ProGuitarShop

Power to the Pedals

July 4, 2012

By Daniel Brooks

Like many guitarists, your collection of effects has probably evolved along with your playing. You may have started out with some inexpensive distortion, picked up a funky old wah-wah pedal along the way, or perhaps a chorus or maybe even a delay. In time, you began to really create something truly magnificent, an otherworldly sound for the ages, and you and your pedal collection became a presence to be reckoned with. Now, the lingering problem, that some pedals burn through batteries much quicker than others has made you realize, hopefully sooner than later, that there must be a better way to power it all.

Image Credit http://www.dccomics.com/">DC Comics.

Not that there is anything wrong with running a pedal on batteries, effects that achieve their sound by way of relatively simple circuits, like overdrive, EQ, wah, and so on, can work just fine and even sound good for quite a while on a single 9 volt battery. But running a lot of effects on batteries can be inconvenient if not problematic. Most guitarists find them to be unreliable. When a battery starts to run out of juice it will degrade the performance of your pedal, degrade the quality of your sound and will finally shut down the pedal, and your sound, altogether. You just never know when this might happen, hopefully not in the middle of a set.

 

One common way of addressing this problem is to power your effects with an ac adapter. This works well for individual pedals that rely on more sophisticated processing, like delay, advanced chorus pedals, some reverb and specialty effects that draw a lot of current and are, therefore, unreliable to use on stage if powered with a 9 volt battery. If you are powering only one high-current effect with an ac adapter, it should work just fine. Some guitarists will power multiple pedals with a daisy chain, an adapter cord with parallel connectors that allow more than one and sometimes as many as eight pedals to draw power from a single adapter.

There are a few daisy chain cords on the market. In some situations it can be a simple, inexpensive answer to the problem of sudden battery loss. It would be wise to recognize and avoid the limitations of a single daisy-chained ac adapter, as there can be some significant drawbacks. Each of your high-current effects will still require the same substantial flow of electrons to operate properly. Too many pedals drawing from a single power source will affect the performance of each of those pedals, leaving you with the same degraded, poorly defined, muddy tone you get from weak batteries.Fuel Tank

The Fuel Tank is just one of the great power supplies we carry here at Proguitarshop.com.

How many pedals are too many? Well, that depends on the current consumed by all of the pedals in your pedal train in relation to the current available through your ac adapter. There is no standard current requirement for all effects. Every type and brand of effect can use far more or less than others. Information about each effect’s power use can usually be found on the bottom of the pedal, in the manual or online. As a general rule of thumb, overdrive, distortion, fuzz, and analog wah pedals typically draw less than 10 milliamps (mA), analog modulation effects like chorus, flangers and phasers usually consume between 10 and 50mA, and digital effects like delays, reverb or any digitally processed magic box will draw between at least 50 to more than 150mA. The accumulated current draw can add up quickly, and if you have an ac adapter delivering 500mA to a sequence of eight pedals that requires more than 500mA, your sound will suffer. 

The best way to get reliable performance from your all of your effects, without any signal degradation, is through the use of a power supply. Essentially an elaborate ac adapter with multiple outlets, each one completely isolated, regulated and filtered. Isolated outlets provide a separate ground for each effect, preventing ground loops and other residual interactions that can create hum or signal noise. A regulated power supply keeps the current at a specific value regardless of the load placed upon it, while the filter keeps any power spikes or surges from disrupting your signal or damaging your effects. You take great pride and joy in your pedals, a good power supply allows for peak performance from each one and lets you and your music come shining through. 

Comments

  1. luther says:

    Voodoo labs pedal power is a great solution for multiple pedals. I have the pedal power 2 plus and the iso 5 on my pedaltrain 3 board. Reliable, quiet power with no ground loops. I love the corner!

    posted on July 6, 2012 at 4:41 am
  2. Andrew H says:

    If you’re running pedals armed with tubes (Butler Tube Driver or an older Real Tube) and their own 3 prong cords, you may want to look into some sort of power conditioning and/or a battery backup to keep your pedals happy. 

    I run my pedals off of a Liebert Active UPS dedicated to my rig - yes, this may be overkill.

    Clean power in = clean power out in most cases.

    —- A

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 3:15 am
  3. Morgan says:

    “The best way to get reliable performance from your all of your effects, without any signal degradation, is through the use of a power supply. Essentially an elaborate ac adapter with multiple outlets, each one completely isolated, regulated and filtered.” I think it’s important to point out that many commercially available power supplies with multiple outputs have outputs that ARE NOT ISOLATED FROM EACH OTHER and are basically daisy chained together internally. An example of this is the Dunlop DC Power Brick. As far as I know, all the power suppliers that offer isolated outputs will mention this in the literature; the ones that aren’t isolated make no mention of it.

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 5:53 am
  4. Lou says:

    I run 2 Power Pedal 2’s on my board and I’m looking to get a Furman power conditioner to keep the power nice and clean. Also look at your pedal to see if it’s 9v or 18v, if it runs on both go ahead and run it 18v, it will have a better tone to it.  This is especially true with Pigtronix pedals.

