WowWee's Paper Jamz range of toy guitars were a major success in the back end of 2010. Not too expensive, they allowed wannabe rockstars the chance to strum along to some choons, without the need for the intricate gamer skillset or console equipment required to get anything out of the Guitar Hero or Rock Band franchises.
However, as Pocket-lint said back in August, the first wave of Paper Jamz guitars were limited in functionality, and anybody over the age of 12 may have tired with the concept quickly.
Enter the new Paper Jamz Pro range, with three differently-shaped guitars (different only in aesthetics) and a microphone and amplifier that are rich in features, including an ability to jam along, vocally or otherwise, to your favourite MP3s.
In addition, the company has added to its younger series of cardboard instruments with the licensed Justin Bieber Keyboard Guitar - basically a keytar, a keyboard that can hang around the neck like a guitar.
For the purposes of this hands-on, while we actually had a go on each of the devices, we have as much musical nous as Jedward (but with slightly better hair) so keen axesmith Murs Topham from toy distributor Zappies Limited was on hand to give us a more thorough run-through.
Certainly, to make the most of some of its features, the Paper Jamz Pro Guitar range needs to be demonstrated by someone who can actually play the guitar. The new models each have a fully-functioning 14 fret sensor bar, which allows for talented wielders to play both power chords as they would on a real instrument, and, with the touch of a button, pick out individual notes. Additionally, tilting the Pro Guitars 90 degrees up or down also changes the octave of the notes, so a lot of practice can really pay off.
A whammy bar has now been added to the fascia of each model, to bend notes at the slide of a finger, and shaking the neck of your chosen Pro Guitar will add a vibrato effect. In short, these are no longer mere toys. Indeed, they could even help on the first steps of learning to play the guitar for real.
The final and, possibly, most major upgrade is that, as well as offering the ability to change the guitar sounds by downloading new sample sets, you can add your own MP3s to the guitars, so you can strum along to your favourite tracks, not just those available from Paper Jamz.
It's a feature that also applies with the manufacturer's new microphone too.
The Paper Jamz Pro Microphone comprises two parts; a stick mic and a small amplifier that can be clicked onto a belt. It can be used with the company's own amplifiers (available separately) to give it some more oomph, but the small personal one is fit for most purposes and is truly plug and play.
This amp is also the clever part of the operation. Not only does it have a range of different vocal effects, such as Harmony, which doubles or triples the singer's voice; Vibrato, and Chorus, to add depth to the performance, but the box features Perfect Pitch technology. Much like the Auto-tune software used by professional studios and pop stars, it analyses the singer's pitch in real time, and helps fix any dodgy notes. It's not 100 per cent, and won't make a Sugababe sound like Katherine Jenkins, but is great fun for kids.
The Pro Microphone comes with one song pre-loaded, but, alongside generic MP3 support, there will be plenty of dedicated tracks ready for download on launch.
Speaking of which, all of the products in the Paper Jamz Pro range will be available from August 2011, with the guitars costing £44.99 each, and the microphone weighing in at £34.99. They're all recommended for ages 11 and up.
Coming a month earlier, in July, is the Paper Jamz Justin Bieber Keyboard Guitar, a version of the strange keytar device popularly used in the 1980s (before its eponymous star was even born).
It works in a similar fashion to the generic Paper Jamz products, by touch, but with a keyset rather than virtual strings, so it's easier to see where you're putting your fingers.
Three Justin Bieber songs are pre-loaded to play along to - Somebody to Love, One Time, and One Less Lonely Girl - but, unlike the Pro range, it doesn't seem to be able to have any new MP3s added. It does, though, allow you to mix samples to create your own Justin Bieber soundtrack.
Additionally, you can record your own beat loops, and a slider distorts the notes to create crazy new sounds. There are also in-built drum patterns.
Two music modes are on offer, including the self-explanatory Freestyle, and a Perfect Play function that allows even the least musically-talented kid to sound good. And that's about it really. It's more fun, perhaps, than the Pro series, but you really have to like Justin Bieber to get much from it.
It'll do very well though, especially at £29.99.
Have you played with a Paper Jamz instrument? If so, what's your opinion? Let us know in the comments below...