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Choosing The Best Guitar Looper Pedal For Your Needs

Choosing The Best Guitar Looper Pedal For Your Needs

About The Author

Rob Cox is a content creator and guitar tutor from London, UK.
He is also the founder of Tunelectric.

SUMMARY » This post aims to uncover some of the best guitar looper pedals available today. Loopers are great tools for guitar players both in performance and practice and there’s a huge range on the market today

Table of Contents

It can be overwhelming choosing the best pedal for your needs, so in this post, I’ll be rounding up 8 of the most popular pedals currently available. 

Each pedal here has it’s own benefits and drawbacks and with a closer look, this post should help you reach a more informed decision as to which one you want to go for.

If you’ve never used a loop pedal before, check my previous article, ‘What is a Guitar Loop Pedal‘ where I talk about the benefits of using one. 

For this review, I’ll be focusing mainly on pedals which do just that – loop!

"Some delay pedals offer looping functions although these are generally quite limited..."

Over the £200 / $270 mark, you’ll see loop pedals featuring multiple looping tracks allowing for greater control, built-in effects and computer integration too.

The main players in this range come from Boss, Digitech, TC Electronic and Electro Harmonix.

Lets jump in and have a look at the ‘Boss Loop Station’ first –  there are several models available and they all fall under the same product range the ‘RC’ series.

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About The Author

Rob Cox is a content creator and guitar tutor from London, UK.
He is also the founder of Tunelectric.

Boss RC-1 Loop Station

Summary

The Boss RC-1 is a great introduction to the world of looping. The useful LED ring display is a nice addition enabling clearer loop building and its stereo in’s and out’s will appeal to guitarists and keyboard players alike 

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Useful LED loop display
  • 12 minutes of stereo record time
  • Stereo inputs and outputs
  • Great build quality

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Not the best recording quality
  • Short battery life

Check out the Boss RC-1 in action below:

A great feature of the RC-1 is the LED loop display which shows what mode is currently in use: (play = green, record = red, overdub = red & green).

This is also useful when aiming to record the perfect take and playing along to your previous recorded loop. The visual count down helps you to keep track of where the start of the loop is.

The RC-1 control panel - a simple layout with output level and loop indicator

The RC-1 features the usual ‘tank-like’ construction as with all of Boss’ single stomp boxes. There is just one knob to adjust the volume level of the loop being played back.

A common misconception online highlights issues with the unit going out of sync or not functioning properly, however there is a hidden second ‘mode’ which once understood should clear this up.

Check the link below from the RC-1 manual to clarify:

BOSS RC-1 official manual:

The unit is factory default to cycle through its different functions as follows:

1st press = record

2nd press = overdub

3rd press = playback

This order be changed however, by powering up whilst holding down the pedal, then clicking through so the lower half of the LED ring lights up.

The order of functions changes to record, play, overdub, a slightly confusing way to switch modes but is documented in the manual non the less.

The RC-1 loop pedal LED ring in record mode
The RC-1 in record mode

Undo and redo functions are available and accessed while in overdub or playback mode only, by holding the pedal down for 2 seconds or more. Undo will delete the last loop you recorded – to restore it, hold down the pedal again for two or more seconds.

Unlike other simple loop pedals, the RC-1 features stereo inputs and outputs, particularly useful for keyboard players and the optional foot switch for stop/undo functions makes using it even easier, helping to avoid clearing loops by accident.

Boss FS -5u optional foot switch
Boss FS-6 optional dual foot switch

The unit can be powered by a regular 9 volt battery although due to its high power consumption an optional Boss PSA series power supply is recommended.

Best For...Beginners

The Boss RC-1's helpful loop indicator display is a great touch and will help beginner guitarists in particular, making it easier to use as a practice buddy..."

