Whether you’re in the market for something to take your live soundscapes to the next level or indeed simply want something to jam along to at home without needing to make new friends, the humble looper is the modern guitar players go-to stompbox.
Here we run through the 12 best and most versatile loopers on the market, from simple one-knob wonders to pedals that look like the dashboard of the Millenium Falcon.
1. BOSS RC-1
Boss’s entry-level RC-1 is a triumph of simplicity: the top panel features just a single level control and a multi-segment loop indicator. As a junior sibling to the RC-3, the feature set is quite limited: there’s no USB for archiving or downloading audio and just 12 minutes of stereo recording time compared to the RC-3’s 99 presets and massive three-hour storage capacity. 24 LED segments cycle red when recording, red/green when overdubbing and green when playing back. As soon as you’ve recorded a loop, the overall cycle indicates loop length. The unit’s default setting goes straight from record to overdub mode and then play mode ± and there’s a start-up option that changes the overdub/play order if this suits your style better.
2. TC Electronic Ditto Stereo Looper
TC Electronic have preserved everything that’s good about the Ditto Looper: the ultra-simple design, the 5 minutes of looping time and unlimited overdubs all packed in a highly pedalboard-friendly enclosure. The Ditto Looper offers first-rate stereo I/O options alongside True-Bypass, Analog-Dry-Through, the option of running on a 9v battery and 24-Bit uncompressed audio. It also includes StarJam, a concept that lets you load pre-recorded loops made by the likes of John Petrucci, Steve Morse, Guthrie Govan and Paul Gilbert into Ditto Stereo Looper, supplying you with hours of inspiration.
3. DigiTech Jam Man Express XT
The DigiTech Jam Man Express XT is arguably the most versatile and feature ridden pedal available. With true-bypass, 10 minutes of stereo looping, Silent Clear, and JamSync the Express XT is a perfect looper for your pedalboard. It’s incredibly easy to use with dedicated LEDs and just one knob. The Express XT uses a 9V battery (not included), or you can power it with an optional power supply. amSync automatically synchronizes with another Express XT or JamMan Solo XT allowing you to create independent yet perfectly synchronized loops. Using JamSync you can build a custom multi-track looper or build loops with your band.
4. Line 6 DL4
Despite being over 20 years old now, the Line 6 DL4 remains a staple of pro and amateur pedalboards the world over. Okay, so it might not be the best-looking, most reliable or most space-efficient pedal in the world by modern standards, and these days digital delay pedals have much more DSP power under the hood to model authentic-sounding repeats… but yet, there’s something amazing about this green monster. Whether it’s the ease of use, the affordable price, the compelling sounds or the remarkably creative onboard looper, the DL4 continues to capture the imagination long after it might have been rendered obsolete.
5. BOSS RC-3
The Boss RC-3 is a more feature packed upgrade on the RC-1, with up to three hours of stereo recording time, storage for 99 loops, a “real drums” rhythm guide and USB 2.0 compatibility. The Auto Recording feature starts recording as you begin playing and also features an auto count-in. To keep your loops tight and in time, you can play along with one of the basic rhythm patterns in the RC-3’s onboard library as you record. Ten types of rhythm types are provided, including Rock, Pop, Funk, Shuffle, R&B, and Latin. A dedicated knob lets you adjust the volume of the rhythm, and you can set the tempo via tap tempo. If the RC-1 doesn’t have enough under the bonnet and the RC-300 is far too complex, this might just be what you need.
6. TC Electronic Ditto x4
The new X4 is the sixth member of TC Electronic’s Ditto looping dynasty. The two independent loop tracks, each providing five minutes of recording time, are assigned their own level knob plus an unlatching micro toggle that allows you to store the loop you’ve recorded for use elsewhere. You can also utilise either Serial mode, allowing you to switch seamlessly between the two tracks, or Sync mode, which lets you play both at the same time: this wouldn’t be possible with a pair of Dittos. There are also stereo in and outputs, MIDI In and Thru ports, and a USB Mini B socket, plus four DIP switches. Connect to a computer via USB to either export saved loops to your desktop or, equally intriguingly, import audio files into the pedal via an unfussy drag and drop interface.
7. Chase Bliss Blooper
The Blooper was initially revealed back at the Winter NAMM show, in conjunction with the YouTube channel Knobs. Whilst this stompbox is niche, it does have some cool features that set it apart from others on the market. Features include 40 seconds max loop time and 32 save-able presets. Eight layers of undo / redo, unlimited overdubs and six loop modifiers available over two independent channels. Normal, additive and one-shot sampling modes, full MIDI implementation, a repeats knob for fading loops or to use Blooper like a tap-tempo delay and CV clock sync and modulation control. Also included is stability control, ramping and expression controls and DIP switches for all sorts of deeper sonic customization.
8. Electro-Harmonix 22500 Stereo Looper
EHX’s 22500 Stereo Looper crams a vast range of functions into a compact pedal. Inside you get a pair of loop circuits that can be independent or locked together, parallel or sequential ± enabling you to switch between verse and chorus sections. Each has a volume knob and record, play and memory lights, and can be reversed or switched up or down an octave; there’s an overdub facility with adjustable feedback level and an undo/redo function. It’s not the simplest nor cheapest of boxes, but it could be incredibly useful in a variety of scenarios.
9. MXR Clone Looper
MXR finally made its debut into the looping world this year with the Clone Looper. This compact stomper is touted to cover a wide range of needs, including home practice, live compositions and studio usage. Its key feature is signal reproduction of higher fidelity than “any other looper of its type”, according to MXR. Specs-wise, the Clone Looper features up to six minutes of recording time, unlimited dubs and a flashing four-count sequence that cues you in ahead of loops. The pedal also comes with storage sample rates of up to 88.2kHz, a factor which helps the unit handle highly processed signals such as high-gain distortion.
10. BOSS RC-10R
Boss’s RC-10R is a compact looper that combines song-based looping and organic-sounding rhythms. Unique to the RC-10R is a series-operated, two-track loop engine that’s designed to sync to rhythm perfectly. With this feature, you’ll be able to record two independent sections and create a unique rhythmic backing for each of them. The RC-10R also boasts 280 rhythm style presets which comprise two unique song sections, fills tailored for song intros/ending as well as transition. Another neat feature on the RC-10R is tone filters. Essentially, these let you optimise your output for amplification through guitar amps, PA systems or studio monitors. And as for connectivity, the looper also offers MIDI I/Os via mini-TRS jacks.
11. Electro-Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper
A more budget friendly addition to this list, the Electro-Harmonix Canyon delivers delay times of 5 milliseconds to three seconds and includes tap tempo with tap divide that can be controlled by the built-in footswitch or an external footswitch. It is also equipped with a Tails switch that allows the user to choose whether echoes repeat or stop immediately when the pedal is switched to bypass. The Canyon includes eleven different modes, including Echo, Mod, Tape, Shim and more. The Canyon Delay & Looper also features powerful yet intuitive “hidden” parameters accessible thru its Secondary Knob Mode that enable the player to take greater control over its effects.
12. TC Electronic Ditto Looper
Sometimes the best things do come in the smallest packages. While you can buy much bigger and more complicated loopers, TC Electronic’s pocket-sized unit has found its way onto thousands of pedalboards because frankly, looping doesn’t get much more intuitive than this. 24-bit uncompressed audio and unlimited overdubs mean you never have to stop playing along with yourself, while true bypass and analogue dry-through mean that it won’t mess up your core tone.