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Best of Mini, Compact, Medium and Large Looper Pedals

BossChase Bliss AudioKNOBSLooperScott HarperSingular SoundTC ElectronicUtility+-
2020GPXMiniMediLargeLooper700V3.jpg

This is another article that was initially written earlier on in the year - in fact not long after the release of the TC Electronic Ditto+. We then had the launch of 2 new Boss RC Loopers - and I intended to follow on with a Boss Looper Roundup and then this feature. It’s been a hectic year though and I’m having to post up a number of articles within a fairly short timeline in the run-up to Year end and the overall Best New Pedals of the Year. There should be a flurry of activity right to Christmas - at which time I will be taking my first holiday of the year!

 

So as mentioned the Ditto+ was sort of the catalyst for this, and the obvious shoe-in for the Mini category. In compacts I really can’t look much beyond the incredibly Chase Bliss Audio Blooper Bottomless Looper - as it pretty much redefined what looping was all about.

 

For medium enclosure we have the Boss RC-10R which is not without flaws, but is the most well-rounder looper pedal for sure in that sort of form factor. For the Large candidate it was really between the older journey-man pro looper in Boomerang’s III Phrase Sample, and the never and rather more compact Singular Sound Aeros. I know full-fat pro looper types still tend to stick with their Boomerangs, but felt that the new Aeros Loop Studio was the right choice for this occasion.

 

I obviously have the Blooper and Boss RC-10R, will definitely be getting the innovative Ditto+ in the new year, and am still sort of considering the Aeros. It’s a great addition to the group, while a little on the large side to fit within my own chain. I really need a full-featured stereo looper as my main working looper - it cannot be larger than vertical BB-enclosure format, so thus far the RC-1OR is definitely the right one for that roll. Also because of how the rig is setup and aligned - I really need top-jacks for it all to work!

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand :


TC Electronic Ditto+ Looper - £109/$129

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TC Electronic recaptures its Mini Looper Supremacy with the more visual and more intuitive '+' version of its world-conquering Mini Ditto Looper. Now you can record up to 99 loops, with a total maximum recording time of 60 minutes. You also get improved controls and a brand new highly impactful and user-friendly colourful LED screen which displays the key functions of Record, Play, Overdub, Undo, Redo, Pause, and Delete.

 

Most players I know have a Ditto Looper in their collection, if not in their rig. I typically use my own Mini Ditto at the front of the chain- in particular when I'd trying to dial in new pedals - it's handy to play in a loop and then have hands-free to tweak the pedal controls are much as is required.

 

All kinds of brands were starting to stomp on Ditto Mini's global dominance - and there are dozens of similar Mini loopers without a screen and extended controls. The Ditto needed this innovation to reassert its credentials - I imagine that within a year or two, most players I know will have also acquired the new Ditto+! It's easily the smartest looper at this form factor - a total shoe-in!


Chase Bliss Audio with Scott 'Knobs' Harper - Blooper Bottomless Looper - $499/£499

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This recent Chase Bliss Audio + Knobs collaboration has totally revolutionised the field of Looping with so many innovations in so many areas - different ways to layer up and modify the output in myriad ways and with that ingenious Layers / Knob function - which allows you to elegantly roll back up to 8 layers of looping.

 

This is the firsts Chase Bliss Audio pedal with additional arcade-style Modifier control buttons on the bottom face - and incredibly, the pedal is still being evolved on a regular basis with an entirely new V 2.0 firmware release recently. This pedal takes you into areas you didn't know existed - with its 11 core controls and 16 dip-switches - these are the key facets of the pedal :

  • 40 seconds max loop time (48kHz, 16 bit) with ultra-low-noise hardware / XMOS DSP processor, 32 save-able presets and full undo / redo capability
  • 8 layers of undo / redo, unlimited overdubs (oldest layer gets discarded after 8)
  • Layers knob to navigate through undo / redo layers
  • 6 loop modifiers (quantized & free time/speed changes, scrambler, trimmer, filter and dropper) available over 2 independent channels
  • Normal, additive (effects get recorded), and one-shot sampling modes
  • Full midi implementation via 1/4" TRS
  • Repeats knob for fading loops or to use blooper like a tap-tempo delay
  • CV clock sync and modulation control
  • Stability control introducing optional tape and warble effects to the loop.
  • Chase Bliss ramping control (including randomization and ability to sync to loop time)
  • Expression control over any parameter either individually or simultaneously
  • Dip-switches for customizing behaviour: dry kill, straight to overdub, etc.

