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Electro-Harmonic 22500 Dual Stereo Looper

 Simplicity meets depth for the performing player

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

 

Whether it’s laying down parts to write companion pieces or leads to while practicing at home or adding additional instrumentation in a live performance, looping has become a ubiquitous part of the guitar playing experience that has only grown in utility (and complexity) as technology has improved and become cheaper. From early rack iterations to the original, skateboard-sized Boomerang Phrase Looper, looping has transitioned from a resource-sucking effect (financially and physically) to being as simple as a single knob pedal.

 

Electro-Harmonix currently has four production loopers available, with the Nano Looper 360 being the smallest and simplest with two simple controls and the 45000 4-Track Looper being the biggest and baddest with four independent loop tracks to control simultaneously. Their newest addition, the EHX 22500 Dual Stereo Looper, strips away some of the more “producer”-like functions of the 45000 and focuses on marrying a comprehensive feature set with simplicity for the performing player.

 

The Electro-Harmonix 22500 Dual Stereo Looper is so feature-heavy it can be intimidating at first (I guarantee you it is intimidating to try to review and provide a complete picture of what it can do without writing a small novel). In a nutshell, the 22500 has two loop channels, each stereo with infinite overdubs, that can be played in parallel (at the same time) or sequentially (two different parts to toggle between a la Verse and Chorus) as well as interesting effects such as reverse, octave up/down, and decay, a built-in drum machine, microphone input, and more. The included 8GB SDHC card handles storage (upgradable to 32GB if 12 hours of looping isn’t sufficient) and power comes from the included AC adaptor.

 

The Ins and Outs of the 22500

 

The Electro-Harmonix 22500 features stereo 1/4” inputs (line or instrument level) as well as a microphone input with a trim control offering up to 27 dB gain and a Phantom Power toggle switch. An Input Gain knob sets the overall gain for both channels to fine-tune the input signal and avoid clipping or low-volume input. There are clipping LEDs for both channels, and I found them to be very well tuned, typically warning of clipping slightly before my ears would catch it.

 

The outputs include true stereo Left and Right 1/4” outs (Left is the default for mono) and a 1/4” jack for the optional 22500 foot controller (more on that later).

 

Building a Simple Loop (or Two)

 

On my first session with the 22500, I selected a clear bank, stepped on the footswitch for Loop A (which turned on the red LED “Recording” light), and recorded a four bar rhythm part. At the end of the fourth bar I hit the Loop A footswitch again and the loop instantly began playing back, indicated by the green “Play” LED activating. At this point, the loop was playing and I could play over it without impacting the original loop. Hitting the Loop A footswitch again while the loop was playing enabled an overdub, meaning everything I played was applied to the loop once the next cycle began; hitting it again stopped overdub mode and returned to play mode. To undo an overdub, I pressed and held the Loop A footswitch for a couple of seconds and the overdub dropped off. Redoing the overdub was as simple as holding down the Loop A switch again for two seconds and having it reappear. To summarize all that, the 22500 allows you to record, playback, overdub, undo, and redo using a single footswtich. The Stop/Tap footswitch stops the loop (regardless of where it is).

 

Introducing a second Loop channel into the mix starts with selecting between Parallel and Sequential mode. Parallel mode is fairly self-explanatory, and allows both loops (with as many overdubs as desired on each) to play simultaneously for applications like dropping in or out major instrumentations, adjusting octaves, or engaging reverse mode to one channel without impacting the other.

 

Sequential mode, on the other hand, effectively builds two entirely independent loops to toggle between, like two different parts of a song. When the pedal is set to sequential mode, recording Loop A follows the same process described above. However, the moment Loop B begins recording Loop A is disabled. Once Loop B has been recorded, simply stepping on Loop A and Loop B footswitches will change parts. Both loops can be overdubbed (with undo and redo) at any time while they are playing.

 

There are four fundamental methods of recording a loop:

  • Free Form creates the loop around the start and stop points manually identified by your stomps, and makes no amendments or fixes to it
  • Quantize automatically makes the micro adjustments necessary for the loop to complete a bar based on what its algorithm identifies as the tempo and bar length based on what you've played. This makes up for millisecond gaps between loops when the loop is closed too early or too late,
  • Trigger Mode starts the loop the moment the pedal detects a signal from the instrument or mic- ideal for those looking to take the thought out of starting a loop
  • Loop Lock creates loops based on completed bars using the Rhythm tracks. As such, it will always end the loop at the nearest bar from where you stopped.

