by Chuck Middleton, May 2020
The JamKazam (JK) app was created in Austin, Texas in 2015 to allow close to real-time jam sessions and band rehearsals via the Internet. Since Internet connections can vary greatly in response time (aka latency), your experience will vary each time you connect with other musicians. Also, due to the laws of physics, the further apart musicians live from each other, the more latency you will experience.
The purpose of this page is to share information about setting up and testing your Audio Gear and tweaking settings to improve response time. It is aimed at a non-technical user level since most techies will have figured it out for themselves.
The order of the information presented is more or less in the same order you will encounter it when setting up and using JK for the first time. But patience is required, JK is a fairly complex program and can be difficult to master !
First Things First
You must register at JamKazam’s website before you can use the app. It is currently a free program. There are several help videos available on youtube, and here’s a link to the first-time user video. JK is available for both macOS and Windows 7 and 10.
Use Headphones not Speakers
Importantly, in this video you’ll learn that you must use headphones or earbuds while using JK, also these must be wired headphones NOT Bluetooth as Bluetooth will add unwanted delays.
The reason for wearing headphones is so the mixed sound you hear while playing in a session is not heard by the microphones which will create echoing problems. That’s the same reason you wear always headphones when doing multitrack recording.
Use Ethernet not WiFi
Another very important rule to follow is to connect your computer to your router via an Ethernet cable NOT WiFi. Speeds and delays can vary greatly when using WiFi due to interference, Ethernet cables of 50 ft and greater are inexpensive and be sure to use “Cat-5e” or “Cat-6” type cables only. “Cat-7” cables will also work but are not necessary and are more expensive.
Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth
Once you have connected the Ethernet cable and verified you can still connect to the Internet, you should turn off the computer’s WiFi altogether to avoid interruptions during a session. If you do not have a Bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse you can also turn off the computer’s Bluetooth to avoid interruptions during a session.
Internet Service & Router Speeds
The faster your Internet Service Provider’s plan, the better. It is recommended that you have download speed of 100Mbps or greater, especially if you want to use JK’s video during a session. Upload speed of 10Mbps or greater is also desirable.
A WiFi router with Gigabit (1Gbps) Ethernet ports will move data much faster than one with 100Mbps ports. The computer you connect to the router via Ethernet should also have a Gigabit Ethernet port to make use of the higher speed. Most newer computers will have Gigabit Ethernet.
Be sure and check your router’s specs to see if it supports Gigabit Ethernet, if not it’s time to replace it with a new one. I just had to buy a new router myself. You can test your Internet speed at speedtest.net. Your results will vary depending on which test server to connect with, so try several servers by using the change server button on the page.
2 Setting Up Audio Gear
Although you can use your computer’s built-in microphone with JK, the best audio experience will be if you use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), a DAW is am audio interface that connects to your computer via USB or Firewire and allows you to plug in higher quality microphones than are available in the computer. The DAW will also have a headphone jack so you can plug headphones into it instead of directly into the computer.
The first thing you will do after starting JK the first time is to configure your Audio Gear, JK has an Audio Gear Setup wizard built-in to assist you in configuring your Audio Gear. To access it from main window, press the “account” button and then press “Update” button for Audio Gear. The screen will then look something like this.
Here you can see that I have already setup my Audio Gear as a Behringer UMC202HD 192K device. I could have also selected the built-n Mic and Outputs.
macOs Audio Gear Setup
To add you own Audio gear, press the “Add New Gear” button and follow the instructions. For more details on this process, see the youtube videos on Setting Up Audio Gear.
Here’s the JK setup video for Mac Built-in Mic and Headphone Outputs.
For reference, here’s an image of Step 2 of the 6 Step Setup Audio Gear Setup Process for macOs:
Windows Audio Gear Setup
For Windows there will also be a button on the Select Audio Gear window for ASIO Settings. This button will bring up the ASIO Driver settings for your particular DAW. The ASIO Settings window shown below is for an RME Fireface 800 DAW, the settings window for each DAW will be different.
For reference, here’s an image of Step 2 of the 6 Step Setup Audio Gear Setup Process for Windows
Audio Buffer Size
Set the buffer size as low as possible here to minimize your Audio Gear’s latency. If you experience any drop outs or glitches in sound try increasing the buffer size one step at a time until sound is unaffected. Here it is set to 48 Samples, the lowest it will go.
Here’s the JK setup video for Windows using ASIO drivers for your gear.
