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:
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.