 

There are 16 included rhythm tracks in the 22500 (although users can create their own as well and import them into the pedal) that can accompany or guide a loop. Rhythm controls include Type, Tempo (speed), and Level (volume as compared to the loop). These Rhythms are not recorded to the loops, but synched independently for instant recall. I found them functional without being too distracting; helpful but not a replacement for a true rhythm section. Rhythm tempo can be dialed in via the interface or the Tap Tempo switch.

 

Now Make it Weird

 

Each Loop channel offers the ability to Reverse or pitch shift the part an octave up or down. Reverse allows playing any recorded loop in reverse, and even recording overdubs over the reversed loop. Where things get really fun is when you record a loop, reverse it, record a melody overdub over it, and then turn reverse off… your original loop will play as normal as the overdub will be reversed! There are occasionally issues when messing around with Reverse too much when synced to the Rhythm track, which EHX acknowledges; they recommend killing the Rhythm track during the reversal, and then turning it back on when completed.

 

Octave mode is a way to adjust the loop's pitch up or down an octave from the original, and doubles or halves the pitch. While the extension or truncation of measures means this needs to be carefully considered (no jumping up an octave in the middle of a verse just for giggles unless you’re ready to play double time), it opens doors to some unique ways to consider structuring a song during the writing process and is certainly an effective way to change pace during instrumentals. The pitch shifting is very natural and without artifacts.

 

The Overdub mode applies a slow degradation to a loop each time it starts over, resulting in nice transitional fadeaways and an almost analog-like delay tone. While best used when running two loop channels in parallel to slowly melt parts into each other, I found it to be fun even with a single loop and multiple overdubs.

 

 

Not Just for Guitar

 

While it’s likely obvious, the inclusion of a 1/4" input and mic input means you can loop nearly any instrument through the 22500. The mic input can capture vocals or any acoustic instruments (harmonicas, saxophones, hand percussion, etc.). The mic input feeds the Left input, and is an either/or proposition (although you would simply run your instrument through the Right input in a live situation). I found the mic preamp and sound quality to be quite good when running into my UltraSound acoustic amplifier, and vocals retained admirable definition and separation from the various layers of instrumentation I added to the other channel.

 

Speaking of layering instrumentation, it's easy to load entire backing tracks into the looper, which opensthe possibility of having keyboards, backing vocals, and the like canned for a live performance. While it isn’t to my personal preference, I’ve seen many players who use amp  modeling go direct to the board and use backing tracks they play via laptop in live performances; the 22500 could literally queue up four sets worth of tracks among its 100 banks.

 

The optional 22500 foot controller allows for hands-free navigation of the 100 banks, especially useful when bringing pre-recorded pieces to the forefront or wanting to reintroduce a part played earlier in a live performance. This feature is certainly built around live applications, but I could also see people importing their lesson tracks into the 22500 and using it as a practice tool to supplement their lessons.

 

Limitations

 

  • Reverse function sometimes messes with the canned Rhythm tracks
  • Would have been nice to have an Octave Up or Down without needing to double/half speed

 

Conclusions

 

It would probably be easier to say what the Electro-Harmonix 22500 doesn’t do (pitch shifting without tempo change, separate FX loop for the loops, write the rest of the song for you) than what it does, but despite the deep functionality, it's impressively easy to get started (again, starting and stopping a loop, overdubbing, undo, and redo all happen from a single switch) and the few “techie” portions of it will come along naturally thereafter. Whether looking to loop and learn or incorporate loops and backgrounds into a live performance, Electro-Harmonix is likely giving you more than you’ll need from the pedal, but the UI is so well thought out that those pieces never get in the way.

 

Resources

 

Electro-Harmonix 22500 Dual Stereo Looper Product Page

 

Buy Electro-Harmonix 22500 Dual Stereo Looper (MSRP $368.50, Street $276.40) at Sweetwater , B&H , Amazon

 

      

 

___________________________________________________

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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