone mount for smart device placement and positioning flexibility. A short instrument cable runs from the guitar's output jack to the amp and another audio cable connects the unit to the docked smartphone. The signal path runs from the guitar to smartphone to JamStack.
With smartphone in place, the player can dial in digitized amp and stomp emulations from apps like AmpliTube, fire up a recording app to capture riff-tastic creations, or jam along to backing tracks running on the smartphone, without the instrument battling the music for volume supremacy. A smartphone bypass button allows players to output the guitar signal direct to the JamStack.
The JamStack Kickstarter launched yesterday, with Super Early Bird pledges starting at CAD 186 (about US$140). If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in August 2017. The pitch video below shows the working prototype in action.