Build Quality:4.9 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.8 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.8 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.8 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars
Average:4.8 out of 5 stars

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Pros:

  • Extremely versatile
  • In-depth controls
  • Lets you select source and target guitar types
  • Mono/stereo operation

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a looper

If you had told me that studio quality units would be available in our bedrooms back when I wasn’t so aware of all the development happening in musical industry, I would simply laugh and continue my day. The concept of creating a small pedal that would be capable of providing the users with sophisticated possibilities of studio seemed too good to be true for me. And even if I tried to believe it, I would force myself to think that it was a far fetched idea. But later on I decided to stop being negligent and explore the options the market of effects pedals had to offer. I started off with simple units that only strived to emulate that great and mysterious idea, and as I matured as a guitarist and got the hang of stompboxes in general, I took a risk and experimented with something a bit more complicated. After years of blood, sweat and tears, a long process of trial and error, I finally discovered the unit that I trust with my own life. I’m talking about Zoom AC-3 – one of the best acoustic preamps on the market. It is the embodiment of studio quality performance and will allow you to crank your performance up a notch. Let’s get started and see what makes this one so special!

Features

I don’t even know where to start, since Zoom AC-3 leaves me speechless most of the time. At first glance it seems like something that would require hours to grasp, however, in reality, it’s really simple to use. You’ll hardly require a manual with it unless this is your very first acoustic preamp. I can’t help but mention how beautiful this puppy looks. It has the appearance of a wooden box, which complements the whole vibe of acoustic guitars a great deal. I can talk about that for the rest of the day, but I want to dedicate this article to the features that I believe are way more significant for you. AC-3 gives you the ability to choose between 16 source guitars – pre-loaded presets that make it possible to match the pedal with your instrument. Once you have selected the source, you can move on to 15 target types. This means that the first selector is concentrated on the acoustic guitar types, while the second one lets you pick out the model that will suit your instrument the most. What is more, this beautiful beast offers 9 different effects, including chorus, reverb, delay, tremolo and etc. AC-3 makes it possible to select the pickup type that you are using in order to guarantee the most accurate reproduction of your acoustic sound. It has a built-in compressor paired with a 3-band EQ – the combination that will make any guitar sound as good as possible. Let’s not forget built-in chromatic tuner that you can access with the footswitch. Additionally, we have a clipping indicator, an anti-feedback control, adjustable input and output gain, as well as a boost switch for up to 9dB boost. Things don’t get boring when it comes to the connections either. AC-3 comes with a single input, dual outputs for stereo operation, dual XLR balanced outputs, as well as a USB port for connecting this unit with your computer. When it comes to powering options, here you can utilize two AA batteries, an adapter or the USB port. Zoom definitely went the extra mile to create this pedal – and you can see yourself how amazing it turned out.

Controls

I know perfectly well how it looks – you pick up AC-3 and suddenly you are scared. All those knobs look like terrifying monsters that will ruin your life and turn the tweaking process into a real hell. However, trust me, this thing is really easy to adjust and I’ll prove that to you by explaining what each of the controls is capable of (but still check out the manual for in-depth information).

  • Target Guitar Knob – lets you select target guitar types;
  • Source Guitar Knob – enables you to choose the type of guitar you are playing;
  • Bass, Middle, Treble – accentuate or tone down low, middle and high frequencies, respectively;
  • Volume – adjusts the level of the pedal;
  • Reverb Mix and Tone – Mix alters the strength of the effect, while Tone changes the color of reverb;
  • Anti-Feedback (Anti F.B.) – enables the anti-feedback functionality;
  • Effect Selector – lets you choose between available effects;
  • Effect Parameters – the combination of essential properties that you’d need to modify different effects. They take up various duties depending on the chosen effect, so refer to the manual for that;
  • Compressor – triggers the compressor and modifies its strength;
  • Pick-up Selector – lets you choose between piezo or magnetic pickups.  

Boost Level – modifies the amount of boost that will be added to the volume of your sound.

Sound

Zoom AC-3 will continue to amaze you in the sound department as well. It’s quite hard to imagine how far the scope of possibilities can stretch here, since we have so many features to work with. The source and target types help you select the exact instrument you are playing and want to emulate. That way you’ll be able to recreate those organic and natural qualities with ease. Audio effects sound beautiful as well, especially if you are not abusing them heavily. Compressor evens out your sound beautifully and when combined with EQs, you truly get the impression that sound engineers tweaked your signal from within. This magical unit delivers jaw-dropping performance right at your feet and redefines quality in its own terms.

Conclusion

All in all, Zoom AC-3 is something that you shouldn’t say no to. I’m sure you can see yourself just how capable and diverse this beautiful unit is. If not, you can always listen to demos and let them speak for themselves. Either way, it’s really hard to find faults with this one. It would probably be better if it had a looper or some sort of memory bank to save your presets, but those who love the thrill of live performances, won’t even lack that in the process. Good luck!

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