NAMM 2016: Zoom ARQ Aero Rhythmtrack

It’s always fascinating to see companies at NAMM that step outside of their comfort zone, and this year, we think Zoom (famous for great portable recorders) deserves recognition for the Zoom ARQ. It’s a circular step sequencer, looper, sequencer, and wireless Bluetooth controller. Read on to learn more about this new device and our first impressions.

  • Gear: ARQ Aero Rhythmtrack
  • Manufacturer: Zoom
  • Price: $599
  • Availability: April 2016

Zoom ARQ Feature Set

The ARQ is a bit difficult to quickly explain because Zoom has put a lot of different features into it, going all-in on a workflow that centers around the wireless ring controller. The feature list includes:

  • Drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, clip launcher, and MIDI controller
  • Two part system: Base Station (where you select the mode, sounds, etc) and Bluetooth LE detachable Ring Controller
  • Includes 468 PCM drum sounds, 70 one-shot sounds, and dozens of digital effects
  • Ring Controller has 96 velocity/pressure-sensitive pads (the pads are on the top, sides, and bottom of the ring) and 160 programmable color LEDs
  • 3-axis accelerometer lets you tweak effects parameters and send MIDI control messages (sound familiar?)
  • No software required – the ring controller can send MIDI out, but the idea is to produce and play entirely within the unit
  • Programmable synthesizer engine lets you create entirely new sounds

The best way to understand the features are to watch videos – Zoom has produced a few to give a good explanation of each:

The ARQ was fun to play with on the NAMM floor – the best features for sure are focused around the ring controller itself. The grip-mode allowing quick disabling of pads for your gripping hand is very useful, and we can see where some people might want to use this as an on-stage controller.

What still needs work is the Zoom built-in interface – it felt a bit too much like navigating the menu settings on a Zoom H4N recorder, which isn’t ideal if you want to be quickly sequencing sounds and playing with different synths. That being said, the models on the floor were just a prototypes, so hopefully they’ll clean it up before launching the product.

Have thoughts or questions about this new Zoom controller/production unit? Hit us up in the comments below. See all the NAMM updates here, or follow us on Twitter or Instagram for up-to-the-minute updates and unique insights. 

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