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The Zoom ZFX – Coolest USB Audio Device Ever!

zoom_s2t_600New toys arrived today. It’s the ZOOM ZFX Control Package, “the total solution for guitar and bass players” if one it to believe the box blurb.

This hardware/software combo is available in two flavors. The C2.t version comes with the hands-down coolest looking USB audio device ever built. It looks like a tiny Marshal head with shiny knobs dreaming of 11s and a grill veiling a glowing vacuum tube.

The C2.1 is very tempting for the look alone, but in the end I opted for the more functional floormodel, the C5.1T. It has the same specs but includes five stompable buttons and a foot pedal.

Worthy Gear or Cheap Toy?

I have been shopping for an inexpensive guitar rig for my office at work, something uncomplicated to play around with while waiting for 3D renderings to complete, chilling out at lunch time or general goofing off. I owned a Zoom G7.1ut for a while (note to Zoom: try product names that are actual names, words or at least acronyms) and really liked the sound, layout and especially the build quality. But before plopping down $249 (or $199 for the cooler looking C2.t) I decided to do some research.

zoom_c51t_600The NAMM ’08 demo was good but not not overwhelmingly impressive (but check out Joe Berger’s awesome shred at the end of the vid!) The reviews and user comments I read before ordering were mixed, ranging from “Zoom sucks“, to “のオーディオインターフェイス“, to “I just want tone, not a guitar that sound like a flying saucer.” Since I dig the sound of alien tranports, I immediately ordered one from my buddy at Sweetwater.

First Impressions – Hardware.

This thing is heavy and sturdy. All smooth metal, rounded rubber and chrome, similar the G7. It is a tank. Like Boss gear without the sharp edges. Very impressive.

Surprise, it comes with Guitar Rig 3 LE! Huh? A guitar emulation system that ships with a competing guitar emulation system? Does Zoom lack confidence in their programming capabilities? Not really. (But I started to during the installation. More on that later.) It seems to be a holdover from a lack of Mac support when the product was first shipped. It has been out for several months with PC software only. They threw in the stripped down version (LE) of the stripped down version (XE) of Guitar Rig in hopes of spurring some cross-platform action, or so the speculation online goes.

zoom_intel_macThe Macintosh Version Arrives

The iWaiting was over on February 12th when Zoom released their Mac 1.0 software. While the Zoom hardware now supports OSX, it looks like the Zoom art department is all Windows judging from their Mac announcement art (left).

So how is the Macintosh version? Have I found my tone? All this is yet to be discovered. I just got the thing. I spent about 20 minutes installing and cabling this afternoon and my only reward was speaker silence. So far, it is not the most friendly out-of-the-box experience, but catch me after the weekend when I have had more time with the beast.

More to come…

This just added on 3-6-09: The Zoom ZFX – Part 2 : The Software