Price paid: £ 20
Sound — 8
Sound-wise (and at 20 quid) you couldn't ask for a better pedal. The compressor would satisfy any finger-picker or slapper, the auto-wah (which can be controlled in the model with the expression pedal or by an add-on you can buy from Zoom or bespeco) is natural sounding, although It's hard to get a good sweep that's not too treblly or bassy. But the "Drive" function Is where I noticed an improvement from previous models. You can get just about any overdrive sound you want from ear-preicing screeching and lemmy-style lead tones, To somber, chilled out fuzz ala the verse riff to "time is running out" by Muse. This is down to the the pedal having, as well as a gain control, a mix function to blend the clean and driven sound together, as well as a three band EQ. A very welcome, practical improvement on previous models with preset EQ. The ZNR/AMP function really brings the pedal to life, set to the right value you honestly wouldn't know this was a budget range multieffects for farting about with, the sound is verging on professional teritory. The only problem with it is when turned on/off it completely alters the tone, You normally have to go back and change the overdrive settings once you've switched it. Modulation effects however is probably the real reason people buy multi effects. The Zoom pedal has all the standards: Flanger, Delay, octave etc. as well as some strange ones, harmonisers etc. That I really haven't found a use for. It also has a synth effect that although I also haven't found a use for Is still very fun to mess about with, although It can't take notes played too fast or chords it's a welcome addition to the arsnal of exotic effects you get with a multi effects you would have to either pay though the nose for or never experience otherwise. Most of the modulation effects are of a perfectly acceptable standard. A good feature of the Zoom pedal, though one that I think featured on previous models, is the ability to use and edit reverb completely separately from other effects. You get just about every reverb effect you could need with the pedal, and it's dead easy to edit etc. The last function of the pedal I want to talk about is the built-in drum machine. although basic. It consists of 40 presets and a tap button for changing tempo. It gives a good quality drum sound better than any keyboard's I've ever used. one of the presets is just a metronome tick which is also very practical. The function is a godsend and I use it for jamming with myself. I just plug headphones into the pedal and home recording. The pedal is worth buying for the drum machine alone, it's great!
Overall Impression — 9
This pedal is like a swiss army knife in terms of the uses it can be put to. Recording as mentioned before I use it for a drum machine but also as a DI box as well as for effects. When you're recording with a 4 track you can easily mixdown for an extra track by recording the bass and drums in one (very useful). Practicing, it makes a good headphone amp so all you really need to practice non-acoustically is a lead and headphones, doing away with the bulky practice amp and mess of knotted leads. If I was going to use it Live I could always just set it with one patch with an effect and one patch without and just Switch between the two like an analouge pedal. As mentioned earlier, the only problem with it is because it is a multieffects, it's actually dead easy and simple to use compared to other multieffects pedals but I doubt I'd ever use all it's functions in a live setting. However, it's still well worth the money. I mean, even without the effects part, If you were to buy a tuner, drum machine, and headphone amp separately it's still more hassle and more dosh.
Reliability & Durability — 7
I've never actually used the pedal Live or whilst gigging. However, If I was to use it Live I think it could be trusted as much as any other pedal, despite it's plastic casing it could easily take a good beating. The previous owner didn't include the transformer. Although you can buy new ones from Zoom I just use a multi-adapter. It doesn't fit in the Zoom pedal all that snugly so it can cut out if it's knocked. However I doubt you'd have this problem with the real transformer.
Ease of Use — 7
The Zoom B1 is basically the plastic, cheapskates' version of the Zoom B2, which has more features and a sturdier build. Operating the pedal differs very slightly from previous Zoom pedals e.g. Zoom 506 II, the two foot pedal buttons only turn effects on/off when editing patches, and the second dial is used to scroll through lists of effects etc. This means you don't have to press the foot switches over and over to get to the effect you want for your patch. The effects are arranged in such a manner so that you can find combinations that you want without it being confusing, for instance overdrive, compressor, reverb and modulation are kept separate allowing you to change each one as you please, modulation effects are clumped together because you very rarely would need to use two at once and it makes for a much less cluttered control panel. The problem with the pedal, the thing that would put me off using it on stage or whilst rehearsing, is a problem that is in my opinion inherent in its nature as a multieffects pedal. Using it on stage would require a lot of planning and forethought that I simply can't be arsed with. You'd have to put patches in chronological order, and change them so the volume levels are all the same. No Doubt if you were determined to use it or if you were used to multieffects anyway you would have no problems, it's no harder to use than any other multieffects pedal, in fact probably easier than most. Even if you used it as a preamp or DI into the mixer and left it ticking over the whole set, I have no doubt it would do you proud. It's just that when I'm up on stage I don't want anything distracting me from playing (this is probably 'cause I'm usually singing at the same time). As such I would hesitate to use even the simplest of analogue pedals live. I think my Zoom pedal, amazing as it is, is destined never to leave my bedroom.