ZOOM Announces ARQ Drum Machine, Sequencer, Synthesizer, Looper & MIDI Controller


At the 2016 NAMM Show, Zoom has introduced the ARQ – a drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller with a built-in accelerometer.

Here are the official intro videos:

ZOOM ARQ: Wireless Bluetooth Control

Zoom ARQ Live Performance


Using the Accelerometer

The ARQ consists of two powerful components–the Base Station (AR-96) and the detachable Ring Controller (AR-96c):

  • The Base Station –ย The ARQ Base Station houses 468 drum/instrument sounds (“one-shot” sampled waveform sounds), 70 types of synthesizer sounds, and dozens of digital effects. Dual 1/4″ line-level audio inputs enable phrase recording and looping. There are also stereo 1/4″ line-level outputs, as well as a dedicated 1/4″ headphone jack with its own volume control. A USB port allows connection to your computer, and an SD card slot lets you save patterns and loops, import prerecorded audio, and update firmware.
  • The Ring Controller –ย The detachable Ring Controller communicates with the Base Station, as well as DAWs, via wireless Bluetooth. It offers 96 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads for clip launching and playing drum sounds, instrument sounds, and sequences. Phrases and sounds can be played chromatically, or you can choose from dozens of preset scales in any key. Its unique Grip Detection automatically prevents accidental triggering of the pads under your hand. There are dedicated buttons at the top and bottom of the Ring for REC/PLAY/STOP, as well as Filter/Delay/Reverb/MASTER FX on/off. An onboard 3-axis accelerometer generates MIDI control messages to alter sounds and effects in real time. Its internal Lithium-Ion battery automatically charges when the Ring is placed on the Base Station.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Not only does ARQ allow you to create incredible drum parts and patterns, you can also use the Ring Controller as a live instrument. Play it while mounted to the Base Station, or remove it to take your performance to the front of the stage. ARQ comes with a multitude of editable PCM drum and instrument sounds organized into 50 genre-specific kits, and you can also develop 50 kits of your own, complete with effects. Once you perform with ARQ, you’ll never use another drum machine again.

It’s a Circular Sequencer–No Computer Necessary

Traditional devices take a linear approach to sequencing, but ARQ is anything but traditional. For the first time, you can visualize your music as a true loop, up to 5 parts at a time.

Individual patterns or complete songs can be constructed one step at a time or by recording a real-time performance, with an onboard mixer for setting volumes, muting, and soloing. Instruments can be assigned to single or multiple pads and up to 3 parts can be created at a time. Up to 33 parts can be played back simultaneously, and the timbre or note of each part can be changed with the touch of a button. 400 patterns can be combined in any order to form a complete song, then flattened into an audio loop that can be played back from a single pad–all without the use of a computer.

It’s a Comprehensive Synthesizer

ARQ’s powerful sound engine offers 70 preset “one-shot” sounds–sampled waveforms that can be pitch-shifted as they are played over multiple pads–as well as an onboard synthesizer that allows you to build completely original timbres. Choose from 531 different oscillator types for sonic variety, then add digital effects such as filtering, delay, and reverb, along with sound-shaping controls like envelope generators and stepped or smooth modulation.

It’s a Loop(er)

ARQ allows you to create completely original loops from onboard sounds or patterns, or by capturing external audio. Set start and end points, change the pitch if desired, choose between forward or reverse playback, then assign each loop to a different controller pad. Up to 32 loops can be played simultaneously and synchronized to the same tempo. ARQ makes creating loops a lot more fun.

It’s a Wireless MIDI Controller

Use the Ring for wireless control of all your MIDI instruments and devices connected to your computer–samplers, synths, and drum machines, as well as MIDI-enabled effects processors. Its 96 pads are velocity-sensitive and can also send aftertouch (MIDI messages generated based on the pressure applied to the pads once they are being held down).

Accelerate your Performance

The Ring’s onboard 3-axis accelerometer can be used to change sounds and effects in real time. Wave and tilt it to alter onboard effects parameters and to generate MIDI control messages. You can even link it to your digital mixing console and use the accelerometer to fly sounds around the room. ARQ utilizes wireless Bluetooth LE for low power consumption, giving you lots of performance time between battery charges.

