A startup called eJamming claims to have solved some of the problems that have plagued musicians who jam together online. According to the company, its software, called eJamming AUDiiO, is able to let musicians collaborate in near real time with musicians halfway across the world. Additionally, the software simultaneously records each musician, combines and synchronizes his or her input, and creates files with CD-quality tracks, says Alan Glueckman, president and chairman of eJamming.
Since the early days of the Internet, says Glueckman, musicians have been excited about the prospect of sharing their music online, and even playing with fellow musicians over the network. “But they have always been kept out because of bandwidth constraints,” he says, because music contains “a lot of data to shove through the pipes.”
Nonetheless, musicians have had access to a number of different kinds of online collaboration software. A popular open-source tool, called Ninjam, lets people play together over great distances, although to do so, they must adjust to a sound delay of a couple of seconds. Stanford researcher Chris Chafe has created software that can avoid bandwidth limits altogether. He and his collaborators use an extremely high-bandwidth network called Internet2–available to researchers at universities and companies–to share files and virtually eliminate any sound lag heard by collaborating musicians. EJamming is a newcomer to the field, and its software seems to fall somewhere in between Ninjam and the Stanford research. The company is promising to reduce the delay experienced over the network to, at most, hundreds of milliseconds (depending on upload speed and geographic distance between musicians)–a delay to which, Glueckman says, most musicians can adjust with practice.
EJamming’s technology focuses on the problem of latency. On the standard Internet, it takes a nontrivial amount of time for data to travel from one person to another. And the larger the files, the more travel time it takes, as anyone who has watched video online can attest. EJamming tries to minimize latency on a few different fronts, Glueckman says, although since the technology is proprietary, the company would only provide overviews of its approach.
First, the eJamming software decreases the file sizes sent over the network. To do this, the company’s engineers developed their own compression and decompression algorithms that shrink the file size, yet still maintain an audio quality higher than MP3, a common compression scheme, says Glueckman.
Second, each musician is directly connected with the other musicians in a jam session, instead of being routed through a server. This peer-to-peer configuration “results in a lower latency by routing the audio stream directly to your jam mates rather than, on average, doubling that transport latency by directing the audio stream through a remote server,” says Bill Redmann, chief technology officer of eJamming.