The best looper pedal for a guitar is the subject of much debate. Once an outlier in the music biz, loopers have become standard operating procedure for everyone from garage bands playing the local prom to massive touring outfits hopping from stadium to stadium. When deployed wisely a looper pedal can turn a ho-hum performance into a work of art and provide the guitarist with expressive possibilities they likely thought were out of reach.
Lots of electronics companies make looper pedals and many of them are wonderful pieces of equipment. But it can be difficult to determine which ones are the best and, more importantly, which one is best for you, your style and your musical aspirations.
Below we’re going to take a look at 5 of what we consider to be the best looper pedals available today. These aren’t necessarily the biggest, most expensive looper pedals on the market but rather the ones we believe provide the most bang for the buck. Enjoy.
What is the Best Looper Pedal? Our Top 5 Choices
TC Electronic DITTO X2 Looper
The Ditto X2 Looper is a worthy descendant of the original Ditto Looper and that’s saying something because the original whispered in the ear of countless musicians around the world and sold them on the benefits of having a looper in their equipment bag. Hard act to follow, that. But follow the X2 does and in some ways surpasses, which is why it leads off our reviews of the 5 top looper pedals.
Plenty of guitarists have what can only be called a love/hate relationship with their looper. They love the versatility they gain playing live, they hate the fact that looper pedals have become so complex that Stephen Hawking was warning they might pose an existential threat to humanity. Enter the Ditto Looper. The Ditto reminds us that good doesn’t necessarily equal complex.
Some of the many benefits of the Ditto X2 Looper Pedal include:-
- Incredible sound quality.
- The simplicity of operation makes it ideal for live performances.
- 2 Footswitches rather than the original Ditto’s 1.
- Ability to import/export jam tracks to the computer.
- Half speed and reverse play options.
If you were smitten by the original Ditto and its simplicity but wished it had just a few more features than the Ditto X2 is the looper you’ve been waiting for. You’ll enjoy the same peerless sound quality as with the original but with 2 footswitches instead of 1 and a few other simple but important effects that will let you take control and wow your audience.
Is the Ditto X2 the perfect looper? Maybe the best live looper pedal? It would need to include a built-in metronome and perhaps some midi sync capabilities. But the fact that we’re even asking that question should give you some indication of how highly we think of the Ditto X2. With sound quality that leaves most of the competition in the dust and build quality that’s second to none the Ditto X2 is an exceptional value that will up your game and allows you to become the musician, you’ve always known you could be.
TC Electronic FlashBack Delay and Looper Guitar Delay Effect Pedal
The TC Electronic FlashBack Delay and Looper is a versatile piece of equipment that will take your studio or live performances to the next level, and the next. The FlashBack features 10 different kinds of delay, each up to 6 seconds and including a slapback and TC’s heralded 2290, and is also a first-class looper. In addition, TC Electronic’s TonePoint delay allows you to easily transfer favorite delay settings. If you’re a fan of the legendary Edge the audio tapping technology of the FlashBack has a simple toggle switch that allows you to switch between 16ths and extended duration dotted 8s.
Some of the many features of the FlashBack include:-
- Set delay time by strumming your guitar.
- Full 6-second delays.
- Increased flexibility with stereo in/out.
- Zero tone loss with True Bypass.
- Spillover on/off for natural transitions.
- Battery access is easy and trouble-free.
- Delay time, repeat and feedback control.
- Exceptional build quality.
The TC Electronic FlashBack delay and looper is one of those tiny pieces of performance tech that makes a difference. It’s incredibly versatile with a 40-second looper and 10 delay effects each one worth the price of admission. The FlashBack is light years ahead of some delays that typically limit the number of effects.
TC Electronics has built an awesome reputation with their Ditto and Ditto X2 looper and the versatility of the FlashBack is on full display via the enormous range of tone prints available. Each has its own unique and valuable characteristics and highlights different aspects of what you can achieve with this amazing pedal. While the focus here is solidly on the delay functionality of the FlashBack a full 40 seconds of looping will also allow you to indulge all of your creative impulses and the easy to understand interface ensures you won’t get lost in the loop on the way.
