One of the first guitars to feature a USB audio interface on its body, the JamMate UG-1 comes in the standard Stratocaster mould and is available in four colours: black, blue, red and sunburst. All the models sport a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, 22 frets and chrome hardware throughout.
The headstock is smaller than you´d expect to find on a Strat but, apart from that, the UG-1 looks just like any other off-the-shelf clone of Fender´s classic axe. That is, until you look just under the rear strap button, where you´ll find a recessed USB socket.
Plug a USB cable into this socket (a standard analogue output is also provided) and you´re ready to connect the guitar to your computer. As far as installation goes, the only other thing you need to do is put the supplied CD in your drive and install the ASIO or Core Audio audio driver. This can then be selected in your recording software, whereupon the UG-1 takes control of the audio system.
The UG-1´s audio system is very fast - you can select buffer sizes of between 8 and 2048 samples. On our test systems, 128 was stable and gave us a latency figure of about 9ms, which is acceptable for most applications. We should also praise the guitar´s pristine sound - providing you keep the pickups well away from your monitor (which will introduce interference), the audio is crisp and crackle-free.
The JamMate UG-1 package includes the guitar, a strap, a spare set of strings, a soft case, a pair of headphones and the aforementioned CD. This contains not just the driver, but also full versions of AmpliTube LE and Live and the Tubeamp Factory amplifier plug-in. Basically, you get everything you need, except the computer, in one box.
But for this price, can the guitar really be any good? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The intonation is fine, the machine heads are accurate and tight enough to stop any slippages, the neck is of excellent quality, and the body is as tough as you´d find on any generic mid-range guitar. What´s more, the pickups are noise-free and the sustain is very good - much better than on many of the standard Strat clones we´ve played. Our only complaint concerns the action. At the 12th fret, the strings are over-pronounced from the fretboard. This doesn´t affect tuning, but can cause problems when soloing at the 12th fret or above.
The JamMate UG-1 is an excellent package at a very reasonable price. Here´s hoping for a bass next.