Updated button formatting, image caption text and checked the links for several power supplies. Also made small adjustments to overall article format.
Per our publishing policy we no longer "review" products in the strictest sense of the word. However, we do leave room in that policy for roundups and recommendations where we assess and recommend multiple products that fall under the same umbrella. For most of these roundups we simply avoid products we can't or wouldn't recommend. However, considering the variance in quality of pedalboard power supplies, we can't treat this list the same way.
Instead, I've gone through 18 power supplies and provided an actual 0 - 100 rating for each one.
The ratings system is explained in detail at the bottom of the power supply list.
Here are all the pedalboard power supplies I covered, with the rating for each one in the right-most column.
The Pedalboard Power Supply Review List and Ratings
Voodoo Lab pioneered the pedalboard power supply industry back in the late 1980s and they're still one of the most recognizable and reputable brand names in electronics for professional musicians. They're the gold standard when it comes to power supplies. The Pedal Power 2 PLUS is their Hallmark product and the most popular of the bunch, having graced countless professional and amateur pedalboards since its inception.
Here's what I like about it.
Isolated Outputs, DIP Switch Settings and Toroidal Transformers
First, there are a total of eight power outputs, all of which are completely isolated to eliminate ground paths which reduces hum and excess noise. There's also an auxiliary AC output on the supply's back panel. It's the "anti-daisy chain."
Additionally, there are several switching options that allow you to change the voltage and current (milliamp rating) of certain outputs to accommodate different pedals and effects. Here's a screenshot of the configurations that would be available to you.
Keep in mind, you can use each output as a traditional 9V power source, though the DIP switch provides plenty of additional functionality, should you need higher voltage outputs or a different current. This allows for the use of Line 6 modeler pedals (like the DL4), EHX and larger Boss pedals. In the product manual, they have each output labeled for easy reference.
Note that the controls for changing voltage (SAG controls) are right above the seventh and eighth outputs. The transformers used are also a significant feature. In a traditional wall-wart, transformers have a fairly large magnetic field which can cause problems with crossover (noise and disruption to neighboring electronics) in other devices and create unwanted hum.
Voodoo Lab deals with this problem in the Pedal Power 2 PLUS by using their own custom toroidal transformers (the donut-shaped ones) which are wound individually for each output. In these transformers, the amount of magnetic interference (EMI) is much lower, giving you an even cleaner source of power.
A larger toroidal transformer looks something like this:
A larger toroidal transformer. (View Larger Image)
Since the transformers in the PLUS 2 are wrapped (like the one in the above photo) and each output gets its own ring, the power sources are naturally more linear and efficient. It's also a huge quality upgrade that's worth the money and shows Voodoo Lab has taken a lot of care with the details of this product.
Unboxing the Pedal Power 2 Plus and Other Accessories
In the box you'll have a user's manual and all the necessary cables to connect to all outputs.
Unboxing the Vodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS power supply. Image via Talkbass
It's hard to tell from the picture, but there are a total of 11 cables. I've listed them here, straight from the manual and product page.
- 5.5 x 21.mm right angle barrel connectors (6)
- 5.5 x 2.1mm straight barrel connectors (2)
- 5.5 x 2.5mm "red" barrel for L6 (reversed polarity) (1)
- 3.5mm mini plug for vintage MXR or Electro-Harmonix (1)
- 9V battery snap for pedals without a power jack (1)
This gives you some additional cables, the most important of which is the L6 (notice is a bit bigger at 2.5mm) reversed polarity cable which can power something like a Line 6 DL4 delay. Optionally, you can purchase mounting brackets to "fix" the power supply to a pedalboard.
In most cases, guitarists will fix a Voodoo Lab power supply underneath their Pedaltrain board or the pedalboards made by Voodoo Lab (the Dingbat series) which Voodoo Lab will setup and ship for you if you buy them in a package deal with their power supplies.
How to Mount the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus on a Pedaltrain Pedalboard Step by Step
If setting up a power supply and pedalboard is something you'd like to try and DIY, here's a quick guide that takes you through all the steps. First, you'll need a pedalboard (we've used the Pedaltrain example), the mounting brackets and the power supply itself.
Once you have all the pieces, here are the step by step instructions (in photos) for mounting the power supply with the brackets. You'll need a Philips head screw driver and a drill.
Images courtesy of Seymour Duncan forums
Professionals Using the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS
As I mentioned earlier, Voodoo Lab products are the most popular when it comes to guitar-related electronics. The Pedal Power 2 PLUS, in particular, has been popular among the professional pedalboards and can be seen on quite a few, almost regardless of what style or genre of music you're browsing.
I found a few on the guitar.com rig database that I thought were worth highlighting. We'll start with Shinedown's Zach Myers.
Myers uses two Voodoo Lab power supplies, the Pedal Power AC and the Pedal Power 2 PLUS. He actually has a second pedalboard that you can see if you click on the link in the photo caption, which includes a Line 6 DL4 and an EHX POG, requiring a 2.5mm and 3.5 mm plug respectively. I would assume he's also using the 200V input to power his Voodoo Lab Ground Control MIDI controller. Bring Me the Horizon's Lee Malia has a similar setup.
Again, about half his pedalboard is not pictured. This second half includes four 9V pedals and another EHX POG. It seems like a lot for one power supply, but note that the Boss footswitch doesn't need a power source, leaving him only seven stompboxes and the Ground Control MIDI board, which uses the 200V output anyway.
Conclusion and Grade for the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS
This is the gold standard when it comes to a pedalboard power supply. Both in terms of the brand reputation and the individual product, there's simply nothing that beats Voodoo Lab's offering. Even the details that are difficult to notice and non-aesthetic, like the type of transformer, have been given a tremendous amount of thought and attention.
If Voodoo Lab took any shortcuts with the PP2 PLUS, I can't find them.
An incredibly versatile and valuable power source with attention given to every detail, making its price tag entirely reasonable. Zero concerns or hesitation with this one, regardless of situation (unless you simply need more power ports).
The T-REX Fuel Tank Jr. is designed for smaller and simpler pedalboard configurations.
For example, there are only five outputs in the Jr. all of which are providing a 9V DC power source. None of them are switchable. The only thing you can switch is the main voltage selector, between 115 and 230 volts. This means you can use it either inside or outside the United States (anywhere in the world).
Now, this is not necessarily a knock against the Fuel Tank Jr, because again, the value of these power supplies is largely contextual. If you only need five 9V power sources, it's a great fit. However, it is more limited in that you can't change voltage or milliamps. You can power an 18V pedal with an additional cable that is, unfortunately, sold separately. The size of the Fuel Tank Jr makes it friendly to small pedalboards, in that it can be easily mounted underneath, taking up for less space than a typical power supply case.
Unboxing the T-REX Fuel Tank Jr and the Cable Situation
Aside from the main power cable and the box itself, the Fuel Tank Junior ships with five 2.1mm DC cables, a warranty card and the user manual. Having some extra cables would be nice, though it won't matter if you're only working with five or less 9V stompboxes.
If you actually want to power an 18V pedal, you'll need to use two of the 9V outputs, plus pony up the cash for the additional cable. It's not at all ideal if that's your situation. Again, this means I would not recommend the Fuel Tank Junior for complex pedalboard tasks. What it does, it does quite well. It's just not the best choice for those with more than five stompboxes or diverse voltage requirements.
Conclusion and Grade for the T-REX Fuel Tank Jr
While you can't fault the Junior for simply being smaller, I found it disappointing that more information about the unit's guts weren't readily available, either in the manual or online. For example, I couldn't find any information on the transformers used or other electronic components. I've got to take points off for this, because while isolated outputs are a necessary condition for a noiseless power supply, they're not the only condition required for a noiseless power supply.
