Loopers have been around for a while now, dating back to the old days of Les Paul practicing sound on sound techniques with his tape machines in the 50’s. Now there are many choices of loop pedals and it seems that any company worth its salt has their own flavor. The Digitech JamMan Express XT is a descendant of Digitech’s JamMan series of loopers that have been around since the 90’s. This time the US manufacturer aimed to pack all of the necessary functions and then some into the smallest enclosure possible. Did they hit it out of the park? Let’s find out.
The JamMan Express XT has 1 knob, 1 switch, 3 Status LEDs, Stereo I/O, and their proprietary JamSync™ technology in and out ports. It is a very simple design with a retro paint job reminiscent of a 50’s diner. All the basic functions are on tap like Record, Overdub, Play, Stop, Undo/Redo, but what blows me away are the capabilities that come alive when taking advantage of JamSync™ and the discrete stereo I/O. So you hit the foot switch and recording commences, hit it again and the loop closes, hit it again and you are overdubbing, hit it again and you close the overdub loop, tap and hold for 2 seconds while playing back and the last action is undone, do it again and it’s redone, double tap for stop while in play mode, tap and hold for 2 seconds when stopped to clear.
That is a basic tutorial for this simple yet effective looper. All of these functions are pretty much the norm for loopers so allow me to cover what really sets this series apart.
Enter the world of Digitech’s proprietary synchronization protocol aptly named JamSync™. This protocol, like MIDI, has an in and out port, but what differs is that it uses 1/8″ stereo TRS cabling to carry the sync duties rather than 5 pin DIN. Like MIDI, you plug the out of one device into the in of another to establish the master/slave relationship. If you want to sync more than one device you can keep plugging the out port into the next device’s in port so the whole band could potentially deliver a loop performance without getting off time. Groundbreaking! So once the master loop is established other people can create loops on top using their JamSynced loopers and the loops will loop relative to the master.
My only gripe here is that there is no way to set a specific tempo with this device so that you could stay in time with rhythm and click tracks. Digitech’s JamMan Express XT sports JamSync™ as well but it also has the ability to set a tempo so that you can at least try and get it synced up relative to a drum machine or the like set to the same tempo (I’ve found it to work quite well actually). This pedal also sports rhythm tracks to keep you in time with the tempo set, but it doesn’t have a dedicated output for the rhythm track like another Digitech looper, the JamMan Stereo.
So I am really excited for an updated JamMan Stereo that would include the addition of JamSync™, separate output for the rhythm track, ooh and maybe MIDI too (hint hint, wink wink). Another super cool feature is the discrete stereo output pairs. You can have a mono source go to both outputs by plugging it into the Left (Mono) jack. One thing I thought would be cool is to have two different instruments plugged into the left and right inputs so that you could create a loop with one instrument like a bass, synth or drum machine and then loop various parts on top of that with another instrument and have it all go out to the house on separate channels all without re-patching.
I am super impressed with Digitech’s line of JamMan Loopers! They are really good all around from functionality to adding features no one else has. They are solid and have allowed my band to use looped performances heavily on stage. We tried everything and it wasn’t possible for my singer/keyboard player to sync multiple loopers for multiple instruments ,including her voice, with a drummer until we got the Digitechs; just saying. The JamMan Express is an excellent choice for anyone wanting a looper. I especially recommend it for anyone who wants to have a band of loopers. I have wanted this for a long time now and it really never came until now. Other options would be to sync multiple Infinity Loopers by Pigtronix (reviewed here) via a MIDI thru connected to a central MIDI clock, which would be way more expensive. Even if you never use JamSync™ it is still a great sounding looper with a nice feature set and small footprint at a super low price. This pedal receives my highly coveted “you can’t go wrong” award ; ) – Gus Green