Break Out. Break Free. Break Away.\

Take your performance to places you’ve never been before. Express yourself and get closer to your audience. Open up a world of new options for music production. Create in ways that were simply not possible until now.



  • Drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, clip launcher, and MIDI controller in one device
  • Includes 468 drum/instrument sounds (“one-shot” sampled waveform sounds), 70 types of synthesizer sounds, and dozens of digital effects
  • Ring Controller can be used wirelessly as a handheld aerial instrument and to launch audio clips from DAW software
  • 96 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads and 160 programmable color LEDs
  • Grip Detection to automatically prevent accidental note triggering
  • 3-axis accelerometer for altering effects parameters and sending MIDI control messages
  • Dedicated buttons for sequence REC/PLAY/STOP and for effects on/off
  • Use up to 5 effects simultaneously, applied to overall drum kit or individual drum sounds
  • Split mode allows one instrument to be assigned to multiple pads for ease of input
  • Onboard mixer for setting volumes and muting/soloing parts
  • Flexible precount, quantize, swing, and beat settings
  • Audible and/or visual click
  • Dual 1/4″ inputs for phrase recording and loop creation
  • Audio capture from patterns and songs, from SD card, or from incoming audio signal
  • Create up to 99 mono or stereo loops, play up to 32 simultaneously
  • Loop start and end points can be set on the fly or adjusted manually
  • Loop tempo synchronization, pitch change, and reverse playback functions
  • Programmable synthesizer engine
  • 531 oscillator types and 16-voice polyphony
  • Sound-shaping controls include effects, envelope generators, and stepped and smooth modulation
  • Play sounds chromatically, or choose from dozens of preset scales in any key
  • Adjustable pad velocity and pressure sensitivity
  • Dedicated tap tempo button for synchronization
  • Selectable LED light-show animations
  • Dual 1/4″ line outputs and separate 1/4″ headphone output with dedicated volume control
  • USB port and SD card slot
  • Bluetooth LE for low power consumption and extended usage times

Pricing and Availability:

In stores April 2016, priced at US $599.99.

66 thoughts on “ZOOM Announces ARQ Drum Machine, Sequencer, Synthesizer, Looper & MIDI Controller

  1. Unless there’s a deceptively powerful/original synth hiding under there, I don’t really know who this is aimed at for that price. I mean look at it.

    1. I’d be on board except for one thing – no MIDI jacks? What are you supposed to do with it? I wouldn’t want this to be the only thing I perform with, and if I have to plug it into a computer, what’s the point of having any sound engine at all? there are plenty of accelerometer/pad controller options already.

  2. unless I am missing something, this is one of the coolest things to come out of just about ANY NAMM show! Upfront ‘Live Performance’ is often overlooked – and this seems to take center stage where something like the trailblazer Tenori-On left off…

    1. it is cool – but expensive – if it was like 1/3 -1/2 the price as JUST a controller – it would be a lot more accesible

  3. makes me laugh that companies waste their time on products like this..I mean how many kids will make their parents spend $600 on a toilet seat?

  4. Coolest? unless you are using sarcasm! I think this pretty much sums up everything not to do in an instrument, I think it really sucks. It’s bold that they try to make something original but I really can’t picture who is this aimed for… and they suck. ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. Have you never played live or are you shoe gazer (button glancer) artist?

      It’s pretty cool and expressive controller. Way cooler than Push. It’s too expensive for me. For $200 i would buy one for live use.

  5. sometimes I like to look at an instrument from the audience’s perspective. this is bright and shiny, allows someone to run around the stage w/ something other than a keytar.
    Thats the risk of being gushy on these forums – all I know is: I’ve watched a lot of new release videos, and this was one of the only that made me sit up and say ‘wow, cool…’ I don’t plan on recording my next record on it, but using it as a LIVE performance tool, it seems great! I will agree that the price point should be around $199/299 tho…

    1. Agree – this is the one NAMM instrument that all my non-musician friends have picked up and noticed and are sending emails to me saying “Have you seen THIS!” – it’s definitely got crowd appeal.

