Customer Reviews: Digitech Jam Man Stereo Looper Delay Pedal
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on June 2, 2011
(Note: Why several sites have this listed as a "Bass Pedal Tuner" is a mystery to me. It's not specifically for bass, and it's certainly not any kind of "tuner." What it is, is a stereo digital sample-and-playback looping unit.)

I like this unit, mostly. I knew what I was looking for in a looper, and I researched the available options before settling on the Jamman Stereo. For the most part I got what I was expecting.

The pros:

+ The unit is compact, and very solidly built
+ Controls are (mostly) self-explanatory
+ Excellent sound quality on the samples, with very low noise
+ Good internal memory capacity
+ Expandable memory, using common SD digital camera memory chips
+ Simple to use; shallow learning curve
+ True stereo input and output available
+ Adjustable tempo and quantization available
+ "Single play" and "infinite repeat" options
+ Accepts direct input from: instrument, mike, audio-player
+ No batteries needed

* I found it very easy to start working with this unit, record, playback, overdub, and erase functions are simple to implement through footswitch control. Sound is clean and high quality, and most of what I need to do can be done with hands-free operation. The unit accepts SD memory up to 32GB, which provides for 6-hours of storage; more than sufficient for any of my planned applications.

Indifferent/personal taste:

+/- "Reverse playback" option is kind of silly and useless
+/- "Snap"-type footswitches, rather than soft-touch
+/- No way to set a loop for a specific number of repeats
+/- No phantom power on mike XLR input
+/- No "on/off" switch
+/- Need for wall-wart & power cord offsets the convenience of not needing batteries.

* I might use the "reverse" once in a blue moon for a special effect, just becuase it's there, but if it wasn't there, I wouldn't miss it. Still, people were apparently clamoring for this feature, so I suppose they had to put it in.
* More of an annoyance for me is the use of small snap-type buttons for the footswitches. I find this particularly awkward (and noisy) when tapping in tempos. For that function I greatly prefer a soft-touch, more or less silent switch, and also the large rubber pad of the original Jamman. But then, I don't use the tap-tempo feature that much, so it really isn't that big an issue.
* It also would have been nice to be able to pre-program a loop to repeat a specific number of times -- 3, 6, 15 repeats, etc. -- and automatically stop. Instead, your choice is single play, or infinite repeat until the "stop" switch is hit. Again, not a big deal.
* I rarely use mikes, so lack of phantom power is NBD for me.
* I prefer devices I can /turn-off/ without having to unplug them.

But... I can live with all of this.

The cons:

- Many "fingers only" controls and the unit sits on the floor
- No quick way to switch from internal memory to SD card memory
- Loops stored in memory are designated only by number
- Quantization is touchy and not always accurate
- No way to trim or boost input signal level
- Significant tempo adjustments seriously degrade the sound
- Can't switch loops in "real time"

The first three of these are not a big deal for me, but they may be for some people.

* A lot of the controls on this unit are not footswitch-accessible, so if you do a lot of post-loop manipulation (I don't), you're going to be bending over a lot. For $35, you -can- buy an optional 3-button footswitch to put a few more of these functions at your toe-tips.
* Internal loops are numbered 1-99, and SD-card loops are 1-99 plus a "card" LED lit. If you need to get from loop #78 in internal memory to #14 on the SD card, there seem to be only two ways to do it: you can use the loop up/down footswitches to step through either 35 or 178 loops, one at a time; or you can use the knob on the unit to scroll through all of the internal loop-slots until you get to the SD-card loop-slot you need. I've not found any way to quickly jump from one loop to another if they're not adjacent numbers.
* If you actuallly store 198 loops (or even more than 20), remembering that you need to call up # c-35 in the chorus of the 5th song of your 2nd set might be challenging in a performance situation. Would have been nice if the Jamman had a slightly larger display and a feature for assigning a short mnemonic -name- to each loop. I deal with this by having a coded "loop playlist," but this is definitely an area that could stand improvement.
* Quantization (theoretically) works by setting a time signiture, tapping in a tempo, and then recording your material, which is then auto-quantized to the beat you set. However, I found the unit a little flakey in setting the end/repeat point of the loop. With some practice you can get the quantized endpoints to work right; but with the same amount of practice you can get the endpoints right manually, /without/ quantization, so this feature, as implemented, is rather useless.
* Input level: In transfering audio tracks from my computer to the Jamman I ran into a problem that I've experienced with other digital-audio devices. With a fixed input level, audio signals with long fade-ins often start out too faint to trigger the recording circuitry, so the first part of your loop will be cut-off. I've devised various work-arounds for this, but having an input level boost/cut trim-pot on the Jamman itself would make the process much simpler. Of course, if everything you do is at death-metal volume, this probably won't be an issue for you. :-)
* Tempo of loops may be adjusted, but outside of a limited range the sound will rapidly and noticably degrade. (To some extent, this is to be expected with any digital recording device costling less than several thousand dollars.) Depending on the particular kinds of sounds recorded, I found that tempo changes of about +/- 5-10% were the cutoff for acceptable sound. If you want a loop to play back at, say, half-speed, you're better off recording it at that speed to begin with.