Zoom G3X – Guitar Effects and Amplifier Simulator with Expression Pedal
Combine a powerful multi-effects processor with an easy to use, intuitively designed stompbox and you have the Zoom G3X Guitar Effects and Amplifier Simulator. Total control over individual settings and amplifier modeling as well as a built-in expression pedal for additional tonal manipulation means you can change those tonal horses in mid-stream with complete confidence.
Zoom puts a lot of thought into the usability of all their electronics and the G3X is no exception. With 3 good sized LCD displays augmenting the footswitches you’re able to easily manage up to 6 amp and stompbox effects simultaneously. The new interface is also a bit simpler than previous versions and this intuitive layout makes creating and saving your effect chains a breeze.
Some of the many features of the Zoom G3X include:-
- Simple 3 button control for each LCD interface.
- More than 100 built-in DSP effects
- Easy storage of up to 100 original tones.
- 40 Seconds of looper recording and overdubbing capability.
- Built in drum machine and chromatic tuner.
- Digital Audio Workspace recording is easy with the USB interface.
- Runs for up to 6 hours on 4 AA batteries.
- AC adapter also included.
Whether working things out in the studio or blazing a trail across the stage the G3X is a powerful tool for bringing your ideas to life. Don’t spend another second wondering what might have been or letting precious effects chains get lost in the confusion of a poorly designed interface. The G3X is built to partner with you and empower your muse and is definitely a candidate for looper pedal for live performance.
The G3X is another one of those Zoom products you just knew was going to kick butt. With 94 effects and 22 amp modes, you be finding sounds you didn’t know your guitar could make. Each stompbox style display comes with its own footswitch and control knobs so retaining control is a piece of cake. Throw in a drum machine and seamless USB integration with DAW recording and you have a looper pedal that will never let you down.
Digitech TRIO Electric Guitar Multi Effect, Band Creator Pedal, Power Supply Included
The DigiTech Trio Electric Guitar Multi Effect Band Creator Pedal is more than a looper pedal, it’s a portable studio that can memorize as many as 3 different song parts and then recall them as needed to augment your playing. It’s the 21st-century version of the one-man band, sort of, and with the optional FS3X Footswitch those song parts can be called up with a tap of the toe.
The Trio absorbs what you’re playing and can automatically generate drum and bass parts to accompany you. It’s as easy as plugging in, pressing the footswitch that enables Trio to learn and then pressing the footswitch one more time to play back the new accompaniment. If it’s musical shock and awe you’re after the DigiTech Trio pedal is for you.
Primary Features of the Trio Effects Pedal include:-
- A dozen styles for each of seven musical genres.
- Built-in guitar effects relative to each genre.
- Ability to learn 3 different song parts and recall them for immediate playback.
- Sophisticated bass and drum level controls including adjustable tempo and time variants.
- Optional FS3X footswitch for hands-free control.
- Headphone, Amp and Mixer output with full level control.
Some might say the Trio is a box of gimmicks but remember the same was said when the first synthesizers were introduced 40-odd years ago. In fact record/modify/replay effects as embodied in the Trio have reached such a level of sophistication and quality that even the most curmudgeonly naysayers would have no problem putting them to work in the studio or on the stage.
Whether you’re looking for a way to enliven your practice sessions or need a bit of backup for live performances the DigiTech Trio Electric Guitar Multi Effect Band Creator Pedal will fit the bill and then some. The amazing pedal will bring the band when the band can’t come or help you perfect your act before you take it on the road.
BOSS RC-3 Loop Station Stereo Recorder Pedal
The Boss RC-3 is a pedal whose extraordinary performance belies its compact nature. With the RC-3 you get 3 hours of storage time and are able to store up to 99 loops. While the RC-3 isn’t necessarily new (Having replaced the earlier RC-2 loop in 2011) it still represents a top 5 best guitar looper pedal for its outstanding performance. If you’ve already got an overpopulated pedal board the RC-3 is the perfect pedal for adding functionality without adding clutter.
Features of the Boss RC-3 include:-
- A powerful, versatile, compact stereo stompbox looper.
