Can you create a full song using only sounds coming out of your mouth? Artists like, for example, beatboxers and rappers now have a tool specially created for them: vocal loopers. I’ve used plenty of them in many scenarios and here is a list of my favorite ones.
The Boss RC-202 seems to me as the most complete and best-sounding package intended for vocalists. The company´s huge heritage in terms of loopers is present in the design and functionality, making it an almost perfect product.
Looper Pedals For Vocals We Recommend
BOSS RC-202 Loop Station
What’s good: Possibilities are virtually endless, Can go straight to the DAW
Not so good: Features two channels and only one XLR input, Microphone static
It is hard to think of a more complete solution for singers than the RC-202 by Boss. Perhaps, its bigger incarnation, the RC-505 might fit in that spot, but not many more devices. This powerful machine is a one-stop solution for all the vocal looping needs you might have.
In fact, as it works with two independent channels, you can do plenty more than just infinite overdubs over one loop. For example, you can add real-time sound effects and bring your laptop to the gig to record everything coming out of the looper straight to your DAW via USB. Finally, it is MIDI compatible which means you can sync it to a MIDI clock on a drum machine if you wanted to.
On the other hand, when using the microphone with it I heard a little static coming out of the speaker that I couldn´t seem to solve with different adaptors. Finally, I wish it had dual XLR inputs to accommodate different microphones.
TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper Pedal
What’s good: Very simple to use, Super sturdy metal casing
Not so good: Loud click noise whenever it´s activated, Can´t process your vocals with it
Ever since it came out, the Ditto family of loopers set out to do one thing: simplify. I remember when I bought my first ditto looper with one switch and one knob, scratching the top of my head thinking “can it really do all that?” Well, it could do all that it was advertised to do and more.
This version of it is even more powerful and solves a very important problem by adding a stop switch and an overdub switch. The motto of it is “If you can mic it, you can loop it” and is quite accurate because it works wonders for multi-instrumentalists. I would say you can put a mic to just about anything and make it sound good with this pedal.
You could even plug a mixer out to it and use it as a loop station. I love the fact you can store recordings and also that it is XLR in and out so you don´t lose any signal quality.
On the other hand, I think it´s quite limited in options and it has a very annoying “click” sound whenever you start recording that is a mechanical noise and can´t be taken out. If you want a simple solution for looping vocals, this might be it.
Boss VE-20 Multi-Effects Vocal Pedal
What’s good: Complete package for singers, Pitch correction available
Not so good: It can only record 38 seconds, Batteries can be a tad loose and the unit resets with a heavy stomp
Back in the moment when Boss created epic pedals like the legendary RC-20 that brought Ed Sheeran to fame; they made this one for singers. It does include a looper but is not nearly as powerful as the RC family. The use of the vocal looper in this pedal is intended to be used in harmony creation and little details here and there, but the core of this box is not looping.
I actually love what you can do to your voice with this unit. It is perfect for singing on any stage and not depending on the humor of the sound person for vocal effects. I would say that if you are a singer and never used any pedals on your vocals, this is a great way to start.
TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3 Extreme
What’s good: Amazing processing capabilities, Looping is top-notch
Not so good: Not intuitive to use, No setlist feature
Ladies and gents, the most advanced vocal pedal is here; it´s called VoiceLive 3 Extreme. With this powerful tool at your feet, you can do almost anything that comes to mind. It is intended for vocalists and for instrumentalists who also sing because it possesses guitar modeling features so you don´t even need to bring an amp to the gig.
You can load up backing tracks and map your effects so they will go on at certain points of the song and also record your performance straight to it with no need to bring your laptop. Looping-wise it is packed with all the features of the TC heritage coming from the Ditto series.
Connection-wise, this unit is also amazing because it features stereo XLR outputs and dedicated stereo TRS outputs for the guitar too. There is an aux in, USB in, headphones in, footswitch, and expression pedal in, along with MIDI capabilities.
I think that the flaws of this unit are not in how it works but in the design. It is way too complicated for singers with no tech background and it doesn´t have a setlist feature which would be great to arrange the effects you´re using a per song.
Zoom V6 Vocal Processor
What’s good: Loops up to 3:30, Powerful signal processor
Not so good: Mono XLR output, Construction doesn´t feel sturdy
This vocal processor by Zoom provides plenty of power in an easy-to-use, small package that you can take to any gig in your backpack. With the ability to loop your voice up to 3:30. You can do all the harmonies of a song and then some.
On top of that, the processing power is great with lots of usable presets that can be made available at the turn of a knob. The sound quality live and with the USB out is superb; this little unit is able to record up to 32-bit 44.1 kHz! Finally, I haven´t seen any other vocal processor with an expression pedal to control specific features.
On the other hand, the construction doesn’t seem too sturdy and, even with the ability to add lush effects, the output is still mono. You could create stereo images from the PA coming straight out of the box, but not with just one output. It is a powerful vocal looper and effects processor for singers that could be awesome with just some minor changes.
What’s good: Amazing processing power, Looper with all the quality of the RC series
Not so good: Screen is too small, No dedicated stop button
The VE-500 is Boss´s idea of an integrated solution for those who are singers and also play an instrument. Everything is packed in a small box that can fit your pedalboard easily. The processor can load up to nine effects at once including de-esser, compressor, and autotune.
Although the screen is a little too small for live situations, once you work with it for a while you might get used to it. In terms of connections, it is a mono-in, stereo-XLR-out configuration that also takes MIDI in.
In terms of looping power, there is, what I feel, a major flaw in the design. There are three footswitches available and yet you have to double-tap on a single one to stop the playback. That same “Play” button works as an “erase” button making matters even worse.
The “erase” function works holding the play button; this means that the loop activates for 2 seconds before it fades away forever. With three available buttons, they could have used them all for this endeavor.
The Boss VE-500 is a super powerful package but needs some serious rethinking on the vocal looping section.
BOSS Acoustic Singer Pedal (VE-8)
What’s good: Dedicated volume for vocals and guitar in the loop, Huge processing power
Not so good: All looping functions work on a single switch, Dedicated Chorus switch seems a little awkward
This unit works as a solution for singer-songwriters and is divided into three sections: guitar, vocals, and looping. Each section has a set of controls and a dedicated footswitch. In the case of the vocal part, the footswitch engages harmonies. In the case of the guitar, it engages the chorus.
This last thing seems a little odd because so many more things could be added or done to the guitar that only being able to toggle chorus on and off reduces the unit´s potential power.
Boss is a brand that has been in the effects processors market for decades. They are the owners and creators of the RC family of loopers; pioneers in multiple-channel-looping. On the vocal looping section, it is hard to believe that Boss made the same mistake again and you have some kind of an RC-3 operation in a unit that has three switches to stomp on available.
Stopping your playback tapping twice is difficult and annoying. Plus, you need the Boss FS-6 external dual footswitch to use a separate stop and also to be able to loop on one side only if you desire to (only vocals or only guitar). That could have been done with the three switches in the unit in my opinion. Beyond that looping misconception, it is a very powerful unit to take to every live show.
What exactly is a vocal loop pedal?
A vocal loop pedal is a digital recorder with an XLR input allowing you to record, play, and do overdubs over what the microphone captures. They can be designed for floor use (TC-Helicon Ditto Vocal Looper) or table-top use (Boss RC-202) and might or might not have additional features.
Can you use a guitar looper for vocals?
Yes, as long as you can plug in a microphone, you can use it for vocals because they share the same principle. In fact, many loopers are made for guitars and vocals as well (Boss VE-500, VE-8, RC-30, etc.).