Zoom just delivered their new AC-3. The AC-3 is an enhanced direct box specifically designed for recreated the natural resonance and string characteristics of the guitar plugged into it. A common problem with average direct boxes is that they can suck the energy out of an acoustic guitar, leaving behind a dull and lifeless signal. The AC-3 combats that issue with a huge variety of colorful solutions. Let's take a look.
1) High-Quality Preamp, Compressor and EQ
Great sound starts at the front end. Zoom put a very high-quality preampin the AC-3 to help recreate the harmonics of your acoustic guitar, classical guitar, upright bass and more. Following the preamp is the smoothest compressor and EQ circuits Zoom has ever designed. The compressor is a one-knob solution for total ease of use. The EQ is a 3-band parametric with Bass, Mids, and Treble control to dial in your tone perfectly. Taming the low end or adding some sparkle never sounded better on an acoustic pedal.
2) Acoustic Guitar Modeling
On the input, there are 16 different styles of instruments. From models like a dreadnought and jumbo acoustics to resonators and upright bass, it will be difficult to find one that doesn't match one of these styles. Furthermore, Zoom has integrated 15 more specific "Target Models" to choose from. These models include some Martin D-series, Dove, Hummingbird and so on. Not all source guitars will have options for the target guitar. In which case you can select the off position. However, I have noticed that this can give your acoustic guitar a pleasant color that you can further shape your acoustic tone with if the target option is not available.
3) Built-in FX and Tuner
In total, there are 10 other built-in FX (beside compression and EQ) and an on-board tuner. The FX include two choruses, tape echo, analog and digital delay, three different reverbs, tremelo and a synth pad. I was surprised at how much I like them, especially the pad. I am very much a purist when it comes to guitar tone, but I am astounded at the sound coming out of this pedal. I could say it all day, but it wouldn't matter if you didn't hear it for yourself. As promised, below are sound samples.
For these samples, I used a guitar that I am not particularly fond of because I wanted to see what the pedal could do to make it sound prettier. It was a single cutaway acoustic that has a focus in the lower mids. In this first example, I plugged straight into the DI input on the audio interface I was using. No effects were used on the way in or in the software.
In the next sample, I ran the guitar through the AC-3 with no compression EQ or other FX and then straight into the interface. Levels were matched within 1dB. I can especially hear the difference in the picked notes. The DI was very tinny and plain (like most DI's), but the AC-3 added the natural acoustic smoothness to the top and cleared up the strums in the chords.
In the third sample, I used compression, EQ, Reverb and the synth pad. I actually really liked the shine on this version. I would definitely use this tone in a mix!
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