More verifiable information there would help. Then again, the Junior isn't made to power more than five pedals, which makes the odds of having noise problems lower anyway. For players with just a few pedals and smaller boards, it's an affordable option with a distinctly boutique feel.
Perfect for smaller pedalboards and those who only need to power 9V stompboxes, with a price to match its smaller size. If you don't need the additional voltage, and have less than five pedals, add six percent.
The TrueTone 1 SPOT CS12 is designed to power 9, 12 and 18V pedals (with an AC power output as well) and is ideal for those who might have a wide variance in voltage and milliamp requirements in their effects chain.
Take a look at the power panel below.
Truetone 1 SPOT power supply front panel. Image via Truetone
The CS12 provides 12 total power sources with five switchable outputs (three thru seven in the diagram below). Four of these outputs (3 thru 6) can power a 9 or 12V pedal while the seventh can jump between 4 and 9V. The first two outputs are 18V and 100mA, while the last five are a variance of 9V with 250 to 800mA with the 12th being a 9V AC option. With the diagram below (screen grab from the user manual) you can easily match up your pedal voltage list with the CS12 capability.
There's also a number of helpful notes in the manual about certain pedals. For example, the DigiTech Whammy can be powered by the 9V AC output, while the Line 6 M5 can be powered by 10 - 11 but not 12. If you decide to buy this pedalboard power supply, I highly recommend reading through these notes and seeing if any of your pedals are addressed. I'll go ahead and post the notes here for easy access.
Here's a list of all the pedals mentioned:
- Certain old Boss pedals
- Germanium-based fuzz and Octavia pedals
- Strymon pedals (high milliamp draw)
- Eventide pedals such as the Time Factor and H9
- Line 6 M9
- Line 6 M5
- Line 6 Modeling Pedals (DL4, MM4, etc)
- Line 6 Tone Core Pedals
- Line 6 POD or M13
- TC Electronic NOVA Pedals
- TC Electronic Classic and TonePrint Series
- Digitech Whammy versions 1 - 4
- Overdrives or fuzzes that sound better on low voltage
What comes in the box?
The CS12 (and CS7) comes with everything you see pictured here which includes a power cable, adapters, electrical cables and even mounting brackets.
Image courtesy of Gearnuts
Note that the CS7 is a cheaper and smaller option if you don't have 12 pedals.
Truetone 1 SPOT CS7. (View Larger Image)
Who is the ideal user?
Considering you can downgrade to the CS7, the 1 SPOT can apply to a wide range of signal chain lengths. For those who have a complex array of pedals that might require a variance in voltage or milliamp ratings, the CS12 or CS7, depending on how many pedals you need to power, are both going to be forgiving options.
Even for simpler rigs, the price of the CS7 isn't much higher than the Fuel Tank Junior. Particularly if you have some of the pedals mentioned in the notes section, the 1 SPOT is worthy of serious consideration.
Conclusion and Grade for the Truetone 1 SPOT CS12
Again, I'd like to see a little more info on the guts of this power supply, though Truetone has obviously put a lot of work into the nuanced electrical aspects of the unit. While it's similar in price to the Pedal Power 2 PLUS, it's a bit cheaper while providing more outputs and, I would argue, is a little easier to use since everything on the front panel is so clearly labeled. I wouldn't rank it above the Pedal Power 2 PLUS, but it competes.
Price point and versatility, in terms of voltage and milliamp ratings, makes the CS12 and CS7 adaptable and broadly applicable sources of isolated power to a wide range of pedal chains. Components are a bit of question mark, which holds the 1 SPOT back from higher rankings.
The M237 DC Brick's primary strength is found in the fact that it can power a lot of pedals with eight 9V outputs and two 18V outputs. If your pedal chain matches up with these voltage requirements, the M237 can provide power to each stompbox. You'll have to stay within a 1200 mA total rating for the 9V outputs and an 800 mA total rating among the 18V outputs, for 2000 total.
The problem is that as a signal chain's length increases, so does the likelihood that you'll have issues with noise and ground hum. Since none of the outputs are isolated, a positive feature (handling lots of pedals) could potentially be a problem area, as more pedals could create more noise.
At close to $100 retail, this makes it really hard to recommend the M237 in most situations.
That's not to say it doesn't have value in certain scenarios. For example, if you're just running a few 9V pedals, with a noise suppressor, noise isn't likely to be an issue.
What's in the box?
The box includes all the cables and the plug necessary to get started.
Cables included with the MXR DC Brick. (View Larger Image)
Per the manual, 18V power goes out (and comes in) on the top and bottom of the box, while the remaining eight 9V ports are on either side of the DC Brick.
It's sturdy and well-built, living up to the "Brick" name, while the arrangement of eight 9V and two 18V outputs is an improvement of the 7-3 configuration of the original DC Brick. The small size also makes it ideal for mounting and a small pedalboard footprint.
This iteration is an improvement over the original, though still with some flaws and limited context.
Conclusion and Grade for the MXR M237 DC Brick
Particularly with the existence of the MXR ISO Brick, the M237 isn't relevant for most situations, particularly at a $100 retail price tag. In effect, the M237 is a glorified daisy chain that provides organization, compactness and basic power to your pedals, though offers little to compete with the noise protection and improved electronics of other power supplies in a similar price range.
The hallmark feature of handling twice the power (2x the pedals) as its predecessor is hampered by the fact that the M237 doesn't protect against the noise that tends to plague longer pedal chains.
The MXR ISO Brick picks up a lot of the slack that was dropped by the M237. Not only are all the outputs now isolated, but you still have 10 to work with, including the same arrangement of eight 9V and two 18V sources. There's also a much wider variety of voltage and milliamp ratings. These are all the variances you'll have available:
- Two 9V outputs at 100mA
- Two 9V outputs at 300mA
- Two 9V outputs at 450mA
- Two 18V outputs at 250mA
- Two variable output adjustments from 6V to 15V at 250mA
This echoes the versatility of the Truetone 1 SPOT and gets you the isolated power missing in the M237. Here's a closer look at all the outputs on the front panel.
A blue LED for each power source is also a nice touch.
Like the M237, this box is fairly small and a great candidate for mounting underneath pedalboards or taking up a small footprint on the top.
While the ISO Brick does have a wide-range of outputs, there's no 9V AC for things like a Digitech Whammy pedal, which hurts this unit's scalability. This also means that something like the Line 6 DL4 and TC Electronic ND-1 Nova delay, or anything that uses the 2.5mm cable, would be ill-advised.
Conclusion and Grade for the MXR ISO Brick
You'll have to be careful about assessing your pedal's power requirements and make sure you don't have anything that requires an AC connection. If your pedal chain is in the clear (all 2.1mm connections at the applicable voltage ratings) the ISO Brick provides some important upgrades over the M237 and feels like a much safer purchase, even if it doesn't command the same respect as its comps in the Voodoo Lab and Truetone brands.
Isolated power with a variety of voltage and milliamp ratings make the ISO Brick a significant upgrade over the M237. Those without a pedal requiring an AC power source can add five points. Subtract three if the lack of info regarding transformers bothers you.
The Voodoo Lab Pedal Power ISO-5 is essentially a more compact and space-friendly version of the Pedal Power 2 PLUS, with only five outputs instead of eight. This is the power supply I use for my smaller pedalboard. For a small number of pedals, it's a good option to cut into the cost of the more expensive 2 PLUS, though it does have to be a small pedalboard. For my taste, it might have actually turned out to be too small, which is what I'll explain in the following paragraphs. Here's a photo I took of the unit when I first bought it back in 2016.
