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Looping Pedals Comparison Essay

Useful Item Guide

There are certain details that you should know about before deciding which one to get for yourself. Here is a comprehensive buyer's guide to help you make sense of it all:

Memory

This is probably the first thing you would want to check out when looking for a looper pedal. The built-in memory varies greatly between pedals and almost all of them have some at least. In some models the memory is extendable with the help of an SD card. This is important as memory is necessary for recording stereo loops in CD quality. Some have minutes of internal stereo recording memory and some even have hours of recording time. It boils down to your needs whether you need something with a lot of memory. If you use it all too often and record a high number of loops then go for the one with a considerable size of internal memory and possibly an SD card option.

Stereo or Mono output

Mono output is fine for jamming purposes but if you want to record your loops in stereo, a stereo output is necessary. Most pedals now come with stereo output options like a chorus pedal that lets you divide the sound into stereo output.

Number of Pedals

The number of pedals or switches in the looper is a very important measure especially if you plan to use it in a professional setting or live on stage. Pedals and switches are essentially used to utilize different features of the looper. Many pedals only have a single pedal which is fine in most scenarios but when you are live on stage it would be very difficult to move different dials to stop or play some loops. So with more pedals it becomes easier to switch between loops and make use of the many features. It is very useful for a multilayered loop.

Luckily enough, even on a single pedal looper pedal you have the option to add additional pedals. This way you get the same capabilities as you would with a looper with built in multiple pedals. It is quite easy to do that but keep in mind you will have to spend some more money on the additional switches/pedals. In case you believe you will need multiple pedals then it makes sense to get the one with multiple pedals rather than buying single one and purchasing more later.

Multiple Loops

Many looper pedals would only allow you to play a single loop at a time. This is quite normal and works out fine when you are practicing solos. However, for playing a song you will need to play more than one loop at a time and for this, you will need a looper that has the ability to do that. This way you can play multiple pre-recorded loops simultaneously and create complex tunes and songs. If you are a professional looking to make records then this is absolutely necessary for you to really utilize the loops for music creation.

Reverse Looping

You can play the recorded loops backward as well. It is a very interesting feature that perhaps is not really widely used but can give you the chance to play around with loops and create something amazing.

It can add different textures to your music and most modern pedals have this feature but it is not that popular yet. It is something you could try finding in the pedal especially if you like to experiment with your instruments.

 

Types of Inputs

The most common input type in pedals is a quarter inch input which is basically the standard cable input from guitars. However, there are other options available in many pedals. You can plug in XLR or even a microphone to add different sequences to the loops. In addition to that other rather common inputs include aux jacks for including music from MP3 players or devices. Some pedals can be connected with your computer through a USB port to transfer the loops directly. All of this is great for any sort of use and give you a lot of control and convenience at the same time. And these inputs are available in cheap pedals as well.

True Bypass

Some pedals have true bypass feature that basically lets the tone going in to be just like tone going out. In some pedals even when they are off, the signal can be affected and the tone is not really the same. Pedals that are in true by pass mode would not affect the tone. These are considered more reliable and retain the quality of the tone.

Pricing

Looper pedals come in a wide range of prices that usually depend on the brand name and also on the features that are available in them. Obviously the ones with latest cutting edge technology, multiple pedals and advanced features tend to cost a bit more. However, you can find a basic looper under $100 easily. The higher end ones start onwards of $100 and can go up to $500 even. Such pedals are more suited for professional use and have features that usually would be required of professional guitarists and recording artists. With the high end brands, you usually get a lot of advanced features that can allow you to experiment.

As for brands, the higher end brands are quite pricey. The quality and features does not have much to do with brands as now you can get a decent quality pedal from a lesser known brand at a particularly low price. It is more of personal choice which brand you prefer. Read Also: 10 Best Noise Gate Pedals of this Year.

1. Which looper is the best?

Looper pedals as you know are not all the same and therefore it is hard to pick one. Nevertheless, deciding which one is truly the best depends more on your own needs and preferences than the pedal itself. Of course, its quality and functionality matter a lot but that can only be decided once you evaluate your own needs and what you aim to achieve with it. Remember, loopers have many features besides the few basic ones that virtually all of them have.

Value For Money

If the criterion for you is value for money, it would not be that difficult to find one. Most of these pedals especially those that are rather simplistic, are cheap and offer good value. The TC Electronic Guitar Ditto Looper is a great product that is high quality and reasonably priced.

What it offers is what you can also find in high end pedals but this cost much lesser. You have qualities like true by pass and analog dry through. Also you can do unlimited undo/redos making it very useful for all styles.

 

Our Top Pick

Our top pick is Boss RC-30 phrase Looper Pedal for a number of reasons. First off, it is from a brand that understands loopers through and through. This product is very professional and can give you a lot of control.

