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Donner Circle Looper Review 2022: The Best Budget Looper??

How do you use a Donner Circle Looper? Are loopers worth it?

Spoiler: The Donner Circle looper isn’t just any old looper.

In fact, when it comes to guitar effects pedals, the Circle is the top of Donner’s range – it’s the bigger brother to more compact pedals like the One & Triple (both also touched on throughout this review). Plus, it’s also a worthy contender to practically all the loopers in its segment. It’s no wonder then why this nifty piece of kit is described by folks on the internet as “an essential” or “must have” for any looping fanatic.

All of which sounds very encouraging, but… is it actually true? Is this plucky little looper really the underdog? Or is it just another victim of internet marketing hype? Well, that’s what we look to uncover through this review. So can Donner really take on the likes of Boss & DigiTech? Read on to find out…

After something specific about the Donner Circle looper? Or just curious as to whether Donner loopers are worth it? Use the menu below to find all the answers you need in 1 click…

Guitar Pedals

Donner Circle Looper Specs

Right then – so before we put this Donner looper up against its rivals, you need to at least have an idea of all the Donner Circle looper’s specs. Otherwise you might be lead into thinking that this nifty little box is something that it’s not. Something you don’t want to happen, as it could well change whether the Donner Circle is the right looper for you.

So to help you come to your own conclusion & make a fair comparison, here’s everything you need to know about the Donner Circle looper in 2022…

Key details

  • Weight: 390g
  • Dimensions: 12.1cm x 5.6cm x 9.9cm (Width x Height x Depth)
  • Casing Material: Aluminium
  • Led Indication: Yes
  • Input: 2 x ¼” Mono Audio Jack
  • Output: 2 x ¼” Mono Audio Jack
  • Power: 9V DC adapter

Tech Specs

  • Input Impedance: 1 M Ohms
  • Output Impedance: 470 Ohms
  • Working Current: 300 mA

Additional features

  • The Donner Circle looper gives you access to recording at 44.1kHz (24bit). To put that into perspective, that’s the same sound quality/ bitrate that you get with the monstrous multi £100 Headrush Looperboard!! In terms of sound, the Donner is certainly up there with the best.
  • With this looper you get a decent 4 mins of recording time per track, over a healthy 40 tracks. Pretty impressive considering that guitar loopers this size generally only give you about 1 minute!
  • Recording with this Donner looper isn’t too restrictive either. We found the 160 minutes of recording time to be more than enough in most cases.
  • If you’re one for drum grooves then the Donner Circle doesn’t disappoint. There’s 100 drum grooves of them packed into this tiny machine!! All of which are taken from 10 unique musical styles. For those that produce over multiple genres, the variety really is there.
  • Keeping time with this loop station is no issue either. Donner’s Circle comes with 10 types of metronome. All of which are really good at helping you keep in time & on beat.
  • Unlike some cheap loopers, the Circle does support an external foot-switch. Something that we’d say makes it the ideal weapon for gigging!!
  • Donner have also made sure that this looper supports USB for both importing/ exporting audio. In most cases, rearranging loops is nothing more than drag & drop!
  • There’s a function to ensure that your loops are saved whenever the looper is turned off. Reassuring to know.
Donner Music

Unboxing the Donner Circle guitar effects pedal: What’s in the box?

donner circle loop guitar effects pedal unboxing

Buy a Donner Circle looper & it’ll come packaged in a very ‘Special Box’. A box that upon opening, you’ll see contains…

  • A comprehensive owner’s manual
  • A usb 2.0 cable
  • Some literature on the Donner Vine program
  • 2 Donner sticker decals
  • Oh, & not forgetting the circle looper itself

* Want a closer look at the Donner Circle looper manual? Check the FAQs at the bottom of this blog for high-res pictures of the entire thing!!

What’s the difference between the Donner Circle, Triple & One loopers?