Unboxing the Pedal Power ISO-5 power supply. (View Larger Image)
There are actually six physical ports on the ISO-5. Five of the six outputs are isolated and equipped with Toroidal transformers, which nearly guarantees you won't have any noise due to ground hum or electrical issues.
The two 400mA outputs are not isolated from one another, which means if you're using both of them, the entire milliamp load should not exceed 400mA.
In the ISO-5, you've got a dedicated 18V power source along with a high milliamp (400mA) 9V and 12V outputs. The two 400mA outputs are not isolated from one another which means if you're using both of them the entire milliamp load should not exceed 400mA. This essentially gives you an additional output, despite the fact it's marketed as a five-port unit. Think of the 9V/12V shared port as a single port with a 9V/12V switch. It's just a different way of setting up this functionality.
Moreover, if you can use both of them with pedals that don't cause noise or ground hum, you've got six outputs for the price of five. Like the PLUS, you can easily use mounting brackets to fix the power supply underneath a Pedaltrain or Voodoo Lab Dingbat pedalboard.
In the graphic below, Voodoo Lab covers all the specifics of each output where the two 400mA power sources are of particular interest.
Since the first 9V 400mA output can be used to power your "typical" 9V pedal, you can bank on having four of those ports available. The ideal buyer would be someone who is running those four 9V pedals and possibly an additional 18V pedal that would use the final, dedicated port.
The ISO-5, though a well-designed and solid power supply, is highly contingent upon you having a grouping of pedals that fits within its limited power scheme. It also assumes you aren't going to need more ports in the future.
Conclusion and Grade for the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power ISO-5
The intent of the ISO-5 is to be contextual, which dictates that it's knowingly not ideal for all situations. For those who aren't worried about expanding their pedalboard and can match up the voltage requirements, the ISO-5 can save you somewhere in the $50 - $80 range. Do the homework on your pedals and make sure the ISO-5 is enough before you pull the trigger.
Limitations in voltage and scalability aren't nearly enough to detract from the reliability of the Voodoo Lab brand and the ISO-5.While its value is somewhat relative (better for smaller pedal chains), its quality is objectively solid.
The Chameleon is T-REX Engineering's larger and more versatile power supply, though it's more easily compared to the ISO-5.
T-REX Engineering's assertion that it is "built for players with a large number of diverse pedals" is one that I would only partially agree with. The "diverse" aspect, is true, as the Chameleon offers a wide range of voltage and milliamp settings that we'll get into shortly. The "large number" claim I would tend to disagree with, for the simple fact that the Chameleon has a total of only six ports, two of which cannot be used at the same time.
This gives you five total at any point. This is a number I would recommend to smaller boards, plain and simple.
A Wide Variety
Having said that, the Chameleon is well-suited to take on a handful of pedals that are diverse in their power requirement. The following diagram provides some good examples.
Let's take a closer look at the Chameleon's front panel.
A hi-res photo of the Fuel Tank Chameleon's front panel. (View Larger Image)
Notice that on each port, you've got two ratings, with the exception of the last port which is a dedicated 12V AC outlet. You then have a voltage selector, corresponding to the options on each power source, allowing you to select your power rating for each port. This makes the Chameleon a unique solution, ideal for those who have a complex arrangement of 12V and perhaps 18V pedals.
Per the user manual T-REX Engineering details important specifics concerning each outlet.
The specifics of each power outlet on the Fuel Tank Chameleon. (View Larger Image)
You can see how this arrangement would be incredibly helpful for someone who has an inordinate amount of 12V pedals. The 18V can also be changed to a 9V, while you have a single port dedicated to a 12V AC connection, the only one that's not switchable.
Conclusion and Grade for the T-REX Fuel Tank Chameleon
The Chameleon's scalability is double-edged sword. On the one hand, its outputs are limited to the extent that I wouldn't recommend it for anything but smaller pedal chains. However, it's voltage switching makes it extremely versatile and one of the few pedalboard power supplies that can accommodate a large number of 12V pedals.
It's not for large pedalboards but, smaller signal chains with a lot of 12V power requirements or those that need to handle a generally more versatile voltage profile, stand to benefit significantly. Add five points to the final score if that's your situation.
For its price (typically south of $99) the BBE Supa Charger is a remarkable value.
It follows the pattern established by the Pedal Power 2 PLUS, with eight isolated outputs and wrapped Toroidal transformers for each one. In this particular unit, the input is switchable between 110 and 220 volts, depending on which country you're in. Fuse protection and a five year manufacturer warranty are also included.
Power Sources in the BBE Supa Charger
The Supa Charger has a DIP switch that allows you to select between 9, 12 and 16 volts. Per the user manual, here are the options you have to work with, corresponding to each power outlet.
DIP switch adjustments for each switch. (View Larger Image)
This tells us that all outputs can be used as 9V power sources. At the same time, outputs 1-4 and 7-8 can be switched to 12, while five and six and be switch to 16V.
This makes the Supa Charger similar to the Chameleon with respect to its versatility and handling of 12V rating inputs. Basically, you're taking the hallmark features of both the Pedal Power 2 PLUS and the Chameleon, then combining them into one pedal.
The 16V outputs are actually 18V.
Again, the price point makes this fairly remarkable.
No 18V or AC?
The only two drawbacks that I can see are that you've got no 18V or AC option in the Supa Charger, despite the versatility offered by the DIP switch. Just to be totally certain, I emailed BBE's support staff to see if this was the case. According to them, the 16V outputs are actually 18V. Here's a screenshot of our conversation (click the "View Larger Image" link to read:
I checked with BBE support to ask about 18V ports, an AC connection and the Line 6 pedals. (View Larger Image)
This might be where my knowledge runs cold, because I'm not exactly sure why he's saying the 16V ports are actually 18V. I assume that the red reversed polarity cable solves the AC issue, though again I'm not totally clear on the voltage discrepancy. However, I would surmise from his email that the Supa Charger can probably handle just about anything you can throw its way, making it one of the absolute best deals in this list. If you have questions about it, just email BBE support like I did. They answered really quickly.
It also comes with the following cables:
- 8-2.1mm (Boss-type) black cables
- 2-2.5mm red cables reversed polarity (Line 6 type)
- Supports 9, 12 and 16 (18) volt connections
Conclusion and Grade for the BBE Supa Charger
The BBE Supa Charger is too good of a value to split hairs over voltage ratings. And if BBE is saying it supports 18V pedals, I believe them. Besides, it still provides eight 9V power outputs, which is likely all you'll need. Even if you have a couple high voltage pedals, the DIP switch makes it easy to include them. There's plenty here to like for most situations and scenarios.
An amazing value in the sub $99 price range, considering you get isolated power, Toroidal tranformers and a variety of voltage ratings to work with.
Admittedly, this company is a bit of a mystery to me, as I'd never heard of them before setting about researching their pedalboard power supply. They still use Flash stuff on their web site, and their phone number definitely isn't in the United States. Then again, it's their power supply that really matters, and it holds up surprisingly well, considering its unfamiliarity. Here's a quick look at the specs sheet, many of which will be familiar to you if you've gone through the previous boxes:
- Six outlets, running either all 9V or a combination of 9, 12 and 18V power sources
- 120 or 230V operation mains switch
- Courtesy mains outlet
That mains outlet allows you to extend your power supply to something called "Big John" which is basically an add-on unit that gives you six more 9/12V power sources.
The "Big John" extension on the Schizophrenic Link power supply. (View Larger Image)
Additionally, screws and all the necessary hardware is included to mount the power supply on top or underneath a Pedaltrain pedalboard. Cioks provides an extremely detailed step-by-step DIY guide for properly mounting the power supply.
