What’s the “best” looper pedal for busking?

No longer must you hire an orchestra or grow an additional arm in order for you to bring your compositional genius to the street, for now we have…the mighty looper pedal!

An increasingly popular to almost any musical busker’s kit, looping pedals come in a variety of prices and complications (and can be intimidating to get for the first time). So, here’s my review of the options.

All pedals below provide the same basic function, therefore have a similar rating when one considers only their ability accomplishing that singular task. As this is a post about loopers and not multi-effects units, having extra features not relevant to looping does not afford a pedal extra rating merit.


About the Author

Zahra Lowzley, 30, has been a working busker for 15 years, session musician for 12 years, columnist for 3 years (Ukulele Rhythms), composer for film (Trainspotting 2), is the author of Theory of Opposition and Principles of Unity, and plays 30 instruments, including the balouka, bansuri, bouzouki, clarinet, djembe, dulcimer, erhu, glockenspiel, mandolin, mbira, melodica, pipe organ, saz, spoons, ukulele, xaphoon and xiao. Zahra is currently on a continuous 30 year tour to inspire unity – www.tour30.com.

Author’s Note:

I personally use the Ditto X2 because I do all my looping live and so do not need a library of recorded loops. In addition, I am not careful with my music equipment, therefore I need something that can take being dropped, stamped on and hit by stray meteorites. For recording however I prefer the BOSS RC 300; this is where I believe this looper really works best.


THE BEST LOOPER PEDALS FOR BUSKING


Price: $100, £85
Battery Power: 9v Battery
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK)*

“Simple and affordable, for basic looping.”

One of the buskers’ favorites, to be found upon many pedalboards. Boss offer their looping pedal range in a variety of configurations, from their modest but feature-rich RC-1 to their RC-500, the mothership of all looping pedals.

The Boss RC-1 Loop Station is the simplest of the range. It is designed to be the most user-friendly for those of us who don’t want to read instruction manuals. It is easy to make a mistake when using a looper live; with an overly complicated pedal it is easy to forget whether you have disengaged the integral buffering linear wingwam before engaging the secondary memory bank of immortal doom…. Sometimes one button really is the best.

An awesome feature of any pedal is when it has more than one input and more than one output, this pedal allows you to send the output signal to multiple amplifiers without the need for a separate splitter. It also allows you to input stereo instruments (like a keyboard or synthesiser). The features can be further extended by adding an optional external foot switch. The Boss RC-1 Loop Station has 12 minutes of stereo recording time.


Price: $180, £125
Battery Power: 9V
Buy on Amazon (USAUK)*

“Like the RC-1, but with easy access to pre-recorded loops”

Probably the most often seen of the Boss loopers among buskers. When 12 minutes of recording time is not enough, behold, the Boss RC-3 Loop Station, which has a massive 3 hours recording time and allows storage of up to 99 loops within its memory bank. It also has a “real drums” rhythm guide. This can be a useful tool if you are new to looping, as it will help you learn when to engage the pedal. A USB port is available for connecting to a computer.


Boss RC-300 Loop Station – Best For Versatility

Price: $550, £388
Battery Power: No, but comes with a 9v Power adapter
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK)*

“The Ultimate looper, massive in size and functionality”

Feature-rich, the ultimate looper… but very expensive. The Boss RC-300 is the monster, the beast, the pedal which casts a shadow upon all other pedals…literally. If you have the budget and the need for subtle control, this is one of the best looper pedals out there.

With the Boss RC-300 Loop Station, you have complete control over every track you record and every instrument you have plugged in. The input options are vast, including an XLR input with phantom power for microphones, It has the standard 3 hour recording time, and all the other features that can be found on the smaller models. It also has effects and an integrated expression pedal. This pedal was designed to be used live. Although most musicians will probably not use all the features of this pedal, few would be disappointed to own it…


Price: $99, £79
Battery Power: No
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK) *

“Robust and very compact.”

TC Electronics makes two options here. The DITTO and the DITTO X2. Both offer 5 minutes of recording time, which, whilst less than other pedals, is more than enough for the average user.

