So we started over. I was at mixing station #1
with an acoustic, so I flipped the “1-R” switch
to “R” in order to hear what was going to the
recording. I set everyone’s instrument and vocal
input level one at a time, then dialed in an ideal
mix with the monitor knobs dedicated to the
recorder. Once those levels were set, I flipped
the switch to “1” in order to dial in the monitor
mix dedicated to my own headphones.
Before having everyone play at once, we went
’round the horn to adjust panning (Stage) for
each person. Spreading some players’ signals
out a little to the left or the right made the
headphones less noticeable because it allowed
our brains to detect spatial dimensions within
the instrumentation. Then we dialed in a smidge
of FX for each vocal. The FX setting we chose
was a two-second spring reverb. This was key,
because initially everyone’s vocal felt unrealistic.
Making everyone’s voice a little wet allowed us
to perceive the room depth that our eyes unconsciously
told our brains to expect. From there,
it made sense to play a song or two to allow
everyone to dial in their preferred monitor mixes.
I Can Hear Clearly Now,
the Wall of Sound is Gone
Being able to hear everyone so clearly was
amazing. It was like listening to a CD that we
were playing live. But moments after the novelty
of crystal-clean practice tones wore off, we were
left with the reality of how we really sounded.
Flat background vocals were sticking out, the
keys and lead were battling during a section
that needed one person or the other to lay out,
and the bassist’s tone needed more top end
because his attack was completely mushed out.
Luckily, everyone in the group was pretty good
about the onslaught of suggestions they were
suddenly getting. Adjustments were made and
within minutes we sounded better and found
more nuanced issues to work out. It didn’t take
long for the JamHub to prompt everyone to
bring their musicianship up another level.
One thing to keep in mind is that every instrument
input is a 1/4" TRS unbalanced stereo jack.
Plugging a guitar in direct with a normal cord
results in everyone hearing the guitar in only
the left ear of their headphones. The JamHub
comes with two mono-to-stereo adapter jacks
that turn a normal guitar cable signal into a split
mono signal, but I highly recommend using a
pedal with stereo outs and a Y-cable to feed a
stereo signal of your guitar into the JamHub.
Take advantage of the unit’s true stereo environment—
split mono just doesn’t compare.
Players who get their dirt from their amps
and need them dimed to feel right with the
world might have a hard time getting used to
the JamHub, although power soaks, isolation
cabs, or an SM57 on the grille are possible
solutions for getting your signal into the
unit. The trick is to keep your amp’s volume
from overpowering everyone’s headphones.
(Headphones with isolation designs are a
good idea, too.) Many amps today also have
DI outs, tuner outs, and headphone outs that
can be used with minimal trouble.
The Final Mojo
There are some hurdles with the JamHub:
First, getting everyone’s signal into the unit
might require some different rig considerations.
Second, you need good headphones.
I struggled to hear everything properly during
one session with a moderately-priced pair that
didn’t offer decent isolation and a full, flat range.
Further, having each musician’s instrument
and vocal level controlled by a single knob in
everyone else’s monitoring section is annoying,
though understandable—especially considering
the extra cost and bulk it would add to separate
the features. And, finally, there is the danger of
getting spoiled by the JamHub. If your bandmates
wish you could roll with the punches a
little better when you can’t hear everything perfectly
at a gig, it may not be a good idea for you
to get used to hearing a pristinely personalized
monitor mix at every practice.
That being said, the JamHub is quite possibly
the best thing to happen to band practice. I can
see the concerns I listed above being absolutely
no concern whatsoever for many bands. The
“silent practice” thing is a nice selling point,
too—parents and cohabitants of musicians
will especially appreciate the reduced output
coming from the band room. However, the
JamHub’s real value is in its ability to let you
hear what you normally can’t—every single note
that everyone else is playing and singing.
you want to get more out of
practice—and with less volume.
you loathe headphones and need amps
at full growl to get your rocks off.