Better for large or small boards?
The mains extension gives this box some major brownie points in terms of being scalable for larger pedalboards and signal chains.
It can work well for a pedalboard of nearly any size. For only six power sources, the Big John is a little pricey, and adding the extension would put you around $250 - $280 total, between the two devices. However, it's that's still a decent price for a setup that will power 12 pedals.
A little-known brand that puts forth a solid product. We'd like to see eight outputs in the first unit, but the mains extension helps make this one a relevant option for much larger pedalboards.
I'm gonna do the ol' compliment 'em before you insult 'em routine. First, I really like the simplicity of the interface. Notice the A and B outputs and a corresponding switch for each one:
The A and B outputs on the Budagov power supply can be easily switched to different voltages. (View Larger Image)
This is extremely straightforward and convenient, allowing you to adjust voltage quickly if you have a couple pedals that are greedier than the traditional 9V DC options. In total, you have eight outputs to work with, all of which can be set to a traditional 9V DC ouput. A reversed polarity cable is also included.
What is "Budagov?"
From what I can tell, Budagov is an Israeli company that produces guitars, amps and this power supply. The power supply seems to have gained some traction on Amazon, which I would assume is largely due to its lower price tag. It retails around $60, which is extremely cheap for an eight-output power supply. However, the general vibe of the company seems to be a bit hap-hazard. For example, their Amazon entry has a number of misspellings and the product descriptions on their website are composed of seemingly incomplete sentences and broken English.
Their other products also seem to be somewhat "economy" in their leaning. This means that while price is coming way down, quality is following suit. For example, most of their guitars are around $300 to $350, which is definitely on the lower end of the quality spectrum (though some of their custom models are nicer).
Getting a read on the Budagov "brand" proved to be somewhat tricky. (View Larger Image)
Now, this certainly does not mean their power supply isn't any good. However, it does say something about the culture of the company and calls into question a few un-addressed features with the product at hand. The biggest of which is the lack of isolated power.
What about the Jericho itself? Is it any good?
You'll notice on their sales page that the phrase "short-circuit protection" is used (in all caps, no less). However, this does not mean that each output is isolated. It simply means that if one fuse blows, the rest will continue to operate. First of all, if you're paying attention to voltage and milliamp ratings, there's little cause for concern over blow fuses.
Second, and more frustrating, is that the way this is phrased sort of "hints" at the possibility of each output being isolated. They can't come right out and say that, because the outputs are not isolated, but embellishing the short circuit protection feature allows them to give a "sense of separation" between each power source when in reality, there is none. It's like the M237, with cheaper parts and less power sources.
At the same time, it wouldn't be fair for me to withhold credit where credit is due.
The unit is strong, compact and does meet the "par" of eight outputs, all of which can be used as 9V DC power sources. It also comes to you at an extremely low price point of $60-ish, depending on where you buy from (direct from Budagov is $75). If you don't have noise issues with your current pedalboard the Jericho might be a good way to replace batteries or a messy daisy chain. Just keep in mind, replacing 9V batteries with a unit like this is effectively a downgrade from a form of isolated power (9V batteries in each pedal) to a shared daisy-chain style circuit.
You may or may not want to do that, depending on which pedals you're running.
Conclusion and Grade for the Budagov Jericho
The Jericho is a simple and affordable option, which gives it some relevance, particularly in rigs that test noise-free running off a daisy chain. I also like that it gets you the eight outputs along with convenient voltage switching. However, the company culture and uncertainty about the electronics inside the unit give me a lot of pause and makes it a poor choice for professional rigs that want to protect against noise and electrical hum.
Ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding the Jericho's electronics make a respectable list of features hard to get excited about, especially without isolated power sources. The only time I'd recommend giving into the lure of the low price tag is if your rig tests noise-free running on a cheap daisy chain, since that's essentially what the Jericho is.
Accel Audio's FX Power Source 8 turned heads at the 2016 NAMM show taking home a "Best in Show" and "Gotta Stock It" award. Eight ports are provided, where all eight can be used as 9V DC power sources, if necessary. Alternatively, there are two ports (the first and second) that can have voltage adjusted. The first port can be adjusted anywhere between 9 and 18V. The second can simulate low power or the "dying battery" effect, going down to 5V and back to 9.
The next four outputs, rated for 100mA each, are selectable between either 9 and 12V, via an individual switch allotted for each port.
Switches for outputs three thru six on top of the Accel FX Power Source 8. (View Larger Image)
You'll notice in the above photo that the last two ports are dedicated 9V power sources, but are rated at 350mA each. This means pedals that require a higher mA rating can be used in these ports, though the lower mA rated pedals, assuming they require a 9V power source, can still be used here as well.
All of these voltage adjustments means the FX Power Source 8 can accommodate a surprisingly wide array of power ratings. The following cables are all included.
Unfortunately, a reversed polarity cable adapter is not among them (more on this later). The unit also includes hardware necessary for pedalboard mounting, which can be done via three threaded mounting holes on the bottom of the chasis. If you opt for an Accel Audio pedalboard, they come preconfigured specifically for mounting the FX 8.
Power Source Specifics
Per the user manual, here's a more specific description of each port on the Power Source 8:
Initially, I wasn't clear on the reversed polarity cable. And since I have a Line 6 DL4 delay, I investigated the issue for myself. Here's what I sent via the Accel Audio contact form:
I sent two questions to Accel Audio regarding an AC pedal and the reversed polarity cable. (View Larger Image)
A rep named Alan McKenzie sent me an awesome email response.
Alan McKenzie, of Accel Audio, sent me this response. (View Larger Image)
It's hard to read without looking at the larger version. Essentially Alan says that they don't include reverse polarity cables with the FX 8, but I could use the AUX AC connector for something like the Line 6 DL4 to plugin the adapter. That's decent news, but Alan actually offers to dig up a few reverse polarity cables and ship them, if I decided to buy an FX 8. I'm not totally sure how big of a company Accel Audio is but, regardless, this is fantastic customer service. That wins my approval because it was certainly an act of going above and beyond what I would have expected.
Conclusion and Grade for the Accel Audio FX Power Source 8
The NAMM recognition this unit received was well-deserved, both for the device itself and for the culture of the company (at least what little exposure I've had to it). With plenty of voltage and current variety, the FX 8 puts up a fight when measured against the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS. Whether Accel Audio uses individual transformers for each power source is unclear, and it's tough to decipher the quality of electronic components.
But, it does come to you for a slightly better price, with all the features and versatility you'd get from power supplies in much higher tax brackets. If I had to pick between this and Voodoo Lab, the awesome customer service I experienced would make it a really tough call.
There's little, if anything, to dislike about the FX 8 or the company that built it. Every feature is there, plus it's just a little more affordable than the competition. We'd like to hear more about the transformers, but it's tough to complain about a product that seemingly meets every established quality standard.
The Walrus Audio Phoenix 15 is not only the largest power supply we've looked at so far, but it's also the most expensive hovering around $280 retail.
The challenge for a pedalboard power supply encroaching $300 is to justify the hefty investment beyond simply providing more power sources. To this point in our list, it does hold the title of having the most ports, while the next closest is the Truetone 1 SPOT with 12.
However, the 1 SPOT can be had for $100 less. That's a big number and a tough sell for just three more power sources. The key in determining the Phoenix 15's value to you is firmly based in whether or not you'll actually need/use all these power sources. Answering that question will determine whether or not the price tag is justified.
To do so, we need to look at the specifics of the power provided.
