I previously highlighted a wider selection of pedal power supplies in my feature ’The Importance of Clean Pedal Power’ which included all the key power supply brands - big and small in a broader category overview, while this time around I’m specifically dealing with larger pedalboards and their power requirements.
Most of you will know by now how important isolated power supply per pedal is for whisper-quiet operation. For my own pedal-chain in which there are currently 40 pedals - several with high voltage and ampere needs - I am currently running 5 different power supplies - 2 x Friedman Power Grid 10s, 1 x Strymon Zuma, 1 x Strymon Ojai and 1 x T-Rex Goliath Fuel Tank. I am very satisfied with all 5 in terms of their isolated supply, but am looking to replace the T-Rex Goliath as even though it’s power supply is clean and unadulterated - the actual unit has a slight audible hum to it which although barely discernible - annoys the heck out of me. I have decided that I will at some stage be replacing the Goliath with another Strymon Zuma.
As most pedal-fans do I of course prefer really buying any variety of pedal rather than a power-supply - so those frequently get left til last. Yet in the pursuit of ultimate tone - great power-supplies are key along with the very best patch cables - where I currently favour the EBS Premium Gold Flat Patch Cables for toy standard ones, and Warwick Rockboard’s Flat Gold versions for the extended length and more specialist versions - TRS Y Splitters etc. - which are not covered by EBS.
So my Power Supplies have been accumulated over time, and I’ve finally settled on a formation of 40 revolving pedals in my pedal-chain - which need some degree of flexibility in power supply as I chop and change different pedals in different positions - some with very different supply requirement - polarity, voltage and current. If you watch That Pedal Show - you will see each time how they really push the GigRig Generator multi-box power-supply solution - which is optimal for fixed chains. While if you chop and change as often as I do that approach becomes too fiddly.
At the time I found the T-Rex Goliath a superb proposition - it has an AC outlet too - which I don’t use at all at the moment - I feel I will likely just avoid those sorts of pedals. The vast majority of modern pedals are 9V DC Centre-Negative standard Boss style 2.1mm barrel - with the odd one at 18V, and rarer still at 12 or 15V. I actually have a few pedals at 12V - and I have a couple of Xotic Effects Voltage Doublers for turning 9V into 18V when needed.
With my current power supplies the 2 Friedman ones provide 20 outlets - 10 each at a standard 9V DC / 350mA - which are pretty much good for all - they work fine with the bigger Strymon and Eventide pedals. The Zuma has 9 outlets - 7 at 9V DC/500mA and 2 variable 9/12/18V DC with corresponding 500/375/250mA output. Next is the T-Rex Goliath which has 7 outlets, 5 at 9/12V DC and 450mA each, 1 at 12V AC and 450mA, and 1 at 18V DC and 250mA output. Finally my Ojai has 5 outlets - all at 9V DC / 500mA. As stated all these power supplies are great - but the Goliath does generate unit hum - which though still provided clean signal output. I’ve decided that the Strymon Zuma is the best replacement here - as I occasionally am running one or two guest pedals beyond the usual 40 in the chain - and it’s good to have a little N+1 redundancy for just in case. Otherwise the obvious swap is the much more versatile 7 outlet Cioks DC7.
The Cioks DC7 is the current state of the art power-supply albeit I would prefer the core unit to have a couple of more outlets. It’s the only one currently where every single outlet is wholly variable - each delivering 9/12/15/18V DC and 660/500/400/330 mA output. The DC7 is also the most slimline = being only an inch thick or 25.4mm and only 160mm long. It also has a USB outlet for good measure!
The other power-supply here not yet mentioned is the very recent German Palmer PWT12 MK2 - which though is sort of capped for output - so not as powerful as the rest here, but it does have 8 outlets at 9V and 300mA, and 4 fully variable outlets which can range from 6V-18V and anything in-between for starved battery effect and the like. It’s a handy supply for most boards, but not quite as military spec as the other here.
If you have a fairly vanilla setup then the Friedmans are ideal - having the most outlets / current combination currently - while the others here offer a much higher degree of flexibility and varied pedal compatibility - that said none of the ones in my selection of 4 delivers AC - but then I personally don’t really need it.
I looked at the equally military spec Yankee power supplies - but could not find one which offered the same combination or permutations as those I ended up with. I believe these are 4 of the best units currently for where you have extended pedalboards. Few will have as many as me - and if your pedalboard is going to be relatively fixed - then the GigRig Generator option will probably be preferable. For my needs I’ve decided that 2 Power Grids, 2 Zumas and an Ojai will be ideal for me. I might at a later stage switch the Ojai for a DC7 - as it gives me much more flexibility. But these supplies don’t really come cheap - so it’s a taxing decision for most.
