The ZOOM ARQ AR-96 can be filed confidently under “wha?” in the annals of music tech. It’s a round, all-in-one groovebox with drum machine, loads of patterns and sounds, and synths. Oh yeah, and there’s a rechargeable, detachable doughnut/frisbee, uh, thing, which has velocity-sensitive touch sensors and responds to orientation so you can wave it around. Basically, it’s insane. But as at least one friend of mine suspected, it could also be insanely fun.

No English-language reviewers could really do this thing justice. No, for that we turn to musictrackjp – who do better demos, anyway. Sure, 97% of CDM’s readers likely don’t know what this guy is saying, but… no matter, as the demos are good enough that you can probably figure it out anyway. (Who needs talking? We’re musicians.)

Nice work, Katsunori UJIIE.

Speaking of lost in translation, I’m fairly certain DEEP HOUSE doesn’t mean what Zoom’s sound programmers think it does, but I digress.

You could also watch Zoom’s own English-language videos, too, for more detail.

I’m calling it the AR-96 (which sounds like a rare variant of assault rifle), but technically this is the ARQ Aero Rhythmtrak AR-96, a name that sort of seems to suggest Zoom is threatening to release a fleet of these UFO products.

Now, the actual specs are also, believe it or not, fairly powerful. There’s some engineering that allows you to grip the frisb– um, Ring Controller – without triggering the pads. And there are some 96 pads, with velocity, with scale mapping, with external MIDI output (meaning you aren’t limited to the internal sounds). It charges on the base station, then uses the three-axis accelerometer when detached for orientation.

If you do use the internal sounds, there are 79 kits, another 20 custom/user kit slots, a mixer, 33 part playback, a song mode that can chain up to 384 patterns, 468 sampled PCM waveforms, 70 synth sounds, plus filter, delay, reverb, envelopes, and modulation.

And it’s a sampler, too, with external audio input and 16-loop playback.


In fact, while its street price is hefty at first glance (around $500-600), right now the Zoom is weirdly more powerful than just about anything else in the category, until you shell out a lot more. You can load audio from SD card, external input, whatever, and constraints on number of simultaneous parts max out well after your ears would scream for someone to NOT PLAY 16 LOOPS AT THE SAME TIME.

In other words, behind this strange wireless doughnut concept and unusual circular housing, there’s a powerfully-spec’ed engine, just as a lot of rivals are comparatively simple. Now, whether you’d actually want that is another matter – but it is impressive. I have a feeling people are going to be lusting after this thing as a used device in no time. If you want to be the first on your block, though, you could go after now. And seriously, do read the specs – they’re surprising.