Jamulus isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s definitely gotten more traction the past several months. As the need for remote collaboration skyrocketed this last year, we’ve seen dormant technology like Jamulus emerge stronger than ever. We’ll strive to answer any questions you may have in this Jamulus review.
What is Jamulus?
Jamulus is software specifically made for musicians to rehearse and jam online, remotely. It’s open-source, which means it’s free, and it’s been in ongoing development since 2006. Jamulus promises high quality, low-latency sound, which is exactly what a group of musicians need if they plan to play together in different parts of the world.
After downloading the software, users can join public or private ‘jam rooms’ virtually. This means that a group of people who know each other can rehearse, or strangers can meet and jam together for the first time. Obviously software like this raises a lot of questions and concerns about stability, latency, and overall quality. However, many other Jamulus reviews consider it one of, if not singularly, the best types of software for this purpose. Let’s take a look!
- SEE ALSO: Jamkazam Review: Remote Collaboration
Getting Started: Set Up
Setting up is pretty basic, especially if you have even the slightest amount of tech savvy. Since most of you are engineers and producers already, you should have no problem getting started with Jamulus.
The most important part of the set-up is having an input and output device, which in this case would be your audio interface. If you’re a vocalist, for instance, your mic would run through the interface to Jamulus, or you can mic whatever instrument you play. It’s probably a good idea to run a microphone for communication regardless of what instrument you play. So having an interface with at least two inputs is ideal—one for your voice, and one for your instrument (whether you’re going direct, or miking it).
The next essential part of the Jamulus set-up is a wired ethernet connection. Unfortunately, this is pretty much non-negotiable, because WiFi will cause all sorts of issues, namely with latency. You want the absolute fastest connection possible which is only available through ethernet. Depending on the type of computer you have, one issue may be the lack of a dedicated ethernet port (looking at you post-2016 MacBook Pro). In this case you’ll also need some sort of adapter or dongle that has the necessary port.
Jamulus Review: Inside the Software
Once you have your hardware ready to go, you can open up Jamulus and create a profile. You’ll be asked to declare what instrument you play so you and other users can find each other and create the ideal band arrangement.
From there, you can connect and start navigating through the different public servers. They’re organized by genre, and unfortunately not all of them are covered yet.
Next to the servers you’ll also see a ping time which is measured in milliseconds. If you’ve ever played a multiplayer game online, you’ll know that a lower ping means less time to communicate with the server, and thus lower latency. A ping time of 40 ms or fewer is ideal, since that’s basically imperceptible to the human ear.
After you join a room you can set up your own personal levels mix. This is super handy if the other folks in the room all have different input gain on their end; someone might be too hot and another might be too quiet. Now, you can also choose to mute yourself and observe/practice before joining in on the action. You might not want to run in guns blazing in a room full of strangers who are well into a jam sesh together!
We mentioned earlier that a microphone is probably preferable for communicating with the group, but Jamulus also offers a chat in the client as well. The one thing that users may find lacking is that Jamulus is audio-only. There is no video at this time, though some groups may initiate a muted Zoom call in addition to Jamulus for visuals.
Do you need a private Jamulus server?
The short answer is no. And that’s a good thing, because it can be a little tricky setting up a true private server for you and your friends. The easiest work-around for private jamming is to join a public server with your band, then solo each other in the Jamulus mixer. Anyone not soloed will see you as muted on their mixer; you won’t hear them and vice versa.
If your individual needs necessitate the use of a private server, we recommend checking out Jamulus’s guide here. In short, you’ll need to open up a port on your firewall for Jamulus, which allows your bandmates to connect once you give them your IP. It isn’t all that complex, honestly, but does require a bit of extra finesse and savvy that may or may not be necessary given the solo function on existing servers.
If we wanted to give a traditional rating in our Jamulus review, we’d give the open-source software a 3/5. For a free client, Jamulus is actually great. The concept of meeting strangers and then (sappiness alert) share the gift of music together is pretty special. It also gets props for being so easy to set up and get started.
Where Jamulus loses points is in the lack of video, and unfortunately latency can still be a big problem. While Jamulus strives to connect people globally, distance can be a killer as folks in other countries routinely encounter 300+ ms ping. It’s also kind of annoying to configure a private server, though this is at least partially remedied by the solo function in public rooms.