So, with Donner being famous for making a whole variety of compact loopers, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the Circle & the smaller (+ even more compact), One & Triple loopers. Are they the same looper with just a few extra functions? Or 3 entirely separate loopers in their own right? Here’s the main way how these other 2 smaller loopers differ to the Circle…

Donner Circle VS Donner One

  • The Circle looper offers you a LOT more control over your sounds. Unlike the One, it has a built-in drum machine!
  • The Circle also boast 2 control knobs to alter levels, which also function as buttons. Something you don’t get with the One. Here you just get 1 knob, with no extra button functiinality.
  • Inputs/ outputs in general are far more advanced on the Circle. The One merely has an in/ out jack, & that’s practically it.
  • The Circle looper comes with 2 foot-switches, whereas the One (as you’d imagine) comes with just 1.
  • The Circle comes with input for a sustain pedal. A perk that you don’t find on the One.
  • While the Circle gives you access to a full HQ drum machine, the One doesn’t include any sorts of drum sounds or patterns. You could say it’s a glorified tape recorder.
  • The Circle comes with 40 memory slots, while the One (yet again) lives up to its name… it comes with 1.
  • The One looper doesn’t come with any sort of screen. Whereas the Circle looper does. In fact, the LCD screen is very useful, especially when it comes to managing all the various settings.
  • With the Circle you can import/ export your loops via USB. Something you cannot do with the One.
Guitar Pedals

Donner Circle VS Donner Triple

  • While the Circle comes with 160 minutes of recording time, the Triple comes with just 90.
  • Both loopers share the same screen, although on the Circle it’s responsible for a LOT more! Nevertheless, being LCD it’s nice & clear.
  • The Triple only comes with 1 foot-switch, while the Circle comes with 2.
  • The Circle offers the player far much more control over their sound. There’s 2 volume knobs, opposed to the 1 you get on the Triple. Plus, on the Circle, these also double as buttons. A perk you don’t find on the Triple.
  • The memory gap between the two is pretty hefty – the Triple has 3 memory slots, while the Circle has a whopping 40!!
  • Importing/ exporting your loops via USB is easy to do with the Circle. But it’s not even an option with the Triple!
  • The Circle has a built-in Drum machine of 100 different sounds! Something you won’t find with the Triple, which is purely a looper.
  • Both loopers boast unlimited overdubs!! #LicenceToGetCreative
  • To change the tracks with the Triple, you simply move a toggle switch. Whereas to do so with the Circle, you have to go through the screen.
  • Both loopers support high quality ]4401kHz (24-bit) audio!!

Donner Circle Looper: the good, the bad and the ugly

Now you’re clued up on the Circle & how it compares to other loopers in the Donner family, you’re probably curious as to where it’s strengths lie. Not to mention its weaknesses too. All things it’s only wise to be aware of before investing you money in a looper.

So to help you reach a decision, we’ve picked apart the Donner Circle looper bit by bit + outlined what we feel to be the major pro & cons – AKA the good, the bad & the ugly…

Pros of the Circle Looper (AKA the good)

  • The layout of the Circle looper is VERY beginner friendly. Controls for the Looper are all onthe left, while those for the drum machine are to the right. There’s few compact loopers with such a logical layout!!
  • There’s no shortage of drum grooves & effects. Safe to say, this pedal has plenty to even keep the most professional guitarists entertained. Speaking of which, the grooves sound nice too. We came across very few ‘unusable’ sounds.
  • For a looper packing this much functionality, the form factor is excellent. Neither is to too weighty either. All of which makes it ideal for use ‘on the go’.
  • The recording quality you get with the Circle is exceptional – at 24bit it’s on par with the Headrush Looperboard!! 16bit is what you’ll usually find in loopers at this price range.
  • Sounds minor, but trust us, if you have big feet (like us) – it’s important! The foot-switches on the Circle are a good distance apart, so there’s a slim change of you pressing the wrong one by mistake. A godsend for gigging!!
  • That price. You really will struggle to find a more fully-loaded looper for the £$€!! Ask us & the Circle could well outdo a fair few loopers which retail for double the price!
  • That LCD screen, while small, is super clear. In a dim lit environment or under harsh spotlights, you should have no trouble keeping track of your loops.
  • This looper is pretty much ‘plug-in & play’. There’s no complex software to install or firmware that needs updating every time it’s used. As far as usability goes, it score full marks.
  • It’s a great musical notepad. For getting down ideas or scatting out chord progressions, the Circle is ideal.
  • Unlike a lot of budget loopers, you can use this pedal in both mono & stereo.
  • Design-wise it really does stand out. Reminds us of a gadget out of Tron.Turn th
  • is pedal off, or accidentally kill the power, & all your loops will be saved automatically. Useful to know if you’ve spent hours on end building up loop for a performance.
  • Importing/ exporting loops on & off this pedal is a doddle. Simply plug it into your computer 7 play a game of drag & drop. Teamed with a DAW this pedal becomes a seriously powerful piece of kit!!
Donner Music