On macOs, JK does not allow access to the CoreAudio driver’s buffer size so you can’t change the buffer size to lower latency. The CoreAudio default buffer size is 512 and due to this the Audio Gear latency on macOs will be a bit higher.
On macOs, another recommended setting to improve your Audio Gear’s latency is to set the Sample Rate to 48K instead of 44.1K when setting up your Audio Gear.
On Windows, 44.1K sample rate seems to give lowest latency on certain DAW’s.
Complete all 6 steps of the wizard for your Audio Gear and you are ready to open your first session !
3 Starting a Solo Session
To test your new audio gear setup, got to the Main Window and click on the huge “create sessions” button. This will open yet another window with four ways to start a session, press the “Quick Start Solo button to open a “Live” Solo session window…”
There’s a lot of things to mention in the session window. There are 3 columns from left to right labeled “my live tracks”, “other live tracks” and “recorded audio”.
“my live tracks”
The black boxes under the title “my live tracks” represent the controls for each of your microphone or instrument input tracks to send over the Internet. There are two “track boxes” shown here since I plugged two mikes into my DAW. The 3 smaller icons in the track boxes are for Volume/Mute, Left, Right Balance and an LED icon that should be green. You can drag the mouse pointer over each and the hidden controls will pop-up.
One thing to be wary of that is it’s easy to accidentally mute an input track by clicking on the Speaker Icon in the track box but not notice it since the Mute checkbox is only visible in the Volume/Mute pop-up window shown here:
The LED (hopefully Green) icon has a pop-up window that shows your local audio gear’s latency for that track. If it’s not green, you should tweak settings to get it to be Green. more about that later ! Below is the LED pop-up window which is for your info only, there are no controls here.
Note here that the Latency shown of 7.3ms is the latency of the Behringer UMC202HD Audio Interface when used in macOs. The 2 jitter numbers will vary over time due to system load conditions. On macOs, the Gear Driver is always CoreAudio, On Windows, it will typically be ASIO. Also note the Frame Size is 1ms, it will be discussed later in the Tweaking Audio Settings section.
To verify your gear is working, put on your headphones and talk into your microphone/s. You should hear your voice in the headphones. Note that this only works when you are in a session.
“other live tracks”
The “other live tracks” column will show the same track boxes for each track from a musician you are connected to over the Internet. Note the same 3 control icons appear in the track box. Also you can Invite friends to join your Solo Session by clicking the Invite Musicians button in this area.
Note that the LED Icon is now Red instead of Green, this is because the usual Total latency is greater than 35ms ! The LED will be Yellow if between 21 and 34ms and only be Green if 20ms or less. A Green LED here never happens in real experience as of this writing.
Here you see the Total Latency between users is 56ms. This number will vary widely during a session, in this session it was between 34ms and 80ms. This is mostly due to changes in the Jitter Queue Latency and Jitter Latency (both Red LED’s) and to a lesser degree variance in the Internet Latency. Here you can also that see John’s Audio Gear latency is very low at 3.9ms.
For all you techies, JK will show you how Total Latency is computed if you drag over the Total Latency LED as shown here:
When the Total Latency gets above 50ms it becomes more and more difficult to stay in sync with other musicians. That’s like playing while sitting about 50 feet away from another musician in a very large room since the speed of sound travels at about 1 foot per ms !
Also notice that the remote user is using ASIO Gear Drivers so that means they’re using a Windows PC. The Connectivity is set to Wired since John is using an Ethernet cable to connect to the router.
At this point you should be able to hear the remote user’s voice and instrument in your headphones…
The “recorded audio” area to right side of the session window allows you to start playing pre-recorded tracks that you can play along with. The person who opened the session has control over these features. They can be JamTracks purchased from jamkazam, recorded sessions or wav files stored on your computer.
There is also a handy metronome feature that help keep players in sync. It has several sounds available and speed settings.
The row of buttons at the top of the session window allow users to Record sessions, use video cameras, set session properties, etc.
4 Search Friends Window
The blue search window on the far right side of the window allows you to find other musician friends, invite friends to sessions, chat with friends and get notifications from others. It is mostly self-explanatory.
5 Tweaking Audio Settings
At the top of the JK window on Windows or on the menu bar on macOs, the pull-down Manage menu allows you to set various preferences for Video, Audio, Mixing, Broadcasting, etc. The most useful window is the Audio Booster window under Manage ->Audio Settings -> Audio Booster. The settings we are interested in “Tweaking” are only settable in this window while a live session is open. They will be saved after you leave a session. Here’s a screenshot of the window.
