• Pros: Excellent sound quality, on-board effects, dual-track looping, four footswitches for hands-free use and MIDI sync.
• Cons: No metronome or drum tracks. Only stores two loops in memory (switching handled by USB connection). FX can only be applied to both loops at the same time.
• Overall: A great looper. TC Electronic has taken their success with the original Ditto Looper and made it even better.
TC Electronic announced the Ditto X4 looper in January of 2016. It’s the full-featured big brother to their extremely popular Ditto and Ditto X2 loopers. It’s essentially two Ditto loopers stuck together with a lot of fun options for getting creative. For example, you can record and play two loops simultaneously, switching them on and off to build complexity, or you can play the loops sequentially so that you can switch between loops for different parts of a song. You can even have two guitarists plugged into the looper and sending signals to two different amps. With the onboard FX and decay options, there’s a lot of potential for fun on the X4.
Putting the Ditto X4 in Context
TC Electronic has a pretty solid track record when it comes to making no-nonsense, awesome-sounding looper pedals. The original Ditto looper was a masterpiece of minimalistic looping joy. Where other manufacturers were busy trying to cram as many knobs and pedals onto their units as was humanly possible, TC stripped everything down and put out a pedal that handled the core looping functionality and little else, putting the focus on exceptional sound quality and ease of use.
The X4 is the latest pedal in the Ditto lineage, and at first sight you’ll notice that the trend towards more functionality that started with the Ditto X2 has continued, with the addition of dual track looping and more. The question is: does the pedal still capture what made the original great, or has the pedal strayed too far from its roots and sacrificed usability for some pointless bells and whistles?
Ditto X4 Features
• Dual loop tracks
• 7 Loop effects (Tape Stop, Fade, Double, Hold, Reverse, Half, Once)
• MIDI Sync
• Loop Decay
• True Bypass and analog dry-through
• Stereo In/Out
• Star Jam – Import loops from famous musicians
• 9V DC/300mA
TC Electronic Ditto X4 Photos
The Ditto X4: Is Bigger Always Better?
The stompbox size of the original Ditto was widened a little with the X2, but the X4 sees this trend continue well past the point you could describe the pedal as compact. Measuring in at 9.3 inches wide by 5.7 inches back to front and standing 2.2 inches tall, it’s hardly a beast, but it’s now definitively a mid-size pedal rather than a stompbox.
Like the size, the X4 (appropriately enough) takes the single pedal on the original Ditto and multiplies it by four, greatly improving the amount you can do with the pedal hands-free. The layout is basically split into four columns to suit this, with four dials occupying the upper portion of the pedal.
The Ditto X4 now offers dual-track looping. This has been around for a while in other loopers, but for an otherwise bare-bones option like the Ditto, this is a huge step forwards. The two left-most footswitches control these two tracks, which can either be played individually or unleashed at the same time (using the “Serial/Sync” button), and the dials above them let you adjust the volume level. This opens up a huge array of possibilities for songwriting, either allowing you to have a verse and chorus loop on separate tracks, or giving you the option of markedly increasing the complexity of your compositions.
The “Loop 1” and “Loop 2” pedals control the core functionality of the looper, basically each taking the role of the single pedal on the original Ditto. They handle the standard “record-play-overdub” operation when you press them once, undo or redo the last overdub when you press and hold, and stop the track when you press them twice. When they’re stopped, you can also clear the whole loop by pressing and holding. The pedal next to them, “Stop,” is used to stop or clear both loops simultaneously.
Above the “Stop” switch, there is a “Decay” dial, which basically allows you to either set your loops to continue indefinitely (by turning it all the way around clockwise) or to decay over time, with a faster decay the further you turn the dial anti-clockwise. This gives you the option of creating a continually-evolving composition, and it allows the pedal to work more like a delay when it’s set to maximum rate of decay.
Finally, the fourth footswitch allows activation and deactivation of the onboard effects, which are selected using the dial above the switch. You can even add two (or more) effects by activating one, re-adjusting the dial and then activating the other – this is hard to do on-the-fly but technically possible.