Cons of the Circle Looper (AKA the bad)

  • While it is great that the 2 volume-knobs also function as foot-switches, they’re plastic. Something that leads us top think that over time they could break/ crack. Not something you want happening mid performance!!
  • The Circle is NOT a multiphase looper – it’s single phase. Although with that being said, that is what it’s designed to be. So really, this is only a con if you’re after a more complex looping setup.
  • Yes, the 40 presets are great… but most other loopers in this category boast 99.
  • The feet on the bottom are a bit ‘hit & miss’. Being made of hard rubber, they don’t do the best at keeping the looper still, especially if you hit them from an angle. Mounting the Circle to a pedalboard is deffo the way to go!!

The ugly?

  • Okay, so this might be us being picky, but… where’s the battery option?? If this looper could take batteries too, it’d be almost perfect for making music ‘on the go’. Buskers – take note!

How does the Donner Circle Looper compare to other pedals?

Donner Circle Looper VS Nux Loop Core

Similarities

  • Both the Nux & the Donner boast a ‘fade out’ mode. Useful for when you want to smoothly transit in-between loops. A useful tool for when performing live!
  • A substantial metal build is something you get with both loopers. Although, we’d say the Donner feels the most sturdy of the two. #JustSaying
  • The sampling rate for both loopers is identical… 44.1kHz.
  • Importing/ exporting loops using either looper is simply a case of ‘drag & drop’. Both loopers are very beginner-friendly!
  • You have unlimited overdubs, whichever pedal you choose. Reassuring to know!
  • Both have a screen, however that you get on the Donner looper is FAR superior. Not only is it clearer to read (perks of LCD over LED), but it’s also a LOT more useful too. Navigation via this screen is a breeze!

Differences

  • Buy the Nux looper & you have to make do with only 1 foot-switch. Whereas with the Circle gives you two (4 if you count the two volume knobs that also function as buttons).
  • However, the Nux does trump the Circle in regards to memory slots. The Nux has 99, while the Circle has just 40.
  • Audio-wise, the Circle is a real step up! Unlike the Nux Loop Core which has 16bit audio, it boasts 24bit. Impressive!!
  • When weight is concerned, the Donner looper is significantly heavier – at 265g the Nux is over 100g lighter!!
  • The Nux also offers more in th way of recording time in comparison to the Circle. At 300 minutes, that figure’s close to double!!
  • The Donner boasts 100 rhythm patterns – more than double that of the Nux, which makes do with just 40!! Potentially a dealbreaker?
  • When it comes to price, the Nux pedal tends to be more expensive. Although that will depend on where you shop.
Guitar Pedals

Donner Circle Looper VS Boss RC-5

Similarities

  • Both these loopers boast LCD screens however that you find on the Boss looper is significantly larger. nevertheless, they both do pretty much the same thing.
  • Despite whether you use the Donner Circle or Boss RC-5 looper, you’ll have input for an expression or sustain pedal. Useful if you plan on using this looper in a live setting!!
  • The Boss RC-5, just like the Donner Circle, allows you to back up & load your loops in a WAV format via USB. With both pieces of kit, this is as simple as drag & drop.
  • Regardless of which pedal you choose, both allow you to record unlimited amounts of overdubs per track. So really with both thrse loopers, there’s no excuse for not being creative!
  • For both these loopers, the sampling rate is identical… 44.1kHz.