Audio Booster allows you set several parameters but the most important are Audio Frame Size and Maximum Outgoing Music Bitrate.
Audio Frame Size
The Audio frame size directly affects your local Audio Gear Latency, It’s default value is 2.5ms but setting it to “1ms – experimental” reduced the latency of the DAW I’m using on macOs from 10.3ms to 7.3ms. It’s a tradeoff that’s worth it as this reduced Total Latency while in a session by 3ms. The improvement will vary depending on which DAW and Operating System you are using.
Maximum Outgoing Music Bitrate
The outgoing bitrate affects playability within the session. The default value of 320 Kbit/s works but we found that the lowest value of 128 Kbit/s allows the latency and jitter to be minimized at the expense of sound quality. This makes it easier for players to stay in sync !
The audio quality goes down only slightly by changing to 128K bits/s. You can experiment with this at 256 Kbits/s as well. Also, the best result is achieved if all players in a session reduce their outgoing bitrate to the same value.
Both of these settings changes were arrived at after experimentation in playing in many sessions. The user can experiment with the other settings as desired.
Setting Mixer Levels
The Manage menu also allows you to open an Audio Console window used for setting various mixing volume levels during a session. Here’s the screenshot.
Minimizing Local Audio Jitter on Windows
The local Audio Gear Jitter can be minimized on Windows by changing a default setting for the Minimum Processor Operating Rate.
Please watch this youTube video from 2017. Near the middle of this video he mentions the actual fix that he found. Go to Windows System Settings for Power & Sleep then click on Additional Power Settings in the upper right corner of that window.
In that window click on Change Plan Settings next to the plan you are set to (Balanced or High Performance) and it opens yet another window called Edit Plan Settings. Next, Click on Advanced Power Settings at bottom of that window, whew ! That opens yet another window called Power Options, scroll down the list to Processor Power Management and open that item.
In the list under Processor Power Management there is a setting called Minimum Processor State which defaults to 5%. Of course you can’t change it until you click the line at the top of the window that reads “Change Settings that are currently Unavailable”. Now change the Min Processor State to 100% and jitter should be minimized. Here’s a screenshot of the Advanced Power Options window. Sorry about the quality !
Note this affects only the local Audio Gear Jitter NOT the Internet connection Jitter.
Hopefully, this tutorial can get you started jamming successfully using jamkazam. There are far too many features in the program to document them all. Using jamkazam requires some patience as it’s a complicated app with quite a few bugs. At this time (May 2020), the JK authors are doing their best to improve the product and are updating it frequently. They should be congratulated on making a great free product. One way to get them some revenue is to buy some of their Jamtracks !
Jamkazam has recently started a GoFundMe campaign to fund ongoing improvements to their software. Please donate if you can at this link.
Appendix A – Audio Interfaces
- This appendix provides some information for a few popular DAW’s that are known to be compatible with JamKazam. They range in price from about $100 to $250. For purposes of this document I’m only listing DAW’s with 2 inputs since there are so many available.
Update: AS of May 17th, 2020 all of these DAW’s are in high demand and prices have gone way up as well as delivery times.
The Behringer UMC202HD is the DAW that I personally use, it has two combo (mic/instrument) inputs, USB 2.0 and good low-noise preamps. It is recommended by JK since it’s modern, has up-to-date drivers available and is inexpensive. The latency on macOS is low at 7.3ms. The latency on Windows is even lower at 3.9ms.
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)
The Focusrite 2i2 has great reviews on youtube but has known to have some problems on Windows, likely caused by use of WDM drivers rather than the standard ASIO drivers. It has 2 combo inputs, USB 3.0 and low latency on macOs. It’s slightly more expensive than the UMC202HD.
The MOTU M2 has 2 combo inputs, 2 outputs, USB 3.0, LED displays and MIDI I/O. It’s a bit more expensive than the Focusrite 2i2 but reviewers say it’s worth it.
PreSonus AudioBox USB 96
The PreSonus AudioBox USB 96 has 2 combo inputs, USB 2.0 and MIDI I/O. It is the least expensive DAW I’ve seen with MIDI functions.
Behringer U-Phoria UM2
The bare bones Behringer UM2 has 2 inputs, USB 2.0. It is the least expensive DAW I’ve seen, period.
For a far more complete listing of compatible DAW’s, please check out this article in the JK Forum.