Ever wondered how Ed Sheeran can play to a huge audience without the support of any other musicians? Can you layer guitar parts until the cows come home? Then you, my friend, would benefit from a looper pedal. There’s more about what a looper pedal does in my article about effects pedals. A quick google search will tell you there are lots of looper pedals available right now. So, what is the best looper pedal for guitar? I’ve scoured the market to find and review five of the best looper pedals available today. So, let’s get started.
If you want a pedal that’s simple to operate and won’t break the bank this is the pedal for you. The Ditto can record 5 minutes of looping time and has unlimited over-dubs, so you can keep laying parts down until you’re all looped out. The signal is maintained by “Analog Dry-Through”, which is a posh way to say the audio won’t be affected as you add more layers. Quality is guaranteed with 24-bit uncompressed audio. The internal memory will retain loops even after you’ve powered the unit off, handy in a power-cut!
The unit is simple to use. It has a single knob to set play-back volume. There’s one button for all operations:
- Press once to record
- Press again to play
- Press again to overdub
- Press and hold to undo
- Press and hold again to redo
- Press twice to stop
- Press and hold when stopped to clear the loop
As you can see it’s pretty simple. Once you remember which sequence performs which action, you’re good to go. The Ditto weighs just 168g and is tiny making it space saving on your pedal board and convenient to take on the road. It’s powered by a 9 volt DC adapter, which isn’t supplied. You can pick one of these up for less that $20. Although it’s basic it can be used to play live gigs. I have one of these pedals given to me by a friend who used it to play live countless times. The pedal performed well on each occasion I saw him play.
- Lightweight and small form
- Decent audio quality
- Intuitive, easy to get started
- Not bad for the price
- Can be a little tricky to get used to
- Doesn’t come with a power-supply
- Can’t connect to your PC or Phone
Digitech Trio Plus
Ok, so this is more than just a looper pedal. This pedal includes a “band”, basically bass and drums that you “teach” based on your chord progression. The band will then play back drums and bass dependent on the genre and style you have selected. You can then use the looper function to record layers over the top of the band. You can adjust the volume of the loop, bass and drums using the labelled knobs. There are three styles of bass that can be selected. Either the simplified version, which is just the root note of the chords you’re playing, the standard, which is a lick based on the root of the chord or the busy, which plays a more advanced bass-line. This is controlled via a simple switch between the bass and drums volume knobs.
You can record up to 5 sequences with this pedal, giving enough room to create intro, verse, chorus, bridge and outro. They don’t all need to be in the same genre or style but to ensure that you keep time you can have the drummer count you in. That’s pretty smart! You can then cue up each part by holding the band button. That means it’s very dynamic for live performances as you can switch styles seamlessly. Each part is limited to 230 seconds, but that should be ample for even the most creative guitarists. There are an unlimited amount of overdubs, so you can just keep layering away. Until you get tired of course.
You can chain this pedal into your existing effects set up, allowing you to utilize further effects as you’re looping. There are 12 genres, including folk, blues and metal each having 12 styles. You can select 3/4 or 4/4 time signatures and LEDs indicate if the time signature will match the selected genre and style. You can buy a foot-switch to help you control the sequencing of each part but that isn’t a must. A micro SD card allows you to store up to 12 songs along with loops. You can plug the pedal into your PC and use Digitech’s software to manage your library of songs and loops. A nice little bonus. The pedal comes with a 9v adapter, so you don’t need to buy it separately. You can plug in your headphones to have the band and your loops playback silently. The unit is pretty compact and light, making it easy to take on the road.
Although you can simulate a drummer the unit doesn’t provide drum fills, which is a small draw back. There are also no onboard effects, which is included with some other models around this class of pedal. That’s easy enough to remedy though as it’ll fit into your current set up with a few patching leads.
- Smart pedal allows you to play along with a band, all by yourself
- Easily create songs with 5 separate sequences
- SD card for storage of up to 12 songs
- Connects to your computer
- Intuitive and easy to operate
- No onboard effects
- No drum fills or support for other percussion
Boss RC1 Loop Station
Introducing the RC1 from the masters of looper pedals, Boss. This is the simplest looper pedal offered by Boss and the simplicity makes it very easy to use. The instructions are even written on the pedal itself! Like all boss pedals it’s built like a tank so will withstand a lot of punishment. Ideal for taking on the road without worrying about it breaking. There are three inputs. The first is the standard for your guitar. The second is a stereo input so you can plug in a keyboard. The third is for an external foot-switch so you can integrate it with other pedals. You can output in either mono or stereo. The level knob controls the volume of the loop.
The pedal comes with a handy indicator. When it’s rotating red it’s recording. If you hit the pedal again it’ll play back the loop. The display “counts down” to tell you where you are in the loop you just recorded. That might be a slow countdown because you can record up to 12 minutes in one sitting! The red and green display on playback means that it’s overdubbing. Hit it a third time and the display will count down green lights only. That means that it’s just playing back giving you an opportunity to perfect your next layer.
The pedal takes a battery or a 9v DC adapter, which isn’t included with the pedal. This pedal is great for beginners because of the ease of use. You can integrate with other pedals to add effects to your looping. It doesn’t come with a “band” as the Trio does, but it does the basics very well, which is to be expected from Boss. A good choice for experienced loopers too.
