There are very few items in the guitar gear catalog that can be as useful and practical as a looper pedal. This is especially true if you’re currently in the stage of practicing on your own. While playing with a live band cannot be substituted for anything, a looper pedal will get you somewhat close to that feeling. It will force you to work on your timing and help you build a good sense of rhythm. These are usually two things that most people forget about when learning how to play, especially on their own.
If you’re one of the more experienced guitarists, we also made this list with you in mind. Looper pedals are usually pretty straightforward when it comes to their basic function, but beyond that is where the magic really tends to happen. While most people will be more than satisfied with playing alongside a basic rhythm track they recorded on their loopers, people like yourself probably want more spaces to explore and ways to express yourself. The bottom of this list offers some pedals that will allow you just that.
Final note – if you’re not familiar with a looper pedal is, you likely saw and heard one without even realizing it. A lot of guitarists who play solo in pubs and cafes tend to use one. If you ever heard one of them play and sing, while having another guitar playing in the background without an actual person there playing it – the guitarist was most likely using a looper pedal. In case you’re just starting out and you don’t really know how to use a looper pedal, please check out this awesome video by JustinGuitar on YouTube – How To Use A Looper Pedal Guitar Lesson Tutorial.
Zoom G1on Looper/Effects Pedal
As per usual, we start with the most affordable pedal that still offers a decent value, and makes sense spending your hard-earned money on. The Zoom G1on is not really just a looper pedal like most of the other pedals on this list, but also a guitar processor. It’s packed with all kind of features, most of which are absent on the rest of the loopers on the list, even though you’d expect the features to go up as the price goes up as well.
Zoom G1on is encased in a plastic, but not the kind you’d usually see on cheap products, but a sturdy plastic that you’d expect to last for years. The design itself is somewhat different from what most of the classic guitar pedals go for, but from a practical standpoint, everything works just as well. The left pedal starts the recording when you first press it and plays it back to you when you press it for the second time. The pedal on the right stops the loop or deletes it completely if you hold it for a couple of seconds. We must say, having two pedals instead of just one like on the most loopers is actually pretty useful and made the whole thing somewhat easier to get into.
Feature-wise, the pedal has almost everything you’d ever need. It has a built-in tuner, metronome, sixty-eight rhythm patterns to play along with, and most importantly – one hundred built-in effects! You get things like distortion, compression, modulation, delay, and reverb, and also some pretty cool sounding amp modeling. Everything works and sounds very decent, although the loop function itself is somewhat limiting. You only get 30 seconds of recording time, while with the rest of loopers on this list you get a lot more space to play with. The pedal is powered either by four AA-size batteries (included), 9V adapter or through a mini-USB slot (which also enables you to update the pedal through firmware updates).
So why is it Good? All things considered, this pedal is pretty impressive. For shy of fifty bucks, you get a decent looper and a pretty awesome guitar processor on the side. While you perhaps won’t get the best-sounding pedal ever made, you will certainly get one of the best bang for the buck units on the market. It’s a great tool for practicing and fooling around, and we would recommend it for everyone who plays the guitar, if not for gigs than just to have one next to your amp at home.
TC Electronics Ditto Looper
This probably is one of the simplest and most beginner friendly looper pedals out there. It should go without saying that this doesn’t mean that it’s unusable by the more experienced guitarists, or that it’s not future-proof. On contrary, many people prefer simplicity and bare-bone products like this pedal and choose it not for its cheap price but for its straightforwardness.
Everything you do on this pedal you do with a single foot-switch. To turn on the pedal you press the switch once to start recording, and one more time after you want for it to stop recording and start playing the loop back to you. If you press the switch while the loop is already playing, it starts recording another layer on top of the first one, which can later be deleted by pressing the switch down for a few seconds. The recording time is limited to five minutes, which is more than enough for most of the people.
The pedal is really small in size when compared to the rest of the pedals on this list, which can be a big plus for some people, and it features true bypass which means that it won’t alter your sound in any way if you decide to keep it on your pedalboard when you’re not using it. It can be powered only by a 9V adapter which is not included in the packaging. Using batteries is not an option, which can be a big minus for some people.
So why is it Good? The Ditto pedal provides basic features that allow you to start familiarizing yourself with looping. It’s simple as it gets, it’s compact, very easy to use, and it’s built to last. If the mix of all these things satisfies your needs, go for it.
Boss RC-1 Loop Station
Next up we have something that’s still relatively compact in size and simple to use, but allowing the option to use a battery instead of the DC adapter, therefore making it more flexible and portable. The Boss RC-1 is a classic-looking stomp pedal that will fit right onto any pedalboard, and give you a rundown of basic but useful loop functionalities.