* Again, for me all of the above quirks are relatively minor, and I can live with them. I saved the most annoying for last: Hitting the "loop-up" or "loop-down" footswitch while a loop is playing does /not/ switch loops in real time; it changes only the display. To change loops you have to 1) select the new loop; 2)stop the currently playing loop, and 3) start the new loop -- each step requires a separate footswitch operation.
...This last quirk is the main reason I give the Jamman four stars instead of five. It would be immensely useful (to me) to be able to switch loops either in the middle of a loop, or even at the end of a loop, by hitting only one switch, with no loss of continuity in the sound. Instead, you have to hit /three/ switches, and -- no matter how fast you do this -- there will be a noticable break in the sound. Essentially, each loop is treated as an independent, stand-alone entity, and the concept of using several loops in a single piece apparently didn't enter the engineers' heads when they designed this unit.

To summarize: I spent more time discussing "cons" than "pros" because my experience has been that not knowing what your equipment /can't/ do can be more of a show-stopper in performance, than not knowing something that it /can/ do. But, bottom line:
...I like this unit, it does 95% of what I need, and
most of what it does, it does very well.

For me, it represents good value for the money, and I highly recommend it for those whose needs are as uncomplicated as mine.

One final tip: Shop around -- I've seen this unit sold for anywhere between $229 and $339. It's worth the $299 list price, but not more.
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on October 3, 2011
Review Part I - About this looping pedal:

Background - My first looping pedal was the Line 6 DL4 Stompbox Delay Modeler with only 13 seconds of looping time, no undo and no option to save loops in the pedal itself.

By upgrading to this pedal, I can now permanently save loops and undo an overdub.

Comes with 35 minutes of onboard memory and an SD Ram slot for substantial memory expansion - import, export and expand the memory.

The perfect configuration of switches: 1.) record/play back 2.) stop 3.) loop up and 4.) loop down. Apparently the latest generation Boss pedals can't go seamlessly from one stored loop to the next like this one does.

Any looping pedal, regardless of pedigree, that only has a single switch, is just not enough IMHO. You'll burn too much time maneuvering from one loop to the next or deleting if you can't just hold down a switch for 2 seconds. The single switch Boss RC-3 Loop Station stomp box I purchased and returned before picking this one up required you to hold a little button down (not the main switch) for 2 seconds then hit it again to confirm deletion. I found that too disruptive.

I love the option of the auto start function, you don't have to punch in with a switch, just arm start playing when ready. If the song starts with a rest, you can still do it the old fashioned way.

The tap tempo seems a bit counter intuitive, if you train wreck and delete a loop, your tapped tempo is also erased. As for the built in rhythms, I don't routinely make use of them other than occasionally as a metronome, then turn off after the first pass. I'd rather have a fade out function or some effects.
Sound quality is great; it sounds just like me playing through my rig.

Review Part II - Looping pedals as practice aids:

I have found this pedal to be an invaluable tool for practicing. It has been a catalyst for working through music books, especially on guitar where I'm mostly playing either the melody or the accompaniment. Now I can do both. I can comp chords and/or bass lines into the looper and then work on sight reading single note figures, all seamlessly looped over and over until I get it down.

Some loops are disposable as they are only song fragments or a tune played at slower than performance tempo in an effort to master a difficult figure. Others are keepers, inspired performances or challenging figures that were nailed.