Check the latest deals on the Boss RC-1 below:

UK Store
EU Store

US Store

4.5/5

4.5 stars from 166 Amazon US Customers

$249 / £229

Boss RC-3 Loop Station

Summary

The RC-3 is packed with useful features – the most useful in my opinion are the ability to save separate loop phrases in the on board storage and the option to import and save your own .wav files. This is a great advantage for anyone who wants to perform live with the RC-3. 

Pros

  • 3 hours of stereo record time
  • Store up to 99 separate loops
  • Built-in drum patterns
  • Auto-record feature
  • Back up or import .wav files via USB2
  • Auxiliary input for external devices

Cons

  • Not the best recording quality
  • Greater learning curve, more fiddly than the RC-1
  • Short battery life
  • Limited selection of drum loops although you can import your own files

"The RC-3 delivers a great range of features for not that much more than the RC-1..."

There are 99 memory slots in total with 10 ready made rhythm phrases pre loaded in 90-99.  These can either be used as a metronome for practice as well as jamming, playing live or building ideas as soon as inspiration strikes. A  small dot at the bottom right of the display indicates that the current slot holds audio data.

List of factory supplied rhythm drum patterns on the RC-3 guitar looper
The ten built in rhythm phrases include some of the most popular music styles

As with the RC-1, the order of basic loop functions can be changed. The default is:

1st press = record

2nd press = overdub

3rd press = playback

 

To change this order, hold the tap tempo button down and insert a jack plug into output A. The up and down arrows below the display can then be used to change the order.  Pressing tap tempo again confirms and returns to normal function.

RC-3 guitar looper back panel with aux, USB and power input
Along with the usual DC power supply in, the back panel features a stereo mini jack input and USB2 connection

The option to import your own .wav files and save in the built in memory slots is a great addition.

This allows you to play along in a live setting with your own pre-prepared backing tracks – a great advantage for solo players or singer songwriters.

The RC-3’s maximum record time is 3 hours of stereo audio (44.1khz 16 bit) around 1.7Gb, which should be enough for most players, considering the unit includes an Aux (auxiliary) input – giving you another way to play backing tracks via an external MP3 player/CD/phone etc…

Overview of the RC-3 control panel functions
The RC-3 features an LED screen to display the current memory slot in use plus a dual control output knob - centre for rhythm, ring for loop

An auto record feature really takes the hassle out of recording a perfect loop first time. You can set it to detect the first moment of sound coming from your instrument, helping you to stay focused on your playing. There is also an option to have a one bar count-in using the on board rhythm phrases.

The looper features a ‘sleep’ mode which kicks in after 10 hours of inactivity. This can be bypassed by holding down the pedal for 5 seconds whilst inserting a jack plug into input A.

The display will flash ‘_ _’ once this happens, release the pedal and normal function will resume.

Best For...Live use / Songwriters

"The RC-3 is a great tool for guitarists or songwriters looking to archive loops and ideas to computer storage (via the USB2 connection)"

There is a greater focus on using the pedal for live performances too  – built in drum tracks, the option to import your own .wav files and the aux input could give you the edge at any gig or open mic night, just remember to take your power supply!

Check the latest deals on the Boss RC-1 below:

UK Store
EU Store

US Store

4.5/5

4.5 stars from 411 Amazon US Customers

$249 / £229

Boss RC-30 Loop Station

Summary

A feature packed pedal, the RC-30 has been the go to live looper for countless musicians since it’s release back in 2011. Although it may seem daunting at first for beginners, learning it’s intuitive layout and features are definitely worth the extra effort initially.

Pros

  • All the great features of the RC-3 and more
  • Two independently controllable loop tracks
  • Microphone input with phantom power
  • Built in loop effects

Cons

  • Additional power supply at extra cost
  • Not the highest quality recording

"The RC-30 has all you need to create, control and perform loop based guitar music"

The RC-30 is the most feature packed guitar looper pedal in this review – although I wanted to focus mainly on simple pedals, this one falls within the price range of this group and shares many of the features of the RC-3 with a few added bonuses.

