Over the last couple of years, the looper pedal has really become a big part of my practice routine, as well as my creative process. I regularly use it to either test out ideas, or to drill exercises that I’m working on.
I think they’re amazing, and every other guitarist should have one. Although, in my searches, I’ve found that they don’t get quite as much love as they should. Some people even suggest setting up weirdly in their signal chain. But I think I have a better way.
Generally speaking, it’s best to put the looper pedal in the effects loop (FX loop) of the amplifier, rather than in the front contrary to the internet consensus. This allows you to record loops with and without effects while giving you control to play over those loops dry or wet as well.
This contradicts a lot of the information that I’ve seen on the internet which has argued that the pedal should be at the end of your signal chain (if the amp is the start). There could be reasons why people prefer to do it this way that I’m unaware of, but in my opinion, it’s best to put the Looper in the FX Loop instead. Let’s unpack this below.
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What You Need to Put A Looper Pedal In Your Effects Loop
To put your looper pedal in your effects loop, whether it’s a BOSS RC-5 or the MXR Clone Looper (both are great pedals, although, the RC-5 is superior in my opinion), you just need 3 things, and they are the following.
A) An Amplifier With An Effects Loop (FX Loop)
So the first thing is that you need an amplifier that actually has an effects loop. I’m using a Hughes and Kettner Switchblade 100w amp which is extremely old at this point. I’ve heard the Tubemeister (on Amazon) is a better choice these days.
I think it might be around 15-16 years old. I believe it’s one of the first amplifiers that mixed digitally with tubes which is more common now. I’m unsure if all amplifiers come with effects loops, but I know mine does so I’m happy.
B) 2 1/4″ Instrument Cables (Guitar Cables Over 10 Feet Long)
Of course, you also need some guitar cables. The standard 1/4″ jacks are what you need. I think it’s worthy to note though that they must be fairly long.
At least if you want the freedom to put your looper pedal wherever you want. 10-feet should probably be your minimum. I really like the Ernie Ball cables like these ones from Amazon, including the right-angled ones which are my personal favorite.
C) A Looper Pedal
The BOSS RC-5 (on Amazon) is a superior loop station to the MXR Clone Looper (also on Amazon), but it’s also more money. I can’t tell you exactly how much more it is because of Amazon’s terms and conditions, but it usually costs more.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with the MXR Clone Looper, and it’s a great pedal for the money. It’s equivalent to the BOSS RC-3, I would say. What makes the BOSS RC-5 a better pedal is that it has a drum machine built into it and you can save a ton of loops.
How to Put the Looper Pedal In The FX Loop Of Your Amplifier
1) Locate the Send and Return On Your Amp’s Effects Loop
This is what the FX Send and FX Return look like on the back of an amplifier. Although, yours may be different. Like I said a moment ago, I don’t think every amplifier has an FX Return and Send.
Some of them may have different labels as well, ie, Effects Loop instead of FX Loop. It’s also possible it may just have two ports that say Send and Return.
2) Run A Cable From the Output of the Cable Into the Return of the Effects Loop
I had to watch Rhett Shull’s video on how to get an effects loop to work, because, to be honest, I rarely used it. In fact, I never used the effects loop. I always used to put the pedals in the front, until I learned just how useful they are.
3) Run A Cable From the Input of the Pedal to the Send on the Effects Loop
4) Press the FX Loop Button On Your Amplifier (If It Has It)
I don’t think that other amplifiers have an On/Off switch for the effects loop, however, I could be totally wrong about this.
In any case, if yours does have it, make sure to switch it on to make sure that you’ll be able to use your pedal. There’s a chance it may be on the back of the amplifier, or maybe on the front. Have a look.
5) Connect The Looper Pedal To Your Power Supply
Another thing that’s nice about doing it my way is that you get to separate your Looper pedal from the rest of the chain, which is perfect for me. As I’ve said many times, the Looper pedal is the device I use the most, by far.
I always need it directly in front of me. This is also why I like to have it connected with super long cables – I’m free to take it anywhere I want. I live in a small apartment, and I make do with what I’ve got.
Long cables which enable me to move my gear around wherever I please, regardless of how awkward the position, is essential to my workflow.
Why Putting The Looper Pedal In The Effects Loop Is the Best
I’ve already explained why you should put the looper pedal in your effects loop, despite many people’s arguments to the contrary. For example, everyone in this Reddit thread – except for just one guy – says they put it at the end of their signal chain.
Additionally, even the owners of BOSS themselves, Roland, say the Looper Pedal should be at the end of the signal chain. But this isn’t the best way to do it.
It’s best to put the looper pedal in the FX loop, because then you have the option to record loops dry, and then jam over them with effects. You can do the same thing the other way around.
In other words, you could record a loop with all of the effects you’ve got, and then turn them off and jam over it with a dry signal.
This is the way and the light, as far as I’m concerned, because who doesn’t want more control over their tone? So let’s take a look at what this means in the sub-heading down below.
Where Most People Put Looper Pedals In Their Signal Chain
As a general rule, the tuner pedal will be at the very, very end of the signal chain that way it gets the clearest signal for tuning accuracy.
So, usually, the looper pedal goes just before the tuner at the end of the signal chain. According to common internet knowledge, this is the way, but the effects loop offers more versatility.
Important Things to Note About Looper Pedals in Effects Loops
1) There Could Be Reasons Why People Don’t Use the FX Loop
At the end of the day, I’ve played guitar for a long time, but I’m not an expert in gear, nor am I an expert guitar player. Simply put, there could be a very good explanation for why people don’t put their looper in the signal chain, but I don’t know of it.
For me, it makes total sense to put the looper in the FX Loop, rather than at the end of the signal chain for reasons I’ve already explained above.