Differences

  • Audio quality is where you could say the RC-5 has the edge. While the Circle boasts solid 24bit audio, the Boss looper goes one better at 32bit audio.
  • Recording time on the Boss RC-5 is also substantially larger. The Donner’s 160 minutes looks pretty small when compared to the 13 hours that you get with the RC-5. Although with that being said – do you know a Loopermaster who’s used 13 hours of recording time? We don’t.
  • However, the Donner takes the lead when it comes to foot-switches & overall control. While the RC-5 has 1 single foot-switch, the Circle has 2 (4 counting the control knobs which also function as buttons).
  • The RC-5 also lags behind in regards to rhythms. It has just 57, while the Donner Circle has 100!!
  • The Circle is also 60g lighter too, & yet if you ask us, feels to be the better built of the two. Quite surprising, but considering the price, it doesn’t feel cheap.
  • On the topic of price, when it comes to figures the Boss RC-5 is in another league. In most cases it’ll set you back double the price of the Donner!!
  • Although the Boss RC-5 does have a whopping 99 phase memories, where the Donner has only 40. Saying that though, we can’t think of a time when we’d used more than 20, so while there are more on the RC-5, we don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Donner Circle Looper VS DigiTech Trio

Similarities

  • In regards to foot-switches, both pedals are made of metal & feel substantial enough to stand on. Neither of these pedals feel cheap by any means.
  • When it come to recording, both record at an identical 44.1 kHz & offer the same 24bit quality audio.
  • Choose either the Trio or the Donner looper & you’ll have unlimited overdubs!
  • Despite the Trio having a LOT more buttons & switches, both these loopers offer just 1 core loop track.
  • Connecting an external expression pedal is just as easy with the Donner looper as it is with the Digitech. Both these loop stations support external expression/ sustain pedals.
Donner Music

Differences

  • When it comes to £$€ there’s 1 clear favourite. The Donner Circle is pretty much half the price of the Trio, if not less in some cases!! 
  • Opt for the Trio & you get a whopping 12 different music genres to choose from. Something you don’t get with the Donner Circle.
  • On the subject of screens, the difference is pretty clear. The Donner has one, while the Trio just relies on clusters of LED lights. For this alone, the Circle is (in our opinion) more user friendly.
  • Foo-switches aside, the Trio has 6 volume-type adjustment knobs, whereas the Donner makes do with just 2.
  • At a touch over 660g, the Trio is heavy!! In fact, it’s not far off double the weight of the Donner Circle. Something any ‘on the go’ musician ought to bear in mind.
  • The Trio allows you to do more than just offload your loops via USB. You can even sync them to a micro SD card if you wish. A perk you don’t come across with the Donner.
  • Buy the Trio & aside from the foot-switches, you get a healthy 5 assignable buttons. An additional feature you don’t get full stop with the Donner Circle.

Is the Donner Circle looper worth it? The best looper for sale?

Tricky question.

Especially when to label something ‘the best’ is actually pretty daft. To claim such a thing is pretty much like saying something smells awful or like rotten fish – it’s an opinion, not fact. 

Hence why (spoiler alert), we will NOT be concluding the Donner Circle is the best looper you can buy in 2022. Nor ever in fact. However, that’s not to say the Circle isn’t a good fit. For many it will be, although that really all comes back to what you look for in a looper + how you use one.

In which case then, if you’re in search of a looper that’s highly technical & packing multiple loop tracks, umpteen different effects & more assignable controls than you have fingers, then no – chances are the Donner Circle is not going to be the looper for you. Something slightly more hefty like the Boss RC 600 or Headrush Looperboard is likely to be a better bet. #JustSaying However…

If for you the perfect looping recipe is something that’s beginner-friendly, highly giggable & well built, then the Donner Circle should without doubt make your shortlist. Yes, it may not be the most feature-packed looper out there, nor the largest, but when it comes to the amount of features you get in relation to the price (i.e. sheer value) we’d say you’d be hard pushed to find a better pedal. 

So much so that, if we were a looping rookie or intermediate player, this 24bit box of tricks would be our ‘go-to’.

Enjoy this Donner Circle looper review & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Music Kit Reviews, as well as the lowdown on all things Music Production. Recently we’ve also done a full in-depth guide to the Best Loop Stations + reviews of both the Boss RC 600 & the RC 505 Mk2, which may worth checking out!

