I never thought much of electronic looping—that is, until I heard the brilliant guitarist Joe Gore play a solo gig at a bar in San Francisco. With just an electric guitar, a laptop, and a foot controller, Gore used looping technology to evoke the sound of a full band, percussion and bass included, putting his off-center spin on songs by Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift, and others.
As luck would have it, not long after that gig, I received for review a new looping system and digital percussion device ideally suited for the acoustic guitar—Ortega’s QUANTUMloop and its optional expression trigger pedal. I won’t necessarily be matching wits with Gore when it comes to looping anytime soon, but I had endless fun exploring the QUANTUMloop, which has tons of sonic and textural potential for gigging solo guitarists and singer-songwriters.
What It Does
The QUANTUMloop builds on Ortega’s line of stompboxes—products like the Horse Kick, which allows guitarists to add hands-free percussive sounds to their music. Like Ortega’s other stompboxes, the QUANTUMloop comes in an attractive solid wooden enclosure, in this case mahogany, an attractive visual complement to any acoustic guitar. While the Horse Kick has one sound—a sampled cajon—the QUANTUMloop has two banks with a total of 16 different sounds (see specs sidebar for a full list), plus each bank has space for two user-defined sounds. The QUANTUMloop is also a looping station, with a loop length of up to five minutes.
I auditioned the QUANTUMloop with a Breedlove acoustic-electric guitar, a Fender Acoustasonic amplifier, and Ortega’s Economy Series instrument cables. Before exploring the looping aspect, I checked out the percussion sounds in each bank. It’s easy to scroll through them by tapping on a footswitch and to hear them by stomping on the left side of the box. The samples all sound warm and realistic, and I especially like the sound of the fat kick drum in tandem with some basic open-chord strumming. I appreciate that the stomping aspect is touch-sensitive—though, if you prefer an even volume level, the dynamic effect can be disengaged with a mini toggle switch on the left side of the unit.
Plugging in the optional QUANTUMexp expression trigger pedal, I was able to maximize the percussion effects by using sounds from both Bank A and Bank B at the same time. It took a bit of practice to get everything coordinated between my feet and hands, but it was very satisfying to do a kick drum sound with one foot and a snare with the other, while strumming basic rock patterns on the guitar. My only complaint is that the trigger pedal operates on a 9-volt battery and not an AC adapter.
Next, I connected the QUANTUMloop to my Mac with a USB cable. It was a breeze to download the unit’s software (available for PC or Mac) and to import samples I had created in GarageBand using a glass bottle and a toy piano and then use them as stomp effects. The QUANTUMloop supports sound files of up to 260 KB (five seconds), in MP3 or WAV format, which you can upload to two available slots in each bank. Some sonic tinkerers might find it limiting to only be able to store four sounds, but, between these and the preset sounds, there are certainly sufficient options for the average guitarist.
In the Loop
Then I experimented with the QUANTUMloop’s looping feature. It felt intuitive to use the footswitch to record and layer guitar sounds, and I enjoyed mixing different textures and registers and hearing everything played back with fidelity. Without much previous looping experience, I could easily create on-the-fly backdrops for soloing, or build a melody and a chord structure on top of a bass line.
Things got really interesting when I brought in the percussion elements, whether for creating the illusion of a small ensemble or creating strange loops merging sounds like ’80s Electro with looped acoustic guitar parts. The QUANTUMloop feels rife with possibilities—sonic combinations I hadn’t previously considered. It’s so easy to use, yet its range of potential applications, from doing basic one-person performances to spinning complex webs of sound, is thrilling, to say the least.
KEY FEATURES Sampled percussion sounds in two banks: Dry Kick Drum, Fat Kick Drum, Sweet Kick Drum, ’80s Electro, Deep Cajon, Slap Cajon, Doumbek Slap, Cowbell, Ballad Snare, Soul Snare, The Rim, Foot Hi Hat, The Clap, Finger Snip, Short Shake, Tambourine; space for two user-generated samples in each bank; volume control; dynamic control; looper level; 1/4″ input and output; 1/4″ input for optional expression trigger pedal; USB port; DC 9V power (adapter included)
OPTIONAL Expression trigger pedal: $69.99 (MAP); Economy Series instrument cables: $12.95–$25.95 (MAP)
PRICE $299.99 (MAP)
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This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.