Best looper and DAW setup for singer/songwriter and/or vocalist types
September 19, 2018 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to purchase a looper as a gift. I'd love to hear stories of your favorite such setups. I'd like to get one that is easy to use, yet also extensible and a perhaps a notch or two above "basic" (unless basic can be made delux via daisy chaining a few together, if that's a "thing"?)

The looper recipient accompanies herself on guitar mainly, and sometimes a few other instruments. I started to research a bit, and a few models seemed to be trending .. but your personal stories will go so much further than "best of" type review articles. Budget is flexible -- if the most compelling looper is on the pricier end I will try to drum up interest amongst friends in going in on group gift.

Re the DAW (digital audio workstation) software, she currently lacks any setup at all beyond garageband on an ipad. I dont know if it will be part of this gift or not, but I'd like to have an idea of the whole set up , including pc and software, if nothing else to just have something to recommend. I am pretty tech savvy and patient with learning UIs, but she is not .. anyone out there more on that end of the spectrum have any stories about why You love studio 1 or ableton or ..etc?

I'm assuming that giving the right spaghetti of cords ans adapters most any looper could send audio out to a computer input, for use in whichever software , yes? Is there anythig sneaky I ought to keep in mind about this when selecting which looper to get her?

As far as I know what she already owns includes amps, mics for performing, xlr and 1/4" cables and adapters. She doesnt have a got usb mic yet (eg Blue yeti or something similar.)
posted by elgee to Technology (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Oops, make that "She doesnt have a *good* usb mic yet..
posted by elgee at 9:37 PM on September 19, 2018

FWIW - I have a Ditto loop pedal that is very basic. I am not that skilled with it and don’t really mess with it much. For me, it wound up being more of a distraction from making music than anything else. I do appreciate those that can make the magic with them. I, so far, am not one.

As far as recording/daw - I am currently using a Mac Pro, a focus right i2i interface, and using Logic Pro. Logic is a higher featured version of garage band. My choice was on purpose, as I was already familiar with garage band and it made it so I had more features and didn’t have to learn a whole new interface. This is me.

Your friend already has an iPad and garage band. I suggest getting an interface (focus right has an iPad dock) and then getting a mic or two. USB mics are not great. A Shure SM57 mic would be a good thing, used if you can find it.

Recording outside if you can find a quiet place will also help. Most home setups suffer from room noise - reflections and bass buildup. The recordings produced there can be charming, but require a large amount of finess that someone starting to record will have difficulties with.

I have found, once again, that I spend way more time learning recording software, mic placement, etc... then actually making music. I do aspire to recording myself, though, so I keep at it.

But I have considered:

Perhaps as an alternative, maybe have your friend spend some time coming up with their songs and taking them to a studio with a good room and people who know what they are doing?

gearslutz Is a site that talks about recording, mics, etc....

My biggest take from that site is:

1. Have a good song
2. Have a good performance of that song
3. Have a good recording of that performance of that song

Work on 1 & 2 and then it will be easier to get #3
posted by kabong the wiser at 5:37 AM on September 20, 2018

I've used the Line 6 DL4 pedal for years and have been really satisfied with it. It's built to be a delay and loop pedal in one, but the loop capabilities are robust. I like it because it's sturdy, easy to use, has all the input/output options I need, and great sound. You can record over and over again hitting the pedal only once, and can stack the looped recordings on top of each other a ton before the sound quality starts to degrade. It's a very commonly-used pedal, a number of professional musicians I like who loop their guitars or vocals use this pedal - some of them use one for guitar and another for vocals. Musicians like Reggie Watts, John Mayer, Andrew Bird, Howie Day. If she's into using delay on her instruments, the built-in tap tempo is nice - other comparable pedals often don't have it which means you have to purchase a separate accessory pedal. Though retail for the pedal is $250, it's almost always selling on Amazon for $180. Definitely worth it in my opinion.

There's a lot she can do with Garageband on her iPad, and she'd be able to use the DL4 pedal with that setup. In the past, I've had the most fun recording with a basic 4-track or 8-track hooked up to my laptop running Fruity Loops software ("FL Studio" by Image Line) - the basic version can be bought full retail for $100. I agree with kabong that USB mics are lower-quality than XLR across the board. A standard XLR mic wouldn't plug into the iPad without an XLR-to-USB signal adapter, though. I don't have experience with those and can't speak to how well they tend to work.
posted by hootenatty at 8:18 AM on September 20, 2018

Tell her to check out Reaper; it’s got many features and has a free trial. Paid version costs much less than eg Logic and Ableton too.

