• Pros: Beautiful sound quality, simple, easy-to-use design, stereo looping and the ability to backup your creations to your PC or Mac.
• Cons: Still lacking in many features from the bigger Ditto models and found on the vast majority of loopers on the market.
• Overall: A fantastic pedal if you’re happy with a bare-bones looping experience.
The original Ditto is a legendary looper, casting aside complexity in favor of top-notch sound quality and ease-of-use. Since then, the X2 and X4 versions have taken the concept further, incorporating effects and more footswitches into the same core framework. But the follow-up pedals both lost some simplicity in the process, and if you’re a fan of the minimalism of the original Ditto, you might be looking for something that bridges the gap between the two.
TC Electronic has answered your prayers in the form of the Ditto Stereo: an upgraded, stereo-looping version of the original.
What You Loved About the Ditto, Now in Stereo
The Ditto Stereo aims to bring some of what made the X2 great to a body much more like the original Ditto. The Stereo is a touch bigger than the first model – measuring 2.8 by 4.8 inches instead of 1.9 by 3.7 – but it’s still very compact and easy to find a spot for on your pedalboard. In terms of design and layout, the differences are minimal: two ¼ inch inputs and two outputs instead of just one for each, and a little switch to the left of the “Loop Level” dial.
So TC Electronic really hasn’t messed with the Ditto aesthetic very much at all, but those small changes make a huge difference to what you can do with the looper. The stereo ins and outs are a perfect example. Not only can you now loop in glorious stereo, it also opens up the possibility of using the pedal in dual mono mode, with two instruments connected to two amps and two people collaborating on a loop. And if you have stereo effect pedals, you can now get the most out of them.
The little switch added by TC Electronic controls most of the other additional features. Firstly, and most importantly, giving the switch a push upwards stores your current loop as a “backing track.” On the original Ditto, you could only have one loop in the device at a time – the one you were working on. Compared to the huge number of loop locations on most other loopers, increasing this to two isn’t that impressive (especially given the proviso, discussed below), but if you want the simplicity of design that most others pedals don’t offer, two is still much better than one.
The good news when it comes to storing loops is that this isn’t all. The USB port now allows you to transfer existing files to the Ditto and from it to your computer. This means that if you put together something really awesome that you don’t want to lose when it’s time for a jam session, you can keep it as long as you want. With the same five-minute recording time as the original Ditto – with unlimited overdubs, of course – even adding a storage slot in addition to your current loop is great, but the ability to transfer your creations to your PC takes it to the next level.
You can also use the little switch to independently adjust the level of your backing loop. By holding it down when you move the “Loop Level” knob, it only affects the volume of your backing track loop. This gives you the option of having a background section sit lower in the mix so your soloing can really shine, for example. If you just use the knob without the button, it adjusts the levels for your whole loop – the backing track and the active loop. This is because when you hit the footswitch to start playback, you play both loops together, so the “Loop Level” dial naturally adjusts both.
The fact that the loops play together presents a problem for implication that you can store one loop and work on one using the Ditto Stereo. Is it really two loops if they must play together? But by turning the backing track volume right down to zero, you can hear your active loop with nothing from the background one. This is how you can use the Ditto Stereo as if it has two memory slots. Making this a genuine feature (so the loop is just in storage, not an optional background) doesn’t seem like it’d gave been too hard, but it’s still not too bad as it stands.
Finally, the Ditto Stereo adds the option of powering up using a 9V battery instead of a normal power supply (which you have to buy separately). I don’t do this, personally, but it’s a great addition for anybody who will be playing outdoors or away from a power supply.
The Stuff That’s Still Amazing on the Ditto Stereo
So the changes are limited, but they ultimately get a big thumbs-up. By building on the original Ditto, they add a lot of potential to the core design and purpose. But focusing on the new stuff doesn’t really capture why the Ditto Stereo is a great looper pedal, because it’s great for the same reasons as the original.
The first thing that comes to mind is the sound quality. With 24-bit, uncompressed audio, true bypass and analog dry-through, you can rest assured that your live playing sounds great – whether the pedal is active or not – and that the recorded audio is crisp, clear and just as authentic in tone as it was when you first played it. Aside from the endearing simplicity of the design, this is really the best thing about all versions of the Ditto, and the Stereo is no different.
The ease of use deserves a specific mention too. It’s hard to imagine a simpler looper. Press the footswitch to start recording, play your loop through once, and press the switch again to start playback. Then hit the switch again to overdub, hit it again to end overdubbing and restart playback, and continue this until your masterpiece is completed. If you’d rather go from recording straight to overdubbing, you can adjust a dip-switch on the interior of the Ditto Stereo to change the order.
If you screw up an overdub or want to remove the top layer of sound, you can hold the pedal down for one and a half seconds or more to undo your last recording. Bring it back in by holding the footswitch again. This is great for mistakes, but for songwriting with the Ditto Stereo it means you can have a melody section or an additional rhythm guitar ready to go at a moment’s notice.
All in all, these core features are all you really need from a looper. As long as you aren’t planning an epic, looper-driven set-list, you can pretty much do everything you need to with the Ditto Stereo, and it makes accomplishing the key tasks about as easy as it can be.
Is the Ditto Stereo Worth Picking Up?
The big question is whether the Ditto Stereo is worth it. It goes pretty much without saying that it beats the original: it offers all the same benefits with some handy extra features like stereo looping, an actual storage slot and the ability to transfer files to and from your computer. However, like the original Ditto, it doesn’t stack up too well compared to other loopers on the market.
The minimalist aesthetic is cool, but it also means that features you may need (or at least want) are not present. Half-speed playback (included on the X2 and X4, among most other dedicated loopers) allows you to play a “bassline” with your guitar (because it drops your playing an octave too), for instance. You might struggle to stay in time through multiple overdubs and wish there was a “quantization” feature to tidy up any mistakes or rescue you if you accidentally miss the footswitch. And then there’s the problem of such limited memory in an age of affordable and compact data storage: why limit the memory of the pedal so much?
In a sense, this criticism isn’t fair – the Ditto series is all about simplicity and minimalism, so it should be taken as a given rather than a downside – but when you’re thinking about buying just one looper, the downsides of a minimalistic approach are definitely something you should consider. TC Electronic has kept the price of the Ditto Stereo pleasantly low, but if you can spend a bit more and may need more features in future, it’s definitely worth thinking about the vast array of additional features and options you get by opting for something like the RC-3 from Boss instead.
On the whole, though, the Ditto Stereo continues in the proud tradition of the original Ditto. It’s a solid practicing companion, great for on-the-fly jams and probably the best-sounding looper on the market. If you can live without 100 memory locations and you’ve never played a loop in reverse in your life, the minimalist approach could be just what you’re looking for.