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If you are just getting started with live looping there is no better way to try it out than with an iPhone or iPad application, assuming you already own one of those devices. The applications range from free to around $7, compared to the least expensive loopers in the $100-$200 range. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s to each solution which I will attempt to summarize here.
Starting with the benefits, the iOS applications allow you to take your looper with you anywhere you go. I have had boring nights stuck in a random hotel while traveling on business, and having the option to create music with a looper is something that is only possible when it’s on my iPhone. Not to mention, if you play music with other musicians and it’s not always planned out, it would be great to have this at your disposal any time. Aside from the cost aspect, I would say this is the number one benefit. Another large benefit to at least the higher end applications (like Loopy or Everyday Looper) is the ability to control multi-track loops. This is something that only the Type II and III looper pedals can accomplish, and iOS apps make it look easy. Therefore, you can create verse-chorus-bridge structures or have control of base vs drums vs whatever else.
Now, on to the drawbacks. One issue with the iOS apps is that they are not hands-free unless you purchase additional equipment (MIDI controller or a Bluetooth pedal). Buying this equipment takes away the two big benefits: portability and cost. Furthermore, if you utilize the multi-track capabilities, it’s very hands-on. The next issue is the sound quality. You can purchase a high-end microphone that will connect via 30-pin or Lightning, but if you use the standard mic it’s not really meant for music recording. Another problem is the potential for interuption. This could happen due to activity on another application that is running or simply from receiving a phone call or text message. Essentially, the iOS device is not dedicated to looping, so it will not be as dependable as a looper pedal that only has the function of looping to worry about. Aside from those points, the iOS devices have a long way to go in terms of adding all of the features that looper pedals have. To name a few (variable tempo control, peak detect to prevent clipping, expression pedal interface, undo/redo, loop fx like reverse, decay, delay, etc.).
Overall, there is no better way to try out looping for the first time than to use an iOS app. If you do not have an iPhone or iPad, then obviously that doesn’t apply. We still believe that for on-stage performance, hand-free use, and high-quality audio, a looper pedal is a better solution. Perhaps that will change in the next few years.
Also, one note on Android. There have been many rumors about a latency issue with Android that would prevent the creation of strong looper applications. We have also heard rumors that the issue has been fixed. Recently came across this video by the developer of LoopStack, and it looks promising. We will continue to search on this matter, please leave a comment below if you have more information.
iOS Loopy HD:
iOS Everyday Looper: