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REVIEW: BOSS eBand JS-8

REVIEW: BOSS eBand JS-8

In order to progress and improve as a guitarist, you have to practice. Sure, we all know that! But the problem for many of us is time – we’re all so busy that finding time to practice can be challenging. It follows, then, that anything you can do to make your practice easier to accomplish and more efficient is a very good thing!

That’s where the BOSS eBand JS-8 comes in. It’s an all-in-one practice and song-learning station that contains everything you need to make the most of your practice time. Just plug in your guitar and start improving your playing! For even more powerful options, connect it to your computer.

The JS-8 is a compact, high-tech-looking unit – it’s actually a lot more compact and streamlined than it appears in the photos. On the back, there are a power jack, USB-in and -out jacks, an SD card slot, and a footswitch/expression pedal jack. Around the side are line-out jacks for connecting to a sound system and a 1/8″ jack for running an iPod or MP3 player in. On the front, two built-in speakers flank the control panel. At the bottom are the guitar input, the headphone output, the guitar level control, and the master volume control. At the top is a backlit LCD display. In between are switches for controlling the various functions.

So what does this thing do, or what can you do with it?

  • Store and play up to 4,000 songs internally.
  • Play audio files from an external iPod or MP3 or CD player.
  • Capture songs to internal memory from an external iPod or MP3 or CD player.
  • Play MP3 and WAV audio files from an SD card or a USB stick.
  • Play audio files from a USB-connected Mac or PC.
  • Play guitar through COSM-modeled effects and amps.
  • Play guitar along with internal or external songs.
  • Play guitar along with more than 300 internal pre-recorded audio loops.
  • Practice using a metronome with tap tempo and lots of time signatures.
  • Tune up by using the onboard tuner, which is reference adjustable from 435Hz to 445Hz.
  • Slow songs down or speed them up (without changing pitch) in order to more easily learn parts.
  • Change the pitch of songs without changing the tempo, so you can practice in whatever key you like.
  • “Cancel” existing guitar parts from songs so that you can jam along.
  • Record yourself playing with songs to an SD card.
  • Record yourself playing with songs to a USB-connected Mac or PC.
  • Import songs from CD using a USB-connected Mac or PC.
  • Take advantage of even more functionality, such as the ability to set A/B repeat points for looping a section of a song, a rating system for songs, and much more!

The COSM modeling system in the JS-8 is quite powerful. I’m told that the unit essentially contains a BOSS GT-10 guitar processor – like I said, powerful! There are tons of patches in categories such as Blues, Soul/Funk, Jazz, Liverpool, ’70s Hard Rock, ’80s Metal, Modern Metal, West Coast, FuzzRock, Studio, Progressive, Surf Rock, Country, and Punk Pop, as well as Bass guitar and Mic categories and User Patches. You can edit patches to your heart’s content, then save the results to a user patch. Best of all, you can save all the guitar tone/effects settings you’ve used with a song, so when you call up the song the next time, the guitar sound loads right up along with it. Sweet!

So, how does it all work? In a word, great! The JS-8 is easy to get around on; after a few minutes of poking around, I was using it like an old pro – and without cracking the manual. The song section looping/phrase trainer functions are particularly simple: start the song, hit a button to mark the starting point of the section of the song you want to practice with, and hit another button to set the end of the section; the JS-8 automatically begins to loop that section. It’s perfect for learning tricky parts or deciphering a solo – and, of course, you can slow down the section to make learning it even easier.

The guitar sounds are excellent, and as a tool for learning songs and practicing parts, it’s tough to beat! For more volume, you can run it into a stereo system or studio monitors. Or, do what I did last night: I sat next to my wife, who was watching TV in the same room; turned the volume down on the built-in JS-8 speakers (I could have used headphones); and practiced away without disturbing her.

Yes, I guess you could assemble a similar system using a computer, a guitar processor, powered speakers, a “phrase trainer,” and other items, but the JS-8 is so much simpler; everything is contained in one easy-to-use integrated practice machine. I mean, one guitar cable, how much simpler could it be?

Mike Ross, the marketing director at Sweetwater put it well: “The JS-8 just disappears from the process. I plug in and call up a song, and I’m just practicing. I especially like that I can change a song’s pitch without changing its tempo or speed. I use that feature all the time to practice songs in the keys we use for performances.” (Mike is the worship leader at his church and has been using the JS-8 to learn 5-6 songs a week.)

Last issue, I reviewed the BOSS DB-90, which is the most feature-packed metronome I’ve ever seen. It’s an incredible practice tool. I’ve been using it nearly every day for my classical guitar practice sessions ever since. But now, with the JS-8, my electric guitar practice sessions have also jumped up a big notch. I’m learning songs quickly and easily figuring out parts. It’s a huge productivity boost for practicing.

If you’re looking for the ultimate guitar practice tool, then there’s no question, the eBand JS-8 is it. Nothing else compares. I love this thing.

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