Which pedal power supply is right for me?
As a guitarist, you’ll no doubt have a load of effects pedals strewn across your pedalboard/plank of wood, and chances are you’ve now decided to upgrade from 9v batteries to a more solid form of pedal power – the power supply. But you’re probably thinking “Where should I start?”. Let’s look at your options.
Why do I need a pedal power supply?
If you want a reliable source of power for your pedals that maintains sound quality and allows you to use your pedal to its full capacity, you’re going to need one. When it comes to powering many pedals, 9V batteries are extremely unreliable and should be used sparingly, especially if you want to pursue any type of career as a musician.
A power supply puts the correct voltage through your pedal at all times and as long as there is a supply of power coming through the mains, it won’t let you down on stage. Plus, unlike 9V batteries, you can leave your pedals plugged in and it won’t sap any power.
A pedal power supply also saves time as it’s a simple plug in and play job, and it cleans up your board as adapters plugged into a four-way tends to get a bit messy after a while. You switch it on and they just work – simple.
Tell me about the voltage?
Most guitar effects pedal these days are powered with 9V, however there are a few exceptions, as some require 12V, 18V or even 24V. The best thing you can do before purchasing a pedal power supply is to check the voltage. Most pedals, such as BOSS and MXR, require regular 9V power so pretty much any pedal supply will do. However, some do require a higher power supply such as some older Electro Harmonix pedals but usually if something needs a higher power supply the manufacturer will include the appropriate power supply with it. Important note: Don’t ever plug an adapter with the wrong voltage into a pedal otherwise you’ll just end up with an expensive paperweight.
The very low cost Dr Tone PSU10 is a no frills pedal power supply for the musician who needs a reliable power supply to provide power for regular 9V pedals such as BOSS and the likes of the Nano range from EHX. It powers 10 pedals at 9V and offers you the option of switching the voltage of two inputs – perfect for those who have a boutique pedal that requires 12V or even 6V supply. Ideal for a beginner or intermediate guitarist.
What about current?
The next thing you’ll need to check is the amount of current needed to power the pedal which is measured in milliamps (mA). Most pedals, such as analogue distortion, drive, fuzz pedals and wah’s will have a low current requirement of somewhere around 20mA or less, so again you won’t need to worry about anything but the likes of some Strymon pedals do require a higher current, so make sure to check first. The thing to remember here is that too much current is ok, but not enough won’t work – in fact your pedal might not even turn on if there isn’t enough current pushing through, but too much won’t hurt it – it’s just there when you need it.
The Jim Dunlop DC Brick is an industry standard pedal supply that you’re likely to find on most professional grade pedal boards owing to the sheer amount of power that it throws out. It offers seven 9V outputs with a total of 1000 mA, which helps ensure all pedals get the correct amount regardless of how many you have plugged in at once. As an added bonus, there are three 18V outputs so if you have an old Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man or a Pigtronix pedal, you’re covered. This thing is also built to last – that’s why they called it the Brick I guess…
What’s this thing I’ve heard about isolated supply?
Basically, an isolated power supply reduces unwanted noise or hum that can occur in a lower quality power supply. It means that each output is completely electrically isolated and that each pedal is getting a clean supply of power rather than when you daisy chain them together. A daisy chain will push power through one lead into a pedal and through each pedal onwards essentially diluting the power along the way and degrading your sound. Isolation stops that from happening and gives your pedals full power. An isolated power supply stops ground loops and the associated hum involved.
So which is the right pedal supply for me?
You might find that you have a pedal that requires 9V and 250mA – 300mA such as a Strymon for example. Or you may have a myriad of regular pedals that draw only a small amount, either way you need to ensure that your pedals are getting the right amount of juice at all times. Failure to do so could mean that you’re not getting the right sound out of your pedal. If you’re using fairly simple analogue pedals then a Dr Tone or DC Brick will do just fine, but if you have a selection of different digital pedals that require a higher Voltage or current, then the likes of the MXR M238 ISO Brick Power Supply might be for you.
This pedal offers you 10 inputs with varying currents and voltages. With six 9V outputs: two at 100mA; two at 300mA; and two at 450mA. The 100mA outputs will easily power most 9V analogue pedals whilst the 300mA and 450mA outputs will take care of the “needier” digital pedals. In addition, you have the option of switching the voltage from 6-9-15V on two outputs. This type of pedal is perfect for those with a variety of different analogue and digital pedals.
Whichever way you look at it, a pedal power supply is a must have for the serious musician, just make sure you’re using the correct one for your needs. You don’t have to spend loads to get the power you need, but you’ll invariably spend a lot less in the long run compared to buying 9-volt batteries all the time!
In summary, when choosing a guitar pedal power supply, you need to consider the following;
- Check what power is required by your effects pedals (9v, 12v, 18v or even 24v)
- Check what current (mA) is required on each pedal
- Check if you need an isolated power supply
- Check how many inputs you need
Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns.
After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery.
Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.