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TC Electronic Ditto X2 Review by premierguitar
Guitar effects can foster serious divisions among players. Every new development in stompboxes—from fuzz to flange—has spawned love from the adventurous and ire from purists.
When dedicated digital loopers first appeared, they too sparked spirited debate. To open-minded and cutting-edge players, they were a godsend—a means to approximate the studio manipulations and overdubbing miracles of the Beatles or Hendrix onstage, or create and improvise compositions of previously unattainable depth. To naysayers, loopers were an affront, cheating, or worse—a gimmick for nerds.
As with all guitar technologies, much of the most vehement resistance has ebbed over the years. But one of the latest broadside blows to the anti-looping camp has been the development of more compact, less complex, less nerdy units like the TC Electronic Ditto. With a single effect level knob and one footswitch, the original Ditto is the antithesis of the multi-button, million-preset looper that traditionalists dread. TCs new evolution of the Ditto, the X2, isn’t much more complex than the original Ditto. But with a few very cool effects, a second footswitch that can be used as a loop stop switch, and stereo outputs, the X2 significantly expands on the capabilities of the little Ditto, and in some ways makes this the easiest Ditto to use yet.
Double Ditto, Bigger Box
The legions of original Ditto fans that fell for its microscopic size will probably be bummed by the relative largeness of the X2. But there is a lot of upside to this bigger enclosure. For one thing, the X2 is completely stable when affixed to a pedalboard—good news for players who use a looper and little else in their line. The extra space also means plenty of room between the two footswitches and the new functions. And considering how timing-critical looping can be, the spacious, easy-to-navigate interface is a luxury.
Just as on the original Ditto, the primary control is the effect level. On the X2, it’s bigger and much easier to adjust with your foot—no small consideration if you’ve got your hands full in a busy looping situation. On either side of the level knob, however, you’ll find two small toggles that are critical to the X2’s additional functionality. The intermittent toggle to the left of the level enables you to store backing tracks and adjust backing track level. The switch toggle to the right of the knob enables you to change the function of the right footswitch (from a dedicated loop-stop switch to a effect switch) and select between the two available effects, a reverse loop and half-speed effect.
Another simple improvement to the X2 (and a reason that it’s twice the size of an original Ditto) is the inclusion of stereo ins and outs, which can accommodate much more complex amplifier and effects rigs. There’s also a USB jack for importing backing tracks or loops of your own creation or exporting loops to a DAW. You can also power the X2 with a 9V battery, and there’s a slot for a second battery if you’re away from a DC power source and you want to extend battery life.
Day Job at the Copymat
Curiously, one of the real payoffs of the X2’s extra switches and size is that it’s simpler to use. The original Ditto is a brilliant design. But the process of using a single footswitch on that pedal for arming, recording, overdubbing, and clearing a loop—while easy enough in the practice space—could be tricky live. Anyone who suffered bouts of self doubt induced by that process will be psyched that the second footswitch on the X2 can be assigned as a stop switch—replacing the two-click tap you use to stop a loop on the original.
If you’re comfortable with the two-click “stop” command and loop-clearing sequences on the original Ditto, the X2’s second switch can be dedicated to very cool reverse and half-speed effects. The first of these is capable of potentially intoxicating loop textures. If you’re just noodling at home (and especially if you have strong psychedelic-rock predilections), you can spend whole days lost in the swirling, looking-glass image of your own riffs and melodic note cycles. This process can be much more than mere navel gazing. A lot of song ideas and insights about your own melodic tendencies can be revealed when you play over your own twisted accompaniment.
And whether you’re playing solo or in a band, the cool breakdowns and shifts in momentum and feel you can get from throwing on the reverse loop for a verse or chorus can be musically powerful and a useful arrangement tool. Like any looping technique, it takes practice to master the reverse effect, and timing can be the difference between an inspired passage and sonic oatmeal. Thankfully, the big effect level knob, is easy to find and twist with your sneaker if things get too messy.
The half-speed effect is similarly dramatic, it’s great for half-time interludes and breakdowns in solo performances, and it can take on a cool disorienting and transformative effect in a band arrangement. Obviously, it’s also cool for practicing a lead over a looped chord passage or nailing a guitar harmony part.
While the Ditto X2 won’t wow pedalboard-space obsessives like it’s diminutive predecessor, it is, in many ways, a more intuitive, practical, and satisfying looper to use. The extra functions do nothing to diminish the overall streamlined feel of operating the Ditto X2, and when you use the second footswitch in stop mode, the pedal’s operation is arguably a lot more straightforward.
Just as on the Ditto, the 24-bit loop quality is excellent, and the ease with which you can set a loop level with your sneaker while noodling away makes the Ditto X2 feel like a seamless extension of your guitar and fingers. And while the $169 street price takes the X2 out of the realm of “wow, that’s all?” that made the original Ditto such a success, it’s a high-quality unit that can pay back your investment with its reliability and ease.