The front of the Apogee JAM.
There's no doubt that Apogee did a lot more here than just upgrade the cable. When you first open the box you'll be treated to the bright glare of a pretty sweet chrome look. The body is now nickel plated with a durable UV finish. It doesn't feel like an iOS device. It truly feels like a professional compact audio interface. This is no surprise, because that's exactly what the Apogee Jam is.
"Apogee paid attention to detail when designing the Jam 96k. It feels considerably more sturdy in the hand thanks to the nickel finish."
Holding the Jam 96k and the original Jam in your hands really makes you appreciate how much attention Apogee paid to detail when designing the Jam 96k. It feels considerably more sturdy in the hand thanks to the nickel finish. The single gain knob is constructed well, and it stays in place with no wobble or 'looseness' to it. I feel confident that when I set the gain it will stay there throughout my work with it.
Jam input - You can't really mess this one up! Just plug in!
In terms of getting up and running quickly, you really can't beat the Jam 96k. You plug it in, and you can use it. It's as simple as that! There are no drivers to install and if you're using GarageBand for an iOS device, you don't even have to select an audio input device. There is a single jack for your instrument cable that is clearly labeled. The multicolor LED is easy to see and understand the status of your Jam. The LED light will also assist you in setting your gain level and give you a good idea of how 'hot' your signal going into the Jam 96k is. Although the Jam is designed by Apogee, it almost 'feels' like an Apple-constructed device. If you enjoy making music on a Mac or iOS device, the Jam will make you feel right at home.
"Although the Jam is designed by Apogee, it almost 'feels' like an Apple-constructed device. If you enjoy making music on a Mac or iOS device, the Jam will make you feel right at home."
With so much music being composed for high definition playback either online or in film, it's good to see companies like Apogee helping musicians stay ahead of the curve. There are a lot of debates as to how much benefit there is to recording at 96k, and I'm certainly not going to add fuel to that fire. I will tell you that this model definitely sounds different than the original Jam in a few pleasing ways:
It's quieter. Considerably quieter. I used to have some difficulty recording pure clean guitar tracks on an iOS device without getting some hum. That's a thing of the past with the Jam 96k. Apogee has made an extremely clean interface here. With a good guitar and a decent cable you will have no problem tracking some really nice sounding guitars.
"Recording at 96k cleanly really seems to make my guitar tracks sit in with my virtual instruments considerably better. I find myself reaching for the EQ quite a bit less."
The sound feels 'wider' and sits in with my synths quite nicely. I have a lot of plugins that run at 96k and when recording guitars at 44.1 it was always a challenge to make them really fit in a mix together. Recording at 96k cleanly really seems to make my guitar tracks sit in with my virtual instruments considerably better. I find myself reaching for the EQ quite a bit less.
A side angle view of the Apogee JAM.
The only minor drawback I noticed was when connected to a Mac Pro or iMac there was a tiny bit of ground hum when compared with my traditional direct box / audio interface setup. I did not notice it on my MacBook Pro or my iPad air. The small bit of hum at high gain was nothing I couldn't live with, and to be honest if the Jam 96k sounded as good as my $1,500 direct box / preamp setup I use for tracking guitar I'd feel like I wasted about $1,400!!
"There's no question, the Apogee Jam96k is a great upgrade to an already great product line."
There's no question, the Apogee Jam96k is a great upgrade to an already great product line. It's now my 'go-to' iOS guitar input device and I'll likely put one in my MacBook Pro bag as well. For the price, you really can't beat it.
Pros: Great sound quality. Sturdy build, feels very 'pro'. Works with iOS and OSX devices. An Apogee interface for $129! What's not to love?
Cons: A touch of noise at high gain with desktop computers.