Ditto Looper by TC Electronic Review
As a guitar teacher, I use looper pedals all the time. I highly recommend every beginner/intermediate guitarist get a looper pedal because they’re incredibly useful not only as a jamming/songwriting tool but also as a learning tool as I’ll explain later in this review. There are plenty of looper pedals available to choose from, so read through this review to get an idea on what the Ditto Looper by TC Electronic has to offer.
Ditto Looper Features
Many looper pedals have a huge number of features such as ‘reverse playback’ or ‘1/2 speed playback’. While all those extra features are nice, most guitarists won’t use them very often. The Ditto provides you with the essential features you would want to see in a looper pedal. Here are the main features worth mentioning:
5 minutes of looping
This is an important feature because it dictates the maximum time you can record yourself and loop your playing. 5 minutes is huge! For comparison, the inbuilt looper on the Line 6 HD500X has a maximum loop time of 48 seconds. While I barely ever reach that limit when jamming, I don’t think I will ever be in a situation where I will need more than five minutes for a loop. So to put it simply, 5 minutes of looping time is all that you will ever need. Some pedals often boast longer looping times and the ability to save your loops, but most guitarists will never need more than 60 seconds of looping time.
True Bypass and Analog-Dry-Through
These are important features from a tone point of view. You don’t want to add a looper pedal to your signal chain then find out that it’s sucking your tone (see the guide on True Bypass here). The Ditto Looper has True Bypass so you know when you turn it off, it won’t affect your tone in any way. Another nice feature is the ‘Analog Dry-Through’ which basically means that the pedal passes your dry signal through the pedal without converting it to digital. This means you won’t notice any latency as you play through the pedal because it will be an analog signal passing through. Of course, the actual playback of the loop will be digital – but that isn’t a concern here. To put these features simply, the Ditto Looper will give you looping ability without affecting your tone in any way. That’s a good thing.
24-bit Uncompressed Audio
Earlier looper pedals had low-quality audio that would sound horribly digital during playback. It’s good to see that current technology is being used properly with the Ditto Looper. The fact that the Ditto records in 24-bit uncompressed audio means that it will provide excellent quality tone during playback. During my test with the Ditto Looper the audio sounded completely natural.
When you’re so used to seeing pedals with inbuilt batteries, it tends to stand out when a pedal doesn’t give the option for battery power. The only way to use this pedal is with an AC adapter. For some guitarists, this will be a pain – but if you already have a few other pedals in your effects chain, it makes sense to lose the battery and power it like your other pedals. I personally use AC power for all my effects pedals so to me I don’t see the need for a battery. Keep this in mind if you don’t like dealing with AC adapters.
Unlimited overdubs & Undo/Redo
These features are pretty standard for looper pedals. At first, I was skeptical about having a single footswitch to control all functions as explained later. Unlimited overdubs means you can record as many layers to your loop as you like. Of course, there is a practical limit to how many layers you can stack together but the Ditto will continue to add as many layers as you like.
The Undo/Redo feature is a nice surprise for such a simple pedal. Having an undo function is pretty useful when you make a mistake during recording. Instead of having to scrap all your layers and start again you simply undo the last layer. If you purchase a looper pedal, make sure it has this feature.
If you’re looking for more features, the TC Electronic Ditto Looper X2 provides all of these features with a few extras such as playback effects, import/export loops and download backing tracks. Read through this review first and if you feel you need the extra features, I recommend you check out the X2.
Ease of use
As mentioned earlier, I was skeptical at first due to the fact that the Ditto Looper only has one footswitch. Many looper pedals have multiple footswitches to easily control different functions. Having only one footswitch can make things a little tricky. In reality, this simply means you need to memorize a few different ways to control the Ditto. Here’s a diagram explaining the main functions:
As you can see, it’s pretty simple to operate. Press the button once to start recording your loop, then simply press it again to close the loop. On the second press, the loop will playback continuously. Then to overdub you simply press it again. There’s another feature of the Ditto Looper that makes this function easier to use: the LED indicator. It will glow green while playing and change to red while recording. This means you will always know whether you’re recording a new overdub, or simply in playback mode. The LED actually gives a bright pulse at the start of every loop which is surprisingly useful.
It’s very simple to undo a bad overdub – simply press and hold the button. I’ve never needed to use the redo function, but it’s there if you need it. The only control I wasn’t too thrilled with was the way you stop the playback. You need to press the button twice in a row to stop playback. This means if you want the loop to stop exactly at the end of the loop, you need to time your double-tap so the last tap is at the end of the loop. It feels a little awkward to do this while playing and some of my students had trouble timing it properly. Once the looper has stopped, it’s easy to clear the memory – simply hold down the button again.
Overall it’s pretty easy to use considering there’s only one button. Of course, this type of pedal can’t compete with a looper pedal with two or four buttons, but it’s easy enough to control. I found that because of the small size of the unit, it was pretty easy to knock around so I would recommend fixing it to a pedalboard if you plan on using it in a live setting.
The only other control on the Ditto Looper is the loop level knob. This is an important feature because it controls the mix between the loop and your guitar signal. Without this control your guitar can end up buried in the loop mix. Once you find the right balance between the loop and your guitar signal, you probably won’t need to adjust it again (unless you change to a different tone such as distorted/clean).
For looper pedals, you only want two features when talking about sound. First, you want the pedal to not affect your tone in any way when not being used (eg: True Bypass) and second, you want the quality of the loop playback to be high. The Ditto Looper achieves both. When a loop is not playing or recording, the pedal switches to a True Bypass mode automatically. So you can have the Ditto in your signal chain and not be concerned that it’s affecting your tone. Second, as mentioned earlier, the Ditto records your loop in 24-bit unprocessed audio so the quality of the playback is high enough that it won’t sound digitized.
I was happy with how the Ditto Looper sounded (or more accurately – how it didn’t affect the sound) and my students were too. That’s exactly what you want in a looper pedal.
Some big pedal manufacturers churn out cheap products to reach the masses. Those pedals often use cheap electronic components. TC Electronic has a pretty good reputation when it comes to quality. Of course, not everybody will agree and you will always find somebody who has had a pedal with a faulty component, but from the guitarists I have talked to, everyone has been happy with any TC Electronic pedals they have purchased. I’ve been very happy with the quality of my Ditto Looper and haven’t had any problems yet.
Not that it’s important, but a few famous guitarists have endorsed the Ditto Looper such as Guthrie Govan and Paul Gilbert. I don’t really think much of ‘celebrity’ endorsements, but it’s a good sign that even big-name guitarists are using pedals like the Ditto Looper. Here’s a video of Guthrie Govan using the Ditto Looper. Notice how he controls it to add layers.
For such a small and simple pedal, it does a great job. If you have ever looked at the different options available with looper pedals, you will know that there are a lot of complicated looking pedals out there. Having only one footswitch and one knob is a far departure from a pedal such as the Boss RC-30 Loop Station Pedal. While a pedal like the RC-30 is impressive, many guitarists won’t have a use for many of the features. Most of the time the only features you will need is what is available on the Ditto Looper.
When I recommend a looper pedal to my students, I recommend the Ditto Looper unless the student has a genuine need for extra features. I use this pedal regularly and highly recommend it.
Here are the main aspects of the pedal I believe most people will find useful:
- 5 minutes looping time – more than you will ever need
- True Bypass and high-quality audio – it won’t affect your tone
- Simple controls
- Compact size and metal construction
- Lowest priced looper pedal available (that I could find)
Here are a few problems or issues to consider:
- No battery – only runs on an AC adapter
- My unit did not come with an AC adapter
- The control to stop the playback is a bit tricky while playing live
- The footswitch has a fairly loud click which could be a problem for acoustic guitarists or vocalists
Who is it for?
As a guitar teacher, I recommend every guitar get a looper pedal. Being able to record yourself and instantly play it back is a great way to analyze your playing and look for ways to improve your technique. A looper pedal is a fantastic learning tool and I will be writing lessons shortly on how to use it to improve your skills. While you don’t have to purchase this specific looper pedal, I believe a looper pedal is a must for every guitarist.
I would recommend this pedal for beginners and intermediate guitarists because it is simple to use and very affordable. Advanced guitarists might prefer a looper pedal with more features, although as I mentioned most of the time you will probably only use the standard record and overdub functions.
Who isn’t it for?
If you need more features such as the ability to save loops, switch back and forth between them on the fly or you simply want better control over your loops, check out my review on the BOSS RC-30 Loop Station. But for most guitarists who simply need the standard looper functions, this pedal is very suitable.
How to get the most out of the Ditto Looper
Here are a couple tips to get the most out of your Ditto Looper pedal:
- Place it at the end of your signal chain. This will allow you to record guitar parts with various effects. For example the first layer you record could be clean, then you could overdub a rhythm guitar using a chorus effect, then you could record a distorted lead part as another layer. By having the pedal at the end of your signal chain, you can control the tone being recorded. If you placed it at the start of your chain, every layer would have the same tone as the looper would be recording a dry signal from your guitar.
- Practice stopping the loop at the very end. The double-tap required to stop playback can be a little tricky to time while playing so simply practice stopping the loop at the right time. As an alternative, you could use a tuner pedal (check out top tuner pedals here) to mute the sound when you want the loop playback to end. Of course, this would only work at the end of songs or leading up to guitar breaks, but it’s a useful trick.
- Use the undo/redo function to add and remove a layer for a verse or chorus.
Alternatives to the Ditto Looper
There are so many looper pedals available and a wide range of different features makes it difficult to directly compare them. My Ultimate Guide to Looper Pedals will give you a thorough look at all the different features not available on the Ditto and will help you decide which looper is right for you. Alternatively, here are a few to check out:
- Digitech JMSXT Jamman Solo XT Stereo Compact Pedal
- Boss RC-3 Loop Station Pedal
- TC Electronic Ditto Looper X4
- The alternative to having a standalone looper pedal is that some multi-effect units such as the Line 6 Pod HD500X will have one built in.
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