Pedalboard 103: Powering Your Pedalboard WiredGuitarist October 23, 2017 Articles, Tutorials, Uncategorized Getting awesome pedals is just the first step, you’d still got to figure out how to power them all! It may seem simple – just plug them into a power supply and you’re good… right? Wrong! Today we look at how to power your pedalboard properly and why not all methods are created equal. Before we get too deep into this topic, be sure you know how to set up your pedalboard properly! POWER METHODS: PROS AND CONS There are 4 ways of powering your pedals: batteries, wall-warts, daisy chains, and isolated power supplies. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each: Wall-Warts: The most common power supply you’ll see, wall-warts get their unfortunate name from two simple factors – they plug your pedal straight into the wall, and they look like large ugly eyesores. But that’s not the only reason they get the disparaging name, they’re also not a great option if you plan on running multiple pedals. If you plan on running just one or two pedals, these are a great solution. They don’t run out of power like a battery and they’re fairly cheap! The downside is that they can cause a lot of noise issues if you have a larger pedalboard and are using several of these wall-warts plugged in at once. Daisy Chains: Daisy chains are quite similar to wall-warts in that they share the same compact form factor and also plug directly into the wall. The main difference is that instead of one plug on the end, they have multiple. This allows you to use a single “wall-wart” style power supply to power larger boards of 4, 6, or even more pedals. The downside is the same as wall-warts, however: way too noisy! Yes, they only take up one plug in the wall and can still be useable for powering just a couple pedals, but the more you add the worse your noise can get. Both of the above power options are known as “non-isolated” power methods. Don’t worry about what that means right now, just know the term. These methods are far more prone to noise issues. Now we’ll look at “isolated” power methods. Batteries: 9V batteries are the perfect example of an isolated power method. Batteries don’t share their power across multiple pedals, they just work with a single pedal and get the job done. This isolation helps prevent noise from getting into your signal and spreading to other pedals. Of course, there is still a downside here… batteries run out. Not only that, but 9V batteries typically aren’t the kind you’ll find at a 7-Eleven 5 minutes before your 1am set. As far as keeping noise out of your signal batteries are fantastic, but they can be inconvenient even at the best of times. If your pedal is buffered and the battery dies, you’ll lose all sound. If it’s true bypass, however, only that one pedal will stop working, but you’ll be able to keep on playing… just without that pedal’s effect. If you’re totally confused by this last paragraph, we explain it all in great detail here! Isolated Power Supplies: This is where we combine the best of both worlds! Isolated power supplies have the same noise-preventing quality that batteries do, but they plug into a wall like non-isolated power supplies. This means that you’ll never run out of power and need to make a midnight Walmart run, but you’ll also be in the best-case-scenario for preventing unwanted noise from entering your guitar signal. The downside to these things are the price and the size. They are the most costly method and take up a decent amount of real-estate on your pedalboard, meaning you might lose space for 1 or 2 of those 15 nice overdrive pedals you own. Fair warning, some of these “power bricks” don’t have true isolated outputs, so make sure you look at their documentation before purchasing. If you’ve only got one or two pedals you’ve got some options. You can use a non-isolated power supply and deal with the noise (or use batteries and deal with the hassle), or you can bite the bullet and get the most reliable and best-sounding option and grab an isolated power supply. If you have the cash, we always recommend going with the latter! It’s easy, it’s reliable, and it lets you focus on playing a great show instead of figuring out which pedal is making all that noise! POWER RATINGS (DON’T DESTROY YOUR PEDALS!) Before plugging in ANY effects unit you MUST make sure you’re using the proper power supply. If at all possible, only use the power supply that came with the unit. If no power supply came with the unit or it was lost, simply make sure you’re using one with the proper voltage rating. If your pedal is a 9V pedal and you plug in something with a 12V or 18V rating, you could potentially fry your pedal! Unfortunately, warranties don’t cover that. If you accidentally plug in a lower voltage power supply into a higher voltage pedal (such as a 9V plugged into a 12V delay pedal) you likely won’t be doing anything harmful. Some pedals won’t turn on, others will work, if a bit differently than intended. MILLIAMPS: GETTING MORE FOR YOUR MONEY While each pedal you buy has a specific voltage rating, that doesn’t mean that every 9V pedal is drawing the same amount of power. If you look at the back of your pedal or in the manual/online documentation, you’ll see a specific rating written as “mA.” This abbreviation stands for “milliamps.” Now, if every power supply you use is just a standard 9V and all your pedals work, then why does this rating matter? Hold onto your hats, kiddos! Here’s the thing – a pedal will only use up as much power as it NEEDS. Every power supply also has an mA rating. The standard 9V Boss power supply offers 500 mA, so if you’re using a pedal that only draws 130 mA, you could potentially use this power supply to power more pedals. You can use a splitter cable with any power supply (except batteries, of course) to take one plug and turn it into two. If you don’t have the money to buy another/bigger power supply right now, buying a splitter cable and looking at the mA ratings might do the trick for you! NOW GO BUILD YOUR BOARD! While there’s a chance many of you could have gone your entire lives without knowing any of this, chances are you may have fried a pedal or two, and it’s even more likely that you’d have lived a life of a far noisier guitar tone than you had planned. Luckily, that’s all there is to it! Now get out there and build your board!