Choosing the Best Looper for How and What You Play

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 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

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

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

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

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

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).

comments powered by Disqus

Reverb Gives

Your purchases help youth music programs get the gear they need to make music.

Carbon-Offset Shipping

Your purchases also help protect forests, including trees traditionally used to make instruments.

iOS app store button
Android play store button