One of the best looper pedals is a powerful creative tool for any guitarist. Whether you want one to allow you to practise by yourself more easily, or to give your band a boost by layering guitar parts live, having a loop pedal on your pedalboard will open you up to a world of creativity that would otherwise be left untapped.
Many artists like to use them to loop their riffs on-the-fly (like Ed Sheeran), and others use them to trigger pre-recorded samples. Thankfully, many new looper pedals will also support importing and exporting sound clips, or even an external memory card - so you’ll never be caught short in a live scenario.
When you start overcomplicating things, the music (and your brain) are the only things that suffer -so if you only have one or two sound effects or overdubs per song, think about swapping out that laptop or sample pad for a looper. A looper pedal is also way more portable - particularly if you have an ever-growing pedalboard - and far cheaper to replace if it gets damaged or stolen.
We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide. If you’d like to read more about looper pedals, click the ‘buying advice’ button above. If you’d rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.
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Best looper pedals: Our top picks
For the most basic but effective live option, it's hard to beat the TC Electronic Ditto X2. With essentially only two controls - start and stop - it's hard to mess up loops live, unless your timing is off. With some practice, it's as powerful as they come, and the lack of quantization is a bonus if you're playing in different time signatures or using polyrhythms. If you have a bit less available real-estate on your pedalboard and don't mind the lack of a dedicated stop switch, then the TC Electronic Ditto+ is worth a look.
If price is no object, and the smaller units are not cutting it for you in terms of features, or number of loops, then the Boomerang III is our recommendation. Look at the feet of a touring artist that heavily uses looping, and you'll probably see a Boomerang.
If you're looking primarily for a songwriting tool, then the hybrid drum machine Boss RC-10R could be worth trying. It essentially replaces the RC30 with its two available loop tracks and various rhythm patterns, though it should be said that the drum machine functionality does detract slightly from its focus as a looper.
Best looper pedals: Product guide
The TC Electronic Ditto X2 is still incredibly popular as an entry-level looper pedal, and the truism with groceries applies to TC's looper line: if you go one above the cheapest, you get the best value.
So it goes with the Ditto X2. Incredibly simple on the front panel, there's a single control for the loop volume, then it's one tap to record, one to play, and there's a dedicated stop button.
There are two effect modes too, which offer reversed playback and half-time playback of your loops, stereo I/O, and the ability to load and save loops via USB. Simple, but highly effective and lots of fun to use, which is why it's our current top pick for best looper pedals.
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The latest in Boss’s Loop Station collection earns the ‘R’ suffix due to its built-in rhythm generator, making it almost like a looper/drum machine hybrid.
On-board you’ll find 280 preset rhythms covering a host of musical genres and each includes two unique sections (Pattern 1 and Pattern 2) with transition fills and an intro and ending. There’s also storage for 50 imported user rhythms
In terms of looping functionality, there’s a stereo looper with two independent tracks, six hours of recording time and 99 onboard memories for storing your own phrases.
This is an inspirational pedal for songwriting and practice, and it’s a capable live tool, too, particularly if you’re a solo act looking to produce a bigger sound on-stage.
Read the full Boss RC-10R Rhythm Loop Station review
The Boomerang III may be the size of a bridge console on the starship Enterprise, and it may not have modern affordances like loop saving and loading via either SD card or USB – and there's no quantization, although it can be sync'd to a midi clock –but there's got to be a reason so many pros use it, right?
The simple answer is that it's stacked with features for live-only use. This best looper pedal contender isn't aimed at being a compositional tool, or playing back pre-canned backing tracks. It's there to support players making loop-based music on the fly. As a result, there's features you can find on other units (think one shots and stutter effects) but also unique ones. These include a reverse mode that enables you to sample yourself to create reversed solos, like the oddball Digitech Space Station.
Loops can also be copied, shuffled, erased and re-routed on the fly, with serial modes that enable you to transition between loops to effectively keep the flow of a song going from section to section.
Depending on the sample rate and whether you choose mono or stereo, there's up to 35 minutes of recording time available on the Boomerang III, and two assignable footswitches. With the Sidecar Controller (an optional extra), you can expand this further.
The simple-but-effective TC Electronic Ditto was a pedalboard staple, both for live use and for writing at home or in a practice room. Although it lacked a dedicated stop control, halting a loop was relatively foolproof, and crucially the pedal's form-factor was small. This meant that one or more could be snuck onto even the tightest of 'boards.
TC's new Ditto+ packs in all the things that made the Ditto great - sound quality, form factor, intuitive design - and adds a large screen. We're not massive fans of screens on pedals of this size, but in the case of the plus, it does unlock extra functionality. The most exciting feature is the ability to stack a longer loop on top of repetitions of a shorter loop.
Whether this is the sort of feature you'd bet the farm on in front of a paying audience is another story, but it's useful for songwriting sessions.
Though two loops might not sound like much at this price, you can add up to 256 overdubs per loop, and the two loops can be sync'd as well. That synchronisation is not only the basic kind; that is to say, the two loops playing for the same length of time, but also making one multiples of the other.
In addition to parallel operation, the loops can be set to series: the one starting after the other for more streamlined transitions between sections in a song.
The Pigtronix Infinity Looper isn't quantized, so you have to be precise in laying down your initial loop. That said, if you're playing over backing tracks you can synchronise the loop with the backing track via MIDI. You can even use it for two guitarists, or a guitar and a synth if you're pulling double duty. Do this by separating the stereo inputs and outputs, accessible via a dedicated split mode.
The Infinity Looper features in our best looper pedals guide because it has some useful bells and whistles too, with a reverse function, variable speed and stutter modes. If you hook up an expression pedal, you can also control the loop ageing with that.