  6. The Roland AIRA series was more impressive than this. Sorry Zoom, clustering a drum-machine/sampler/synth together like this is pretty wack.

  7. I really like the controller, think the circle is a solid choice for workflow. Seems like it’s got good, workable sounds but it doesn’t seem unique in that way – want to get a feel for the breadth of that library, does it cover the bases at that level or are some things sub-par sound wise. Would love to see a controller only version down the road but based on sounds might just pick this up anyway.

  8. I think this could go either way. Really bad or refreshingly fun.
    I’m happy that companies are thinking outside the box like this, even if it turns out to fail. This is how things move forward. There may be bumps along the road (and this very well could be one), but it also looks like it might be invigorating to have a strange new way to interact with music. I am so stoked on the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators, and at first I thought it was going to be about as fun as those games you’d play on a graphing calculator in high school.
    If nothing else, I applaud Zoom for trying something new and risky! I hope it is awesome.

  9. Wow. This feels kind of like a more-performance-optimized version of the SP-555, which might go a long way towards explaining the price… also the fact that Zoom is even trying to market something at $600 tells a lot. I’m guessing this will be the opposite of toylike.

  10. Nice to see that some companies are looking forward not backwards, the goatee strokers are gonna hate this but they can’t dance anyway :p

  11. i have absolutely no need or desire for this product but i do admire the bravery of zoom for making something relatively unique especially in a market thats becoming saturated by modular products that lack the slightest bit of imagination or adventure. I really hope after reading some of the above comments that this product takes off and creates a wave of similar products just to get up the nose of the nay sayers.

  12. oh shoot where’s my snare?!? i thought it was at 3 o clock! oh wait it’s at 4 o clock! darn! where’s middle C!? it’s not at 6 o clock?? no that’s my bass drum! dahh!!!

  13. This is a odd one – one of those things I wouldn’t like to judge before I tried it.

    The only downside I see is multi-function, as an artist I don’t like multi- function controls – using the same buttons and controls for drumming, seqs, loops, and control – to use and built memory muscle then I would end up using this for one function, a drum machine or sequencer. So on that level it is a lot of money. maybe should have gone for a single function device at a lower cost – but those are my personal quirks, cool all the same.

    NAMM hasn’t really started and I am lusting too much to remain friends with my bank manager.

  14. This could have been cool. I mean, sure it looks funny, but sometimes funny is a good thing. Most people who aren’t into the tech thing synthesists/controllerists/etc just play with spaceship-parts anyway, so why not take that image and push it even further?

    However, unless there’s an insane synth and a more powerful sequencer than we’re shown hiding in there, I think is the biggest problem here is the price. The specs list a large amount of options, but if it is as impressive as those options might imply, then they should make videos to demonstrate that, not what they’ve shown us already.

    I get that it may be expensive because it’s risky or costly or yadayadayada, but based on what I saw there, I wouldn’t pay 600 USD/EUR/etc for it. Honestly, if it was reduced to only MIDI and the price was lowered to reflect that, it could be a lot more enticing. (Sure, CV would be cool, but I don’t see people who want a lot of CV using this combined with their modulars etc).

  15. I’m surprised there are so many complaints about cost on this but not some boutique or modular gear that might cost the same and serve some narrow purpose. How many circle hardware sequencers are there? How many wireless hardware sequencers are there? Why not talk about the unique features or possibilities of this instrument instead?

  16. I hope the buttons are clicky and you can disable the LEDs, but this is pretty cool. Sampler, drum machine, synth effects, sequencer. Uhh could give all the digital elektron boxes a run for their money.

    We’ll see about implementation, if you can sequence the re sampling, play samples chromatically and the accelerometer is basically a rhythm sensitive joystick so as long as there are plenty of effects parameters to map to…

    oth, probably wouldn’t use live.

    I don’t get the hate or complaints about price. if this was an iPad app and controller people would be all over it and it’d cost the same if not more.

    If the ring can stand up to throwing I’ll get it for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚ seriously flying through the air and bouncing off walls is pretty interesting data and lends itself to musical applications, it’s similar to vibrating string struck by hammer.

