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Zivix Jamstik Classic

MIDI Guitar By Dave Lockwood
Published August 2023

Zivix Jamstik Classic

The launch of the original Jamstik Studio marked a real advance in the world of pitch‑to‑MIDI guitars — and there’s now an alternative model for guitarists who prefer to play something more familiar.

When I reviewed Zivix’s Jamstik Studio MIDI Guitar, I wrote that “if there is ever a Mark II of the Jamstik Studio, I hope it has some easier‑to‑use tuners.” Well, here it is! The new Jamstik Classic mounts Zivix’s innovative and highly effective pitch‑to‑MIDI conversion system into a Strat‑like design, complete with a conventional headstock and tuners.

It is not that the previous incarnation didn’t work — I must admit I’ve very much got used to tuning with a hex key at the bridge over the last two years — but with MIDI guitars you do tend to check and re‑tune a lot, and needing a tool for this basic function is just not as convenient as reaching up and being able to tune with your fingers. Of course, there are also some people who simply don’t get on well with headless designs: if you are already an experienced player of conventional guitars, it does slightly disturb your inherent sense of where you are on the neck with your fretting hand, for a while at least. Although the original Zivix model, which retains the name Jamstik Studio, had a conventional 25.5‑inch scale length, it featured a scaled‑down body size that also imposed a different right‑hand position compared to a ‘normal’ guitar, so the full‑size alder body of the new Classic will be welcome in that respect, too. The neck on the Classic model is a 25.5‑inch scale‑length, 22‑fret, roasted‑maple, bolt‑on design, with a comfortable 42mm width at the nut.

Although this is a Strat‑like guitar, there’s no floating trem — on balance, that’s probably wise in the MIDI‑guitar world, where stable tuning is so important — but the tuners are nevertheless the locking type normally associated with a trem bridge (yes, I know it should be vibrato not tremolo, but I’m not sure I can personally undo 70 years of misusage...). Some might argue that locking tuners offer inherently more reliable tuning anyway, although I’m not sure I altogether agree. In fact, if you follow the locking‑tuner ‘best practice’ of using the minimum wrap around the string post, you end up limiting the break angle over the nut of the low E and A strings. Two double string trees take care of the break angle for the other four strings, and, of course, there’s nothing to stop you using a ‘sensible’ number of wraps on the E and A to get the break angle you want.

The original Jamstik Studio model (right) next to the Strat‑like Jamstik Classic, which is available in Vintage Cream or Onyx Black.The original Jamstik Studio model (right) next to the Strat‑like Jamstik Classic, which is available in Vintage Cream or Onyx Black.

Setup Matters For MIDI

The familiar double set screws of the six chunky, chromed bridge saddles adjust the action in the conventional way using the supplied hex wrench, and the brass nut is adjustable for height, too, if necessary. The truss rod adjusts from the headstock end, with the neck responding very quickly to small tweaks. This may all seem like it has nothing to do with the all‑important MIDI side of things here, but the fact is you need a decent basic setup for the guitar to avoid compromising MIDI performance, no matter how good the pitch‑conversion technology used. A low action obviously helps you to play cleanly, but fret buzz creates pitch ambiguity for the detection system, so it’s all about finding the best compromise.

The pickups on the Classic consist of a chrome‑covered bridge humbucker and two ceramic‑magnet Strat‑like single coils, with the Zivix system’s narrow hex pickup nestled in behind the humbucker. There’s a Strat‑like single volume control, and two tone controls, the latter assigned to the two single‑coils, leaving the bridge humbucker without one. I suspect some players might prefer the second tone control attached to the bridge pickup, but it’s an easy fix for anyone competent with a soldering iron. A five‑way pickup selector switch offers all the individual selections and parallel combinations except neck and bridge. The middle pickup has a reverse‑wind/reverse‑polarity spec, to make it in‑phase and hum cancelling when combined with the neck pickup, but there is no auto‑coil tap on the bridge humbucker to keep it hum cancelling when used with the middle pickup. A humbucker and a single coil in parallel doesn’t ‘quack’ quite like two single coils, which means you miss...

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