Price paid: € 166
Purchased from: Thomann.de
Ease of Use — 9
The Zoom B3 is easy enough to use and the instruction manual is simple and straight forward. As with the rack multi effects units I have used in the past, it's a case of finding a preset close to the sound you want and modifying the settings or swapping out one of the effect types with others. my only issue with the number of patches is that the moment you edit one and save it somewhere, you have overwritten an existing patch. I would have liked say 20 spare patches for writing to so that you didn't need to overwrite one of the pre-programmed patches. Having said that, there is apparently some software on the Zoom web site which allows you to backup your patches and effects on to your PC, so as long as you have a PC, you can keep the original patches stored forever.
At the time of writing, the latest firmware for the Zoom B3 was released in 2014. No newer firmware releases since then makes me believe they have ironed out any bugs that may have been present in the system and have achieved stability.
Sound — 9
The Zoom B3 comes with 111 effects. There are 10 banks of 10 patches with which to store your effect settings. The B3 has 3 foot switches with a display each and you can chose any of the effects in any order. Each of the 3 foot switches has 3 control knobs each with which to adjust the settings of the individual effects. Effects types include several different compressors, filters, overdrives, preamps, amp simulators, modulation effects (phaser, tremolo, chorus, flanger etc), reverbs, delays ans some synth effects. You can also buy a pedal to plug in for some wah effects among other things, however it is not something I have at the time of writing, nor will I likely be getting the additional pedal in the future. Effects are listed in the back of the manual and some are listed as being in the style of certain well known effects pedals such as the MXR Dyna Comp, Q-Tron envelope filter in LP mode, the Boss OBD-3 and a few others. You also get an A3 sheet with a brief description of the 100 patches, some of which have been set by some well known bass players such as Victor Wooten, Frank Bello etc.
For testing, I was using my own homemade bass with EMG 35TW pickups through a Warwick C150. To start with, I just plugged the guitar in to the B3, then the B3 in to the amp input. Everything performed as it should with no unwanted noise. The only issue I had was when I tried to connect it using the amps FX loop, which I only did so I could so I could use my DBX1066 compressor. Initially the sound distorted when connected like this, even though the clip light on the amp was not lit, however this problem disappeared when the input gain was turned down. It's just a case of set it once and then leave it be.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Although I have at present only used the Zoom B3 at home, I can see it will be equally useful for live performances. It can be powered by 4 AA batteries, the power supply that came in the box, or with a USB-B cable (which is the square one usually used by printers). That means if for some reason the power supply gave up and you are playing live, you just need to "borrow" someones USB phone charger and make sure you carry the USB cable and you have a backup power supply! The casing and buttons are metal and feel quite solid. My only concern would be that the 3 control buttons under each of the 3 screens on the B3 are plastic so if you are an energetic player who jumps around the stage a lot, there is a chance you could damage the control knobs and/or the screens while you are "in the moment" so to speak.
Switching between patches during a live performance is simple. You simply hold down the left foot button till patch selection is displayed, then the other two foot buttons are used to navigate up or down 1 patch at a time. If you want to change banks, then you will need to bend over and twiddle a knob to change bank number.
One other added feature is that the USB connector can be connected to a PC. In addition, in the box was a code to download Cubase LE, which is an 8-track recording studio for your PC. I haven't tried this bundled software yet, but it is an added bonus I am sure will prove useful. The only issue I found when connecting the Zoom B3 to the PC was that the signal was delayed slightly. Not a major issue as it just means you need to delay the original audio when you add your bass playing to it and lets face it, if you are already recording on your PC, its going to be something you probably have to do already.
Overall Impression — 9
I have played bass for a couple of years as a teenager, took a long break (about 20 years) then became a born again bass player about 3 years ago. This means there has been quite a difference between guitar tech when I was younger and now so I'll admit, I'm probably going to be easier to impress than a session musician. Having said that, I have tried a few single effects pedals since I found Jesus I mean Bass again and own a Boss OBD-3 and an Electo-Harmonix Micro Q-tron. The Zoom B3 however has changed my mind on the use of single effects pedals and I doubt I will be buying any more. My only exception to this would be the compressors and that's because I like to use 2, which would mean with the Zoom B3, I would have to use 2 of the 3 simultaneous effects for compressors leaving me with only 1 effect free to add what I want too. Plus, I wouldn't replace my DBX1066 compressor for the world (which is a 2 channel compressor so I use both channels). Should the Zoom B3 meet with an accident, I would not hesitate in buying another, that is of course unless there was a Zoom B4 available by then.