Both the RC-30 and RC-3 include:

The same basic loop functions and storage capacities

Built in drum tracks

Tap tempo

Auxiliary input

Stereo inputs and outputs

 

The obvious thing you’ll notice with the RC-30 though, is it features two foot switches as well as two completely separate tracks you can record phrases on to.

This is a great help if you’re using the looper for live performances –  being able to stop and start loops on a dedicated foot switch really makes life easier.

The RC-30 looper control sliders
The RC-30 features two independent tracks which are armed for recording using the select buttons below each volume slider.

It can aid creativity too as it allows you to create two separate loops for different parts of a song for example.

Left Pedal Functions

When recording your first loop to a memory slot, the left foot switch functions as follows:

1st press = Record

2nd press = overdub

3rd press = playback

 

If you’ve recorded a loop in a memory slot already – 1st press will play back and second press activates record for overdubbing.

Undo and redo functions are also activated with the left pedal during play back or overdubbing by pressing and holding down for more than two seconds – this will cancel the most recent recording.

The loop FX section can be turned on or off by pressing the left pedal twice.

Right Pedal Functions

Pressing the right pedal once will stop the play back, press it twice stops all play back if both tracks are in use.

Like the RC-3, tap tempo can be set although instead of using a button, you can use the right pedal by pressing repeatedly to the desired tempo.  This will then sync the build in rhythm tracks to match your speed.

You can also switch between which track is record enabled by holding down for a minimum of two seconds.

The Boss RC-30 back panel ins and outs
The rear panel layout left to right: XLR mic input with phantom power switch, stereo mini jack in, stereo ins and outs, optional foot switch input, USB2 connection and the DC power supply input

The RC-30 is the only looper in this round up that features a dedicated Mic input. A welcome addition for anyone planning to use it live, adding vocals to your loops adds another dimension to performances, you could layer loops to build harmony parts and also run them through the built in effects section.

The built in effects are either on or off and feature some interesting sounds including pitch bending down, step filters and a low-fi effect too. You can’t tweak individual effects though but the tempo delay is quite handy as you can sync it to your loop tempo:

RC-30 loop FX indicator panel
The effects section features a type button to scroll through the five on offer, and an on/off.

This model has been on the market a while now but still a very popular choice – the features on offer along with the reasonable price make it a worth while consideration in my opinion.

The unit can run on 6 x AA batteries (Boss claim for around seven hours) although for best performance a power supply is recommended, so you may want to factor that in to your budget too.

Best for: Singer Songwriters/Live Performers

"The RC-30 shares the same features as the RC-3 as well as some enhancements. Live performers will love it, especially with the included mic input and two foot switches"

Check the latest deals on the Boss RC-30 below:

UK Store
EU Store

US Store

4.5/5

4.4 stars from 251 Amazon US Customers

$249 / £229

TC Electronic Ditto

Summary

The Ditto keeps things simple and offers great sound quality in a compact package.

TC Electronic

Pros

  • 24 bit sound quality helps with clarity of playback
  • True bypass
  • Intuitive to use, features essential looping functions only
  • Compact size requires little pedal board space
  • Unlimited overdub, undo and redo
  • Loops are held in internal memory even on power down

Cons

  • Mono only
  • Mains powered only - additional power supply essential
  • All functions controlled through one switch

"The Ditto delivers simple looping functions with the highest quality of sound"

TC Electronic have gone back to basics and focused on simplicity with their Ditto looper.

They mention on their website that the Ditto was “..designed by guitarists, for guitarists...” In other words they have gone for audio quality and intuitiveness rather than storage space, effects and non-essential extras.

Sound Quality

It’s true that most guitarists are on a quest for the perfect tone – so to have a loop pedal in their collection that features the highest quality recording and play back with zero loss of tone, is a great bonus.

Unlike the RC series from Boss, the Ditto features 24 bit record and playback of loops.

Without going in to too much depth here, this will enhance the quality of sound by converting your analog guitar signal to a digital one with greater accuracy.