- Industry-leading internal memory up to 3 hours.
- Ability to store up to 99 loops at any one time.
- USB 2.0 for integration with your computer.
- 10 Built-in real drum patterns.
- Runs on AC power or a single 9-volt battery.
- Excellent build quality. Proven performance.
The RC-3 includes a massive upgrade in memory over its predecessor the RC-2. Where the earlier unit provided only 16 minutes of mono recording the RC-3 ups that to a staggering 3 hours of stereo recording. As a result, you won’t have to cut that promising jam short because you’ve run out of memory and you can also load up to 99 of your most coveted backing tracks.
The RC-3 provides 10 drum tracks, which should be sufficient for most pop/rock/blues players. If you find the 10 available tracks to be limiting don’t forget that you have 99 slots into which you can load your own pre-recorded drum tracks so you should never actually be left wanting when it comes to rhythm. Keep in mind also that the RC-3 includes true stereo input/output for the inclusion of additional external effects.
The Boss RC-3 Loop Station is the company’s premier compact looper and represents a substantial step up from the RC-2. Though it’s been a few years since the RC-3 hit the market it retains its status as a first-class looper pedal.
How To Select The Best Rated Looper Pedals
Finding the best looper isn’t like finding the best guitar. An awful lot of what makes a guitar right for a person is tactile: the way the instrument feels in the hands of the guitarist. That’s not something that necessarily comes into play with looper pedals, however (unless you’re an aficionado of the fine art of stomping). No, looper pedals are judged more (although not exclusively) on what they bring to the table from a functional standpoint so you need to know what to look for in that regard when selecting the right pedal. Here are a few important considerations.
- Ease of use: Some guitar players live to stomp. If this isn’t you however you may want a pedal with a simple, straightforward interface and not a lot of extras.
- Value: To determine what value is for you’ll need to determine just how much a great looper is worth to you and then get as much pedal as you can for that amount.
- Do you plan to use it live? Important because if you do you don’t want a pedal that requires you to make adjustments by hand.
- Size: Are you comfortable with having a substantial piece of electronics occupying real estate on the studio floor or stage or are you someone who likes to have room to move?
- Quality: There shouldn’t be any argument in the quality department. Determine how much pedal you need and then get the best quality version of that pedal you can find.
Benefits of Looper Pedals
The benefits of a great looper pedal are many and varied with some obvious and others not so much. You are after all dealing with an art form here. Music, like painting, sculpture, acting or any other type of creative expression relies heavily on different textures, sizes, colors and other qualities working together to generate a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. A great looper can help you do this and as such elevate your:
- Composition: Let’s say you’ve devised a compelling chord sequence and now you want to compose other elements to compliment it. If it’s just you and your guitar this can get dicey but with a great looper just record your sequence and then play it back while you work on the accompanying sections.
- Performing: Everyone from lounge singers to the world’s biggest live acts uses looping to augment their live sound. In the hands of talented musicians, loops can be used like color to paint a complete musical picture and achieve some truly stunning effects in the process.
- Practicing: You want to practice but the bandmates are unavailable. If it’s just you and your guitar you are again limited in what you can do. But a great looper will allow you to practice as if the whole band were there in the room with you.
- Recalling things later: A great looper will allow you to store backing tracks for future use which can be an invaluable asset for those who don’t typically come up with complete compositions in one sitting. The history of music is littered with forgotten gems. This doesn’t have to happen when you have a great looper at hand.
The looper pedal varies from player to player so it’s crucial that you determine ahead of time what you need and why and make sure the looper you choose fits your practical, functional and financial parameters. The number of different loopers on the market is daunting but we’ve tried to make things a bit simpler for you by narrowing the list down to 5. Each of the above-reviewed pedals has different strengths but each would represent a worthy accessory to your practice kit, studio ensemble or touring equipment. The best part is that all of these devices are incredibly affordable which means you can achieve effects that were out of reach just 20 years ago for about the price of a good pair of running shoes. Whichever one you believe to be the best looper pedal for you’re in for the musical ride of your life. Enjoy.