I have learned a great deal about my playing from looping. It's improved my accompanying skills due to the need to routinely play with rhythmic accuracy and seamlessly splicing each loop's end into its beginning so it repeats without glitching. Also, I've become more aware of dynamics, interplay and the flow of the music overall as the loop needs to stand the test of repeated listens. I do this so frequently now, that I it has improved my arranging skills. It gives practicing an almost recording studio vibe... when you are not only going to hear what you just laid down played back to you over and over, but are layering over it, you get better at knowing what will work.

Shedding with a looping pedal has also greatly structured my practicing. More than ever, I find myself working systematically to compose entire arrangements of songs: choosing the right chord shapes, working out melodic bass lines, sight reading melodies and working on coherently improvising over the structure. By hearing myself I lean what to do and what not to do. For years, I would I would play things when accompanying others that made comping interesting for me, but were distracting to the soloist/listener. I have found that I play more tastefully and for the song due to this pedal.

Prior to this pedal, I was practicing primarily with my Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-880 Rhythm Machine, which I use to program drums patterns and bass lines, but programming that unit takes a lot of time and energy and it doesn't sound as organic as my own guitar playing. I also use Aebersold play alongs which are great, but the tempos are locked in and they only play through a set number of times.

Finally, this pedal did a lot to cure my piano envy. This is a close as you can get to playing chords and single notes on guitar as a single human being without trying to be Lenny Breau, who by the way, I came across a masterclass he gave at the Guitar Institute of Technology where he said "by the time I figured out what I wanted to do, it was too late, I should have played piano." I started studying piano after hearing him say that, but this pedal was a game changer, it pulled me back to my first love, the guitar. Now I can do my version of the Bill Evans thing on guitar, it just takes a few stomps of this pedal. Thank you Digitech, lookout Keith Jarrett!
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on July 30, 2014
I bought this looper a few months ago and wanted time to familiarize myself with it prior to writing a review. If you decide to buy one, please take the time to read through the comprehensive owner's manual that comes with it before you attempt to use it. It will reduce your frustration level that has been experienced by some individuals who may have posted earlier reviews without reading the instructions. After reading the manual, I was able to produce my first loops within minutes. As my ability to use the device has increased, I am now able to produce loops containing several instrument parts. The unit itself is well-constructed and having multiple foot switches that operate it is preferable to some of the smaller units that have only one or two switches. The switches do make an audible "click" when you press them, but if you're using the machine in a live performance where the music is loud, no one will hear it. However, if you wish to play some soft acoustic guitar loops (or using any other instrument, for that matter), someone in the audience that is nearby could hear the click as you change the loops up or down. That slight clicking noise does not detract from the fact that this is a well-built unit that enables me to capture song ideas if one suddenly pops into my head one evening. Another slightly negative observation is that the tap tempo button is not as accurate as if the device possessed the ability to have a tempo set by dialing in a tempo or using a tempo button. In addition, the included rhythm patterns are minimal and primitive. They enable you to keep time but that's it. Those shortcomings are the main reason I took off one star in this review.

I've developed my own method to record a song idea. I calculate the number of measures for the verses, for the chorus (if different from the verses, and for any other parts of the song. Then I tap in the tempo and record the number of measures for each part. Then I begin recording each instrument that I'll need in each part of the song. It sounds easy, but you have to be precise in the number of measures you'll need and stopping the loop at the correct ending point. Otherwise, your loop will stop prematurely or go on too long. It takes some trial-and-error but persevere and you'll get the hang of it.

I haven't plugged the unit into my desktop to utilize the included software. Once all the loops on the device are filled, I'll then get a mini SD card and eventually fill that up. At some time, I'll need to work with the included software. I have a DigiTech RP 500 foot pedal and I haven't yet encountered any problem using the software that came with that product, but the two software packages might not even closely resemble each other, so take this last comment of mine with a grain of salt.

All in all, it's a fairly easy device to learn to operate. It has the shortcomings that I've noted before, but its ease of use and the multiple foot switches trump the design omissions. My friends that have listened to the loops I've created have commented on how life-like the recording sounds. It will also make you a better performer, as you'll hear every mistake you make when attempting to create a loop. In summary, I'm happy that I bought it.

