Review: BlueBox miJam Guitar, Mixer, and Drummer
[Editors' Note: On November 1, 2006, iLounge published The 2007 iPod Buyers' Guide, with more than 30 brand new, capsule-sized product reviews - only for products we considered to be amongst the very best we've seen throughout the year. The short review below is excerpted and expanded from the Guide, which you can download here. The B rating here applies only to miJam Guitar; other products are rated as noted below.]
There are lots of miJam toys on offer for iPod owners - drumsticks (Drummer), a mixing table (Mixer), and a microphone (Stage Mic) - but the Guitar (iLounge rating: B) is the only one we felt was worth its price. Each of BlueBox’s (b2’s) three plastic devices includes a minijack-style connector that attaches to your iPod’s headphone port, and an audio output port that you’re supposed to connect to headphones or a separate speaker system. The instruments pass through your iPod’s music, adding beats and additional instrumentation as described below.
The miJam Guitar adds a simple drum beat and guitar-like sounds to your iPod’s music. Three knobs adjust the Guitar’s overall volume, the pitch of its guitar noises, and the tempo of the drum beat, which can be turned on or off with a rhythm switch. You use the chord keys at Guitar’s top to activate a specific chord, then hit the strum bar at Guitar’s center to play notes. A whammy bar lets you warp the notes as they’re playing, and a style selector button toggles between “heavy metal,” “rock,” “blues” and “bass” guitar types, each with different sounds. Four AA batteries are required, causing the Guitar to light up in green and blue when inserted; an on-off switch is found next to the audio-out and in ports.
miJam Mixer is designed for use with either the iPod, or one of the other miJam accessories. Like the Guitar, it requires four AA batteries, and can lay down a beat against the passed-through music from your iPod. There are two turntable-like “scratching” surfaces on its face, each making two different sound effects from the other, depending on which way the surface is pushed, and switching between “scratch,” “digi,” and “voice” modes. Scratch sounds like an album scratch, digi like a synthesizer riff, and voice like a short voice sample, each triggered by movement on the scratching dials. You can also cue up a short drum solo or a synthesizer riff with drums cue and digi cue buttons, adjust the tempo of the background beat, and independently adjust the volume levels of the iPod music and the Mixer’s output. The miJam logo glows blue when the unit is turned on. We weren’t as impressed with Mixer’s effects and the overall experience, and consider it a C+ toy overall.
Finally, the miJam Drummer is a set of electronic drum stick wands that feature ten buttons, separated into left and right sticks, and a breakout box that connects to your iPod or the Mixer. The left stick has tom tom and floor tom buttons, the right stick cymbal, bass drum/hi-hat, and fill-in buttons, and the breakout box tempo, volume, and rhythm buttons. Rhythm activates one of six default beats, which is adjusted upward or downward with the tempo buttons. With or without the rhythm beat on, you can create drum sounds by holding down the sticks’ buttons - or holding none at all to create snare and hi-hat sounds - while waving the sticks in drum/wand-like way. Tapping the rubber ends of the sticks on a surface doesn’t create the drum sounds. You can clip the breakout box to your clothes with a rear clip; inserting the two required (but not included) AAA batteries requires a jeweler’s screwdriver. Like miJam Mixer, we didn’t like Drummer much - it didn’t let us actually tap out a beat in the way we would have expected given the design, and the sound effects were harder to figure out how to use. Drummer rates a C overall.
A Stage Mic peripheral is also planned, but wasn’t been provided for review, and a headset will sell for $20.