Digitech JamMan Delay Looper Review
- Pros: The Digitech Jamman Delay has 8 foot switches for easy live use. You can combine delays and loops and keep everything in time. Expandable memory and USB connectivity.
- Cons: No looping improvement on the JamMan Stereo, and fairly standard delay features.
- Overall: The Delay is an excellent product, especially if you want to incorporate delay effects into your loops. If that’s not important, you may be better off buying these types of pedals separately.
There was a time when you’d need two pedals to loop and delay together, and you’d need a fantastic sense of musical time to get them to work together efficiently. Digitech’s behemoth JamMan Delay Looper/Phrase Sampler offers guitarists both looping and delay features all in one unit. The Digitech Jamman Delay promises not only to provide two pedals’ worth of functions, but also makes combining them simple. With Digitech and Boss leading the looper market, Digitech has a lot of hype to live up to with this new, feature-laden offering.
Your first thought upon seeing the Digitech JamMan Delay is its monstrous size. It’s just shy of a foot wide, and about seven inches from front to back. The metallic blue unit houses 8 footswitches and the upper portion features an array of dials and a two-digit display. The majority of the pedal is taken up by the footswitches, which endears the unit to live musicians. The lower row of footswitches relates to the looper, and the upper row relates to the delay function.
Memory on the Jamman Delay
The looper functionality of Digitech’s JamMan Delay is easily comparable with that of the smaller JamMan Stereo. The Jamman Delay offers 99 loop locations and a total of 35 minutes of onboard looping memory, when recorded in stereo at CD quality. This only adds three minutes onto the total memory of the Stereo, and both units can be used with an additional SD card to add another 99 loop locations and a massive 16 hours worth of CD quality stereo looping.
Looper/Phrase Sampler Functions
The lower row of footswitches on the Jamman Delay has the same functions as the four footswitches on the Jamman Stereo: “Record/Play/Overdub,” “Tempo/Stop,” “Loop Up” and “Loop Down.” Although you could feel a little cheated at the extra four switches adding nothing to the looping, in reality, you are unlikely to need anything else. The “Record/Play/Overdub” pedal doubles as an “Undo/Redo” switch when held for two seconds and the “Tempo/Stop” also serves as a “Clear” switch to erase the unsaved overdubs. All you really need to loop hands-free is the “Record/Play/Overdub” switch to record and add bits to loops and the “Tempo/Stop” so that it doesn’t go on forever.
The panel of controls at the top of the unit houses a variety of dials and buttons to perform more technical functions. For the looper, this area offers another two loop selection buttons, options to change the ending type, set the loop to play only once or repeatedly, select the rhythm accompaniment, reverse the loop, and control the rhythm and loop volumes. You can also buy an additional footswitch if you want to be able to reverse loops remotely or undo parts without having to hold the button down.
For the live musician, the footswitches are arguably the biggest selling-point of the Jamman Delay. The ability to flick between loops with footswitches means that you can set up different parts of a song in consecutive loop locations and scroll through them when it comes to the next section. You can also hold down the “Up” and “Down” pedals to scroll through the memory without changing the loop straight away. This means that you can switch to any loop seamlessly, even if it isn’t near the currently playing one.
Timing and Quantization
The time-stretching and quantize features are still firmly in place on the Jamman Delay. By tapping a tempo out on the dedicated footswitch before recording your phrase, the pedal will alter your playing to fit the tempo you tapped out automatically. After tapping your tempo, the click track will start playing, so you can use it as a guide. This means that you can make tight, perfectly-times loops even if you’re new to looping. You can also tap a tempo out while a loop is playing to change the tempo without altering pitch.
The looping function is only half of the story with the Jamman Delay, of course. The unit is basically the amalgamated child of a looper and a delay pedal. The top four footswitches control the delay pedal functions that can be operated hands-free. The first three allow you to switch between different pre-set delays, and the fourth allows you to set the tempo of the delay.
Most of the upper panel’s controls relate to the delay pedal aspect of the JamMan Delay. The dial in the top right of the unit allows you to select one of eight delay types- analogue, modulated, reversed, slapback, lo fi, tape, pong and digital. Analogue, slapback, tape and lo fi are retro delay types, focusing either on tape delay algorithms, reducing bit depth or recreating classic delay sounds. Pong sees the echoes oscillate between the left and right speaker, and reversed delays are played backwards.
The knobs on the top right hand side of the unit are used to control various additional parameters relating to the delay. You can set the volume of the delay effect, and use the “Modify” knobs to change different aspects of the specific sound. Generally, these will operate “Tone” or “Drive” or an equivalent effect. The “Time” knob on the Delay can be used to adjust the delay time for the chosen type of delay (details of the parameters can be found in the manual), and the “Repeats” knob controls how many time the sound repeats. Once you’ve tinkered with the settings to your liking, you can store it to one of the preset locations so you can bring the settings up with a tap of the foot.
Combining the Jamman’s Looping and Delay Functions
The ability to use the delay and looping functions of the JamMan Delay together is its biggest selling-point. Not only can you use the pedal just as a looper pedal or just as a delay, you can also add the delay effect into your loops. All of the pedals functions can be used together, so if you have wildly different delays set to the different preset locations, you can load one up, record a loop with it, switch to a different delay setting and record an overdub with it. You can make complex, varied, labyrinthine, echoing sound-scapes, if you’re into that sort of thing.
If you’re particularly familiar with delays and loopers, you may have realized that this combination could result in some serious timing errors. Thankfully, Digitech is one step ahead, and you can actually synch the delay time with the loop time using the footswitches. By holding the “Delay Time” switch for two seconds, you can use the looper’s “Tempo/Stop” control to set the tempo for both. If you’ve already recorded an out-of-sync delay, you can hold the “Delay Time” pedal to fix it automatically.
In terms of functionality, the looper element of the JamMan Delay doesn’t offer anything not already found on the JamMan Stereo. While the functions are more than adequate for loopers, it is a shame Digitech hasn’t added anything to the looper side of the Delay. If you aren’t interested in owning a delay pedal, you might as well get the JamMan Stereo or any other smaller (and therefore cheaper) model.
Instead of offering new looping features, Digitech has gone Frankenstein and assembled a new pedal out of parts of others. They have effectively combined a delay pedal and a looper pedal in one unit, and they’ve included enough footswitches to please most live musicians. The biggest achievement of the JamMan Delay is the ability to use delays with loops and put them together in perfect time. Essentially, Digitech has just crammed two pedals together, but they’ve done a very good job of it.
Overall, unless you are getting into some serious combining of looping and delay effects (which sounds pretty cool by the way), you could probably buy a less expensive looper and possibly a separate delay pedal. On the other hand, if you do want to experiment with looping and delays together, the Digitech Jamman Delay is a perfect combination, executed gracefully with wide-ranging functionality.
Digitech JamMan Delay Looper Demo