Lexicon JamMan

An early live looping tool introduced in 1994. It was well demonstrated at the music fairs, but apparently did not reach Lexicons sales limits and was soon discontinued. Not to be confused with the newer Digitech JamMan, apart from the name that’s an unrelated product.

These days a JamMan can be picked up cheaply on ebay. In it’s day it was an exciting product for some of us, but now it’s small and limited feature set is usually considered to be too frustrating. It does have one redeeming feature, apart from a slight loss in the highest of frequencies (connected with it’s 32kHz sample rate) the sound is absolutely pristine. Originally it came with 8s of memory, but expanable to a usable 32s with additional chips. The loop is mono, but usefully the dry signal is stereo. Controls are Input Vol, Wet/Dry Mix and Output Volume, allowing use as a stompbox, or connected to pro audio gear.

There are 3 modes of operation, but note that often a feature you’d really want in one mode is implemented in one others. If you change mode you lose your looped audio.

  • Echo.A tap time delay with a feedback control. Frustratingly the bypass function mutes both input and output. As it’s possible to re-tap the loop length as the audio plays you can get a Multiply effect as long as your timing’s accurate, it’s not always click free though.
  • Loop. A loop sampler. Tap a switch to begin record, and again to end record and commence play. After that you can select one of 3 functions: Overdub; Replace; Mute. Replace needs a press to start it, and another to end. Mute simply mutes the loop audio as if it were running in the background.
    Only way to stop the loop is delete it. It’s possible to record more than one loop, up to 8 depending on available time. Only one loop can play at once, and loop time is fixed with the first loop. Only practical if you’re playing along to a metronome (drum machine) or are synced to incoming midi (see below), because without a time refence it’s impossible to judge the length of any but the shortest loop.
  • Sampler. Record a sample. Each time you press it starts play from the beginning, goes on to the end and stops. You can Reverse the sample, but results of reversing during playback are disappointing. It doesn’t start going back from the point where you hit the button as you’d expect, but jumps so that playback time of the sample is preserved. Hence the popular practise of running backwards and forwards over the same bit of loop is not supported.

Midi Functions. All the switches (not the knobs) are accessible from Midi, however the response time is too slow for rhythmic accuracy (not the case with the regular footswitch). There’s also a few of addition functions:

  • Stop/Start. Would be an excellent addition if not for the latency.
  • Fade In Loop Mode. A substitute for feedback control while in loop mode. A choice of fast/med/slow fade. Causes clicks at the loop boundary. You can go into fade while overdubbing to simulate a delay, but clicks are worse.
  • Midi Sync Out. sends midi clock, works well.
  • Midi Sync In. Will hard sync to incoming midi clock, although not without clicks at loop boundary (worse if overdubbing). If tempo changes will simply re-trigger each time it has received ‘a loops worth’ of midi clocks (quite fun). You have to choose the number of beats in a bar before recording, choice limited to 3,4,6,8,12,16 & 24.

There’s a lot that doesn’t really work well on the JamMan, midi control isn’t worth the effort and the multiple loop function just isn’t quite useable. However, apart from the fact that the supplied footswitch can be a bit flakey it does manage the basic functions very solidly.

Software upgrades are available, see below, but these either add very little, or are essentially unfinished and not claimed to be reliable. Support for them is sporadic, and I’ve been unable to elicit a response as to whether the midi latency issue was ever addressed (or even acknowledged).

Overall the low price and good sound quality make the JamMan worth considering as a basic looper.

Review by andy butler

Lexicon Jamman user guide (pdf)

History, written by its main engineer Bob Sellon

‘Lexicon JamMan Enhancement Rom’ from Bob. A replacement chip which adds a few welcome features. Not known if issues of audio clicks and midi latency are solved.

Looper Pro ia very advanced software upgrade that Bob created independent of Lexicon. It’s still in the Beta phase after many years, there are known bugs in the software and looks like you’d have to burn your own EPROM from software available on the site. Not known if any issues with original software are solved. Web site is unfinished after many years and hard to navigate. Not for the faint hearted, but could be worth checking out.

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