The pedal basically functions in the same way as the Ditto looper from TC Electronics. To record you simply press the switch and the LED light will turn red. When finished, simply tap again and the LED goes to green and the pedals will start playing the sequence back to you. At any time if you want to add another layer on top of the previous one, simply press the switch again to start recording.
A big plus on this pedal is that it features a sort of a display that gives so a clear sign when you’re recording when you’re playing back in the loop, and how many time it’s left until the loop starts from the beginning. Once you familiarize yourself with these patterns, and memorize them in your mind, using the pedal becomes even more intuitive. Next to that, the pedal also features stereo inputs and outputs, and an input for another switch pedal if needed. This allows you to have addition pedal on the side just for the stop and undo functions.
So why is it Good? While still just introducing you into looping and having pretty much same features as the previously mentioned Ditto pedal, Boss RC-1 allows the option to use batteries to power it instead of being limited by a DC adapter, and it has a pretty useful LED display that gives a little bit more insight. If you want portability paired with simplicity and ease of use, RC-1 is a perfect choice.
Digitech JamMan Solo XT Stereo Looper
While the previous two looper pedals are somewhat of a beginner friendly type, the Digitech JamMan is where it gets a little bit more complicated. The basic function is still there, and it is as simple as with the Boss Loop Station and Ditto pedals, but there’s a couple of more things that make this looper much more interesting and versatile.
We hope that the basic functions of how a looper works no longer need explanation. You hit the pedal, the looper records a sequence, you hit it again and the looper plays it back to you. Beyond that, you add additional layers and remove them when needed with usually very simple instructions. What separates the JamMan from the two previously mentioned loopers is the built-in rhythm patterns, very useful for practicing and helping you get the timing right and working on your sense of rhythm. You can control the volume of these rhythm tracks with a knob on the right.
What’s also really awesome about the JamMan is the fact that you can actually save the previously recorded loops. The looper has 200 onboard memory slots that allow you to store loops for later use. Please note that the first fifteen slots are reserved for the built-in beat/rhythm tracks that we already mentioned, but worry not – you can add an SD card to expand the lots to a total of 400. This amounts to around 35 minutes of recording time with built-in memory, or 32 hours with a 32GB SD card installed. All the loops can also be exported and saved on your computer, which is a very welcome feature.
So why is it Good? Digitech JamMan Solo XT is right in the middle between the simplistic bare-bone loopers, and more advanced effect-packed looper pedals. As such, it gives you a great value both in price and functionality, as it offers pretty much all the stuff that the Boss Loop Station does – plus a few more really useful things. Once you get used to what the JamMan has to offer, it will be probably hard to go back to more simple loopers.
Electro-Harmonix 720 Stereo Looper
Initially, we planned including the Ditto X2 on the list, but since we already mentioned its smaller cousin at the beginning of this list, we decided it would be more beneficial to list something a little more different. The choice fell on the Electro-Harmonix 720, which shares a lot of similarities with the Ditto x2, but also offers some additional features for roughly the same price. It is worth noting that we absolutely love the Ditto X2, and it’s very hard to determine which one of the two is better. We encourage you to check out both and see what fits your needs better.
Let’s start with the similarities. Both of the loopers have two foot-switches, with one of them being dedicated for some of the additional functions. The switch on the right has three modes. In the first mode, the switch turns on the reverse effect, which – you guessed it – plays the recorded loop in reverse. With the second mode, you can get the looper to play back the track to you at half speed and down an octave. The third one and perhaps the most useful allows you to have a dedicated stop/clear loop switch. Both of the loopers have stereo inputs/outputs, and the option to store the loops into the onboard memory.
Now to the additional features of the Electro-Harmonix 720. With this looper, you get 12 minutes of loop time, which is more than double of what you get on the Ditto X2, and everything is recorded in a 24-bit uncompressed high-quality audio. The pedal also has an LED display that basically lets you toggle between ten available slots for storing loops. The display also shows you what mode you’re currently in. The first mode is the loop (marked as “L” on display). The second one gives you a progress report on where exactly you are in the current loop, and the third one allows you to add a fade-out effect at the end of your loop.
So why is it Good? This looper pretty much has its focuses on usability and in that context, the pedal is pretty much the best on the market. Using it is a no-brainer, and it will become your second nature in no time. Also – once you go double switches, it’s hard to go back to just one. Tapping just once instead of having to tap twice in order to stop the loop makes the hold thing so much easier.
Boss RC-30 Loop Station
Although the true king in the loop game is probably the Boss RC-300, we decided to leave it out for now since the people who actually need it will likely already have decided to buy it months prior the purchase. This is mostly because the thing costs more than $500, and some period of saving and scraping the money together is usually needed.