The best thing is that it has very large memory of 3 hours which is usually not available with many loopers. There is a lot of room for you to experiment and utilize the built in effects.

Highest Quality

In terms of quality, Digitech JMSXT Jammam Solo XT Looper Sampler Pedal takes the cake. It is truly high quality and costs much lesser than most high end brands. It is super strong and therefore very long lasting. The features present are diverse and give you complete control.

The memory available is generous enough for frequent looping. In fact, it can be extended to a whopping 16 hours of stereo recording with an SD card. And if all of this was not enough to convince you to hit the buy button for this one, consider the fact that it comes with power supply. Last we checked many pedals do not come with the pedal.

2. What does a looper pedal do?

A looper pedal is a device used to record samples from an instrument which can be played over and over again or even dubbed. The guitarists used the switches or pedals to control the looper with their foot. The idea was to make it an easy process for them to record tones in loops and use effects to produce music.

Here is what you can basically do with the pedal:

Record Solos: You can play chords on your guitar and record these samples. This allows you to practice solo techniques. It is a great way to improve your skills by yourself.

Create Music: Of course, the loopers are most widely used for composing songs. You can create amazing sounding tracks and write the lyrics to it.

Learn: You want to learn how your favorite guitarist played a lick? The looper can help you do that with the auxiliary input. You can plug in your phone or mp3 device to play a song. You can slow down without effecting the pitch and get to the bottom of how the lick was done.

Experiment: One of the most popular recent recording artists to use loopers for his songs is Ed Sheeran. He has managed to combine his superb vocals with some great loops that make him sort of a band in his own right. You can do the same and experiment with the tones and loops to create something unique.

3. What is analog dry through?

It is a feature on looper pedals that splits the signal into two. One side is sent to be the effects side where it is converted into digital signal whereas the other side remains intact i.e. the output is the same as input and it remains dry. The purpose behind this feature is to retain the purity of the dry sound signal.

Not all loopers have this feature so you have to make sure if you want to retain pure signal that you get a looper that has this feature. Also, it does not really have to be expensive because this feature is present in loopers that cost less than $100. This feature is liked by many guitarists and is great because it does not affect the signal and you hear it as pure as it came out.

4. Which is better, multiple pedals/switches or single pedal/switch?

Each one of these has its own set of benefits. It depends on your application as to which one is most suitable for which type of looper and would get the best results. For instance, in a live setup having a single pedal can be cumbersome as you will have to manually change switches. For this scenario the best looper would be a multi pedal or multi switch one that will let you utilize the features rather quickly and easily. For this reason, for professional on stage use a multiple pedal looper is the best option and is widely used.

For home use and personal practice, both can work out well and give you a lot of control and convenience. However, single pedal loopers tend to be smaller and lighter so it is easier to handle them and carry them around. They are cheap too so you can even purchase several and make connections to have a multiple pedal looper system.

There is no clear winner as it entirely depends on your situation. A lot of guitarists prefer multi pedal loops as these are quite professional (click for our guide here). You can easily find some high quality multiple switches or pedals. Another thing that you can consider is that some loopers can be extended to have multiple secondary pedals. If you are unsure about which one you would need you can get one that has this capability.

 

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Looping devices, especially in pedal format, have become a staple in live and studio musicians’ rigs over the last decade.

As the technology has become less expensive and more advanced, more companies are offering a wider range of looping pedals in small, medium and large formats. And each offers a unique set of features intended to appeal to a certain kind of musician or for use in different situations.

So how do you choose? Here's a look at the features included in a handful of popular loopers and some ideas to help you pick the one that’s best for you.

TC Electronic Ditto Series

TC Electronic Ditto X2

TC Electronic introduced the original Ditto looper as a compact solution for simple rhythm and lead playing. Its multi-functioning single footswitch acts as a record, overdub, stop, undo and redo button. For the more adventurous types, TC Electronic released the bigger brother to the Ditto family called the X2. With the added “FX” footswitch, users can assign reverse, half-speed or a stop button with a flick of a switch.

One nice feature of the X2 is that when the FX switch is assigned to reverse or half speed, you can double tap the button to alternate between the effects. The second footswitch can be set to function one of three ways: stop the loop, have the loop play in ½ time, or have the loop play in reverse. The Ditto X2 is equipped with a USB port for uploading and downloading loops, a great feature if you don’t want to lose that beautiful five-minute, 24-layer orchestral masterpiece. The Ditto family of loopers is a great tool for someone wanting to keep things simple, just plug and play.

Best for: Players with precious pedalboard real estate wanting to explore looping, practicing solos and making weird noises.

