TESTED BY JAMES NASH
“CAN I HAVE EVERYTHING LOUDER than everything else?” Ian Gillan’s puzzlingbut- perfect Budokan plea echoes to this day in closet-sized rehearsal rooms packed full of drums, amps, and P.A.s, all turned up just loud enough to hear. With guitar cabs duking it out in close quarters with snare drums, and microphones defiantly aimed directly at loudspeakers, the mere sight of a typical band practice room could make an audiologist (or even a physicist) run screaming.
The folks at JamHub want to change all that by replacing your rehearsal P.A. with a headphone monitoring system that gives each band member an individual mix with control over levels and effects, with no risk of feedback or volume wars. At a JamHub rehearsal, each musician gets a color-coded section of the rubberized “hub,” with a pair of inputs (XLR microphone with Gain control, 1/4" stereo line), a 1/4" headphone output with Level control, and a set of colorcoded Volume controls for mixing everyone connected. Each musician can also pan themselves left/right and dial in onboard DSP effects. The effect presets have no adjustment, but I found the reverbs, delays, and modulation effects to be more than adequate for a rehearsal. A preset chart printed on the bottom of the JamHub helps out when you can’t find the manual—very smart!
JamHub comes in several flavors: the BedRoom ($400 retail/$300 street) has sections for five musicians, while the GreenRoom ($600 retail/$500 street) and the TourBus, on review here, have seven. The TourBus adds the ability to record one of its mixes (the one labeled “R”) onto SD memory cards (at 16-bit, 44.1kHz). I recorded a TourBus rehearsal onto the included 4GB card, and had no problem copying the resulting WAV files to my MacBook Pro using a $15 SD card reader. Both the TourBus and GreenRoom models also have a USB output that sends the R mix out to a computer.
Cramming that much power into the compact JamHub requires some design compromises. For starters, all the line inputs are stereo 1/4", which is great if you’re using, say, an amp modeler with a stereo output. But if you want to connect a mono device such as a DI guitar, you’ll need an adapter (two are provided). There’s also no EQ, but I didn’t miss it. For the most part, EQ is used to fight feedback in a rehearsal room, and headphones eliminate that concern. Each headphone mix gets an FX return (to adjust, say, the total amount of reverb), but not individual FX sends. So if you put reverb on your voice, you’ll hear an equal amount on everyone else’s vocals. That might be a problem for mixing a record, but it’s not a big deal for a rehearsal.
More limiting, however, is the mic/line balance: Each section provides an XLR mic input and a stereo line input, so a musician can connect, for instance, a vocal mic and a Line 6 POD amp modeler and then use the Balance control to blend between guitar and vocal in their headphone mix. But whatever vocal/guitar blend is dialed in is also sent to all the other musicians pre-mixed, so musician #2 can control the level he gets from #1, but can’t, for example, turn up musician #1’s guitar and also turn down his or her voice. Remember too that each section has only one XLR input, so if you want to sing and mic your amp, you’ll need two sections for yourself. Bottom line: You can get by with one section for each band member, but it can be useful to have a few extra sections for added flexibility.
So, how does it work? I tried the JamHub TourBus in a small rehearsal studio, adding a few mics for drums and guitar amps, and got impressive results: no one asked for “more me,” and we knocked down our volume significantly. No earplugs, no trouble hearing, no ears ringing on the way home.
At the other end of the volume spectrum, the same band plugged V-Drums and PODs directly into the ’Hub and jammed into the night without disturbing apartment neighbors. In all situations, the JamHub had plenty of juice to drive power-hungry AKG K240 ’phones, and everyone who used it enjoyed dialing in personal mixes, finding it easier to use the ergonomically designed JamHub than a standard mixing console.
Particularly cool were the SoleMix Remotes ($75 each; one included with GreenRoom, two with TourBus) that let the drummer and keyboardist dial in levels without walking over to the JamHub. The remotes do not add inputs, but they do add mixes and headphone outs, perfect for producers and anyone else who might want to listen in.
One technical concern is mic preamp hiss with vocals. With a standard Shure SM58, most singers heard a noticeable amount of hiss in their headphones when they dialed in a typical (i.e., kinda loud) monitoring level. Swapping the SM58 for a hot condenser Neumann KMS105 eliminated the noise, as did running the SM58 through a Mackie preamp and into a JamHub line input, bypassing the JamHub mic pre.
All in all, the JamHubs are solid and well-thought-out products that provide an economical monitoring rig for full bands. There are many ways to deck out your rehearsal room with headphones (starting with competing systems from Hear, Aviom, and Furman), but JamHub is a great way to make the leap without breaking the bank. I find rehearsing with individual headphone mixes is easier on the ears, easier on the neighbors, and may even help you get more done. Everything louder than everything else? Thanks to JamHub, we have the technology.
CONTACT JamHub, (877) JAM-HUBS; jamhub.com
PRICE $850 retail/$700 street
CONTROLS Gain (mic input), Gain (Line input), Effects Level, Headphone Level, Stage (pan), Mixer (7)
I/O Seven XLR inputs, seven 1/4" inputs (TRS), four remote control inputs
EXTRAS Built-in recorder. USB connectivity. 24-bit stereo effects. 48V phantom power. 4GB SD card and two remote controllers included.
KUDOS Individual mix for everyone in the band. Plenty of headphone level. Remote controls add convenience.
CONCERNS Mic preamps are a little hissy.