Power-Supplies are featured / listed alphabetically by brand:
As I state in the intro - this is the state of the art Power-Supply of today - sleek and effortlessly versatile while being easy to deploy in every way. The only downside for me is that the outlets aren't front-facing - so I'm not immediately aware of all the connections - but this cannot be beaten on flexibility and power - 7 outlets each with 9/12/15/18V DC and 660/500/400/330 mA output - and very compact dimensions. Gets outmuscled by others for number of outlets, but nothing here has as much power or flexibility for each and every outlet.
This is the perfect supply for vanilla setups - very straight forward 10 outlet 9V DC and 350mA each. Even though the big Strymon and Eventide pedals have supposedly higher power ratings - they work really well with the Friedmans - I've powered Boss 500 series, Strymon Stryfecta, Empress big pedals and Eventide H9 - and all work splendidly off the Friedmans. If you need more juice - then the other supplied here will help you with that.
When I was looking for the 4th for this quartet I was seeking far and wide for something multi-outlet and suitably versatile - before I came across this on Thomann.de - the total output is capped here - so it's not quite as hardy as the other 3 in the final selection. It does though provide 12 outlets of isolated power to a pretty high standard - 8 outlets at 9V and 300mA, and 4 fully variable outlets which can range from 6V-18V and anything in-between for starved battery effect and the like. It's power output is suitable for most applications really - unless you have a lot of very high current pedals. Having variable knob controls for the Voltage is quite a smart move - while you're probably safer over all with dip-switches! Still a very cool addition to this category.
In many ways this is one of the industry standards nowadays - you can't really go wrong with 9 outlets - 7 at 9V DC/500mA and 2 variable 9/12/18V DC with corresponding 500/375/250mA output. If course not as sleek or versatile as the newer Cioks DC7. But the 9 slots make it more suitable in several applications - and for my circumstances in particular. Obviously if your pedalboard is factor of 7s or other integers - then other supplies may be more suitable, but I feel that the Zuma gets is about right for a mix of volume of outlets and versatility.
My own Power-Supply requirements are likely different from most - but there will be obvious overlaps. With the GigRig Generator system you can exactly apportion the total output in which every variation you need - but it's kind of fiddly and involves a lot of different smaller boxes and more intricate wiring. The beauty of these big boxes is that each slot can power pretty much everything - and you just need to select the best fit patch cables and power cables to fit your layout - I happen to have several of each.
Pedal can vary enormously in size and shape and the power socket on those or the patch cables may need to be of differing lengths - which means the GigRig approach won't necessarily work well if you're doing as much chopping and changing as I. But then again I do run a Pedal Blog and need to slot in a variety of pedals in a variety of different locations - so versatility and flexibility is essential for me - which is why only these sorts of Power Supplies will do.
There are a lot of great power-supply brands out there - T-Rex, TrueTone/OneSpot, Voodoo Lab and Walrus Audio - but not all have kept up with the current state of innovation. Cioks has raised the bar further here - and I expect more pedals of the ilk to appear eventually - a couple more outlets perhaps, and one of those AC current.
It goes without saying you need a lot of different pedal power cables too - as some have different power jacks - 2.5mm versus the standard 2.1mm - and while the majority nowadays take centre-negative current - many fuzzes and more vintage style effects are still centre-positive - which requires a polarity inverter - fortunately the big brands provide many of those with their pedals. I best like T-Rex's colour-coded approach - that is something they still to well - and their 'Power Cable Survival Kit' is probably the best out there - part of this came with my T-Rex Goliath, and I've ordered another one since for backup. I really like how the orange polarity inverter also has a flappy label on it warning that it reverses polarity - as most will know by now that using the wrong Voltage will typically short out and damage your pedal. I feel all pedal-builders should build in circuit-breakers and protections for those likely scenarios - but the truth is that very few do - so depending on how complicated your setup is you may be placing yourself / pedals in increasing amounts of jeopardy. I've attached stickers on pedals and flappy labels on cables as warnings for those supply lines which are above 9V - to avoid possibly disaster - but if you're not 100% switched on all the time - accidents can happen.
I still find the benefits outweigh the challenges here and I am still very much a pedal fan - with 40+ pedals 'live' at any give time - albeit not all 'active'. I know there are lots of questions about power supply out there - but hopefully I will have got some of you closer to the answers you need with my two features on the subject.