Line 6 DL4

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

Released in 1999, the Line 6 DL4 has been a staple among some of the most well-known musicians, lauded for being an amazing delay modeler and one of the first stompboxes to feature a looper/sampler with a variety of additional features, such as half-speed, reverse and play once. With the addition of these modes, players can access a new world of experimental sounds and musical landscapes, and the intuitive controls make looping easy and fun.

Tricking the DL4 by engaging the half-speed mode before recording allows for double-speed playback, wgreat for attracting your neighbor’s cat and bird calling. Although more advanced loopers have been released, the DL4 is still a fan favorite for its unique sound capabilities as well its inspiring design.

Best for: Players wanting half-speed and reverse modes, a looper and delay pedal, Minus the Bear and Tera Melos fans.

Digitech Jamman

DigiTech JamMan Stereo

The Digitech Jamman -- not to be confused with the Lexicon Jamman -- was the first looping system to incorporate an onboard SD card for saving loops. With its latest version, the Jamman Stereo is a perfect addition for those musicians looping multiple instruments, vocals and wanting the ability to easily upload and download looped phrases. Boasting a whopping 99 banks, plus 99 more on the SD memory, and 35 minutes of possible loops, the Jamman is like the Swiss Army Knife of looping pedals.

Plugging in the additional FS3X footswitch expands controls for reverse playback, instant undo/redo and setting the tempo of the loop. If that’s not enough, the Jamman Stereo features an amazing auto-record mode, which is great for capturing the entire length of your loop without the need to step on a footswitch.

Best for: Players wanting the ability to store multiple loops and samples, added looping controls in a relatively small pedal format, independent stereo signals for complex routing.

Electro-Harmonix 720

Electro-Harmonix 720 Stereo Looper

The newest addition to the Electro-Harmonix looping family comes in the form of the stereo 720. Similar in size of the TC Electronic Ditto X2, the 720 pushes one step further, allowing users 10 banks to save their loops.

One feature that might not sound amazing at first, but which is a definite plus for those playing live, is the ability to clear the loop without a split second of audible playback. Although you can’t double tap the FX switch for half speed or reverse, it’s nice to be able to instantly go from regular playback speed to half-speed-plus-reverse with the push of a switch. The 720 also allows for an external footswitch to be used for scrolling up and down and instant undo/redo. The one downside of the 720 is the lack of USB or removable SD card for easy uploads to a computer.

Best for: This little bad boy is definitely aimed at those wanting a ton of features packed in a small enclosure for their live performance pedalboard.

Boss RC-300

Boss RC-300 Loop Station

Throughout the past decade, Boss has released a variety of looping pedals targeted at the performing artist. They offer everything from simple, one-knob units to the massive, feature-driven mothership: the Loop Station RC-300.

If you’re a solo musician looking to start a one-person band, look no further than the RC-300. It offers three stereo tracks with isolated footswitches for each, an expression pedal, onboard effects, 1/4” and XLR ins and outs. This beast of a machine is no joke; it’s perfect for musicians wanting to create multi-tracks of various textures from different instruments and then offload the material to a computer for further creative songwriting. If you’re wanting a basic looping pedal that offers one track for record, playback and overdub then this is not for you.

Best for: Solo musicians wanting to create multi-track recordings, complex songwriting with ability to save loops to a computer or internal memory.

Pigtronix Infinity

Pigtronix Infinity Looper

Another great option for live looping, the Pigtronix Infinity looper boasts an impressive number of features that can be tailored to fit your specific needs. Whether you need a variety of record modes, parallel loops, auxiliary monitor output, stereo output, or MIDI functions, the folks at Pigtronix have you covered with the Infinity Looper.

This summary won’t be enough to fully convey the possibilities the Infinity has to offer, but one feature that might interest some live looping musicians is the ability to control the looper via a MIDI controller. A foot controller like the KMI Softstep (versions 1 and 2) can access deep functions, which means users could potentially set the Infinity on a table or rack and still use it with their rig even if tucked away in a far corner. If your band plays to a click track, or you’re using the Singular Sound Beat Buddy, the Infinity can sync its features, like stop, play and tempo via MIDI.

Best for: Live looping musicians wanting independent stereo loop capabilities, players wanting to sync via MIDI or use a controller for absolute control over the Infinity.

MIDI Controllers, Add-Ons and Extensions

Companies like Disaster Area Designs and Molten Voltage have products tailored to work with units like the Strymon Timeline and Line 6 M9 loopers to access the deep functions and hidden MIDI-only features. Luckily, these companies make it easy for musicians to plug and play by expanding upon what they already own. Not only does this allow for some crazy experimentation, but it lets users fully explore the ins and outs of the pedal rather than just skimming the surface.

Best for: Musicians already owning a device capable of looping (Line 6 M9, Strymon Timeline, Eventide Timefactor/H9).

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