Transformers and Power Outlets
You've got a total of 15 isolated power ports on the Phoenix 15 with two internal "wound" toroidal transformers, giving you an electronics spec sheet that's similar to what Voodoo Lab offers.
Closeup of the power ports on the Walrus Audio Phoenix 15. (View Larger Image)
The ports on the Phoenix 15 include the following:
- Eight 9V 100mA
- Four 9V 300mA
- One port with a toggle switch to go between 18 and 9V (100mA)
- Two ports with toggle switches to go from 12 and 9V (100mA)
This is an extremely flexible arrangement of power sources where you could technically run use all 15 ports for 9V DC pedals. Leaving the two 12V and one 18V port options is smart, since you don't often need more high voltage options. The bottom line is that if you have 15 pedals, you can almost certainly use every single one in the Phoenix 15. That makes it a good fit for large pedal chains, but an expensive overreach for boards with 10 or less pedals and no plans for expansion.
One thing I really don't like about this power supply is that even with all its space, it keeps the power ports extremely close together on the front panel. This can make right-angle power cables tough to use.
It's certainly not a deal breaker, but considering the size of the box, it's curious that they sort of "squished" everything together right in the middle.
There's a ton of blank metal on either side of the outlets and switches. The unit itself is nearly 10 inches across, so I would advise placing it under your pedalboard, if at all possible. If you have access to straight angle power cables, I'd also recommend using those instead of the provided right-angle cables. If you use right-angle cables, have them pointing up on the top row and down on the bottom.
Other Phoenix 15 Features
The Phoenix 15 comes with all the necessary cables to get started, including two of the red reversed polarity cables for Line 6 pedals.
Cables included with the Phoenix 15 power supply. (View Larger Image)
Your power cable will depend on where you live, as there is a 230V (for Europe, UK and Australia) and a 120V US-only option. The US version is handmade in the United States and actually has different artwork on the top panel.
In total, your purchase provides 17 cables made up of the 2.1mm standard and the reversed polarity cables I already mentioned.
Conclusion and Grade for the Walrus Audio Phoenix 15
Walrus Audio is a boutique company which means each product gets a little more individual attention, for a bit of a higher price tag. Thus, it stands to reason that the price for a "handmade in the US" boutique power supply is going to be higher.
The problem is whether or not the device is going to help you enough to make that price worth the extra cost. In Aaron Sternke's review of the Phoenix 15, he points out to one of his YouTube inquiries that he had slightly more noise with the Phoenix than he did with the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.
Aaron Sternke, who reviewed the Phoenix 15 answers a question on YouTube. (View Larger Image)
Sternke actually had the Voodoo Lab installed first, then replaced it with the Phoenix 15. You can watch the video here.
And is any of this to say that the Phoenix is noisy?
Definitely not. It's a fantastic power supply with amazing features and plenty of scalability. The problem is that I can't necessarily recommend it to everyone based on the price. I would say that if you need to extra ports or you plan to expand your pedal chain, it's a solid and reliable option that doesn't have a lot of parallels. However, for most pedalboards, it's going to be overkill and perhaps more expensive than what you're wanting to pay.
All the features, electronics and scalability are there, making for an incredibly solid power supply. Though it still feels like we're forking over an extra Ben Franklin for just three more outputs.
The Voodoo Lab 4x4 is a contextual power supply that is essentially split in half with four outputs for high current pedals (Strymon, Line 6, etc.) and four for normal current pedals (100mA max). All the other features you would expect from Voodoo Lab are also there.
- Isolated power
- Toroidal transformers
- 5 year warranty
Here's a quick shot of what comes in the box.
Keep in mind that all ports can be used to operate a typical 9V pedal, but the thrust and intent of this power supply is to serve those who have an equal parts high and low current pedal roster.
Who is the ideal buyer?
For example, let's say you have the following pedals in your lineup:
- Strymon Thinline
- Line 6 MM4
- Boss Twin Looper
- Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble
- Pro Co RAT 2
- Ibanez TubeScreamer
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
I used our pedalboard planner app to create a mock up of this board:
Example of a pedalboard that is well-suited for the Voodoo Lab 4x4. (View Larger Image)
In this scenario, the three pedals on the top row would all require a high milliamp current, while the bottom four would do fine with a low, or 100 mA max, power source.
Won't it heat up?
The 4x4 actually has an onboard cooling system that works via an internal thermometer and a silent fan. This makes it a good choice for those who play outdoors or at festivals where conditions might be warmer and more harsh.
Fan vent can be seen on the left side of the back panel photo. (View Larger Image)
Can I use the 9 and 12V high current outputs at the same time?
We've seen this in other Voodoo Lab power supplies and technically you can use both simultaneously.
However, it's not recommended as these two outputs are not isolated from one another and share a negative terminal. You also cannot exceed the 400mA rating between whatever two pedals you plug into each output. For more information on this, I'd recommend reading the manual thoroughly, particularly the section that talks about some of the high current pedals and how to use them properly with the 4x4.
Conclusion and Grade for the Voodoo Lab 4 x 4
Despite being specifically tailored for a more narrow lineup of pedals (equal parts high and low milliamp rated stompboxes) it still has some versatility to it, as you can go exclusively 9V DC if needed. It's a bit on the pricey side at $190 retail, though for folks with three or four high current pedals, it's one of the most ideal power suitors you're going to find.
No complaints here.
Voodoo Lab continues to prove worthy of the reputation that precedes them with the 4x4, which is widely relevant, but with specific value to those running multiple high current pedals.
As best I can tell, Walrus Audio is using wrapped Toroidal transformers in their power supplies but, don't have a separate one for each circuit like Voodoo Lab does.
For example, the Phoenix 15 gave us two (for 15 outputs) and the Aetos seems to use the singular "transformer" in its description, suggesting you get one for all eight outputs. Admittedly, I haven't cracked one open to look for myself, but based on the product descriptions, I'm fairly confident in asserting that there's roughly one transformer for every eight outputs in a Walrus Audio power supply.
Otherwise, the Aetos is a fairly simple and straightforward power supply that provides eight 9V DC ports, where two of those ports are rated at 250mA compared to the typical 100mA. There's also a 120VAC OUT on the side of the unit.
Replacement cables for Walrus Audio Aetos power supply. (View Larger Image)
With that output you can power a pedal that may have come with its own adapter, which will, of course, depend on the type of pedal and the voltage recommendations of the manufacturer.
Aetos 120V US version. (View Larger Image)
Otherwise, the Aetos is a good fit for simpler boards with a lot of 9V boxes and even provides two reversed polarity cables in addition to the eight standard cables.
Walrus Audio forgoes most of the versatility, in terms of voltage, in favor of a power supply that's far simpler than its older Phoenix 15 cousin. If you're running mostly 9V pedals that require a DC current and low milliamp rating, it's not a bad option. Once again, you have a US and Europe/UK/Aus version.
Conclusion and Grade for the Voodoo Lab 4 x 4
If the Phoenix 15 is more than you need, the Aetos is essentially a half portion that's priced similarly to the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS. Between the PLUS and the Aetos, I like the PLUS better because of the individual transformers and the variable voltage ratings. However, the Aetos is a refreshingly simple and well-built power supply that serves as a nice alternative and complimentary piece to the Phoenix 15.
It's hard to keep the Voodoo Lab PLUS out of your mind when you look at the price of the Aetos, which makes the single transformer and limited voltages a bit more disappointing. Still, the Aetos boasts a great design and is a solid choice for smaller boards and signal chains.
The Donner DP-1 has several different variations. The Caline 5 and AGPTek 10 Isolated are both, essentially, the exact same product, and all fall under the banner of this review. In total, it encompasses the following four power supplies.