The advantages of this are clearer tone with the digitally recorded loop reproduced as close as possible to the original signal.

Depending on how ‘trained’ your ears are, this may not be a huge deal to you – everyone hears things slightly differently – although for more established players, this will give the reassurance that your tone stays intact.

Ease of Use

The Ditto also features true bypass – which ensures no loss of tone when the pedal is in the ‘off’ position.

There is one control knob, which controls the overall output of the pedal and all functions are controlled through just one foot switch button (no optional foot switch inputs available with the Ditto).

Its functions are limited and focus on essential needs of a looper:

  • First press = Record
  • Second press = Play back
  • Third press = overdub
  • double press = pauses playback
  • press and hold = deletes the loop
  • press and hold = undo/redo the last loop recorded

The order of functions can not be changed like in the RC-1 and RC-3 – its more of a one size fits all approach.

Once you have a loop recorded you can pause its play back by double pressing in quick succession. The LED indicator will flash green when paused and will play back from the start of the loop the next time you press once.

I was struck with confusion on first auditioning my Ditto in store – I pressed to record a phrase but heard back a previous customers loop!

Although the pedal has no dedicated storage for loops, I was hearing the last loop it recorded as the pedal does retain the last loop in its internal memory until you press and hold to clear it.

Its small footprint will squeeze into smaller areas – appealing to those with crowded pedal boards. Recording the perfect loop with the single foot switch will take a bit of practice, more experienced players shouldn’t struggle too much though.

Best For...Experienced Players

"With the Dittos 24 bit uncompressed audio and true bypass you can rest easy knowing that your tone is all you will hear"

Check the latest deals on the Boss RC-30 below:

TC Electronic
UK Store
TC Electronic
EU Store
TC Electronic

US Store

4.5/5

4.2 stars from 1109 Amazon US Customers

TC Electronic
UK Store

TC Electronic Ditto X2

Summary

The X2 builds on what TC Electronic set out to achieve with the original Ditto. All functions It’s clearly laid out for ease of use, plus there’s some built-in effects this time and the ability for a dedicated stop switch.

Pros

  • All the features of the original Ditto and more
  • Dedicated stop/clear foot switch
  • Import and export audio files form computer via USB2
  • 8 free backing tracks available to download from Jam Track Central
  • Built-in loop effects - reverse and half-speed
  • Loops are held in internal memory even on power down
  • Space saving placement of input and output jacks
  • Batteries can be used

Cons

  • 5 minute loop limit

"The X2 looper improves on the original Ditto in all the right areas. With it's ease of use and quality sound it's one to consider for the shortlist"

One of the biggest advantages of having two foot switches on any loop pedal is the dedicated stop switch.

Stopping the recording/playing of a loop has to be as accurate as possible to ensure you play in time – having to double press like with the original Ditto is harder to execute so this is a great addition here with the X2.

The rear panel of the X2, featuring stereo in's and out's, DC power supply in and mini USB2 port for import and export of loops

On the original Ditto, the mini USB2 input on the right hand side enabled software updates only – with the X2, its used to import or export audio files from your computer.

You could for example, make the perfect loop with the X2, save then back up via the USB, tweak in your favourite audio software, then import it back into the X2 as a backing to solo over.

There are two small toggle switches one each side of the main volume knob.

On the left, the switch selects between storage (holding in the up position clears the storage) and volume of imported loop, whereas the right selects between using the right foot pedal as as a dedicated stop or one of the two effect.

There is also the option to use batteries this time with space for two 9 volt batteries in a compartment underneath. This compartment also features dip switches to change the order of functions:

i) Loop —> play —> record

ii) Loop —> overdub —> play

left side toggle switch for selecting imported loop level, store and delete

The inclusion of half speed and reverse effects gives you another option for creating interesting loops and the unit can be used to store and back up your creations to computer via USB2.

the TC Ditto X2 mini toggle switch for selectring reverse, half speed or stop function
The position of the right hand toggle selects weather you use the right pedal as a dedicated stop or as an on/off switch for the two effects available

Best For...Any level of player

Despite the larger size of the X2, you still only 5 minutes of loop time, although you do get the higher 24 bit audio quality.

