“The JamMan Solo is a really great pedal—its playback sounds fantastic, it couldn’t be easier to use and its build quality is top-notch. It allows me to create really interesting sonic textures and atmospheres,” sayeth Josh Lattanzi, Norah Jones sideman according to an article published on Harman's website. I seriously challenge that. The Solo XT may be great, but clearly a usability disaster. Ironically, that's one of the reasons I got it. Not only because it came out as a winner in several reviews of products of its category, but also because the seller reduced the price with 20% in panic, witnessing my hesitation as he was unable to show me even the basic functions after 10 minutes of a mad fight to mute the annoying preset drum patterns. Since then I manged to have some fun with it, and I still feel it was a good deal, but I cannot provide a full review on it yet, since I only have it for a week now. I'd only provide a list of issues to consider for those getting hooked on it, like me.
Firstly. Reviewers seem to be divided on this issue, but I can confirm, yes, it IS possible to get rid of the fucking drum presets, when you understand that they are not related to the rhythm section, but factory recorded as loop samples into the first few presets for some weird reason. Who wants that? Who wants to RECORD drum samples on a looper stompbox, only to feed it into a guitar amp? A mystery content, but at least it's not hardwired.
Secondly: If you previously owned any basic looper pedal, you'd expect that "deleting a loop" by press holding the pedal, means deleting a loop phrase entirely. Wrong, in the case of the Solo XT. Press hold only erases the last recorded layer, not the entire loop. It means, that if you intentionally or accidentally entered into "overdub" mode, erase will only erase the overdub, even if it's only 2 seconds of pickup noise. Provided that you previously stored the loop...
If you had more basic loop pedals (like the TC Electronics's Ditto) you'd expect that recording a loop means storing the loop. Again, false. When you go into record mode, and finish your phrase and hear it looped, even dub it, it's not actually STORED with the loop until you hit the separate, finger-only "store" function. Until then, it can be undone or cleared hands-free, but AFTER that, you need to knee down to your pedal again and finger the "erase loop" function.
To store or erase a loop, you need to use the very same, tiny, black, non-illuminated, non-clicking button. If you have glasses, you'll need them. This will require a single click for storage, and a hold-click, a single click, and another hold click for erasing the loop. It's obvoius, when your are Josh Lattanzi, but if you're not, only a few days of practice, and you don't need the manual anymore. You may still fail, but at least you'll know the process in theory.
When you're done with learning how to "erasa the loop", you'd better think about what does that mean. Erasing the loop phrase? Yes, and even more. It erases all settings of the actual loop, and reset them to factory settings. I seriously don't understand why this is necessary, even if the factory settings would not suck. I'd be perfectly happy if all the previously dialed in settings (tempo, type of metronome, ending mode) would be kept even after I decide to erase the entire phrase sample. This may be because I tend to improve the same loops frequently, using the same settings with regards to beat and metro sound, and have a hard time setting up the proper tempo, so loosing these for the sake of a new phrase makes me sad. Maybe it would be okay if the last tempo would be maintained, and the factory preset rhythm sound would not be the most annoying one, just a modest tick.
For some reason, since finding out the "copy loop" function, I keep copying and re-recording new loops, instead of modifying the existing ones. This way, it's easy to spend the generous 200 preset banks. And even 200 more, if you insert an SD card, which is a great and unique feature, no other loop pedals are capable of that. Unfortunately, you can only reach the card-stored banks only after scrolling up over 200 onboard banks, but not, when you scroll down to them. Meaning, when you reach the 200th of the onboard bank, the next click takes you to the 1st card-stored bank, which is great. But when you scroll "down" from the 1st onboard bank, it does not take you to card 200, but the 200th onboard bank! Strange. No big deal, since you cannot switch banks hands-free without a pedal extension anyways, but I don't think this is different with the extension pedal either. Maybe it only annoys me since I only use the card-stored banks, which makes it possible to transfer the loops from-and to a computer without having to connect the actual device. Since, this is a Solo XT unique feature, you unfortunately won't have this trouble with a Boss RC-3 or Ditto pedal. I'd like to mention here that the Solo XT actually provides more memory space, and better sound quality than the more expensive Boss RC-3. (Note that the less expensive Chinese Nux-Deluxe provides evedn better, 24 bit playback resolution, but I'm not sure you'd hear the difference to CD quality, while it may not be practical when you get to transfer standard audio files to your pedal, which usually have 16 bit resolution, so you need to convert them to 24 before the Nux could handle them)
The pedal has some features that maybe essential for some users, but I don't think I'll ever use. Like an option to synch to another pedal, reverse the loop, any other beat than 4/4.
Another reason I've chosen this pedal is that it stating being capable of quantization. If you tried using a basic looper together with a band, or a drummer, you know what I mean. Even if you start and play the loop perfectly in synch with the beat, it's actually quite hard to STOP the loop on time, especially when you have a single-switch unit, that requires a double switch, like this baby. Unfortunately, "quantization" does not quantize in the studio meaning of the word, but rather cuts down the useless silence from the end of the loop, recorded accidentally while you were dancing on the foot switch helplessly in an attempt to stop it. Unless, you end your loop intentionally with a silence beat, when it might as well fuck up your loop, it does the job pretty well, just don't expect that your actual beats will be quantize. All it does is counting the beats, and trimming down the end of your loop if it extends over the next beat. Still useful.
I finally decided to keep the pedal, and also ordered the optional footswitch to extend it's capabilities. Can't wait to tap tempo by foot, or switch loops with a single click. I'm not sure that the footswitch is cabable to stop playing a loop with a single click, but this the feature I miss the most from all compact size looper pedals. A separate switch to stop playback.
having studied the features of all the alternatives, I still belive that it is a great value, only usability is not it's grande force. But maybe it applies to all looper pedals.
With the added Footswitch-THIS IS THE BEST LOOPER AVAILABLE
I pair this with the FS3X with the SD card maxed out. Sounds a little cleaner than the Boss series and records more than the hours in a day! Both cost me under $170 new and the mix control is great for setting the right level. The Drum Machine is uninspiring, but I never use it anyway. Storing and managing files is easy and your can record from Aux or Instrument in. And it has the magic word - QUANTIZE. Forget those overrated $400-600 pedals, this is the real deal. Built like a tank.
Stereo Looping in a Compact Pedal with JamSync
- Store over 35 minutes of stereo, CD-Quality loops in 200 internal memories
- Optional micro SDHC card can store over 16 hours* of CD-quality audio in 200 additional memories
- Record rhythm loops and solo over them on the fly, completely Hands-Free
- Sync multiple JamMan Solo XT pedals together to create a multi-track looper or loop with other musicians
- Connect to your computer via USB and use the JamManager Loop Librarian software to organize and archive your loops
- Aux Input lets you import music from CD and MP3 players
- Load up the JamMan with an entire backup band, take it with you, and perform anywhere
- Slow down or speed up any loop without changing pitch
- Metronome with multiple rhythm sounds and time signatures
- Rugged metal chassis
- Power supply included