Effects pedals, we all love em'! However, choosing the most effective way to power your pedals can quickly turn into an exercise in frustration. Selecting a power supply should be easy, but pretty soon you're trying to decipher specifications that may as well have been written in another language. How often have you found yourself wondering "Is 1000mA's output enough?", "How many mA do my pedals need?" and "What is mA and why do I keep seeing it everywhere!?". Luckily at Muso City we know a thing or two about milliamps (mA), and we know even more about pedals! So let's get started with some commonly used terminology.
AC/DC - No not the band, AC/DC refers to the current type. Direct current (DC) is the most commonly used power delivery method for effects pedals and is the industry standard. Alternating Current (AC) is less common and is generally only used in specialised applications. Always check your pedals current type before connecting it to a power supply.
Milliamps - Milliamps are simply a measurement of available power. All effects pedals require a minimum amount of power to operate, this is known as "current draw". Effects pedals can commonly draw anywhere from 50-300mA per pedal. If you have six effects pedals which are all rated at 100mA you would require a power supply which can deliver at minimum 600mA. It's highly recommend to use a power supply with a milliamp rating which exceeds your current draw requirements to ensure there is always adequate power available.
Volts - Voltage (v) is the electrical force a device accepts. Many effects pedals are 9V, however it isn't uncommon for pedals to require 12V or even 18V. Plugging a higher voltage power source into a low voltage device may damage the device. Always check your pedals operating voltage before connecting it to a power source.
Pin Tip - This is the polarity of the power supply. The most common centre pin configuration is "centre pin negative", although some pedals require a positive centre pin connection. It is important to check your pedals polarity requirements as using the wrong polarity may damage your pedals.
Isolated - There are two kinds of power supplies, isolated and non-isolated. Quite simply this indicates how sensitive the power supply is to unwanted electrical noise or radio interference. Isolated power supplies commonly use a transformer to ensure your pedals operate with no hum or hiss, the downside to this is the power supply is much larger and much more expensive. Isolated power supplies are highly recommended for anyone playing gigs or experiencing electrical interference which causes unwanted signal noise.
Now that you're familiar with the main terms you'll need to know, and why they are important, let's look at the different kinds of power supplies.
AC/DC adapter (Wall-warts)
The humble 9V DC power adapter, or "wall-warts", are probably the most common power supply you'll ever see, and they are a fantastic cost effective solution to powering your effects pedals. These simple power supplies are not isolated and are generally rated around 1000mA.
Wall-warts can be used with a daisy chain extender cable to power multiple pedals at once making them a great choice for the budget conscious musician. Wall-warts can be purchased in a number of configurations, at Muso City we stock the most commonly requested types of wall adapters such as 9V DC negative tip and 12V DC negative and positive tip.
Power banks are the choice of professional and enthusiast musicians around the globe for a multitude of reasons. Power banks are often isolated for noise free operation (although not all power banks are isolated), and offer easy patching without the need for untidy daisy chains.
Unlike the power adapter above, many power banks offer a combination of output voltages and feature independent outputs. Independent outputs are designed to deliver constant power to a pedal without power dips. This means that if the maximum milliamp output of the power bank is rated for 2000mA, and the power bank has ten outputs, then each output will have 200mA available and will not draw current from another output. The advantage to this system is reduced noise leakage from other pedals in the chain and guaranteed milliamp supply. However, the disadvantage of independent outputs is that a 200mA output will not be able to power a 250mA pedal, even if the overall power bank milliamp rating far exceeds the pedals mA requirements.
The power bank really is the Swiss army knife of the effects pedal power world, and is the recommended choice when running a larger number of effects pedals, or for anyone who wants a more flexible power solution.
Daisy-chain cables are the easiest and more affordable way to power multiple effects pedals from a power supply with a single output. Daisy-chains simply send the power supplies power to multiple outputs, theoretically allowing you to connect as many pedals as you like to a single power source! In practice you can only connect as many pedals are your power supply is capable of powering, however as we learnt above, depending on your power supply milliamps rating this could be ten or more pedals!
Daisy-chains come in a range of styles and configurations and are a highly recommended addition when purchasing a wall adapter style power supply.
The Wrap Up
That's it, now you're a bona-fide effects pedal power expert, or near enough!
If you've got any further questions regarding powering your effects pedals, feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email; and don't forget to check out our great range of effects pedal power solutions!