''The X2 can be seen as the next logical upgrade from the original Ditto and adds useful features including the secondary foot switch which can be selected to act as a dedicated stop switch. If you value quality of sound over storage space then the X2 could be the one for you.''

Check latest prices here:

Combined Amazon UK & US Rating:
4.3/5

4.3 stars ( 710 reviews)

Digitech JamMan Express XT

£89 |€98 | $111

Summary

The JamMan Express XT is Digitech’s entry level looper, similar to Boss’ RC-1. Both are based on a simple, intuitive design although the Express XT uses a higher audio quality of 24 bit.

Pros

  • High 24 bit sound quality
  • Sync multiple JamMan pedals together
  • True bypass
  • Stereo in's and out's
  • 'Silent Clear' function prevents playback when clearing loops

Cons

  • 10 minutes maximum recording time
  • Short battery life - additional power supply recommended

" The Jamsync feature adds a unique ability to create loops together with other musicians..."

The layout of the pedal is clean and easy to use with individual LED lights to indicate what function is currently in operation – although there’s no visual cue with an LED light as to when the start of a loop is (like on the RC-1).

Basis loop functions are as follows:

  • First press = Record
  • Second press = Play back
  • Third press = overdub
  • Double press = stop playback
  • press when playing back = activates record for overdub
The XT has a clear and simple layout - LED's for each function and output level

All loop functions are controlled through one foot switch – so no dedicated stop pedal, however you do have the option to use the ‘Jamsync’ function. This enables you to connect two or more additional JamMan series pedals using a stereo mini jack cable.

Use the last pedal in the chain as the ‘master’ adding additional XT’s before it to function as ‘slave’. The master and can control stop/playback functions for all additional pedals in the chain.

Each musician then has the option to record their parts with their own dedicated unit to add their own loops to the mix.

Undo/Redo Functions…

The Express XT includes undo/redo features, a basic feature with most loop pedals (including the 8 in this review!).

Once you’ve recorded you first loop, you can add another part (overdub) by pressing the switch once while in playback mode.

The JamMan Express XT has a simple design in a small footprint, useful if space is limited on your pedal board

If you decide you don’t like your over dub you can clear it by pressing and holding for around two seconds.

This will revert back to just the original loop (1st pass). You may then decide you want to restore it – this is done by pressing and holding once more (still in playback mode).

Be cautious though when creating many overdubs, you can only undo the last recording as the one before it becomes merged with the original loop.

The JamMan also features the ‘Silent Clear’ function – this gives you the ability to clear a loop without having to play it. To do this, whilst in stop mode, press and hold the foot switch for two seconds. Once the loop has been cleared this way it can not be undone, so be sure that you want to delete it first!

Best looper for...Creative live looping with other musicians...

The ‘Jamsync’ option gives the XT a unique edge, giving you the option to build your own modular multi-loop rig or jam and perform creative loop music with other musicians.

Perhaps not as user friendly for beginners as Boss’ RC-1 – as there’s no dedicated stop (unless you have more than one unit of course).

You do get the higher bit rate though plus true bypass so could be an option if you need a simple great sounding looper.

Check latest prices here:

Combined Amazon UK & US Rating:
3.5/5

3.5 stars ( 127 reviews)

Digitech JamMan Solo XT

£85 |€98 | $129

Summary

The JamMan solo XT crams a ton of features in to a single size foot pedal. It’s closest rival here is the RC-3 from Boss which it shares similar functions with.

Pros

  • Feature packed pedal in a small format
  • Stereo in's and out's
  • 35 minutes of built in storage
  • Expandable storage with micro SDHC card slot
  • 200 built in memory slots plus additional 200 slots to SD card
  • Optional foot switch for hands free control