Combined, these power supplies are some of the most popular and best-selling on Amazon, which is understandable, considering the low price tag and positive reviews.
The Donner DP-1 has garnered hundreds of mostly positive reviews on Amazon. (View Larger Image)
You'll notice that all these pedals are either exactly or roughly the same price on Amazon, hovering around $35. They all provide 10 outputs, with eight "regular" 9V DC ports, one 12V and then finishing up with an 18V. Moreover, they all claim to be isolated power supplies. So, what could be wrong with getting an isolated power supply for $35? If you're suspicious, go with your gut. These boxes are absolutely not isolated.
These Power Supplies are NOT Isolated
Let's start with some simple proof and a demonstration, via this fella by the name of Chris Morris.
You can see from the video that Chris is able to quickly demonstrate that this is in "no way, shape or form" an isolated power supply.
Another thing that I would consider a "dead" giveaway is that the main unit is powered by a wall wart adapter and not the expected AC cord that's used on the Voodoo Lab power supplies and the back of most computer towers. In order to power an actual isolated power supply, you need an AC power cord like this one:
AC power cord used with an isolated power supply. (View Larger Image)
As you can see from the photo below, these power supplies are run by a single wall-wart style cord and not the AC power cord we're used to seeing with power supplies that are truly isolated.
And this begs the question: How are they able to use the term "isolated" in their product title?
What does "Isolated" actually mean?
I want to provide a bit of perspective. First, I understand that the folks making these power supplies want to turn a profit. I also understand that technically, they can call their power supply whatever they want. Every time a new car comes out the manufacturer names it a year ahead. This is why we get the "2018 models" in summer of 2017. It's just a name.
However, it's crucial to understand that in the guitar community, isolated power is almost always synonymous with clean or "linear" power, meaning each power source is completely autonomous, just as Chris illustrated in his video. What the manufacturers of the DP-1 are doing is somewhat devious. They're using the term "isolated" to describe the circuits and fuse protection in their power supply.
Notice how they word it in the description:
Some careful wording in the Donner DP-1 power supply description. (View Larger Image)
It is an "isolated short circuit and overcurrent protected" power supply, which simply means that if one fuse blows, the rest will continue to operate. Now, that's a nice feature, of course. But it's not isolated power in the sense that guitarists understand and accept the word. This is the same kind of thing we saw with the Budagov Jericho III.
What Donner is doing here is using the term in their title in the hopes that you'll read over it and assume that it's isolated, simply because that verbiage is used. It's a frustrating thing to see, especially considering how many people are likely buying it under the false pretense that it's just a cheaper version of what Voodoo Lab offers.
That is absolutely not the case.
Do they have other redeemable features?
Having said all that, I want to be fair and point out a few good things about this power supply. First, it does provide 10 power sources and is extremely affordable, making it a good fit for folks who need something on a budget. If your pedals run quiet on a daisy chain, the DP-1 (or any of its variants) is likely going to be a more organized and decent upgrade. Some reviews have even reported less noise, going from a daisy chain to the DP-1.
Conclusion and Grade for the Donner DP-1 Power Supply (and its variants)
It's important to keep in mind that not having isolated power isn't going to harm your pedals. Still, it has become standard in the past couple of decades, and is commonly accepted to be one of the most notable quality indicators when it comes to assessing a pedalboard power supply.
Seeing the DP-1 manufacturers knowingly use the term deceptively is quite frustrating, especially when you see how many sales they're getting. At the same time, you've got to consider the fact that they're providing a capable and sturdy power brick at an exceptionally low price. This is helpful to a lot of people out there who aren't concerned about isolated power.
If that's you and you want the budget option, be my guest.
While it does provide a good amount of power, there's nothing isolated about it. All circuits are shared and therefore do nothing to prevent excess noise and may even cause it. Then again, if noise isn't an issue for you to begin with, the price point is tempting, to say the least.
The Gator G-BUS-8 is kind of like your really lazy, unmotivated friend. It does an okay job. Enough to get by, certainly. But it doesn't really try much beyond that.
It's a lot like the Donner DP-1, except Gator Cases had the decency to avoid billing it as an "isolated" power supply, despite having the same short circuit protection as the DP-1. The G-BUS-8 actually provides a total of 11 power sources. Eight of them are the regular 9V DC ports on the front panel and on the side you've got three 18V ports.
Side view of the Gator G-Bus 8. (View Larger Image)
This is actually one of the higher number of 18V ports provided on any of the power supplies we've reviewed, which makes me wonder why Gator Cases decided to add so many in this box. I would have been just as impressed with one. It's also really small, able to easily fit under most pedalboards with even a small riser pad.
Personally, the people I've known who I consulted about this particular unit haven't had significant noise problems. However, during my research I noticed a lot of folks writing reviews online who had purchased the G-BUS-8 and had significant noise issues, many of whom claimed to have returned the unit. This of course can depend on innumerable other factors but, it's something I wanted to make sure and communicate since the unit retails for nearly $100.
In the end, it's the price that kills this one off for me, especially since it's so similar to the DP-1, which is only $35.
Conclusion and Grade for the Gator G-BUS-8
I appreciate that Gator doesn't try to over-sell this unit and I should also give them credit for providing a lot of outputs (11 total). However, it's really unclear what differentiates this box from something like the DP-1 or the Jericho III, both of which are much cheaper. With the price and a slim stat line, I'd recommend looking elsewhere unless three 18V ports are a big deal to you and you don't care that they're un-isolated.
Had the extra outputs been switchable, and not dedicated 18V ports, I would have liked this option a little more. Even then, I see little (if anything) to justify a nearly $100 retail price tag. Look elsewhere, even if you plan to go un-isolated.
The Mondo is Voodoo Lab's largest power supply and is essentially a combination of the Voodoo Lab Digital and the 2 PLUS. On the left side you've got six high-current outputs, while the right side houses eight 9V DC outputs that have the same features as the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS. This gives you a total of 12 power sources on the Mondo, all of which can be used as typical 9V ports.
The SAG, L6 and 12V ACA options are all there. The high-current side can handle the following pedal brands (among others):
- Line 6
- Boss Twin
- TC Nova
Can I use "regular" 9V pedals in the high current ports?
While the Mondo accommodates these high current pedals, you can still plug a "regular" 100mA rated 9V powered device (i.e. small Boss pedals) into these ports.
Mixing up voltages is where you start to run into trouble (more on that after we get through the rest of the power supplies). For the current or milliamp rating, think of the higher rating as simply extra headroom, where anything under that amount will work as well. For example, let's say you have a high-current port rated at 340mA. This means that a 50mA, 100mA or 339mA rated device will work fine.
However, anything 341mA or higher will be rated too high for that port. So, while you can over-draw the current, you can't under-draw it.
When do I "need" something like the Mondo?
The biggest determinant in answering that question is, perhaps obviously, the number of effects you need or plan to power. To make it worth the extra expense (and the Mondo is more expensive at $250 retail) you've got to make sure you'll use all, or at least most, of the outputs. Keep in mind, if you only have one or two high current pedals, you can still fill the rest of the ports with 9V regular current stompboxes.
Just go through your pedal chain, check the power requirements and see if they add up to what the Mondo provides.
Everything You'd Expect from Voodoo Lab
Since I've already covered most of the Mondo's features in the other Voodoo Lab power supply reviews, I won't rehash those here. Just know that it's all still included in the Mondo: The 5-year warranty, isolated outputs, Toroidal transformers and all that good stuff.