Addendum (September 10, 2014): I finally got around to plugging in the DigiTech to my PC. I use a Windows-based computer, so my PC automatically downloaded the software to run the unit. Once that happened, a main screen pops up on your monitor and after a few moments, you can open the internal memory of the looper and see the location of your loops. From there, you can rename them or copy and paste them to another open spot in the device or you can copy them to your PC, so the process is fairly easy.

A couple of caveats, however. When you copy a loop, you'll only hear the music you recorded. If you use the built-in "drum machine" you will not hear that on the copy, although the rhythm pattern you choose will still be heard in the original loop in the internal memory. Also, although you have the ability to alter the tempo of the rhythm you originally chose when you open the software, don't do it. It will alter the rhythm in the original loop, but that doesn't alter the tempo of the accompanying music you originally recorded. As an example, I noted that a verse of a song I had recorded had a rhythm tempo of 105 but the chorus was a little faster, at about 105.6. So, thinking I was smart, I altered the tempo of the chorus to 105 while I had the DigiTech hooked up to my PC. That did change the tempo in the verse, but my music was recorded a little slower. As a result, the verse is just a little off-tempo. That's one experiment I won't repeat.

I haven't attempted to download other music from an outside source into the device nor have I utilized a memory card yet. When that happens, I'll amend this review again.
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on June 19, 2013
The noisy foot switches are ridiculous and clumsy for something like a looper. The clicks don't make it into your audio signal (maybe unless you're looping with a mic and it picks them up), they're just bothersome physical clicks. This apparently doesn't bother too many people and it doesn't sound like a big deal - and it probably isn't when you're in a band setting. But when you're in the middle of some spaced out ethereal Frippertronics sort of thing or a somber acoustic piece it's distracting. Not only that but if you're playing at home in socks or bare feet the switches aren't very foot friendly.

I'm deducting 2 noisy switch stars for an otherwise excellent product. It bums me out. I really want to like it but those switches aren't agreeing with me at all. On almost any other pedal I wouldn't mind, but on a looper where you're constantly tapping on the thing? No thanks. Mine came with the optional external FS3X footswitch and the switches on that are much more smooth and almost silent. Come on, Digitech! Why not use those on the Jammman as well?

Enough about what I consider to be a massive con. How about some pros: Pretty much everything else. Creating loops is super easy and doesn't take long to master. Auto record is awesome. Sound is great. You can loop to infinity with additional memory. It's small and light. I highly recommend getting the FS3X if you decide the Jamman is the one for you - it will keep your hands on your guitar/instrument more which is where they should be in the first place.

I have 2 weeks before the return period is up and the switch issue quickly had me exploring other options (I have the nearly twice as much $ Boomerang III on order at the moment). Maybe the 'Rang won't be my bag and I'll learn to deal with the Digi-clicks. Time will tell. But consider yourselves warned - if you're doing quiet stuff or using a mic, you're at risk of those clicks sounding like exclamation marks every time you press the foot switch. And like I said, it's not very nice on bare tootsies!

I'll report back once my little Jammman vs. Boomer looper-off concludes.

*Update - 7/12/2013*

Boomerang for the win. Expensive, but well worth the price.
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on July 1, 2014
If you came here looking specifically for one of these, you really don't need a review. It is DEFINITELY the best pedal for the price in pedal looping technology. There are bigger and better ways to loop, but the cost and difficulty is reflected. I have used a BOSS RC-20 for many years and it definitely did the job but the technology has gotten better. Examples would be: stereo outputs, recording length, different record modes, different playback modes, on board memory, micro disk memory...etc. The BOSS RC-50 is the mack daddy pedal but I don't want to have to think that much. But seeing someone master it is highly impressive. So I decided on the JML2 for ease of use and price. Enjoy...
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on July 9, 2014
Great way to work out parts- hone your playing. easy to use- corrects the starts and stops for smooth loops. You can arrange order of loops on computer so make a song with step parts easily switchable on the fly.
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on July 6, 2013
If you are looking for a pedal to trigger samples and backing tracks, this is the pedal for you. This pedal lets you cycle through all your stored loops with your foot, unlike the Boss RC-30 which makes you bend down to cycle through. Works great as a regular guitar looper as well. When I do use a guitar or microphone I love that it has independent volume knobs for the loop, the guitar, the metronome and the mic.

