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Apogee Jam X

Apogee Jam X

With a built‑in analogue compressor, Apogee’s Jam X is designed to get your guitar sound right from the start.

On first touch the Jam X is very cool and feels weighty and well‑sized. The buttons are easily thumbable, almost like a small torch or a large laser pointer. It looks every bit like the Jam+ and is, in essence, identical except for the change in hue and the specifics around the input stage. The Jam+ had an analogue overdrive circuit built into the instrument preamp; the Jam X has an analogue compressor with three different settings. This deeper access brings a bit more nuance and versatility to an already decent idea. The only physical letdown is that Apogee have kept the micro‑USB socket rather than upgrading to USB‑C, but I can live with that.

Set Up & Go

As a Windows user your heart tends to sink a little when you read “No configuration required, just plug in and record,” and as expected it doesn’t apply to non‑Apple users. You will have to comb through the manual to find a link to a driver download page which doesn’t list the Jam X so you have to request the installer via a form. An email redirects to another download and then it all works. It’s all a bit of a faff for “No configuration required”.

That done, I opened IK Multimedia’s Amplitude, set up the Jam X as the input and I was off. Gosh, it is very, very loud! The sound is enormous, especially to start with when you don’t really know what you’re doing and so you just turn everything up. If you wind down the input level you can get some nice clean guitar running through, but why would you want to do that? Starting with my twin humbucker semi the sound was torn apart as I leaned into the overdrive. And then applying compression I found myself having a really good time.

Starting with my twin humbucker semi, the sound was torn apart as I leaned into the overdrive. And then applying compression I found myself having a really good time.

Even when I swapped to my Telecaster the sound was huge. The Tele doesn’t elicit quite the same response as the humbucker and is instead nicely crunchy and full of promise, but my head is still ringing from the experience . There’s nowhere on the Jam X to change the headphone level. On Windows there’s a little Apogee control panel which includes a volume control. It’s set by default to ‑4dB and bringing that down a little is a source of some relief.

Starting with a clean sheet I moved to Studio One where I can be sure of exactly how I’m monitoring and what, if any, plug‑ins are running. The functionality is really basic. Guitar in, headphones out. There’s a three‑LED input monitor, a dial to adjust the level and a ‘Blend’ button that turns direct monitoring on or off. The dial also acts as a button to select the compression presets. A quick tip is that both buttons need to pressed twice in order to change the selection. It’s like press it once to wake up the control and then again to change it.

The compression presets, by the way, are the Jam X’s unique selling point. There are three; the entertainingly named Smooth Leveller for gentle compression, Purple Squeeze for regular compression and Vintage Blue Stomp for hard and fast compression. The idea is that you set your input level using the dial with the compression off. Once you engage the compressor then the dial becomes the compression level. I found my personal sweet spots on the Purple Squeeze. The Vintage Blue Stomp squashes it all too much for my tastes but it explodes when you route it through some software amps.

I found the latency through my DAW to be largely unnoticeable with the ASIO drivers going down to a perfectly respectable 64 samples. Swapping between the two Blend modes didn’t feel particularly dramatic. Apogee are expecting you to run through software amps and effects as the Jam X is only offering compression and overdrive rather than a whole amp and cabinet rig, and you can totally do that without feeling the latency drag.


Despite the lumpy start the Jam X does exactly what it needs to do. It offers a simple way to improve your guitar’s input to your DAW. The compression can be clean and subtle, just enough to glue it together, or dialled into the overdrive for some seriously fun chunkiness. It’s loud, a bit rude and the only disappointment is that it can’t run standalone.


The Jam X is an epic upgrade to your guitar recording signal path, with multiple levels of compression. It’s almost too simple.


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