Conclusion and Grade for the Voodoo Lab Mondo
While the Voodoo Lab certainly isn't "cheap," it's an extremely good deal for someone who needs all the outputs. Because you can't buy the 4x4 and 2 PLUS for $250 (together they'd easily exceed $300 retail). Thus, you can think of the Mondo as a kind of discounted "bulk" product. For larger pedal chains, there's nothing better.
If the other Voodoo Lab options were lacking slightly in terms of their scalability, the Mondo blows that issue out of the water. Moreover, it does so at an incredibly reasonable price tag. Voodoo Lab continues their winning streak with a near perfect option for mid to larger pedal chains.
You might not recognize the Yankee brand at first blush. To be honest, I didn't either.
At first glance they struck me as a "new kid on the block" type of company because there didn't seem to be a lot of info on them in the United States. But, their about page puts the company's birth day way back in 1999, based in Poland. Today their operation is still there, running out of Poznan where they've built up a remarkable inventory, with eight different power supply models and four different daisy chain offerings, as well.
While our focus is on the HS-M24, here's a quick look at the whole roster.
The "Expert Series" of power supplies from Yankee. (View Larger Image)
The "Solid Series" of power supplies from Yankee. (View Larger Image)
The daisy chains are called the "Standard" series, and are offered alongside a number of different electrical cables, adapters and some mounting hardware. Most of these power supplies seem to share a similar specs sheet.
- Isolated Outputs
- AC outputs (multiple voltage ratings)
- USB output (for mobile device or included pedalboard light)
- Toroidal Transformers
- Moveable power socket (top or side)
- All outputs usable as 9V DC power source
For most of these power supplies, the voltage variation is impressive. Take the HS-M10, for example.
Massive list of voltage and current ratings on the Yankee HS-M10 power supply. (View Larger Image)
This is easily the most diverse and accommodating voltage/current profiles I've ever seen in a pedalboard power supply. And the HS-24 has even more power sources. I'll focus on that unit specifically, since it's the one most readily available in the United States.
The Yankee HS-M24 Specifics
The Yankee HS-M24 is the largest and most sophisticated power supply I know of.
There might be bigger ones out there, but I've yet to see them (feel free to educated me in the comments section if you know of something that can out-do it). All the features I mentioned earlier are standard on the HS-M24, but with a staggering 22 total outputs, with 18 fully isolated (available to be used simultaneously) and four with adjustable voltage regulation.
Cables and lighting included with the Yankee HS-M24 power supply. (View Larger Image)
Here's a quick look at what you get in terms of voltage and current ratings.
Voltage and current ratings available with the HS-M24. (View Larger Image)
The odds that you'll have a grouping of pedals that can't be powered safely by this device is almost zero. It's by far the most versatile and complete pedalboard power supply, in regards to voltage and current draw. They've even added an LED screen on top of the device that tells you what voltages are being used on each port. Since the capabilities of each port are too varied to discuss individually, I'll refer you to this graphic from the manual that has each power source properly labeled.
Conclusion and Grade for the Yankee MS-24
For those who want to power a large number of pedals, the Yankee brand, and the HS-M24 specifically, is one of the most capable options and it's the only option that gets you into the 20 output range. The main question is going to be whether or not you want to pony up for the $575 price tag, which is certainly high.
However, Yankee has quietly packed every possible perk and feature into this and their other power supplies, giving you a truly supreme and superior product. I emailed their office and they mentioned that they'll customize power supplies as well, depending on specific needs (changing voltage ratings, adding an AC power outlet, etc.).
While the price does limit its application, most folks who need to power more than 15 pedals should give it strong consideration, without regard to sticker shock.
Expensive, but well-worth it for somebody who wants a professional-grade power supply that can handle the largest of pedal chains. Every feature imaginable is included.
The CAE Power System is the MXR (Jim Dunlop) version of the Voodoo Lab Mondo.
And it actually outruns the Mondo in terms of raw outputs with 16 total, all of which are isolated and run of Toroidal transformers, meeting our threshold for high-end electronic components. What makes it a little less flexible than the Mondo is that it has four dedicated 18V power sources, which can't be downgraded to 9V ports. This means the CAE Power System is a better fit for someone who must have at least some of the additional 18V options.
Dedicated 18V outputs on the CAE Power System. (View Larger Image)
While there are two adjustable voltage power sources, the CAE Power System is decidedly less flexible than its high-volume counterparts, primarily the Mondo and the Yankee HS-M24. However, that's not a problem if you need the 18V sources. When comparing it to the M24, buyers should also consider that it's far cheaper at only $270 retail.
Conclusion and Grade for the MXR CAE Power System
The crucial issue in determining value will depend on how many 18V pedals are on your list. For most people, it's not enough to make the MXR CAE your best choice. However, that shouldn't take away from the fact that the Power System is an excellent power supply with all the electronic features and plenty of room to grow, or accommodate an already massive collection of pedals. While it is somewhat less flexible, it's still one of the top options on our list.
Expensive, but well-worth it for somebody who wants a professional-grade power supply that can handle the largest of pedal chains. Every feature imaginable is included.
How do you come up with the rating? Isn't it a little subjective?
When I assess each power supply, I'm looking for a number to represent overall value. To get that number I have three basic criteria:
Power denotes how well the power supply is equipped to run pedals quietly and the quality of electrical components. To score this category, I look at the following:
- Quality of transformers, mechanisms for ground-loop prevention, capacitors, etc.
- Whether or not the power sources are isolated, regulated, linear, etc.
In other words, a power supply with isolated power and Toroidal transformers (more on those later) will score higher than a non-isolated power supply and fewer "unwrapped" transformers.
Scalability deals with the variety of pedal voltages and current draws a power supply can handle. Basically, the more pedals it can support (different voltage and milliamp ratings) the better it scores in the scalability category.
- Voltage and current draw (milliamp rating) accommodations?
- Reversed polarity cables included?
- DC and AC power sources available?
Price is where things get a little more subjective. Some people are willing to pay more for certain features than others, depending on their situation.
To "score" a price, I look at the average retail for power supplies with the same features as the one I'm trying to score. This helps to establish a "market value" for given features. For example, a no-name isolated power supply with eight power sources runs somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 - $180. If a power supply with the same specs goes above that price, it begins to lose value and its price score goes down. However, if it goes below the expected dollar range, its value and price score would go up.
In other words, the more quality you get for the lower price, the higher the score, thus the higher-value product.
In an ideal world, we're looking for quality going up as price goes down. (View Larger Image)
Predictably, as features increase and price decreases, the score goes up.
All three categories get rated on a scale of 0 to 5 stars. For example, here's the rating for the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PLUS.
If you hover over the stars, you'll see that I gave it ratings of 5, 4.7 and 4.5 in the POWER, SCALABIITY and PRICE categories, respectively. Dividing the total by three we get our overall score of 4.74. To get the 1 - 100 rating, I divide that number by five, which gives me the .948 or 95 out of 100.
Hence the following:
Interpreting the Final Score
This is the first roundup article in which we'll implement the aforementioned rating system, which can be interpreted the following way.
- 0 to 30: Deeply flawed and completely dishonest or "stretched" feature claims. Device has only basic redeemable value, at best.
- 31 to 60: Functional and, in some cases, helpful, though limited in functionality, guilty of some corner/cost cutting and marginally dishonest feature claims.
- 61 - 89: Contextually useful and well-designed for certain situations, though with small drawbacks.
- 90 - 100: Beautifully designed and useful for nearly any situation without significant blemish or compromise.
The Importance and Functionality of Isolated Power
The single, most important feature in a pedalboard power supply is whether or not it provides isolated power.
This basically simulates having a 9V battery on each individual pedal, meaning they get their own circuit of "clean" power and don't have to share it with any other pedals. In fact, you might even say that a daisy chain power supply is a step down in quality from individual 9V batteries.