The simplicity of the DITTO makes it very easy to use; it loops, and that is all it does. One input and one output. It follows the current trend of making a pedal as small as possible whilst still able to deliver what the musician wants. It has one foot button and one knob for adjustment in volume.


TC Electronics DITTO X2 Looper – Writer’s Choice

Price: $179, £135
Battery Power: 9v Battery
Buy on Amazon (USAUK) *

“Built to take a beating, nice features.”

The DITTO X2 Looper pedal again is as tough as a busking pedal should be, and has a few nifty extra features. As well as having USB capability, allowing you to download your loops, it also has a small toggle switch which allows you to slow the loop or even reverse it. The DITTO X2 also offers stereo input and output ports.

The foot button on both pedals is not to everyone’s taste, it is small and each press is very audible, so not a pedal you want to hear on a live recording. The volume control knobs could be tougher, as they seem a little at odds with the rest of the bombproof construction.


Price: $183, £132
Battery Power: 9v battery or DC Power Supply
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK) *

“For the money, a fantastic looping pedal.”

The Electro-Harmonix 720 Stereo Looper offers 12 minutes of recording time and allows the user to record 10 separate loops. It seems that for its size, it is the most economically designed pedal in terms of functionality. It has same features as the DITTO X2, but makes selecting loops much easier with an onboard display. It also has a silent footswitch, a great feature for those wanting to record live or perform in an intimate setting… a loud click mid-piece can really be an annoyance. The pedal also has a loop fade-out mode.


Price: $250, £238
Battery Power: No
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK) *

“Excellent features, with a foot switch design which won’t appeal to all”

The Digitech Jamman Stereo Lopo Pedal is feature-rich. It allows you to store over 35 minutes of stereo loops into 99 internal memory slots. You can extend its capacity with an SDHC card up to 16 hours, in an additional 99 memory slots. It has an easy computer connection via its integrated usb port, as well as an AUX-in port so you can connect an mp3 player.

As well as stereo inputs for instruments, this pedal also offers a balanced XLR input for microphone, but lacks the phantom power offered by the BOSS RC-300. This pedal is powered by a mains adapter only, which is its greatest limitation for the busker.

The Digitech Jamman Stereo Loop Pedal also makes it possible to slow down or speed up a loop to required tempo, and has a headphone output and footswitch input which allows you to add greater handsfree control over the features.

A downside to this pedal is that one would expect it to have a battery option due to its footprint size; surely a pedal this big could fit a battery compartment.


Price: $160, £122
Battery Power: 6 x AA Batteries or Power adapter
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK) *

“The looper every child wants”

It wouldn’t be a surprise if this pedal were to be renamed “Vox: My First Pedal”. Effects include Compression, Crunch, Overdrive, Modulation, Chorus, Phaser, Stutter and Distortion… and it also works as a looper. It only allows for a total of 90 seconds of looping time on two independent loops, however it does allow for infinite overdubs. It has a Loop Quantizer, a feature which automatically creates phrases which stay on the same tempo, bypassing the usual learning curve involved with timing loops. There is also a built-in metronome.

The construction of the Vox Lil Looper VLL1 Multi-Effect Pedal is not as tough as any of the other loopers in the article. There are many better options for those looking for a dedicated looping pedal, but if you want a budget, easy-to-use multi-effects pedal then you may find a place for this in your musicians rig.


Mooer Micro Looper MML1 – Best For Beginners

Price: $68.50, £70
Battery Power: No
Buy on Amazon (USA, UK)*

“Simple and effective”

The cheapest pedal on the list. If you want a basic looper without any effects or memory banks, the Mooer Micro Looper MML1 will serve you well. It is very robust and well made. It also has a simple design, with just one foot-operated button to initiate recording, overdub and stop, and a small unobtrusive volume control knob. It allows for 30 minutes of recording and unlimited overdubs.

This pedal is “true-bypass”, so when disengaged it does not affect your signal. It does have a click noise when engaging the pedal so perhaps it is not suitable for live recording. But, you can stomp on this unit every day and be sure that it won’t break.