The basic functionality of the RC-30 is still pretty easy to get into, meaning things like recording loops and over-dubbing them. The rest of the uses is a somewhat different story and will require some time until you’ve fully familiarized yourself with the looper. Essentially what you get is a two-track looper, meaning that you can assign separate loops to each side of the pedal, and turn the second loop on by pressing the pedal on the right. The foot controls on this looper are somewhat less intuitive than on the some of the previous pedals that we mentioned and will require some time to get used to.
The rest of controls on the looper are separated into five different columns. The first one looking from the left allows you to add effects such as phasing and delay to the existing loop. The one next to it enables you to change the volume of the two separate loops, and enable or disable the usage of the second loop. The middle column consists of an LED display and the controls for storing and deleting tracks from the internal memory. The fourth column is our favorite and it enables you total control over the rhythm tracks built into the looper, and allow you to change the speed as well as the pattern and volume of the rhythm tracks. The last section is dedicated to the volume control of the microphone, which can be connected to the pedal through an XLR input.
So Why is it Good? While not the most beginner friendly and easy to get into initially, if you give it some time the Boss RC-30 will allow you to achieve a lot of things that the other loopers won’t (at least not on their own). It is not for everyone of course, as some people won’t need most of the functions if they plan to use it just for practice. But if you’re a solo artist trying to achieve the point where you can cover for the whole band on your own, this might be one of your best options without breaking the bank. We highly recommend that you first try the looper at a local guitar store though, and come to the decision of buying it (or not) after you familiarize yourself with some of the basic functions.
— KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran, two perhaps best-known artists to use loops live, both used this pedal at some point in their career. Also while checking out what people have to say about this pedal online, we came across a channel on YouTube called HvetterMusic, who make some really smart use of this pedal in their covers. If you want to check out what the Boss RC-30 is really capable of, please be sure to check some of their videos – Heartbeats – Signe & Hvetter.
♛ King of the Hill
The King of the Hill section is reserved for a pedal that rules over everything else on the market, yet still has somewhat of a sensible price tag. Although most people out there will be more than satisfied with the other pedals on the list, some of us gearheads want to at least be aware of what else is out there, if not for an immediate grab, than to serve as a goal and something to save up for. As said, we tend not to go too overboard in this category and usually opt for a relatively affordable pedal, in favor of ludicrously expensive professional-oriented gear.
TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3
The VoiceLive is not branded primarily as a looper pedal, but as a guitar/vocal FX unit with the loop as a feature available on the side. As such, it has the potential to free up space on your pedalboard since you’ll find that the effects that are built-in sound surprisingly authentic considering they are all digital of course. Even though the vocal FX really seems to be the main focus of the pedal – with effects such as harmonizer, auto-tune, and echo – if you dig a little bit deeper in all the functions, you’ll realize that that’s not really the case.
Upon pressing a switch the pedal transforms from a crazy voice effects box to an even crazier guitar processor. Almost every guitar effect that you comes to your mind within the first couple of seconds when you think of the term “guitar effect”, become available through a really neat and thought-out set of controls. There’s a ton of different overdrive/distortion presets, delays with various time settings, compression, wah-effect, octave, flanger – pretty much the whole deal. Next to that, there’s also a feature called amp modeling, which basically allows you to somewhat successfully replicate the sound of some of the most iconic amps.
And then there’s the looper feature, which of course is the main focus of this list. If you read the previous two paragraphs you’re probably wondering why even bother putting the VoiceLive 3 in this list, since it seems to be everything but a looper. The truth is – once you get past the basic function of a looper, which is to record a sequence and play it back to you, every feature that you add to that has to be very well thought-out. While some other pedals on the market tend to rely on gimmicks, if you look at the VoiceLive from the ground up (ground being the looping feature), everything makes sense, and every feature can be potentially used to enhance your live performances, or just allow you to have tons of fun on your own.
So Why is it Good? TheVoiceLive has everything that most of the other loopers on this list take pride in, such as multi-track feature with infinite overdubs, layering, built-in metronome, auto-correct feature, USB connectivity for software updates and backing up your loops, and loop storage onboard with fifty loop slots storing three loops of 8 minutes each. It has somewhat of a steep learning curve, but the experience that you get in return for the time spent in familiarizing yourself with the pedal is not comparable to anything else on this list. It’s a modern approach to a relatively modern trend in the guitar world, and we absolutely loved it!
Do you have any experience (positive or negative) with some of the pedals motioned above? Share it in the comments below! Also, if you have anything that you’d like to have us change on the list, or point out some things more clearly – be sure to tell us. There’s always space to improve and we’re looking for your feedback to help us steer towards that goal.