The Back Panel: Connections, MIDI and Extra Features
For connectivity, the Ditto X4 has a fairly bare-bones back panel, especially in comparison to big units like the Boss RC-300, but it does enough to keep most guitarists happy. The unit offers stereo ¼ inch ins and outs, which allow for mono and stereo playing, and can support two instruments in dual mono. Many will be happy to see a pair of MIDI jacks, which enable you to connect up to an external clock to help keep your loops in time. This works excellently, too, and there were no problems in testing.
The X4 also has USB connectivity, which you can use to back your loops up to your computer and update the firmware. Transferring files is pretty easy: your computer basically treats the looper like an external hard drive, so the process is very much intuitive.
The final little addition to the back panel is a collection of four “Mode” switches, which add to the feature-set of the Ditto X4. The first switch allows you to switch the order of operations on the “Loop” pedals, so you can go right from recording to overdubbing if you prefer. The second switch allows you to either set overdubbing to start immediately or at the end of your current loop cycle, which can help minimize issues with keeping your dubs in time with one another.
The third switch works differently depending on which mode you’re playing in. In Serial mode (where the two tracks play individually), you can either start the track two loop at the end of the track one loop’s playback or start it immediately. In Sync mode (simultaneous playback), this either sets both loops to have the same length or allows you to go free-form and have differing loop lengths. This gets unwieldy very quickly, but can be a lot of fun.
Finally, the last switch lets you change between true bypass and buffered bypass, with the latter option sometimes being preferable if you use long cables or you have a particularly packed signal chain. Ideally you’ll be able to keep true bypass mode on, because the sound quality from the Ditto X4 is pristine, but even in buffered bypass you can get some excellent results depending on your setup.
TC Electronic have increased the effects on the Ditto X4, with the half-speed and reverse options still being there – which are great for using a guitar to lay down a bassline and venturing into the realms of sonic weirdness, respectively – but the pedal also adding double-speed, a “hold” function, once-through playback and some stop modes.
The “Double” option is the opposite of the half-speed, raising the octave and doubling the speed of playback. The “Hold” option effectively creates a “mini loop” from your playing, repeating your current measure until you release the pedal. Finally, the “Tape Stop” and “Fade” options are stop modes, with the latter being self-explanatory and the former slowly grinding your loop to a close as if you’re manually stopping a tape, complete with detuning before it stops.
Overall, they’re a great set of effects, and realistically it’s more than you need on a looper, so there are no complaints at all.
Sounds Great, But What’s the Catch?
Honestly, there isn’t one. The Ditto X4 may have lost some simplicity as it added features, but it’s still very much intuitive to use, and the sound quality is still crisp and clear. The core benefits of the original are still there, and you get an extra track to play with, alongside some cool effects. The extra pedals increase the size but make hands-free looping a lot easier.
The biggest downside, as with the Ditto X2, is the poor memory. Each loop has one storage spot, and it does remember the loop you’re currently working on, but this only allows 10 minutes of memory in total (five for each). If you aren’t looking for a bazillion memory banks, this won’t be much of an issue, but adding even 10 slots and boosting the storage space really wouldn’t have been difficult. It’s a lost opportunity, in other words.
Another limitation is the fact that you can only apply your effects to both loops, rather than being able to specify. The same goes for the decay function. This isn’t too annoying in practice, but it’s another lost opportunity, because being able to specify a track for effects and decay settings would have opened up tons of new looping possibilities.
The Ditto X4 is the natural continuation of the series, and it does an excellent job of scaling up the core benefits of the original. It could have improved in a few ways, but nothing that the pedal actually offers is executed badly, so there really isn’t very much to complain about. If you’re looking for a complete package in a looper – multi-tracks, tons of memory and more features than you know what to do with – it still doesn’t quite cut it, but if you’re the sort of casual, on-the-fly type of player that the Ditto was designed for, it’s really fantastic.