Musicians always have tunes running
through our heads. Sometimes
though, we may not even know what’s in
there until something like the Vox VDL1
Dynamic Looper comes along and lets them
out. The VDL1 can unleash creativity in a
lot of ways. And though it has the capacity
for the simplest forms of looping, it’s also
packed with less common looping functionality
and effects that can inspire tunes and
spice up a performance in unexpected ways.
The VDL1 is built around two built-in
effects processors and an expression pedal.
It gives you 90 seconds recording time
between two independent loops that you
can split however you like, with a 10-second
minimum. By recording separate
phrases for each loop, you can play back
either, or both, or variably blend the two
and add effects, all with a tap of the foot.
You also can overdub repeatedly, layering
phrases onto the loops using Vox’s Sound
on Sound technology. Existing phrases can
be re-sampled and re-recorded using editable
loop effects, including Reverse, Speed,
Stutter, Volume and Crossfade. Aside from
the ability to layer multiple effects, it also
lets you make a loop with a different length
than the original.
An internal metronome can be set by
either tapping a footswitch or via a knob
input, and the Loop Quantize function
automatically adjusts the recorded loop to
the specified tempo and time signature,
which is a great way to tame what can turn
into loop tangle very quickly. Recording
can be started manually with a footswitch,
or with the auto-record feature, which initiates
loop recording once you start playing.
Effects like delay, reverb, wah, bass/acoustic
simulation, distortion, chorus, and flange
can be applied to both inputs. The effects
are also editable, which really expands the
expressive power of the pedal and effects.
The distortions are surprisingly meaty, while
the flanger and chorus have considerable
depth and can be modified with the expression
pedal. The reverbs are realistic, but also
enable a lot of cool, sci-fi effects that can
radically alter a loop. If you’d rather focus on
the loops instead, there are 50 factory presets
and 50 user-definable presets you can use.
Good Times on Top of Good Times
On early tests of the pedal, I recorded a single-
chord rhythm using a standard distortion
pre-effect onto the first loop. Using
the synth bass sim, I overdubbed a
simple bass line over that phrase on
the same loop. On the second loop,
I recorded a quick lead riff, then
overdubbed another, similar riff, but
with about half of it overlapping the
first. At that point, I was able to play
back the chord and bass loop while
using the control pedal with the
Volume loop effect to bring the lead
riffs in or out of the mix. Switching
to the Modulation loop effect, I put
a controllable phaser on the lead riffs,
which produced a very cool phased
wah/voice effect. It takes some practice
to get everything to flow just right, but not
too much, and the effect of all the loops and
effects running together is very cool.
The Reverse, which uses the control
pedal to move from regular and reverse play,
is a load of fun to experiment with. When
the pedal is all the way down, the loop plays
normally. With the pedal all the way back,
your loop plays in reverse. Various points
between the two mix forward and reverse
loops, which can sound positively wild.
The VDL1 has several features to make
sure you don’t get totally lost in the pedal’s
many possibilities—including undo/redo
functions for overdubs. But it’s important to
keep in mind that once the power is off, the
unit is reset. It’s too bad there isn’t removable
storage in the form of an SD card, or at
least a USB connection to export files.
The VDL1 has a lot of looping power for a
compact 10.5" by 9" stompbox. The included
effects sound great, the looping/overdubbing
ability are impressive, and if you’re
familiar with the basics of looping, you’ll be
able to navigate the basics with relative ease.
Getting started may be frustrating if you’re
not familiar with loopers and multi-effects
units, but some time learning the ins and
outs of the machine will yield a bounty of
sounds. The inability to store effects loops is
a considerable drawback. But if you’re more
interested in what you can accomplish on
the fly and the ability to alter your loops
drastically from a single unit, the Vox VDL1
Dynamic Looper is a very powerful tool.
you want maximum control over multiple loops/phrases in a live situation.
loop storage is of paramount importance.