This is unquestionably the most unique product I have ever received from Best Buy Canada, and after a month with it in my possession, I’m still learning exactly what it is capable of doing. I’ve shown it to a few of my friends and tried to explain it to others, and that is no easy task in and of itself. Zoom refers to the Arq Aero RhythmTrak as an all-in-one Production and Live Performance Instrument, but even that all-inclusive title sells it short. In this blog I will do my best to break down its functions and potential uses for a myriad of different scenarios to hopefully provide you with the knowledge of what it does, how it does it, and how it might fit with your needs.
To say that the Zoom Arq is “multi-functional” is a bit of an understatement. The Arq is a drum machine, a synthesizer, a sequencer, a looper, a midi controller with a built-in accelerometer, and it comes with a detachable hand-held ring controller that works over bluetooth. By virtue of these alone, you can see the wide array of possibilities for musicians and DJs alike. At the heart of the system is the “Base Station” which features 468 different drum and instrument sounds along with over a dozen digital effects to provide even more flexibility in constructing unique soundscapes. There are also 70 different synthesizer types onboard. The base station has 1/4″ inputs for connecting to it which allows for the user to record phrases or loops. It also features a 1/4″ headphone jack with its own volume control to allow the user to monitor the output audio. It has a USB port for connection to a computer, and it also has a slot for an SD card, which lets you save your recordings, loops and phrases, but can also import audio and sound files into the base in addition to providing easy updates of firmware.
The “Ring” attaches to the base station with a magnetic connect that secures it in place but easily allows removal as it pops off and becomes a mobile control unit that corresponds with the base station or your computer’s Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) via Bluetooth. While the ring is connected to the base station, it recharges itself, ensuring that it is always ready-to-go worry-free mobile. The ring features 96 pads that are sensitive to both velocity and pressure, so you can control sound through impact and timing. The ring also lets you launch and play drums, instruments, and sequences by including dedicated play, stop, record, filter, delay, reverb, and master on/off controls directly on the ring itself. It can be utilized with a chromatic scale or changed to several other preset scales providing almost infinite possibilities when it comes to crafting your sounds. The built-in accelerometer has 3 different axis that let you alter the sounds and/or effects in real time simply by twisting or turning the ring. And, all of this is highlighted by flashing LED lights built into the ring, giving not just an incredible aesthetic show, but also representing the loops and output instruments on the ring in real time and in a true loop, rather than the linear way this is presented on other devices with similar objectives.
As I mentioned earlier, I have had this for a month already and while I haven’t had hours upon hours to delve into some of the finer intricacies of the Arq, I think it is fair to say that there is a significant learning curve if you want to use this incredible “instrument” to its fullest potential. It is very easy to set-up and you can instantly start to play some of the built-in rhythms and songs. If you are really interested in exactly what the Arq can do, and how to do it, then check out zoom-na.com, as there are a significant number of tutorial videos there that can outline the finer points of this incredible unit better than I can to be sure.
The million dollar question, I suppose, is who or what is the Zoom Arq Aero RhtymTrak designed for? The first obvious idea, that comes to my mind at least, is DJs. The Arq has the inputs and outputs that allow for beats of all styles and sounds to be programmed directly into the unit and saved in one of 20 user defined kits. The inputs will let a DJ connect other sound sources to it, from a turntable, laptop computer, or CD player, to an mp3 player, and the SD Card slot lets you import songs and other sound samples.
Removing the Ring Controller from the base station would let the DJ move away from behind the gear or get outside of the booth and take the action to the front of the stage or, why not, into the crowd. The bluetooth connection would let that person still play, pause, and record loops as well as changing rhythms and using the sensors to add their own playing into the mix. All of this of course taking place with the fantastic light display produced by the Arq to create an audio-visual treat for the audience. As Zoom has often said since they first began promotion of the Arq, they don’t even know everything it could potentially do, and they want creative musicians and performers to show them everything it is truly capable of.
The Zoom Arq would also be right at home in the studio of any music maker. The USB lets you plug it into your computer, and you can program directly into your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) whether you are using Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Ableton, or any other DAW. This provides even more flexibility in crafting some incredibly unique sounds with your DAW’s onboard effects. Drums, synths, bass, and any other instrument you can craft in your DAW can be controlled or triggered with the Arq, making it a multi-function and purposeful addition to any studio, home, or otherwise. The Zoom Arq Aero RhythmTrak is so different from everything currently available in this market that I imagine some may look at it and dismiss it as a gimmick or some novelty, but I would challenge that and suggest that they give it a go. This is not an instrument or device that you purchase and overnight have mastered, but I have no doubts that for those that take the plunge, this will become an incredibly integral part of their creative music repertoire. Additional Recording Equipment & DJ Gear from Best Buy may be found by clicking the link.