Joel Korte describes the pedal as :

 

"Blooper…is serious shit. Not really. But it is kind of. The foundation of Blooper is a high-quality looper with practical, handy features: saving, syncing, multiple levels of undo / redo, MIDI control, etc. It will do everything you expect from a performance looper, plus a little more. And then – THEN – we get to the point of it: being able to take this high-quality loop and go absolutely anywhere you want. Give it an analog feel, scramble it into a pattern, crossfade two different loops together. It is a collection of parts that you can adapt to your looping needs. And the core of Blooper, the tape machine itself, is aware of these changes and able to record them. With Blooper you get over 30 seconds (UPDATE - now 40!) of high-quality loop time with 7 undo / redo layers. That is not a trivial thing.

 

It is a looping vehicle. If you want to wildly apply modifiers and record them and just see what happens, good. You will get very strange sounds. And if you want to have a loop that evolves over time, disintegrating and getting older, good. If you’re simply interested in a looper with some more flexible editing tools, like filtering and trimming, good. GOOD. It’s about having a rewarding, creative looping experience that suits your needs."


Boss RC-10R Rhythm Loop Station Stereo + Beat Machine Looper - £239/$299

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Boss's medium sort of BB-size offering is my own current permanent/main Looper for my pedal-chain - while I bring in the Mini Ditto and Blooper more incidentally and occasionally. For my stereo rig - I obviously need a Stereo Looper at the end of the chain - and this format is perfect in most ways - from the top-mounted jacks, to the clear Loop and Rhythm and just the overall form factor and use.

 

These are the key facets and features of the RC-10R :

  • Next-generation performance tool combining song-based looping and dynamic rhythms in a small footprint
  • Cover nearly any genre with over 280 preset rhythm styles that include two unique sections, intro/ending fills, and two transition fills
  • Sixteen versatile drum kits with high-quality sounds from the BOSS and Roland rhythm libraries
  • Stereo looper engine with six hours of recording time and class-leading 32-bit AD/DA and 32-bit floating-point processing
  • Serial two-track operation for building loop performances with two independent song parts
  • Two circular indicators display loop and rhythm playback status
  • Simple operation with informative LCD and intuitive interface
  • Onboard storage for 99 phrase memories and 50 user rhythms
  • Selectable output filter to optimize guitar and rhythm sounds for a guitar amp or full-range sound system
  • Support for expanded control via external footswitches, an expression pedal, or MIDI
  • Full MIDI I/O provided with space-saving mini TRS jacks (BMIDI-5-35 adaptor cable available separately)
  • Mac/Windows software for importing WAV loops and user rhythms in SMF format

It's not without it's flaws though - the Stereo Mode definitely needs enhancements, particularly as concerns Rhythm Level (not loud enough) and limited tone-shaping ability overall. You do have some different filter modes which help clarify the signal somewhat, but the Rhythm side could do with something of a boost really - should be something they can sort with a new firmware release.

 

I'm not sure how much full Stereo testing has happened here - it certainly performs fine in Mono or dual-split - it seems to be just the combined stereo mode which is not quite up to snuff yet - which is a bit of a shame as that's how I use it. It is nonetheless still eminently usable for me in my home studio - but I wouldn't want to play it out live until Boss did something to improve that output. It's been reported back to Japan a couple of times - just waiting for the new firmware release really. There is of course also the Nux Pedals JTC Drum & Loop Pro which is similar but without the appealing Boss visual display. Actually note that the onscreen navigation is also a little clunky - the pedal's core functionality is great though. If Boss don't resolve the issue though, I will be looking at the Nux. Note that Flamma also has the compact FS01 Drum Loop pedal - but it's side-mounted jacks won't work well within the chain as this is the last pedal in the chain and connects directly to my two amps.