Ground zero for guitar looping, its powerful, expressive looper earned the Line 6 DL4 legendary status as one of the most important guitar effects ever made. However, its large size and tendency to die have seen its popularity wane as smaller, more reliable multi-delays have come on to the market.
As a looper, it can very much hold its own, with features like one-shot loops, speeding up and re-triggering that many other loopers still don't have. That said, depending on where you are in the world, it may be surprisingly expensive for a unit released in the year 2000, and there is a reason that many of the pros who used it as a looper traveled with a couple of spares.
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The Electro-Harmonix 720 is named for the 720 seconds (12 minutes) of loops that it can store across 10 dedicated loops. Although scrolling between these on the fly live is definitely in the 'flying by the seat of your pants' camp, you can attach an external three-button footswitch to access the undo/redo functionality and the bank up/down controls.
In our opinion, it's better to have the banking controlled by the knob, leaving the two footswitches free to act as dedicated start and stop controls. Like the TC Electronic Ditto X2, the Electro-Harmonix 720 Stereo Looper Pedal offers some effects as well, with reverse and half-time modes. It also has a loop fadeout mode that will gradually fade a repeating loop out.
Red Panda have always been at the cutting edge of firmware in boutique pedals, and with the Tensor they set themselves a pretty tough challenge. Inspired by the visionary looping modes from the classic, but misunderstood Digitech XP-300 Space Station, they sought to make a looper that could take the best of the weirdest possibilities of that unit, and also function as a solid stage looper.
The results are incredible. The Tensor not only can cover some of the tape warping effects of the XP-300, but also the micro-sampling of ultra-rare pedals like the Hexe Revolver. Firmware updates unlock new one-shot functionality, while its time warping and shifting can cover some of the better looping functions of the Line 6 DL4. In other words, it's a no-brainer.
So what's the catch? Well, if you don't need all those esoteric looping modes and sounds, then you might be better served by a simpler looper. Meanwhile, even if those are of interest, you're going to have to take the time to learn how to use the Tensor. As much as it's as intuitive as Red Panda can make it, it's got so many features that it's an inherently complex pedal.
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Although the looper on the DigiTech Trio+ is pretty basic as a standalone looper, if you're a bedroom player working on songs, or you're looking to thrash out ideas before hitting band practice, the Trio+ might be better for your needs than even the most advanced looper pedal.
Why? Well, pedals like the RC-30 offer backing tracks, but the power of the Trio+ is its ability to play in a loop and then instantly generate a bass and drum backing track that can be modified to fit a number of styles. The pedal also supports up to five passages that enable you to move through the component parts of a song.
The original Trio was strictly for non-live use, but, so long as your parts are simple enough and you've got access to a PA to run it into, the Trio+ might just keep up live. Though for our money, it's still better seen as a compositional aid rather than a reason to never help your drummer pack down his stands again.
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Previous versions of the smallest looper in the Boss range have felt difficult to use live, but despite the RC-1's single-button operation, the huge glowing ring to denote the loop length and playback position somehow turns this around. The Boss RC-1 Loop Station is intuitive to use and the display is very clear as to where you are in your loop or capture, meaning that we made fewer mistakes.
It's not mentioned in their top-line specs, but like the RC-30 the RC-1 is 16bit, which shouldn't be an issue for live use. It doesn't have any save and recall functionality, but the loop you've recorded is preserved when the unit is powered off. That helps you to avoid any frustrating mistakes if you're using this looper as a composition tool.
The HeadRush pedalboard amp modeller and multi-fx unit sounds fantastic, but despite having a large touch-screen, it's less intuitive to use than other units, such as the Line 6 Helix.
To some extent, the same is true of the HeadRush Looper. In terms of features, it has everything you could ever need: reverse and transposing options, a slew of I/O ports on the back, up to four-track recording, and loading/saving via both USB and SD card.
However, at the time of writing, the footswitches aren't reassignable beyond their 'hold' function, and the 'stop all' switch is on the second row, as are the 'stop' switches for the four main loops. Anyone with experience of live-looping will tell you that you're usually juggling loops, and the footswitches need to be as close to your feet as possible.
Being able to stop and start a loop by either rapidly hitting the 'stop' on one and 'start' on another with one foot, or rocking with both your feet to instantaneously switch loops is a staple of live-looping performance, if you're not playing to pre-canned loops that you could sequence.
As a result, guitarists looking to record and overdub multiple instruments and don't need to tap-dance will likely get on with the HeadRush, while those doing on-the-fly looping might find it leads to mistakes when playing live.
Best looper pedal: Buying advice
The simplest loopers record a phrase and immediately start playing it back, with few-to-no controls on the front panel except a mix control. The most sophisticated loopers are complex digital workstations. These can handle multiple channels of synchronized audio, quantizing and different time signatures, as well as foot-controls dedicated to each loop.
For our money, the single most significant feature a looper can have is a dedicated start/stop button for loops. Most loopers above the basic entry-level models will have this, but at the cost of a larger pedal.
If you're using a looper pedal live, such a feature is essential, but if it's intended only for practice or songwriting use, then you can get away with a more streamlined unit.
Extra features, such as quantization, can be useful, but we've found that these often require changes in your live set-up; for example, your drummer playing to a click. When using quantized loops, you can sometimes end up avoiding 'organic' compositional tricks, like changing time signatures, or song tempo. Sometimes, less really is more.
Finally, as you're likely to be stacking recorded loops, the quality of the analog/digital/analog (or A/D/A conversion) is likely to matter. As with recording into a DAW, 24bit is a good benchmark to go for.