Or if your heart’s set on the Donner Circle looper keep reading to discover even more about this impressive loop station…

Guitar Pedals

The lowdown on the Donner Circle Looper + looper pedals in general

Undoubtably our answer would be yes. Ask us & the Donner Circle is more than worth it for most loopers. So while it may not have the most features of any looping pedal, nor be the best suited to serious looping pros, as a piece of looping kit for beginners goes, it’s pretty much ideal. Here’s just a few things that we think makes the Circle looper stand out…

  • That LCD display – it may only be small, but it packs a LOT of functionality into such a small screen. It’s clear too, so on dimly lit stages, or under a spotlight, it’s not too much of a struggle to read. 
  • Form factor – In comparison to its rivals, the Donner Circle is reasonably travel friendly. It’s footprint is small at just 12.1cm x 5.6cm x 9.9cm (Width x Height x Depth), as is its weight. For a looper pedal with 2 foot-switches, a screen, 2 volume-type knobs 7 a whole host of inputs/ outputs, a curb weight of less than 400g is impressive!!
  • Sheer value – Compared to other loopers in it price bracket, the Donner Circle is rammed with additional features/ perks that you usually find on more expensive loopers. To get the equivalent looper from another manufacturer with similar capabilities would (at the time of this review) set you back close to twice as much! If not, more!!

When it comes to the easiest looper to use, we wouldn’t say the Donner Circle is far off. In fact, for most guitarists it’s a great starting point. Aside from being incredible value in terms of cash, the Circle is also up there with the best when it comes to usability. 

We’re particular fans of the separation between the right & left you get with this pedal. With everything loop-based occurring on the left hand side & the drum machine controls being offset to the right, it’s very easy to understand where you are & what you’re doing. Something we struggled with on rival Boss & DigiTech loopers. 

So while what is the is easiest looper to use really all comes back to how you use a looper, we’d say the Donner Circle is certainly a role model for many loopers to follow in this department. Hats off to you Donner!

Connecting the Donner Circle to your computer is a doddle. With it supporting USB connectivity, to offload/ upload any loops/ files, you simply connect it to your computer via USB. It’s then just a case of dragging & dropping the loop you want into the relevant places. 

It’ as easy as 1-2-3

To start using the Donner Circle Looper pedal all you have to do is connect it up to your mixer & guitar. Do so & it’ll turn itself on.

Unfortunately, Ed Sheehan does not use a Donner looper pedal as part of his setup. In fact, he began looping using a Boss loop station – the RC-30 – which was pretty much the foundation of the modern Boss loop machines you find today. 

However now, Ed uses a custom looper pedal made in association with Roland (the guys behind Boss). It goes by the name of the Chewie 2 & is by far the most advanced looper to date. Saying that though, it’s no Donner Circle when it comes to form factor. Where the Donner is small enough to fit in a pocket, the Chewie 2 is virtually the size of an entire pedalboard!!

No, you don’t always need an amp to power a loop station, however in most cases it would be advised. If you’re struggling on how to set up an amp with a looper, then jump into this walkthrough below…

YouTube video

The way you use a Donner loop pedal is pretty much how you’d use any other looper. It essentially serves as a middleman that sits in-between your amp & your guitar. 

If you’re in doubt of how to set this up, be sure to check out the FAQ above.

While the Donner Circle user manual doesn’t come in a glossy backed book or anything fancy, it does at least come on paper – we CANNOT stand digitally downloadable menus! “Save the trees” – yeah, right (rolls eyes).

So if you want to learn more about the technical aspects of this loop station before putting your money where your mouth is, here’s a couple of screenshots of the official owner’s manual…

donner circle manual
donner circle loop station users manual

Want to see first hand what the Donner Circle looper is like to use? Check out this demo, which should give you a better idea of how the Donner Circle looper works…

YouTube video

No –  not every player needs a looper. Although if you ask us, loop stations are always something that’s good to have. 

Reason being that in many ways they function as a musical notepad. By that we mean that if you have an idea for a legendary chord progression, but don’t have a fellow guitarist to play with, then a looper can enable you to record this idea for future reference. An idea that if nurtured, has the chance of turning into something great. 

But with that being said, the Donner Circle may actually be overkill. The Donner One looper may really be all you need.