 

When I look at the Boss Looper range - the RC-10R is the only one really that fits my needs! :

Boss Loopers

Singular Sound Aeros Loop Studio 6 Track Stereo Looper - $599 / £599

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In many ways this is still the new kid on the block - but is almost as revolutionary as the Blooper - while not focuses on the modifying elements. The big time pro-looper types still tend to mostly use the behemoth Boomerang III Phrase Sampler Loopers, or the Pigtronix Infinity Loopers on occasion - and this is definitely a major challenger to those two.

 

This 6 Parallel Track Looper allows you to create 36 unique loops per song, and is expandable up to 48 hours of recording time depending on what SD Card you use. It has a really smart and highly visual full-colour screen with 4 footswitches on the surface and a smart foot-scrollable Loop Volume Wheel. And it also has Bluetooth connectivity - which more pedals really should have in this day and age - particularly those that have regular firmware releases. Shunting your laptop up to the pedalboard and connecting via hard-wired connection every time you want to make a significant change is beyond a pain in the but - more pedals need to have the foresight of Bluetooth connectivity and apps - it's one of the aspects that really saves the Eventide H9, as the surface controls are somewhat lacklustre.

 

The Aeros full feature set is as follows :

  • Quantize your tracks in any time signature or play in freeform mode
  • Not only, 6 parallel tracks and 6 song parts for a total of 36 distinct loops per song and in an industry first, but also, simultaneous parallel and sequential looping
  • Certainly, unlimited overdubs enable you to create layers and depth in your loops without worrying about restrictions
  • Save your loops with the USB port or an SD card
  • Moreover, 3 hours mono, 1.5 hours stereo recording time using internal storage and up to 48 hours storage when using an SD card
  • Above all, 32-bit floating point processing, 24-bit recording, professional DACs, <1ms latency, and 20hz –
  • 20kHz range for studio quality recordings
  • Digital dry through bypass
  • In addition, wifi compatibility for over the air updates and exciting, yet to be announced features
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Four built-in footswitches with our comfort+ switch tops (perfect for playing barefoot or in socks)
  • Most importantly, there is a built-in scroll wheel for hands-free mixing during a performance
  • MIDI in/out ports for syncing seamlessly with the BeatBuddy, other drum machines, effects, and more
  • Additionally, it is compatible with any external expression pedal
  • I/O: two 6.35 mm jack inputs, two 6.35 mm jack outputs, one 6.35 mm jack stereo aux input, one 6.35 mm jack stereo aux output
  • 9V (center negative), 360mA power supply included
  • 4.3″ touch-enabled display
  • Aluminum construction with chip resistant black coating
  • Dimensiuons : 198 x 142 x 56 mm
  • Weight : 936 g

Although the largest in this selection - 198 x 142 x 56 mm vs 101 x 138 x 63 mm of the RC-10R, 66 x 124 x 57 mm of the Blooper, and 46 x 92 x 42 mm of the Ditto+ - it's still significantly smaller than the Boomerang III Phrase Sampler at 240 x 150 x 70 mm, but slightly larger then the Pigtronix Infinity at 188 x 117 x 38 mm.


Final Thoughts

These 4 pedals here are definitely not like for like exactly, while I do consider them each to be the best proposition at their respective size. You of course need to decide what kind of Looping you are after - just the basics, or a more creative interpretation with Modifiers, or added Beats.

 

You need to decide where it will sit in the chain, and whether it needs to be Mono or Stereo - and then of course you need to decide on budgets and other practicalities.

 

While I don't use a looper as much as Pete Honoré - I still really appreciate its use as both a functional and musical devices. For me the perfect evolution is really where the Blooper is heading - but I quite like the beats too, and stereo is a must for the far end of the chain. That said I do regularly deploy the MOOD and Blooper in more creative and textural roles - partway along the mono portion of the signal chain.

 

There's lots of interesting choices available currently - with increasing numbers of delay pedals having Loopers onboard, and Loopers - like the Blooper being able to behave like Delay Pedals!

 

Do you have any favourites among these - or something else which I haven't touched on here?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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