TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper Pedal Review
- Pros: Straightforward design, stereo inputs, true bypass and analogue dry-through. Intuitive operation, dedicated “Stop” pedal and even effects like reverse and half speed.
- Cons: Although it isn’t the main focus of the unit, the memory could easily be improved: it’s limited to five minutes and only has one storage slot.
- Overall: An excellent looper, and not just for its small size. If you can cope without tons of pedals, numerous pre-recorded loops at your fingertips and additional features like quantization, it’s hard to imagine you being disappointed.
If you’ve been shopping around for loopers for a while, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed the general theme of cramming as many buttons and functions into the unit as is physically possible. But when you get right down to it, all you need on a looper is some internal memory and a record/play/overdub pedal; that’s the core blueprint and everything else is just a bonus. This simplicity in design was the inspiration for TC Electronic’s original Ditto, a stripped-down unit that offered what you needed with little else.
The theory is admirable – and it helps to keep the price quite low – but many stompbox-size loopers you get pretty much have the same bells and whistles as on the bigger units, so it left the original Ditto feeling a touch too basic. TC Electronic has listened to the comments it got about the previous incarnation and the new edition – the Ditto X2 – aims to take a step up in terms of functionality while maintaining the pleasing, functional simplicity of the original.
Meet the Ditto X2
In comparison to the tiny original pedal, the Ditto X2 seems huge, but it’s still in line with what you’d expect from a (slightly fat) stompbox, measuring just 5.3 inches wide and 4.4 inches front to back. All that extra width allows for an additional footswitch, which is needed for some of the newly included effects but also doubles as a distinct “stop” button – removing the need for double-tapping unless you’re planning on using the other switch for something else. The “Loop” button works as expected: press once to record, again to playback and another time to overdub. This can be changed if you want to jump straight to overdubbing, though.
As well as the “Loop Level” dial, there are two switches on either side of the top half of the pedal. These allow you select the effect (or the “stop” function) to be activated with a press of the “FX” footswitch and to operate the new “Store” function or set the backing track volume. TC Electronic has definitely accomplished their goal in terms of design, offering a similarly intuitive and straightforward pedal that contains more features than the previous version. There are no design changes either – the same black and white color scheme with metallic, button-like footswitches – because you don’t fix something that isn’t broken.
One of the benefits of the stripped-down style is that it allows TC to focus on ensuring excellent sound quality, and it’s widely-cited as one of the benefits of the Ditto pedals. It’s true bypass and has analog-dry-through, basically meaning that you won’t be able to hear any impact on your tone at all. Perhaps if you have superhuman hearing you’ll be able to notice a bit of degradation, but for me – and, I suspect, most other mere mortals – it sounds perfect. In addition to all of this, they’ve added stereo 1/4 inch ins and outs, meaning you can loop in stereo with two amplifiers or even have two players mono through the same unit.
The original Ditto just handled looping, but for the new model you can also apply reverse playback and half-speed playback to your recorded loops. Reverse playback is a common addition that can produce some interesting sounds, but it can also result in some wild and unusual sonic creations. The 1/2 speed function has a more obvious practical use, in that if you play a bass-line at double speed, for instance, you can slow it down by half to drop the pitch an octave and give yourself an accurately-timed bassline, depending on your ability, that is.
These effects are activated with the second footswitch, but you have to flick the “FX” switch into the right position first. If it’s pointed downwards the footswitch stops your loop playback with a single press, if it’s in the middle it’ll activate the 1/2 speed function and pointed directly upwards it gets the machine ready to engage the reverse. In practice, this means that you have to set your desired effect by hand either before you start playing or during loop playback, but you can change the function of the pedal (back to “stop,” for example) after activating the effect if you like. When an effect is chosen with the switch, the pedal toggles it on or off, so you can stack the reverse and 1/2 speed effects together on the same loop. To turn any one of them off, set the switch to its position and press the “FX” pedal again.
As on the previous version, the essential “Undo/Redo” function is available on the Ditto X2. This is activated by holding down the loop footswitch for one and a half seconds or longer when the loop is playing. If you’ve taken out a cool element that you want to bring back, you can re-instate it by using the “Redo” function in the same way, but if you were removing a mistake you can just re-record and forget it ever happened.
Memory and Backing Tracks
The Ditto X2 offers the same five-minute memory as the original Ditto, which they helpfully point out is enough to play “Eruption,” twice! You can store any creation of yours using the “Store” function (just pressing the left switch upwards), but without connecting to your computer you have just one storage space in addition to the “current” loop you’re recording. Five minutes is plenty for a single loop, especially with unlimited overdubs, but this is one area where comparison with other options doesn’t look too good for the Ditto X2: even older-generation loopers have multiple memory slots and many times more raw memory than this. Although you can connect to your computer and backup or import files, having to do so for each new file you want to save or recall means it would be tedious for anybody who lives to save projects or make extensive use of backing tracks and impossible for anybody playing a set dependent on pre-recorded backing loops.
There are some good points, though. Firstly, if you turn the unit off without deleting anything, you keep the current loop you’re working on for when you power back up. TC has also partnered with JamTrackCentral to offer eight free backing tracks (which you can hear a clip of if you follow the link) recorded by real musicians in various styles, but again these must be loaded from your computer one at a time. When you play a backing track, you can also adjust its volume separately from the current loop, by holding the left-hand switch down while adjusting the level dial.
Just the Right Amount of Features?
There was a lot to enjoy about the original Ditto, but it’s understandable that some thought it had been stripped back too much. It must be said that TC Electronic has done a fantastic job of improving on the original idea. The simple functionality and fantastic sound were the core selling points, and neither of these has been lost on the new model. The only difference is that now you get to play with a couple of cool effects, the number of required footswitch combo-presses are reduced with the addition of the second pedal for one-press stopping and you get the stereo ins and outs.
The only complaint that really still stands is the memory issue. Admittedly, if you’re an on-the-fly style looper this won’t be a problem, but for many players, easy access to numerous different loops is important. In this age of dirt-cheap memory, would it have been so difficult to offer something a little more? Granted, if you’re looking to build a vast storehouse of loops, there are many other suitable pedals available, but it’s not clear why such an obvious and easily resolvable issue should continue with an otherwise excellent pedal. Additionally, a metronome, click-track style “rhythm” function would be ideal for if you don’t want a full backing track.
The Ditto X2 is pretty hard to fault. You’re getting something small, so critiquing it on the grounds that it doesn’t have 4,000 pedals and every feature you could care to think of is a little redundant. If you want something like that, there are other options. With that in mind, the Ditto X2 fills its niche beautifully, sounds excellent and accomplishes everything for a reasonable price. There may be a steep learning curve for some new users (there’s no “quantizing” your recordings to keep them in time), but if you’re comfortable with looping without all the support offered by more expensive options and you don’t need access to a huge library of loops at all times, this could really be the perfect looper for you.