A3 review by Zoom

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Sound: 2
  • Overall Impression: 1
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Ease of Use: 2
  • Reviewer's score: 3 Poor
  • Users' score: 7.5 (2 votes)
Zoom: A3

Price paid: $ 199.99

Purchased from: Sweetwater Sound

Sound — 2
I use this with a Breedlove AD20/SR+, which has been modded with an Fishman Infinity Matrix pickup/preamp system. One of the weaknesses of the A3 is that it forces users to use a guitar simulation as one of the FX clusters and it cannot be bypassed. This would not be a problem if the guitar being played is included in their menu of simulations. The problem here is that most of the sims are based on Martins or Gibsons. If I wanted a guitar that sounded like a Martin or a Gibson, I would have purchased a Martin or a Gibson. This in and of itself is a step backwards from the Zoom A2, which allowed users to bypass the guitar simulations.

Overall Impression — 1
Overall, I did not find this worth keeping. I sent it back to Sweetwater the day after I received it. Basically, the differences can be summed up as follows: (1) The A2, which this replaced, allowed for storage of up to 40 user-edited patches. This unit only allows for storage of up to 20. (2) The A2 allowed for combinations in the patches from up to five different clusters simultaneously, the clusters being: [a] guitar/amp sims, [b] EQ [either 3- or 6- band], [c] compression/limiting, [d] modulation FX (chorus, flange, phase shifting, tremolo, auto wah), and [e] delay/reverb. The A3 ties up one cluster in each patch with the guitar simulations, leaving only two clusters which can be edited. Although one A3 does offer one benefit over the A2 - an XLR output so it can be used as a DI box, I find it less expensive to use my A2 and add an outboard DI box. Since I opted to return this to the retailer, the issue of if it were lost or stolen is moot. I'll never buy another one of these There wasn't anything to love about it. I wouldn't say I hate it, I simply do not find it to be an improvement over the A2. Yes it has a few features the old A2 lacked, but not enough to merit increasing the price from the $99.99 [USD] street price of the A2 to the $199.99 [USD] street price for this. Video from YouTube:

YouTube preview picture

Reliability & Durability — 7
This rates a higher setting than other catagories simply because Zoom does build their units to last. While the housing appears to be plastic, it is a very heavy grade of thermoplastic which should be durable enough unless one is literally stomping on it constantly. Since this is designed for acoustic guitarists, and they are not known for going all "Pete Townshend" or "Jimi Hendrix" on their equipment, if one does find it useful enough to keep, one should expect it to be reliable and durable.

Ease of Use — 2
Several problems exist with this unit which are inherent in the firmware and its design. While the sound is good, it isn't outstanding - certainly not enough to justify the price increase from the now discontinued A2, which this replaced. Editing patches is more difficult as well, with the functionality being more limited than it was in the previous model. As is typical for these types of units, the manual appears to be poorly translated into English from some other language. Because of this it appears to be difficult to discern actual procedures for editing the patches. As far as the firmware is concerned, Zoom has issued no upgrades since this went on the market following the Winter NAMM.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I have one of these and, so far, I like it. I think it is fair to say that something in the "ease of use" column was sacrificed, but probably to conserve processor power. The other negatives mentioned here overlook a couple things. First, the modeling as I see it is based on the type of concept used in Turner's Mama Bear. Choose the guitar you are using and then the one you want to sound like. The first is a generality and then the second is something more specific. You can even choose a target "boutique" model, which I am informed is based upon a Jeff Traugott. I think the effects themselves sound quite nice and the operation of the unit is dead quiet. Some of the reverbs aren't quite as good as a dedicated unit, but you also won't have to compensate for volume loss associated with using a handful of stompboxes either. Plastic? Mine is metal all around. 3 or 6 band? The 3 band is a shelving scheme whereas the 6 is graphic and one operates those things differently. You choose which you like, based on your style of use and sound you want. I think anytime one sets out to design a device that multi-tasks there will always be some place where some type of compromise has been made, but, in general, I have found that this unit to do a few things quite well and worth the price tag. To get all of this in one place with another device you would either have to go to a rack system with foot controller or a multi tasking amp such as Trace, Peavey, Roland, etc.
    @jeromenscott. If you notice, I did not state the A# was worthless. Some players may find it quite worthwhile to own one. I simply do not find it as flexible, functional, or easy to operate as my A2 and therefore do not find the additional expense to be merited for a unit which is not as flexible--especially at double the If Zoom reconfigured the firmware so the guitar sims were simply an optional cluster, I would have gone the other way and given it high marks across the board, especially in light of its DI capability. Maybe they will address what I and reviewers in other forums see as this major shortcoming with a firmware update....
    Had mine now for nearly a month and only just beginning to figure it out.....lol but you got it sussed nice one, great playing too perhaps you could do a more in depth tutorial on here.
    I got one of these but having trouble figuring it out there are some great sounds to be had but it is not as straightforward as you might think. the guy doing the video had no problem....sounded good, nice playing too. An in- depth tutorial would be nice.....
    I bought it and found it suited my needs: clean acoustic sound without effects, the only flaw in my opinion is the equalizer, which I find a little scarce.