Isolated Power Sources
As you can see from the diagram, a "daisy-chain" type of power supply simply shares the same circuit across multiple pedals, each consuming the same amount of power. This is problematic because it can often be noisy. At the same time, 9V batteries are inconvenient and don't last very long before needing replaced.
Isolated power supplies solve both of these problems.
They save you the trouble of changing batteries and they provide a single, isolated power circuit to each device.
For this reason there isn't a single daisy chain power supply that I would recommend. I've used them and found them to be a complete waste of money.
But don't be lured in by the low price tag. They're not worth anything if your rig is going to be noisy all the time.
Most pedals (roughly 90%) run off a 9V DC current, which usually makes up the bulk of outputs on any given power supply.
9V regulated DC output power sources on the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2. (View Larger Image)
These outputs will match up with the power supply inputs on your pedals, which are usually pretty easy to spot and will be marked for voltage.
9V power input on a Boss DD-3 delay pedal. (View Larger Image)
There are other voltage requirements to consider, aside from 9V DC.
However, the first order of business is to make a note of how many guitar pedals you have with a 9V DC power input, since that will likely be your highest number of pedals. Once you have this number down, you'll want to make sure and buy a power supply that has enough 9V power sources to accommodate. I counted up mine and I have six.
Jot down the number of 9V DC powered pedals you want to run off the power supply. (View Larger Image)
Go ahead and check the voltage requirements on the back of all your pedals and get a head count for how many 9V power sources you'll need. Once you're done, separate all the pedals by those that require a 9V power source and everything else.
- Pedals powered by a 9V power source
- Everything else
Also, make a distinction between AC and DC power inputs on your pedals. Take the Line 6 DL4 delay modeler, for example:
On some larger pedals you'll see a 9V AC power requirement instead of DC. (View Larger Image)
A couple things to note.
First, it's an AC (alternating current) current. Second, it's labeled for a power supply that can handle 1200mA (milliamps) minimum output.
Interpreting Current Draw and Milliamp Ratings
Keep in mind, however, that the power requirements listed are often times much higher than the actual requirements of the unit. For example, the actual current draw of the Line 6 DL4 is 200mA and not 1200mA.
The Digitech Whammy 5 is another good example.
While it's labeled at 1500mA, that actual draw is less than 300mA.
The power requirements listed are often times much higher than the actual requirements of the unit.
The reasons for this will vary, depending on the manufacturer, though it's usually just done to match the power supply that the company provides for a given pedal.
Here's a look at the power supply from Line 6 that goes even beyond the 1200mA rating.
A specialized Line 6 power supply. (View Larger Image)
The output on this power supply is 9VAC and 2000mA, meaning you've got plenty of room above the minimum 1200mA requirement, which is already way above the actually 200mA current draw. Part of this is because they want you to buy their power supply.
Understandable, but disappointing at the same time.
If you want to be certain of the actual current draw of a particular pedal, the best thing to do is contact the manufacturer and ask them directly.
Some additional voltage and milliamp ratings you might run into include the following:
- 9V 400mA
- 12V 400mA
- 9V 300mA
- 12V 300mA
Essentially, this boils down to three different voltage measurements.
You'll want to note power requirements and divide your pedals up further, primarily by these three voltage measurements.
Again, most of them will be 9V, but there's a chance you'll have some 12 and 18V pedals as well, which means you'll need to consider this when you purchase your power supply.
9, 12 and 18V power sources in the Voodoo Lab ISO 5. (View Larger Image)
For example, if you have three 9V pedals and one 12V pedal, the above-pictured Voodoo Lab ISO 5 could be a good fit.
Therefore, the first step is to get each pedal's power requirement on paper before you look to buy.
Note everything you can about the power requirements for each pedal you own. (View Larger Image)
Once you've understood and written down the power requirements for each pedal you own, you're ready to go through our list and match them up with a power supply that can accommodate.
Consider both the power requirements of your pedals and the rating I've given to each power supply.
What happens if I plug a 9V pedal into an 18V power source?
In simple terms, don't do it.
When it comes to voltage, I do not recommend deviating from what the manufacturer suggests for the pedal. If that's 9V, make sure it's a 9V power source. If you do plug a 9V pedal into a power source that exceeds that rating, one of two things are almost certain to happen.
- You'll trip a protective mechanism in the pedal that will shut it off.
- You'll "fry" the capacitors and permanently damage the pedal.
The reason this happens is because voltage in electrical devices behaves very much the same as water flowing through different containers.
For example, I have a downspout on the side of my house where rainwater is drained from the gutters into a pipe that runs underneath the ground and away from my house. That pipe is sized to handle a certain amount of water from the downspout. However, if that amount were to double, the pipe would either spill over or crack.
High voltage flowing into a low voltage container. (View Larger Image)
Why isn't current draw the same way?
A pedal's milliamp rating does not have to be treated the same way.
In other words, you can plug a 100mA rated pedal into a 300mA rated power source without causing any harm to either the pedal or the power supply. This is because the drain pipe analogy breaks down when you're talking about current draw.
A far better way to visualize it is to think about the difference between drinking from a small glass or a tall bucket with the same straw.
The "draw" from either source will be the same, since you're drinking the same amount, whether the source is larger or not.
Are daisy chains a downgrade from individual 9V batteries in each pedal?
I've already mentioned that individual 9V batteries are a form of isolated power, in that each pedal has its own source of power that isn't connected with any of the other sources.
This illustrates the biggest problem with un-isolated daisy chains,.
In terms of reducing electrical noise or ground hum, daisy chains are absolutely a downgrade from 9V batteries. However, the advantage in using them is that you no longer have to worry about buying and replacing batteries, which pedals tend to chew through really quickly.
It also allows you to power everything from one source in a more convenient manner.
The problem with both is that you're always having to choose between convenience and a bad electrical design that can cause noise.
That's why I don't like to recommend un-isolated power supplies.
Are there any scenarios in which you'd recommend a daisy chain?
The only scenarios in which I'd recommend a daisy chain or any form of un-isolated power is if you're running a simple (and short) signal chain that doesn't have noise problems or ground hum when connected to an un-isolated power source.
It's not an automatic certainty that a daisy chain will "inflict" noise on your signal, but it certainly doesn't do anything to stop it.
If you want the convenience and lower price tag of a daisy chain, test it out with your current pedalboard first. If it's noisy, chances are it'll be worth the investment to go with one of the isolated power supplies I've covered in this list.
Concluding Thoughts & Your Questions
There's a lot of information here and I understand that there are questions that arise when dealing with a topic that's so heavy on nuanced electrical issues.
If you have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.
I'll answer what I can, and send my buddy Peter Driver over to handle those that go over my head.
Just don't buy a pedalboard power supply without at least knowing the basics about voltages and milliamp ratings. I've invested in powering my pedals first without and then with that knowledge and I was absolutely better off the second time around.
My advice to you is to know your own pedal roster and the electrical requirements thereof before you go swiping the credit card.
- The Isolated Power Supply - A Tutorial: A look into some of the more nuanced electrical aspects of isolated power.
- Isolated Power Supplies Made Easy: An article by John Morris (linear.com) on the schematics and intricacies of isolated power.
- How to Mount a Power Supply to a Pedaltrain Pedalboard: A great thread on Seymour Duncan's website that shows you in pictures how to mount a power supply to a Pedaltrain pedalboard.
- Setting Up Your Effects Chain: An article by Strymon (customer support dude named Hugo) on how to order (arrange) guitar pedals in your signal chain.
Banner image courtesy of Walrus Audio