Guitar Player

Powering Your Pedalboard: A Quick Guide

July 21, 2016 10 Comments

Guitar Player

So, you’ve finally assembled the pedalboard of your dreams. Your tone and settings are dialed in, and you’re ready to take it onstage. However, before you do, you need to find the best way to power everything up. Fortunately, in this day and age, there are suitable pedal powering options for nearly every budget and pedalboard configuration. This article will explore the main choices and help you find which solution is best for your setup.

If you only have a few pedals and aren’t gigging too heavily, a simple daisy chain style setup will suffice. With this setup, all you need to do is plug in a single 9V adaptor to the wall and use a daisy chain cable to connect all your pedals together. When purchasing an adaptor, make sure it is 9V and center negative. You can tell if an adaptor is center negative by checking this for symbol on the packaging or the adaptor itself:

Center Negative Symbol

It is highly advised to buy an adaptor made specifically for pedals, since many adaptors available in electronics stores are not as well filtered and may not be suitable for your needs. These standard adaptors may work even for small consumer audio products, but they are not expecting the gain and power of your guitar which will boost their higher noise. Usually they are made for a small 1-5W amp media player with low gain, which hides their noise.

The daisy chain method only works if all your pedals are 9V. While the majority of effects pedals on the market run at 9V, there are some that require 12V or even 18V to function properly. Besides the added voltage requirement of the 12 and 18 volt pedals the wiring can be backward with the center positive, so be sure you have the right connection. If you have a large number of pedals, it is probably best to invest in an isolated power supply or pedal power brick. These power supplies are built robustly, often with aluminum or metal housings, and designed for frequent gigging and touring. In addition to offering numerous individual outputs for your pedals, many also can accommodate different voltage requirements, providing an all-in-one solution for your setup. When choosing amongst these types of power supplies, keep in mind the voltage requirements of your pedals and also your plans for future expansion. If you’re an effects guru looking to build a foundation to expand upon, you may want to choose a power supply with more outputs.

A quality isolated power supply offers numerous benefits over a standard daisy chain, but has its share of drawbacks as well. Isolated power supplies greatly reduce clutter, as you can neatly route each pedal to the supply without involving bulky wall warts or adaptors. They also help reduce hiss and hum that may result from daisy chaining numerous pedals. Distortion and overdrive units are especially prone to noise and may not play nicely with other daisy chained pedals, and having an isolated power supply solves this issue. The main drawbacks of an isolated power supply are the high price tag and size. If pedal real estate is at a premium on your board, a power supply might take up too much space. But if you’re gigging often and serious about your tone, chances are it’s worth the investment.

An added note here about transformer adaptor placement. This is becoming less of an issue with the newer and smaller switching power supply adaptors, but it is still a good idea to keep your guitar cords and pedal to pedal audio patch cords away from the adaptor. The older transformer based adaptors would give off a 60Hz hum and a 120Hz buzz that would get into your audio. The newer switching adaptors can give off a little 60Hz hum, and they can give off some high frequency 20,000 – 100,000 Hz noise that will play havoc on any digital effects. This high frequency interference can also add extra hiss noise to your rig. The good thing is the farther your audio cables are away from these adaptors the lower the interference, so be smart about where you place your power adaptors. A good test is to move them around and move your cables around them to see which cables and adaptors are more sensitive.

A recent addition to the market is a portable, rechargeable lithium-ion based power supply. These power your pedals the same way an adaptor and daisy chain would, but do not need to be plugged in. Instead, you simply charge it up at home and they are good to go for the gig. This solution is great for big stages where outlets are far away, or if you play outdoors often.

How are you powering your pedals? Let us know in the comments!



10 Responses

Robin Battig
Robin Battig

August 03, 2016

Although many venues offer installed house-sound systems, a musician is never truly free until he or she can gig anywhere and anytime with a personal P.A.

Drew Keirsey
Drew Keirsey

July 22, 2016

I’m loving my Mooer Macro power supply. It combines the best of both worlds. It has 4 isolated outputs and 4 outputs in a chain.
Plus, the output indicator lights light up blue. It’s great for dark stages. ?

Drew
St. Louis, MO

Tommy Rose
Tommy Rose

July 22, 2016

I use the OneSpot for both of my boards and very satisfied with their performance.

Kevin
Kevin

July 22, 2016

My board contains a Source Audio EQ, Ibanez dist., Zoom MS multi, Wampler compressor, & Korg Tuner…all powered by a Voodoo Labs PedalPower2. An added advantage: This master power supply also has an AC convenience outlet which I use to power a laptop power supply. Bulletproof!

Brian Diamond
Brian Diamond

July 22, 2016

@Michael Smith—-send me the details Mike
Info @ Gladhammer.com

Thanks

John B Jr.
John B Jr.

July 21, 2016

Another satisfied customer of Voodoo Lab. The Iso5 sits under the board and drives a VT Bass Deluxe pre, an old school The Rat OD, a Hall of Fame reverb and a Korg tuner neatly packed onto a 12″ × 18″ West Coast Pedalboard.

Unfortunately, the brick does not cut it for my Line 6 wireless so I had to install a Furman “surgeblock” strip which leaves plenty of room to grow. I have some multi-color LED strips yet to be installed. The 15 foot cord on the Furman lets the extension cord stay in the gig bag for most shows. I have not run without the brick but the surgeblock might be all I really needed.
Al
Al

July 21, 2016

Let me clarify my previous comment, in case I was misunderstood. Many pedals, and multi effects units work on AC! I’ve scored some sweet preamps, and other gear at pawnshops because a 9VDC adaptor will light the effect, but the unit won’t otherwise work! Many times DC adapters are left instead of the more expensive(and harder to find) AC units. So, again, are we supposed to toss our 9VAC gear?

Michael Robinson
Michael Robinson

July 21, 2016

I have a Holyboard with 9 pedals, threeTech 21’s, three Boss and three Digitechs. I use a “OneSpot” with Daisey chain on 8 of them and a Boss on one “Fender 65” single pedal. It typically works well but there have been times that I heard more hum than I would like. I am adding one more pedal so I think I will split them up with 5 pedals on one adapter and 4 on another. All pedals are negative tip.

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

July 21, 2016

I made a pedal board and am using a 120v primary to an adjustable 6 to 12v secondary transformer that is rated for clean industrial power use. This power supply mounts in an area on my custom pedal board, isolated and protected from outside obstacles. The power supply is clean and using a terminal strip, I installed 9 pigtails for pedals. The power supply is of ample capacity to handle 9 chorus pedals… Chorus pedals require a higher amp draw than most pedals… I wish I had details for you but if you like, reply to this comment and I’ll get you more specifics.

Thanks

Anthony Curtis
Anthony Curtis

July 21, 2016

I’m running 3 different power supplies under my board: Voodoo Labs Pedal Power AC, Pedal Power 2+, and Pedal Power Digital. Got all my power needs covered.

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