Pedalboard Power Supplies – The BasicsPedals At Dawn
The question of pedalboard power supplies primarily has 5 variables: number of pedals, pedal voltage, power draw, noise and (most importantly) budget.
My first pedalboard was a Boss BCB-60 which has a built-in 1000mA power supply. This was a great first pedalboard because it has everything you need including the patch and power cables – just add pedals. I ultimately outgrew this board as I bought too many pedals.
Naturally, my next jump was to Pedaltrain pedalboards and their Volto power supply. The Volto is a rechargeable battery power supply so also portable if needed (and charged!). I actually bought 2 Volto’s and I’ve had them 5-6 years and only in the last few months did one of them start to fail – I don’t gig, so my gear never leaves the house, so this lifespan is obviously in ideal conditions. But the Volto’s biggest feature is its 2000mA capacity, but also its biggest drawback is how few power cables you get in the box (2 x singles and 2 x 3 daisy chains). I searched everywhere and I could only find 2 bigger daisy chain cables compatible with the Volto – the Digitech HV-5 (now discontinued) and the T-Rex DC Link Cable. This was the start of the rabbit hole…
Once I got a 2nd amp and decided to split my pedals into 2 separate boards, I then ventured into the world of pedal loop switchers. It was at this point I had to start prioritizing which pedals I really needed as I could only run 8 pedals from each Volto with the cables I acquired.
I later got the MXR DC Brick as 10 power cables (8 x 9V + 2 x 18V) seemed like a good idea, but in reality, I own very few pedals that can run at 18V volt and in the long run ended up with just 8 pedals again. Honestly, I prefer 9V pedals; I don’t need the extra headroom that 18V gives you and I don’t want to absent-mindedly blow up a pedal by confusing power cables.
So why did I buy a One Control Micro Distro and not the Tone City Substation 1? Well, mostly chassis size and partially stock levels/impatience/price/curiosity. The One Control Chamaeleo Tail Loop MKII loop switcher I have has 6 x 9V DC outputs and I wanted to see if the 2000mA power adapter that came with the Micro Distro would power my other board via the Chamaeleo loop switcher.
So lets look at the first 3 variables based on the pedalboard above:
|One Control||Chamaeleo Tail Loop MKII||Loop Switcher||9V DC only||200mA|
|TC Electronic||Polytune 2 Mini||Tuner||9V DC only||50mA|
|Magnetic Effects||Solar Bender||Fuzz||9V DC only||8.5mA|
|Mesa Boogie||Throttle Box||Distortion||9V DC only||25mA|
|TC Electronic||Spark Booster||Boost||9V DC only||40mA|
|TC Electronic||Corona Chorus Mini||Chorus||9V DC only||100mA|
|Wampler||Ethereal||Delay/Reverb||9V-18V DC||64mA (9V) / 68mA (18V)|
|TC Electronic||Ditto Looper||Looper||9V DC only||100mA|
So those 8 pedals, which can all run at 9V, have a total draw of 587.5mA – so a 2000mA power supply is more than enough to power this board with plenty of mA’s spare if I want to switch pedals later on.
So what about the last 2 variables: noise and budget? None of the power supplies I’ve mentioned are “isolated”. Daisy-chaining pedals from one power source can create unwanted noise, but some pedal circuits are just naturally noisy – this is where an isolated power supply can help.
And that leads us into the last point; budget. If you want lots of power outputs and have them all isolated from each other, then the power supply will cost a lot more. I’ve made non-isolated power supplies work for me but I am noticing my original TC Electronic Flashback delay pedal getting noisier as it gets older. And with the mass of cables I’ve acquired, the next power supply on my shopping list is the MXR Mini ISO Brick, which is isolated but for a reasonable price.