- Very simple to use
- Tough as nails!
- Compact & light
- Good value for such a reliable brand
- No power adapter included
- Doesn’t come with onboard effects
- Can’t connect to PC or Phone
Lekato Looper & Tuner
This is an interesting looper. It sits toward the bottom end of the market, but it has some features that mean it’s punching above it’s weight. For example a single loop can be 10 minutes, which is quite a lot more than most pedals at this price point. There’s a maximum duration of 40 minutes, so you can layer up without worrying about running out of headroom. It’s powered by a 9v DC adapter, which isn’t included with the pedal. A micro-USB cable is included with the pedal, which enables you to import and export WAV files between the pedal and your computer. There’s just the standard 1/4 inch jacks for input and output. It’s a super small pedal, less than 10cm long and less than 5 cm wide.
The Lekato is very simple to operate, with only one switch that controls recording, playback and overdub. There’s one volume knob to control the output. There are two further buttons between the volume knob and foot-switch These enable you to access the tuner (by pressing them both at the same time) or the onboard memory, which stores loops. The tuner also bypasses the output, enabling you to tune silently, great if you’re performing live. Press once to record, a second time to play back and a third time to overdub. Pretty simple really. Another cool feature is that, like the Boss, LEDs countdown the layer, enabling you to perfect your timing for the next layer.
Undoing and redoing can be a little confusing at first, which is the perils of having a single switch operated pedal. Again once you’ve used it for a while you soon get used to the nuances. Small form and light, it’s perfect for taking on the road. The sound quality is decent utilizing a 24-bit sampling rate. It works with drums, bass, guitar and keyboard. Become a one person band!
- Excellent features for the price-point
- Countdown functionality
- Long memory – 10 minutes recording time per loop
- Tuner function included
- Easy to use
- 9V Adapter isn’t included
- No onboard effects
Boss RC-300 Looper
Ok, so this isn’t one for those on a budget. I’d call this a pedal for the dedicated. But it’s so awesome I had to include it in 5 of the best. Not for it’s suitability for those on a budget, but for the amount of features you get for your money. Boss describe the RC-300 as “the ultimate weapon in the looper war”. This is a beast of a pedal. For example you get 3 hours of stereo looping recording time. That’s insane! There are 3 channels that you can operate simultaneously, each with their own fader to control volume.
There are 16 types of effects that you can apply to each channel or even the overall output all controlled via the expression pedal. There’s even effects for bass guitar and vocal processing too! As you’d expect with a premium pedal there is a USB output so that you can stream the audio to your computer and import backing tracks to loop over. Speaking of backing tracks, the AUX port allow you to run an MP3 player into the unit, which can then form part of your loops.
There are 99 memory banks so that you can save, re-version and move loops around as required. That includes multi-instrument loops as well as vocals. Each of the three channels has it’s own record, playback and stop pedals, so it’s like having three loopers in one. There’s a rhythm knob enabling you to control the volume and define the type of rhythm you want to playback.
I’m not sure about the drum rhythms, I think they sound a little artificial, but then you could just lay down your own beats I guess. There’s stereo or mono input and output and you can easily patch in other pedals. I’ll admit that it takes some getting your head around and some practice to use the three channel all at once. But once you get your head around all of the features, functionality and technique it’s an absolute beast of a looper.
This could easily be used by song arrangers as well as song writers. The memory banks mean you can line up your songs to gig with. It’s a very extensive pedal that has a myriad of possibilities. The pedal doesn’t come with a power adapter, but you can get an Boss PSA adapater, which is recommended by Boss, for about $30.
It’s a bit difficult to get your head around all of the features at first, but there are plenty of instructional videos and of course the included manual to help you get started. Then it’s all about practice.
- Endless features make this a one stop for gigging musicians
- Boss quality means it’s sturdily built and made to last
- Multi-instrument support including XLR microphone
- In-built effects with expressions pedal
- 3 channels for extensive looping
- 3 hours of loop time
- No power adapter included
- Takes a while to get your head around all of the features
- Expensive, but good value for the features included
- In-built rhythm sounds a little manufactures for my liking
The looper pedal market is very competitive. There are lots of options available with a whole host of features at a variety of price points. For me the Boss RC1 offers top quality, sturdy build and ease of use at a very good price point. It’s a fantastic pedal for beginners yet it’s dynamic enough for more experienced loopers.
The Trio plus offers opportunities for a one-person band approach with the smart “band” feature allowing you lay down a chord progression for the pedal to “teach the band”. The Ditto is a great entry model, perfect for those who want to get started with looping. The Boss RC-300 is at the top end with the versatility for professional musicians and songwriters alike. A feature rich pedal for the enthusiast, it’s price may be higher, but it certainly won’t let you down.
I’ve introduced you to five of the best pedals that cater for different audiences. If I had to choose my favorite it’d be the Boss RC1. Boss quality, easy to use, accessible for the beginner and tough as nails. It’s definitely a pedal that’ll serve you well without breaking the bank. I hope you’ve found this post helpful. Now go and be the next Ed Sheeran Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch using my contact page. As always, happy strumming, and looping I guess 🙂
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