Also she may well not need a full DAW if she just wants to do some recording, mixing and editing of audio. Audacity is f/oss and also worth trying before shelling out the big bucks.

Loopers are indeed often more about the skill of the performer than the type of looper. Loopy app for iPad (as seen on Jimmy Fallon) is actually about as powerful as all but but the priciest of hardware, so starting there can help her learn what she wants/needs and doesn’t.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:02 AM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

To that end, she could make iPad the center of her recording process if she wanted to, lots of people do. Cubasis is one of the best/most powerful DAWs on that platform. In that case an audio interface (possibly with midi) is pretty much all she needs, along with a mic.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:05 AM on September 20, 2018

This Boss Looper looks fun
The USB connector seems like it could be extremely useful in a digital recording setup.

I have recorded a LOT over the decades with very basic PC/DAW setups. My latest release was recorded with the following:

2011 27 inch iMac with 16gigs of RAM
Focusrite Sapphire Pro 40
An old 1990's era Tascam 8 track as a mixer
A Shure SM57
Roland JC-120 amp
Fender Guitar
and a bunch of Effects.

Basically I sent everything to the mixer, then took a stereo out from the mixer to inputs 1+2 on the Focusrite, and firewire into the iMac where I recorded all the takes live with GarageBand.

Other things I've recently created are electronic tracks using my synth gear and midi:

(this track uses a Nord Lead as a midi controller to drive soft synths in GarageBand, it's all 100% made in garageband, no external sounds)

Transexuelle Drummachine
(This was used with my 8-track mixer and a midi sequencer, with the audio out going into the Focusrite/iMac/GarageBand chain, all the sounds were externally generated by my synths and drum machine)

If you listen to what I've recorded, you'll see that you can do a hell of a lot these days with GarageBand as a DAW. I've used Cool Edit Pro, Acid, Audacity, Logic Studio, Logic Pro, Reaper, Presonus Studio One, Ableton (way way back, like 2001)...I'm saving up to spend 200 bucks on Logic Pro just so I can get Midi Out (GarageBand only supports Midi In which gets the job done but is limiting me)...Until I've got the 200 spare bucks to throw at Logic, I'll still be having a good go with GarageBand.
posted by nikaspark at 1:42 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, half-decent, lower-end studio monitoring headphones are a huge plus when you can't afford decent studio monitors

I have these two:

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x


Shure SRH440

Having these two headphones has helped my mixing process immeasurably.
posted by nikaspark at 1:54 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know about loopers, but nthing the recommendation to skip USB mics in favor of a decent audio interface to use alongside her existing mics. It will likely sound better, but these audio interfaces also act as an upgraded soundcard for your computer/iPad.

Here's one cheaper-end iPad-ready audio interface with 2 analog mic/line inputs- Presonus Audiobox iTwo which may be a good starter setup. More expensive ones with either offer more inputs, or pro level for the mic preamps and analog/digital conversion.
posted by p3t3 at 5:16 PM on September 20, 2018

Also, depending how many other instruments she plays with, you might look at a cheap 4 channel or 8 channel mixer with built-in USB soundcard. These cheaper ones still only record into the DAW on 2 channels, but at least allow for more mics/instruments to be recorded together: Mackie PROFX8V2 - this should be Core Audio compliant too which means plug & play recording into iPad via the USB.
posted by p3t3 at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2018

If the looper is for home use (rather than playing out live) then an iPad audio interface, Bluetooth or midi footpedal, and a looping app might be a more versatile solution. Quantiloop behaves much like a hardware pedal, while Group the Loop allows more advanced looping that takes advantage of the touch interface. Stay away from Looperverse though, it’s buggy and the developer is not very responsive.
posted by doctord at 4:23 AM on September 21, 2018

hi guys, thank you so much for all of these ideas.. Neat to hear all of the different ways you all have approached your setups. i have more homework to do now but it's less aimless homework than before! I'll stay tuned here in case more mefite audiofiles turn up here.. and.. once i do the follow up homework it'll probably generate more questions o_O
posted by elgee at 4:03 PM on September 21, 2018

I have an Ableton Live Intro license coming my way shortly that I don't need. OP, mail me if you would like it. :)
posted by aesop at 8:57 AM on December 13, 2018

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