Zoom B2.1u review
Looking to simplify my bass guitar rig, I bought this Zoom B2.1u floor board as a try-out. I have never been a fan of Zoom products, but that opinion was based on the quality (both build and sound) of the Zoom 506 bass effect processor. The 506 was crap. Period. Even for the money.
While strolling the music center some time ago, not looking for any bass guitar related stuff, my eye was drawn towards a retro looking floor board resembling the Line6 POD series. I thought, hey cool, Line6 is expanding their model line-up once again, good for them! Upon closer inspection, and to my negative surprise, the brand turned out to be Zoom. I walked on, looking for the studio headphones we came for.
Some weeks later, I was shopping for a new digital preamp equipped with amp simulations, that wasn't going to break the bank. First, I considered rack mount processors, but soon decided it would be either to expensive or too inflexible. Maybe a floor board would be able to fulfill my needs, with the added benefit of an expression pedal. I looked at Line6, Boss, Yamaha, Korg, Digitech, and others. Most were way too complex, others simply didn't meet my minimum requirements.
Why more stuff? The gear I'm using right now is excellent in many ways, but has a few serious flaws. I own a Digitech Studio Quad. It's a great processor, very flexible, extremely editable, but it has no bass specific effects like overdrive, and it doesn't change patches fast enough. Then there's the Boss VF-1, which does a lot better at where the Digitech fails to deliver, but its user interface is very slow, the compressor is useless for live performances, and the bass guitar algorithms don't include pedal wahwah.
My minimum requirements are:
- Fully made of metal
- Expression pedal capable of controlling at least volume, wahwah and effect intensities
- Rotary knob based user interface
- At least 3 tube amp models
- At least 5 EQ bands
- Capable of chorus and delay simultaneously
- Compressor, pedal wahwah, detuner and edgy distortion effects
- Controllable distortion dry-wet mix
- Instant patch changeovers
- Optional battery operation
Of course I also came accross the new Zoom floor boards, but this time gave them a serious look. Judging from the specs, the Zoom B2.1u met my requirements, while also adding USB, a DI output and a mains adapter. The price was more than right, so I just got one. I recommend getting it at Musik Service in Germany. The Zoom B2.1u isn't exactly expensive to begin with, but Musik Service has to be one of the absolute cheapest shops in Europe. Delivery and client support are just as good as any other shop I've dealt with.
Back to the Zoom B2.1u. What I like:
- The sturdy metal casing and its weight
- The endless control knobs and the fact that there are 3 of 'em
- The immediate access to the effect parameters
- The accurate expression pedal and its toe switch
- The flexibility of the equalizer
- The deadly silence when it's supposed to be dead silent
- The DI output
What I don't like:
- The display is awkward, to say the least. They could've spent $5 extra for a backlit character LCD. The very least they could've done is to put 13 segment or matrix LED displays in it.
- There are only 2 buttons for patch selection.
- The input doesn't like very hot signals.
- The pitch shifter has a considerable lag.
- Control: cryptic writings. Those two words summarize how to edit patches on this unit. It's the only real gripe I have with the B2.1u. The list of don't-likes is topped by this issue. On the other hand, once you grasp what the Zoom is trying to tell you, it's a piece of cake, really. An underlying issue however, is the fact that you don't know (and probably won't be able to memorize) what exact parameters you're editing for the effect you've selected. The hints printed around the knobs only tell you part of the story. You end up just turning the knob to see what parameter you're actually changing. To me this is serious. A very basic $5 character LCD would have solved this.
- Handling: excellent. All metal, doesn't slip, inspires confidence. Knobs feel solid, finger buttons are nicely recessed.
- Sound quality: amazing. Nothing short of amazing. Pro level. Sounds easily as good as most, much more expensive stuff.
- Effects: wide variety, everything you could possibly need for bass guitar. Amp models sound good, as far as I can tell. Tweakability is enough to allow building one's own sounds.
- Factory patches: useless to me. Most of them have the cabinet simulator applied, and sound much too muffled.
- Looks: good. Doesn't look like the toys Zoom used to make. My first impression was that of a Line6 product. That says a lot.
- Zoom B2 cheat sheet (PDF)
- Zoom B2 cheat sheet (unfolds below)
To help me remember which knobs control which parameter, I made a PDF cheat sheet. You're welcome to download it, but you can also view it right here.
|Module||Type||Description||PAR 1||PAR 2||PAR 3|
|oC||Octaver||octaver level||direct level||tone|
|rG||Ring modulator||position||frequency||dry-wet mix|
|PW||Pedal wah||position/mix||frequency||output level|
|bM||Fender Bassman 100||cabinet||tone||gain|
|tE||Trace Elliott AH-500||cabinet||tone||gain|
|tS||Ibanez Tube Screamer||cabinet||tone||gain|
|dS||MXR Bass DI+||cabinet||tone||gain|
|ZNR/MIX||nr||noisegate and drive/synth mix||gate||dry-wet mix||level|
|LO EQ||LE||Low 3-band EQ||70 Hz||150 Hz||450 Hz|
|LP||Low parametric EQ||type||frequency||gain|
|HI EQ||HE||High 3-band EQ||1 kHz||3 kHz||6 kHz|
|HP||High parametric EQ||type||frequency||gain|
|SC||Stereo chorus||depth||rate||dry-wet mix|
|PP||Pedal pitch shifter||color||mode||tone|
|dL||Delay||delay time||feedback||effect level|
|tE||Tape echo||delay time||feedback||effect level|
|Pt||Pitch shifter||shift||tone||dry-wet mix|
|HP||Harmonized pitch shifter||scale||key||effect level|
|DELAY||dL||Simple delay||delay time||feedback||effect level|
|Pd||Ping pong delay||delay time||feedback||effect level|
|EC||Echo (warm delay)||delay time||feedback||effect level|
|CONTROL||Ct||Control settings||pedal||footswitch||master level|