Looperator is the latest effects sequencer from Berlin's much-loved Sugar Bytes. Deeply full-featured yet easy to use right out the gate, it's the perfect tool to inject your projects with a shot of fresh creative juice.
Looperator's main editing area.
Along the top of the device are some basic global controls. Syncing to host tempo will be the default mode for most users, but you can toggle into a free running mode with the button at upper left.
Next, you can select the size of steps you'll be editing and adding effect to. At first, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 note options seem potentially restrictive, but the longer step sizes really give time for the wide range of effects to ebb and flow. If you're only working with a one-bar drum loop, sixteen 1/2 bar steps essentially arranges the effects over an eight-bar period, letting you expand the dynamics of shorter material with ease.
In the middle is the preset navigation menu and save button, with dozens of well-designed patches organized for a wide variety of sonic applications. To the right of this are the undo, redo, and initialize buttons. At the bottom of the device are the global dry/wet mix, mix blend selections with seven options for how to integrate the dry and effected signal, a bypass, and access to the general settings and track or step randomization settings.
Roll the Dice
Enhancing Looperator's fundamental usability is a wealth of randomization options. The global random dice button, located at upper right, provides six modes of randomized effects sequencing for the entire unit. The first option is Smart mode, which is “algorithmically designed” to create a balanced effects sequence; Space mode only utilizes reverb and delay; Single uses only one effect setting per track; Randolf fills the sequencer with random effects steps that continue to change through playback; Tieland uses the tie feature to add extended effects across multiple steps; finally, Track Random harnesses the randomization settings specified individually for each track. You can also select a “Monophonic” random to only layer one effect per step; if this is disabled, multiple effects can occur concurrently. Select the desired randomization mode from the drop-down menu, and tap the global random button to roll the dice for instant results.
There are six effects banks that can be sequenced with their own track, each with a number of effects available per step. Each track can be randomized independently of the others, with the track randomization settings specified in the settings page. At far right, each track has its own mix blend control. You can click on any step of each track to add one of the many effects available to that particular track. So what kind of effects do we have available?
Along the top of the sequencer interface, a handy waveform display updates in real-time based on the processing that's taken place before reaching the Slicer track. Each of the 16 steps shown in the waveform readout is denoted by a corresponding number; click a step in the Slicer track, and you can choose to repeat any one of the 16 steps in the existing sequence by selecting the appropriate number.
It's important to note the order of the effects tracks—which you can change by dragging them up and down by their respective titles at left—has a big impact on the resulting sound. If, for example, the Slicer is at the top, the slices you sequence won't have any other effects on them; if the Slicer is below FX1, then the results of FX1 will be included in the Slices as you sequence them—after which they'll be filtered, looped and processed through FX2 and the envelopes. This makes for a very flexible signal path.
The Loop effect allows you to loop your selected step with a range of preselected rhythms, reversals, and rapid repetitions for really cool drum editing and glitch effects. The Envelope makes a wide range of shapes available to modulate the volume, while the Filter comes with five slopes each for high-pass and low-pass, along with ten vowel filters.
FX1 comes with delays, tape stops, distortion, and tonal delays—five modes apiece—and FX2 similarly provides five versions each of reverb, vinyl, time freeze, and phaser.
Each effect track step can be set to a randomized mode that chooses a different effect option each go round. You can also tie steps to a previous step, allowing for longer repetitions or expanded effect durations where needed.
The real beauty of under the hood editing power comes into play when you begin creating your own User effect steps. In addition to the options detailed above, each effect track has four user-definable effects. Each effect type gives a different selection of five parameters for each User step, each of which can be controlled by one of twenty selectable and adjustable envelope shapes, a simple automation-ready parameter dial, a real-time envelope follower, or a randomizer.
Each of these User steps can be intricately designed from scratch or easily randomized with its own random dice button; they can also be easily reset or copied from one User step to another. The two FX tracks even give access to additional processors not included in the default steps: Grain, Tonalizer, Chaossynth, Ring Modulator and a second Reverb are all included here, expanding the capabilities of an already versatile unit.
User editing in action.
My first test with the Looperator was to put the most boring drum loop I could find through it. The result? In under a minute, I had something sounding not only completely different, but truly compelling. The wide range of effects all sound great—though some, such as the vinyl or tape stop, might come across as somewhat gimmicky depending on your production style. It's a joy to edit the sequences, and the extensive randomization features make it super easy to get exciting things happening in no time at all. It doesn't seem to be easily configurable for MIDI CC control, or typical automation outside of the user parameters—though it does receive MIDI note input for live control and intricate programming. If you're looking for a new effects weapon to spice up your loops, Looperator is worth serious consideration.
Price: €119 EUR / $119 USD
Pros: Easy to use, great effects from the go, elegant GUI, impressive additional features under the hood.
Cons: Likely more expensive than some might want to pay for an effects plug-in.