Looping is something we’re all familiar with by now. It’s no surprise these devices are so popular – they let you single-handedly build up layer upon layer of music that is good enough to fill – in the case of Ed Sheeran – Wembley Stadium. With a microphone and a guitar (or some other instrument) and a bit of imagination, you can build up some epic sounding compositions.
In this article, we’re going to walk you through the best vocal looper pedals and guide you through which are the best for your needs.
At a Glance – Our Choice Of The Best Vocal Looper Pedals On The Market
- Boss RC-505 (Best Overall)
- TC Helicon Ditto Mic (Best Budget)
- TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme (Best Premium)
- Boss VE-20
- Digitech JamMan Vocal XT
- TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Here’s what we’ll cover.
Table of Contents
- What is a Vocal Looper Pedal?
- Buyer’s Tips – Key Considerations
- Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Vocal Looper Pedals
- So, Which Should I Buy?
What is a Vocal Looper Pedal?
As opposed to guitar-focused looper pedals, these are pedals designed specifically for vocal loops. You may have come across ‘normal’ looper pedals you use on guitars and wonder why you couldn’t just use one them?
Well, most won’t include a microphone XLR input. Products that are dedicated to vocal always have an XLR input for mics, and the better ones have phantom power.
Buyer’s Tips – Key Considerations
Let’s look at the three things to bear in mind when shopping for one of these devices.
The more important consideration is what type of looper should you buy. The three types are:
- Stompbox – which you control with your feet
- Tabletop – which you control with your hands
- Microphone clip-on – which are clipped onto your mic stand
If you’re a singer who plays the guitar, you’ll want a stompbox-style product. If you’re an electro musician and use midi controllers instead of real instruments, then a tabletop unit will be the best bet. Finally, if you sing and only sing, then one that clips to a microphone stand is the best choice. We feature all three types in our product reviews below.
Looping Capability and Storage
A vital feature is how much audio the product can store. Looping entails recording and overdubbing over and over again (layering) until you get the desired sound.
Each product has its own limit of how long you can do this for, the cheaper ones, of course, having less time than the more expensive ones.
Another feature to look out for is whether it keeps the track you’ve just recorded when you turn it off. Or whether there are any memory slots, you can save them on.
‘Tone suckage’ (the occurrence of each additional pedal in your chain negatively impacting your sound) is a pain in the backside for many musicians. Of course, the pedals you add to your rig, the more you’re going to encounter it.
Look out for what’s called true bypass which effectively shuts off the effect when it’s not in use. Many of the items we review in this article have built-in effects, which help to keep the level of tone suckage to a minimum.
Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Vocal Looper Pedals
The Boss RC-505 is a tabletop loop station operated with the hands and 100% designed for vocalists, beatboxers, and club performers.
You get 5 simultaneous stereo phrase tracks, each with their own dedicated controls and independent volume faders. The 5 loopers let you create bespoke loops that you can add and remove as required. This makes the whole creative experience a lot more interesting, as you can store ready-made loops and bring them in for the chorus or any part of the track.
It takes mics via two XLR inputs (one per channel) and includes phantom power which is handy too. You get some very cool effects also, plus the LED visuals of the loops going round are a great visual feature.
You get a total of 85 onboard rhythm patterns (with some off-measure beats thrown in too) and 99 phrase memories (each with 5 phrase tracks).
Of course, you get a ton of custom effects and playback settings, including DJ and sampler-style effects. It also has a wide range of input FX and track FX for processing loops.
While it’s targetted at vocalists, you also have a ton of external control options if you want to loop with other instruments (guitar, keyboard, etc).
- Focused 100% on vocals and beatboxers
- Simple interface and easy to navigate settings
- Great for live performance – everything right there at your fingertips, not buried in menus
- Lightweight – makes it easy for transport to gigs
- While it can be used with other instruments, it’s primarily for vocalists
- Tabletop design can be limiting (its controlled by your hands, not your feet). You can use an extension control pedal at an extra cost.
TC Helicon Ditto Mic
If you’re looking for a looper and nothing else, the Ditto Mic from TC Helicon is one to consider. It’s a stompbox design intended for use with a microphone input only (via an XLR input) and comes with no other effects other than a simple looping function.
On the technical front, it has one looping slot of five minutes with unlimited overdubs. Depending on how you see it, five minutes is either ample time or woefully short, that depends on how you plan to use it.
It’s standout features are it’s two footswitches: one to start and stop the loop, the other to add your overdubs which keeps things simple. One volume knob controls your loop level, and automatic mic gain control means you don’t need to mess about with multiple gain stages – it does it automatically.