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 6:15 am
  5. Kyle says:

    I ran an artec power brick into my set up and it did well until it died sending a horrible squeal (not the good kind) through my rig. So I’ve swapped to a diago powers ration and it has plenty of juice for the board (3A) and is noise filtered in the converter box which is about the size of a home-made tap tempo… Happy days :)

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 6:28 am
  6. Ryan says:

    I’ve got the MXR CAE power supply on my pedaltrain—the thing is a beast, offers amazingly clean power… I can even choose a specific voltage to use from down near 4 volts up past 18.

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 8:01 am
  7. Rodolfo Alfaro says:

    T-Rex Fuel Tank is the best,  So far,

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 9:23 am
  8. kevin says:

    how about using a tuner which feeds all the other pedals? does suck tone? I use the korg pitchblack to power supply 4 pedals with a daisy chain simple cable

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 11:07 am
  9. Lou says:

    I think that is fine, where your going to get into trouble with tone sucking is 4 or more depending on the pedals. I used to use the Korg to do the same thing, then I got the Power Pedal 2’s for my board.

    posted on July 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm
  10. tdclns says:

    I use 2 One-Spot’s to power my board; & although I would love to get A PEDAL POWER 2 PLUS, I don’t feel the sound quality I’m getting thru them is that bad to warrant spending $200 on a Power 2 plus.

    posted on July 8, 2012 at 1:48 am
  11. Ben Timages says:

    Thanks, Morgan! I use both the VL Pedal Power 2+ and ISO5, which ARE isolated ... but also have the Carl Martin Combinator 2 switch, which supplies 8 x 9V DC outlets, that AIN’T isolated. I’ll make a point of ensuring I don’t rely on the Combinator for power.

    posted on July 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm
  12. Lucy Diamond says:

    My favorite go to “powerall” unit will always be the Dunlop DC Brick.

    It powers enough 9volt pedals to get you through most situations and it has 3 18volt outs for…yes it is true…18volt pedals.

    Never dies, never sags, never quits.  Built like a brick $h!thouse.

    The MXR/ CAE power supply is THE most amazing power supply I own but is a huge commitment to pedalboard real estate.

    posted on July 10, 2012 at 2:42 am
  13. SquidTurbo says:

    I’ve had good results with the VoodooLab Iso5. I can run a Fulltone pedal at 18 volts (it actually does sound more dynamic) and then the other pedals at either 12 or 9. The outputs are isolated.

    posted on July 10, 2012 at 3:29 am
  14. Luxovibe says:

    The T-Rex and VL multi-output supplies and great for integrating into PedalTrain-type boards, where they can be mounted out of sight underneath and cable can be routed neatly.

    posted on July 10, 2012 at 4:25 am
  15. jk says:

    Voodoo Labs Power Plus 2 on my board with all the pedals direct into the amp.
    Eventide Powerfactor on the board with all effects running through the Effects loop.  It will power up to 3 Eventide (or other power hungry pedals) and 4 others.  I don’t know of any other supply that will cover all those bases.

    http://www.eventide.com/AudioDivision/Products/Accessories/PowerFactor.aspx

    posted on July 10, 2012 at 5:44 am
  16. marcus says:

    I use a Gator Pedal Tote and the built-in Gator power supply. Is the first ever that gets my 80’s Boss CE-2 and my Ananlogman Bicomp (the Juicer side) to run completely hum-free. Plus it’s a neat compact and rugged board.

    posted on July 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm
  17. tim jones says:

    BBE Supa Charger is pretty good, like most of them it has brackets for the pedal train system, very good price also

    posted on July 13, 2012 at 5:40 am
  18. Jason says:

    I love my Cioks PP-10. It powers my whole board which includes my two Eventide ‘Factors, EHX HOG and Q-balls, TC Electronic Nova Comp and Hall of Fame, 3 other dirt boxes, and a Korg PitchBlack. And it still has room for more. On top of all that, it is dead silent. Perfectly silent. I hope to see PGS carry the brand one of these days. Down side is they’re a tad pricey.

    Fuel Tank Chameleon is very powerful too. I just don’t think it’s as quiet as the Cioks, especially with ass-backwards pedals like the Eventides, TC Nova pedals, and EHX HOG. Good Luck!

    posted on July 14, 2012 at 7:09 am
  19. kevin says:

    going back to the korg pitchblack, the owner manual suggest a 600mA power supply in order to feed other pedals correctly, but I know for certain that its current draw is about 35 mA, so is a Boss 200mA power supply enough to feed 6 pedals correctly without tone loss as long as the sum of the pedals in use don’t excede 200mA?

    posted on July 17, 2012 at 3:25 am
  20. Zach says:

    Be careful when getting power bricks as many are not isolated.  The T-rex fuel tank and DC power brick are not isolated, which can not only cause bad ground loops, but if you are running a germanium fuzz, your pedal will not work.  Germanium fuzzes must be run on isolated power if you plan on running any other non-germanium pedals in the same power chain.

    posted on July 17, 2012 at 7:36 am
  21. Jason says:

    @Kevin

    To answer your question, Yes. As long as the consumption does not exceed the 200mA, you should be fine.The Korg PB does, in fact, draw only 35mA. Once you place a pedal on its feed, it kicks up its demands to about the consumption of the two pedals together. Mine is currently being ran from a 100mA rail feeding the Korg PB, which then feeds three distortions units which require about another 40mA.

    Hope that helps.

    posted on July 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm
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