  17. Looks awesome but how many of 96 those pads can I realistically play with any kind of leverage? 12?
    Love the idea, but it’s massively overpriced for the fact that it’s not really 100% usable.

  18. i think it’s cool – as long as it is a proper controller with very configurable midi implementation. One of my favourite drum machines ever was a Zoom 234, but it had no midi out! WTF were they thinking? This looks great for anyone open to changing their approach to programming. It would be great if they added an attachable membrane accessory – like a Pandeiro – with the right design and a firmware update you could probably get even more controller/performance options – percussion/aftertouch on the membrane and easy to get subtle but accurate changes in accelerometer CCs – bring on Space Samba

  19. The cool thing about this and what justifies the price, imho, is the ring controller; especially since it does Bluetooth midi and so works with anything (ie; DAW).. It’s a creative and useful piece for people who actually perform live. If you just sit in your basement and make music this probably isn’t worth it for you..but see it for what it is at least before ripping it apart.

  20. It looks like a lot of fun and sometimes music be fun… Im one the DJs who have no problem to spend 600$ – if its a cool music maschine… I will definitly take a look!

  21. This is really cool!!! Why don’t people see this like it really is. It’s a performance platform! The people hating on out are the people who are afraid to be creative in new and challenging ways. People want all these drum pads, lights, 4 channel mixers, and beat slicers on their dj controllers to try to be more interactive with music but what ends up happening is people get to lazy or intimidated to actually perform so 90% of buyers just end up using the basic dj features. Come on people, you never know what you could make if you tried something new.

    1. No, 90% of buyers actually don’t know anything about those features and only go for the LEDs and “freshness” of the instrument, trying to look cool or edgy in front of the audience.

      1. Many of us love to perform our music and show off in front of an audience. It’s the reason I started lessons when I was 7 in the first place …

    2. Agreed. The Dub Architect uses the Orbit with proper midi maps. When I see these “things”, performance platforms, I get stoked. Especially as a drummer, what can I add, how can I control an effect through ableton and keep drumming, or tradition into a different piece. And price be damned, people will always spend money.

  22. It’s somewhere between the disc from Tron and that 80s game Simon. It looks interesting and it would be a fun experimental piece for writing but….yeah…..the price does seem a tad high.

  23. I have to say….. there have been some terrible circular controllers that flopped. …

    In my studio I have two zoom devices, the R 8 multi track hardware recorder and a G2 effects processor for guitar. I love them both. In fact zoom has made some very good , industry standard, field recorders and mic systems.

    I kind of dig the circular sequencer! Yes this thing sure looks gimmicky but having owned zoom products I will wait for a real review. No midi out I don’t think

    That being said a circular sequencer is a real space saver……

    I’ll let the penut gallery come up with the sarcastic comments in regards to this midi ufo lol

  24. Well. I don’t care what anyone says this thing looks pretty awesome to me! Sure it’s a tad overpriced but I think you’re getting a lot of functionality here. I was sold when they mentioned re-sampling. That’s a huge part of my workflow in hardware and software. For a stand alone box like this to have re sampling and just sampling in general is pretty sweet.
    It is a bit gimmicky (looking) but that’s just because it got a bunch of colored lights on it and tbh I don’t even care about the Bluetooth and the removable ring thingy. It just seems like a super fun and capable groove box. I’ll admit I’ve been on a bit of a groovebox kick lately. I miss the times when groove boxes were top of the line !!
    I’m definitely buying this day of release.
    I guess if it’s not modular or analog then it’s a toy.

  25. I readed a lot of comments wich say that this Instrument is overpriced. I dont think so. You get a 32 track midi Sequenzer with 256 motions/pattern and up to 384 Pattern wich can all be used for ONE song. I think the internal synth is more or less useless because you have to less knorbs, but if you conect the Arq to a virus, for example, you can sequence all 16 parts and record a lot of motion sequences in the arq. -So you still have 16 parts free for the internal sampler. The missing din midi conectors are a shame, but you have midi over bluetooth and usb. -So if you like to use a din midi conection, you can buy a raspery pi and a 2×2 midi interface.

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