Only two things kept me from rating this 5 stars. First, all of the outputs are 1/4 inch. I would have liked to have had a balanced XLR output. To send loops out to the house PA at live gigs I had to convert it to XLR with a DI box.
Second, you need to install the software in order to transfer samples. Normally this wouldn't be a big issue but it required me to download Microsoft Silverlight for some reason and all files have to be WAVs. Works great once you get it going but it would have been a little simpler if you could just drag and drop instead of syncing like an iPod. Totally worth the extra effort though. Great product!
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on May 27, 2014
Bought this as a gift for my husband - he has absolutely loved it. I can't say how good it is based on my own experience, only how much he has liked it. It didn't come with any instructions, but you can easily find youtube tutorials or even manuals online. Mostly he figured out how to use it just by playing around with it. One note: make sure you wire it with your distortion and amp in the right format or your distortion will distort everything that comes out of the looper, not just the current loop.
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on June 17, 2011
The device is great - I run 2 jacks out of my guitar (neck and bridge pickups through my normal guitar pedals, and a middle pickup that runs through an octave pedal for bass tone). I'm able to run both lines into and out of the looper to separate amps, which is great.

It's EXTREMELY easy to use right out of the box, and has most features you'd want, and a few that are nice bonuses (fade out, reverse, stop when loop finished, etc.). Originally, I was going to get the Boss RC-30. Over and above the JM, the Boss has 2 tracks, phantom power for the mic input, a higher output (1000k vs. 500k, i think), and some (imho, really pointless) effects. The Boss is tougher to figure out - e.g., fade out can only be done to a saved loop (meaning you have to stop the loop, save it, program it, play it again - not good for on-the-fly). You also have to double tap the pedals for certain things (loop up or down, undo, etc.). The boss effects are useless to me, and the one I might have used (reverse) is no longer available on that model. Honestly, I went for quality over quantity here - more stuff doesn't always mean better, and the jamman has everything you'd need in a much easier to use box.

While the Boss has 3 hours storage, the Jamman has 35min (which really is more than enough, trust me), but has the expander slot with a standard SD card for up to 16hours. The sound quality is good until you get up there in phrases (typical for most loopers), but that's a high number - if you have that many phrases, you should just get a backing band or a looper with 4 or more tracks ;-).

Things I'd like to see: the external footswitch should still have the option to loop up or down (with this model, the switch will undo, reverse or tap tempo only). While there's a loop up and loop down switch right on the JM, I'd like to leave the JM on my pedal board and have the external switch over by my drum kit so I can move a loop up or down while on the kit.

I also wish there were more tracks (actually, if it'd had 2 tracks, I wouldn't have even considered the boss at all), or the ability to move through phrases within the loop (right now, you can undo and redo a phrase over the initial loop, but you can't move through each one). Another wish: If I were to record one measure, it would be nice to extend that one measure to 2 or more measures.

Overall - it's a great device, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a looper for practice, sampling, or simple live (like, one or 2 loops for backup vocal or rhythm guitar lines) purposes. I deducted a star for the lack of features I mentioned above. features like that could allow one to grow to more advanced levels with the Jamman.
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on March 22, 2015
I have owned the Jam Man Stereo pedal about 3 years and had to add a positive review for this great looper. I may ramble a bit here but if you are considering a looper you may find this useful…
The jam man is intuitive and easy to use. It is easy to record then add many layers or parts to the loop. Unlike most other systems it is easily go up or down to access loops using foot switches. It is simple to save then copy the loop to another location to add other instruments, vocals, or parts.
You can quite easily record the verse of your song on one track, the chorus on the next, and the lead on still another. After doing this it is easy to select the loop you wish. When you select the next loop, while playing, the selected loop waits for the current loop to finishes then automatically begins.
Loops are easily stored to the computer as well.
To save or write each loop you must use your hands to push the button. A seller on ebay sells a very clever device that easily and securely snaps onto the Jam Man which makes it easy to use your feet to write or save your work with a foot control.
The four star review is due to the somewhat poor sound quality. The sound quality may not equal more expensive systems but it is much easier to use to record tracks.
Because of the ease of use, cost, customer support, and foot switch controls I prefer the Jam Man Stereo over choices available. I would recommend the Jam Man to guitar or keyboard players.
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