After two false starts, I finally succeeded in acquiring a working used Digitech JamMan Solo XT looper from Guitar Center. I’ve had it up and running for a few days, and I’m getting used to the differences between the Solo XT and my previously preferred looper, the JamMan Stereo.
Sounds good at first hearing
The first thing that struck me about the Solo XT is that it sounds noticeably bigger and deeper than the JamMan Stereo. A few years of technological advances have had the desired effect on the A/D converters Digitech’s using, I reckon. Whatever the cause, it’s an audible improvement. I always thought the JamMan Stereo sounded just fine, but this thing sounds just finer.
JamSync works, period
I set up the JamSync between the Solo and Express XTs with a single short 1/8″ cable, and what do you know: it works. I can set up a loop on the Solo XT, then sync the Express XT to it, no muss, no fuss. It does help to read the manuals to find out, for example, that the Express XT will sync up to the Solo XT at the very point when a loop repeats, as opposed to the moment you kick the Express XT’s footswitch. In any case, like I said: It works. In effect, with these two devices, I have up to four independent loop tracks; both the Solo and Express XT’s allow you to remove your latest loop overdub, so each gives you two tracks to play with. Not bad for a setup that cost about $150 all in.
Get the Micro SDHC card if you want to work with pre-recorded tracks
The Solo XT is not lavish on internal recording time, with only 500MB allocated for internal loop storage. In practice, that gets you something like 40-50 minutes of loops, which is plenty and then some if you don’t save your loops, not a lot if you do. I use my looper as a compositional tool, meaning that I always have it in my chain with a free loop or two ready to record on, and I save a lot of the stuff I record. I also have a dozen or so pre-recorded backing tracks, ranging from drums only to full arrangements minus voice and harmonica, that I use for pieces where I don’t want to build the track piece by piece with the audience watching. Anyone who wants to do a LOT of looping is well advised to spring for a micro SDHC card; the Solo XT will handle anything up to 32GB, which is enough for hours and hours of looping. (I bought a 32GB micro SDHC card from Newegg.com for $16 shipped.)
In keeping with recent Digitech tradition, the software needs improvement
The Solo XT’s software support is via Digitech’s free JamManager XT application, which apparently follows Digitech’s recent practice, as evidenced by their frustrating Nexus application for the RP360, of providing less-capable software with every iteration. I have a substantial number of loops on my computer that were created in the JamMan Stereo, which loops are managed by Digitech’s JamManager application (the predecessor to JamManager XT). Guess what? The JamManager XT application can’t see those loops; but JamManager can see the Solo XT, can load loops created via the JamMan Stereo into the Solo XT, and can even create new collections of loops for loading into the Solo XT. Damn good thing I didn’t uninstall JamManager when I installed JamManager XT, huh? (Damn good thing too that I didn’t take Digitech tech support’s advice to export all the loops from JamManager to my desktop, then import them into the Solo XT via JamManager XT.) Hey Digi-guys! Every generation of an application is supposed to be MORE functional and EASIER to use than its predecessor. All clear now?
The ergonomics are okay
There’s no question that the one-button approach for looper control that’s present in the Solo XT is less precise and convenient than the four footswitches mounted on the JamMan Stereo’s top surface. Having to punch a heavily spring-loaded footswitch twice rapidly in order to stop a loop is a drag. That said, I’m not finding it as hard to operate the Solo XT as I thought I might, and I think I will soon be using it in performance (especially now that I’ve loaded all my keeper loops into it).
Summary: we’ll keep it
Overall, the Solo XT is a nice little looper, very functional in some ways and just functional enough in others, VERY good-sounding. Its track expandability via jamSync at about $100 per track is pretty exciting, especially if it eventually involves other musicians. I expect to get a lot out of the Solo XT. Stay tuned for more adventures in looper-land.