Looping is something we’re all familiar with by now. These devices let you single-handedly build up layer upon layer of music that is good enough to fill, as in the case of Ed Sheeran, Wembley Stadium. With a microphone, a guitar (or other instrument), and a bit of coordination, you can build up some epic-sounding tunes.
In this article, we will walk you through the best vocal looper pedals and guide you through which are the best for your needs.
Best Vocal Looper Pedals: Product Guide
The Boss RC-505 is a tabletop loop station 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 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 around 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 many custom effects and playback settings, including DJ and sampler-style effects. It also has a wide input range and track FX for processing loops.
While it’s targeted at vocalists, you also have many external control options if you want to loop with other instruments (guitar, keyboard, etc).
What we liked:
- 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
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.
Its standout features are its 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.
Though it lacks additional features and can’t store your loops, it’s great fun and easy to use.
What we liked:
- Compact and easy to use
- Sturdy metal casing makes it gig-friendly
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.
Its dedicated onboard three-phase looper lets you create sections of a song on the fly (bridge, pre-chorus, etc.). Some extreme voices you can produce are worth the ticket price alone (check out the Barry White voice in the video below!).
With guitar and vocal trickery, it’s an interesting proposition for the singer and guitarist. If money isn’t an issue, and you want the whole shebang, this should definitely be on your shortlist.
What we liked:
- 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 many vocal effects, the onboard looper has several 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 around).
The Check setting is quite clever, letting you record a bit of audio (recorded dry without any effects) that you can 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.
What we liked:
- An array of effects and other functions to play with
- Can be run off a 9V battery or an AC adapter – making it highly portable
- Sturdy, quite small, and easy to use
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.
What we liked:
- Simple to use
- Silent clear feature
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 is limited. But if that’s what you’re after, combined with ease of use and a performance-friendly design, this pedal will surely delight you and your audience.
What we liked:
- Clips onto a mic stand, making it practical for performance
- There are a lot of other functions as well
- Highly responsive, touch-screen controller
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. Looper that are specifically designed for singers 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.
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.
There are some pretty cool looping apps for your phone too, which are great for capturing song ideas on the fly.
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.