Review round-up: hardware loopers

If you want a hardware looper, your options range from tiny one button/knob pedals to full workstations, with flash memory and MIDI/USB connectivity expanding their flexibility.

We look at five options for desktop, floor and hand, starting with… 

Boss RC-202 Loop Station (£299)

This ‘desktop’ option will be at home in the studio, in a synth/FX set-up or beside turntables. The I/O is fully stocked for instrument/line (mono or stereo), mic input, Aux minijack input, USB and MIDI. 

The display may be the small LED type, but the RC-202 controls light up like a Christmas tree for instant feedback of the effects, dual loop controls, and memory management (~three hours record time). It’s easy to operate straight out of the box but a proper delve into the manual unlocks an impressive array of parameters. 

4.5 out of 5

TC Electronic Ditto X4 Looper (£210)

The stereo I/O Ditto X4 is built for the pedal board. The dual looping controls are spartan but flexible. The seven FX processes are straightforward (half/2x speed, reverse, tape stop and more), accessible by a knob and footswitch, and can be layered on a loop. 

The playback loop options cover all bases, with MIDI In adding external sync. USB connectivity is available for loop import/export, and with five minutes available for each loop some comprehensive backing can be loaded in (the memory is held when powered off). The TC quality, including hard bypass, is hard to beat. 

4.5 out of 5

TC Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2 (£410)

Equally at home on mic stands and desktops, there’s an awful lot going on behind the VoiceLive Touch 2’s LCD display and touch-sensitive control panel. 

It’s easy to dive straight into, but does require the dedicated learning you’d expect for over £400. It packs in a high-quality signal path, FX engine (nine simultaneous effects) and looping tool set, backed with exhaustive I/O (MIDI, USB, stereo aux input, guitar in/thru and more). 

The sound quality and effects range are impressive, and the control surface makes navigation and editing a breeze. Highlights for the vocalist include harmonisation, choir backing effect, the auto-tune and sweepable filter via the ribbon control. The Rolls-Royce of vocal looping. 

4.5 out of 5

Sonuus Loopa (£119)

The Loopa is the simplest, cheapest and lightest tool here. Powered by a single AA battery, it boasts two buttons, a volume control (loop) and a power switch, and visual feedback comes via a light ring below the head mesh. 

The mic sounds good, though a little lacking in headroom. The undo/redo function lets you build layers that can be switched in/out to make up a performance (15 undo levels); record time is >13 minutes. It’s easy to use, and for vocalists it can be a serious tool for performance/composition. 

4 out of 5

Electro-Harmonix 22500 Stereo Looper (£234)

This dual loop pedal is a formidable performance tool for instrumentalists, producers and vocalists alike, thanks to stereo I/O, mic input (with +48v), SDHC storage (8GB supplied) and USB (loop importing/exporting). 

What it lacks in effects (octave up/ down and reverse only) it makes up for in looping/recording controls. The inbuilt rhythm facility can be augmented with imported loops. It’s a quality looper pedal in sound, flexibility and build but does require some deep manual munching. 

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

Best Overall: The Boss RC-202 with its full set of looping/sound manipulation tools, easy interface and comprehensive I/O options. 

Best Value: As a stage and studio tool, the EHX 22500 comes loaded with all the features needed for a variety of sources and uses. 

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