With 24-bit (CD and studio quality) recording and playback, the Ditto JAM X2 Looper by TC Electronic is an ideal band-mate and solo practice device. The YouTube video below demonstrates some of the settings and capabilities.
The Ditto JAM X2 is the latest in the line of TC Electronic loopers that stores sound files (upward of 2 minutes) and as many dubs or layers/tracks as you wish. It reproduces whatever goes into it faithfully, and so ‘garbage-in-garbage-out’ or it can sound as clear and wonderful as a master CD. Obviously the more dubs the more ‘junky’ the output can sound unless mixing the tracks or dubs effectively. In that regard I do suggest keeping heavy rhythm parts (particularly if distorted) fairly free of delay or reverb (at least keep any delay/reverb light and barely audible) while mixing in clean non-distorted guitar parts or bass and then finally some lead parts (that can have a bit more delay or reverb). As well, if each guitar part recorded on the Ditto JAM looper has a slightly different EQ range or frequency, then each part will cut through better and not ‘blend’ so much (I did not do that in the demo video, but perhaps I should have).
The Ditto JAM X2 Looper has a maximum loop of 120-seconds, which typically is more than enough for some fairly long riffs and rhythm lines, although it may be considered short if you want to jam along with an entire song. However, you also are afforded unlimited dubs, which typically will not exceed 3-5 parts in any case as it would start to sound a bit congested unless playing and timing are superb and without too many effects, like reverb.
What is unique among loopers is Ditto JAM’s BeatSense Mode. It will listen for a rhythm (supplied by a drummer, metronome, etc.) and quantize or ‘fit’ a guitar player’s playing more effectively based on that rhythm. In other words, your riffs and rhythm may be off slightly, but when it is recorded in the Ditto JAM it will play back more accurately and in accordance to the supplied beat… even if your drummer speeds up or slows down slightly! This is great for bands using a looper live, but it’s also great for home use (I use a metronome, placed next to the Ditto JAM’s microphones).
With 24-bits buffered (it is true bypass when not recording), which is studio quality, the sound is exceptional. The ability to record in two ways (rec-dub-play vs. rec-play-dub) is useful if you need to add a dub or layer immediately after a rhythm section (ideal in live situations) vs. if you need to stop and take a few seconds pause before adding a dub (or if you’re not quite sure what the dub will be and need to practice a few lines).
EASE OF USE:
You can use the Ditto JAM in three ways, as well as two options with each of those. I’ll describe the options later. The first way in which to use the Ditto JAM is in Classic Mode (no LED light above the Stop switch), which means there is no rhythm or beat that the Ditto JAM searches for. You simply record something and then play/improvise over top… or you can add extra layers (dubs), etc. – very straight-forward. The second way in which to use the Ditto JAM is in Practice Mode (red LED light above the Stop switch), which allows you to add whatever recording and dubs you want, but it looks for a rhythm or groove supplied by your chops. In other words, it gets an idea of your rhythm and tries to quantize the riffs you’re laying down to make it more timely or regular. This is not something you have to think about – the Ditto JAM does it for you and you simply try to maintain a solid rhythm as best you can.
The third way in which to use the Ditto JAM is completely unique among loopers, and it’s called BeatSense. It uses built-in microphones (two of them) or an external microphone (on an 8-foot cable that you can attach to a snare or other drum equipment) to gather a rhythm or timing from that outside source. You even can use a metronome or tap your foot next to the Ditto JAM (although you need to make certain your cranked up amp isn’t closer to the microphones than the beat source). Now, this is cool for a few reasons. Obviously you can record a loop and play it back in time with varying human tempos and this information is quantized to the nearest beats for the best loop points (and loop playback is time compressed and expanded where necessary to stay in time). And because the tempo is guided by your drummer (or a drum machine, etc.), it makes it possible finally to use a looper effectively in live situations and without the need for finely-tuned monitoring systems.
Next, there are two ways in which to record, the first being ‘Rec-Dub-Play.’ In effect, once you press the Loop switch to begin recording, and once you stop that recording (by pressing the Loop button) that recorded part plays back while the ‘red’ record light remains… you then can record a second part. It’s only when you step on the Loop switch a third time that recording stops (although it continues to play and you need to step on the Stop switch to terminate playback). In other words, you get to record two things, one after the other, very seamlessly and immediately.
On the other hand, the ‘Rec-Play-Dub’ option records only once, and when you press the Loop switch a second time your recording plays back, but you cannot record again unless you press the Loop switch a third again. Likewise, pressing the Stop button stops recording and playback all together.
To erase the last dub or track recorded (e.g., dub #3), you simply press and hold the Loop switch. To erase the entire loop with all its dubs you press and hold the Stop switch.
It is not difficult to master any of the above, although you need to get into a rhythm with how you work with the Ditto JAM in order to coordinate the ‘Rec-Play-Dub’ vs. the ‘Rec-Dub-Play.’ There’s also an issue of timing, so that your loop beings, ends and then begins (loops) seamlessly, although TC Electronic included some very useful tips in its user manual… and for those familiar with loopers (particularly the Ditto X2) you know what I mean. If you’re new to loopers you may realize that your timing is not all it’s cracked up to be and it will take an hour or two of practice to become efficient at utilizing this tool to ‘punch in and punch out’ of recordings.
RELIABILITY & DURABILITY
The Ditto JAM is true bypass pedal (although it is buffered when in ‘record’ mode) and slightly oversized compared to a standard pedal size; the framework is made of steel. All the connections are in the back, which saves on pedal board space, but also helps to protect the inputs and outputs. The Ditto JAM includes a USB port to download the latest firmware developments and an external microphone input, both of which are located in the back as well. The two foot switches (Loop and Stop) are ‘soft’ switches (no ‘click’ locking in or out) and nowhere near the other controls. The very large Loop Level control knob is big enough to navigate with a foot (so that you don’t have to bend down to control your output level), and is raised quite a bit higher than the only other control, which is a small toggle switch to choose between ‘Rec-Dub-Play’ and ‘Rec-Play-Dub.’ The Ditto JAM works on a standard 9V 150mA power supply or two 9V batteries, which makes it convenient for transporting and keeping jamming simple.