You can also control it via an MP75 of EA 35 effects mic, which is an excellent option. It’s very compact too, so won’t take a load of space in your gig bag or pedalboard, and it’s in a sturdy metal casing so it will take a beating. It also stores your loop, even when it’s turned off, which is handy.
Though it lacks additional features and can’t store your loops, it’s great fun and an easy to use introductory model. If you already own vocal effects pedals, then it makes a lot of sense; however, if you don’t own any effects units, then you might want to consider other products that include processors (or consider another pedal like the TC Mic Mechanic in combination with it).
- Compact and easy to use
- Sturdy metal casing makes it gig-friendly
- No true bypass so could muddy your tone
- Only one five minute slot
- There’s no storage space to keep your loops
- Limited compared to more advanced models
TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme
Ready to splash the cash and get the gold standard of vocal loopers? Then check out the VoiceLive 3 Extreme (known as ‘VL3X’) from TC-Helicon, a studio-grade vocal and guitar processor with a three-stage built-in looper. With a large forty-five minute looping time, you could record an album on this bad boy.
It’s dedicated onboard three-phase looper lets you create sections of a song on the fly (bridge, pre-chorus, etc.). Some of the extreme voices you can produce are worth the ticket price alone (check out the Barry White voice in the video below!).
With guitar as well as vocal trickery, it’s an interesting proposition for the singer and guitarist. If money isn’t an issue, and you want the whole shebang, then this should definitely be on your list.
- Three-stage looper for sections
- Massive 45 mins looping time
- Comprehensive effects processor
Another one from Boss, the VE-20 is a looper and vocal effects processor rolled into one.
As well as a ton of vocal effects, the onboard looper has a couple of functions worth mentioning. The ‘perform’ setting is a regular looper and works much the same as the Ditto (it lets you overdub as the loop goes round).
The Check setting is quite clever in that it lets you record a bit of audio (recorded dry without any effects) that you can then use to cycle through the presets. It’s a great way to find a suitable effect.
The Boss VE-20 is an excellent choice for someone with a bit more budget at their disposal, who is looking for effects as well. It’s excellent value for money.
- There are an array of effects and other functions to play with here
- Can be run off a 9V battery or an AC adapter – making it highly portable
- Sturdy, quite small and easy to use
- Lacks some of the more advanced looping options you find on more advanced models
- Holding down and double pressing the pedal in time takes a bit of getting used to
DigiTech JamMan Express XT
The Jamman Express XT is a similar price point and spec to the Ditto Mic, with a couple of extra twists that may or may not interest you. Like the Ditto, it’s a simple, stereo ‘one slot’ model with a single volume knob, but with twice the length of looper space (ten minutes, versus the Ditto’s five).
Also, you can daisy chain or hook up multiple Express XTs to form a multi-looper (each unit will automatically sync up with one another). I’m not entirely sold on the benefits of doing this, but it’s a nice option if a bandmate had one of these and you wanted to join forces.
The second feature that sets it apart from the Ditto is called ‘silent clear,’ which is a handy feature that lets you clear an overdub without the click of the footswitch infiltrating the sound (your loop starts on the ‘up’ of the footswitch, rather than the down).
If you’re new to these pedals and need an introductory unit, or you want something super simple, then it will do the job nicely. If you’re the type of person who quickly outgrows things, you may be better off considering a more feature-rich unit.
- Simple to use
- Silent clear feature
- No true bypass
- Limited features
TC-Helicon VoiceLive Touch 2
The VoiceLive Touch is a microphone clip-on style looper and effects unit. This highly modern device enables you to add vocal harmonies, delays, reverb, and more, and its looping function is pretty good.
As with many of these multi-functional pedals, the looper itself is a little limited. But if that’s what you’re after, combined with ease of use and a performance-friendly design, this pedal is sure to delight you and your audiences.
- Clips on to a mic stand, making it practical for performance
- There are a lot of other functions as well
- Highly responsive, touch-screen controller
- The touch-screen might not suit those who prefer buttons
- You’ll need to get the associated footswitch to loop effectively and with ease
So, Which Should I Buy?
If you’re looking for a simple stompbox vocal looper and you’re aren’t bothered about effects, the Ditto Mic or the Jam Man Express XT are your first ports of call. The Ditto’s dual footswitches are a useful feature too.
For a stompbox with effects, the Boss VE-20 takes the prize; it’s the perfect blend of functionality and value for money.
The Boss RC-505 is a great tabletop model with a stack of cool features.
The premium stompbox on the list is the TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme – a fantastic bit of gadgetry that will leave a dent in the wallet, but if money is no object, then you could do a lot worse than picking up one of these.