Sunday, February 21, 2021

PART 3, PEDALBOARD POWER SYSTEMS, WHAT ARE PEDALBOARD POWER SUPPLIES?

 POWER SUPPLY HARDWARE COMPARED

by Mark King

Finally we get to the fun part, looking at and comparing performance of actual power supply products.

VOODOO LAB, CALIFORNIA USA

THREE OF MY VOODOO LAB PEDAL POWER SUPPLIES

Voodoo Lab has been around for a while, previously the company was known as Digital Music Corporation. I first became aware of the company around 2006 when I bought a Pedal Power 2 power supply along with a Voodoo Lab pedal switcher. 

PEDAL POWER 2, MY FIRST VOODOO LAB POWER SUPPLY

Voodoo Lab power supplies are galvanically isolated from output to output. You can probe around with an ohm meter but you won’t find any electrical connections between outputs. That is because Voodoo Lab was one of the pioneers in using multiple-output toroid transformers to create truely isolated outputs, each of which is equal to a standalone power supply.

VOODOO LAB MONDO WITH METAL FLAKE PAINT JOB

At around $26/outlet the Voodoo Lab Mondo is not cheap but it is very high quality and provides 12 outlets. Every output is galvanically separate from its neighbors, it’s really like having 12 electrically separate power sources. The steel box is premium heavy construction. The convenience outlet on the rear is super convenient. When I want the best in pedalboard power I choose the Mondo. 

IT SAYS "ISOLATED", IT'S NOT ISOLATED ELECTRICALLY

I like the Caline power supply even though it is just a different way of doing daisy-chain distribution.

DAISY CHAIN POWER DISTRIBUTION

I prefer the metal box and individual outlets used on the Caline power supply to using the daisy-chain cable but they are essentially equal and neither should be considered isolated. The Caline power supply cost under $40 and works in 95% of situations, when it works it is equal in noise performance to my beloved Mondo power supplies. It’s that 5% of the time where hum and buzz just won’t leave you alone that keeps me laying down bunches of yuppie coupons for the Mondo.  

RECHARGEABLE BATTERY INSIDE PS5

The Power Supply 5 (PS5) from Joyo has a rechargeable battery inside. It is a daisy-chain style of internal connection but it does provide a basic pedalboard with cordless freedom when it comes to power. I own two of these power supplies and I use them on my R&D test rig all the time. You can’t beat a battery for isolation.

The outlets on the PS5 are divided into high and low mA supplies and each has a blue LED to tell you the outlet is working correctly, that’s a lot of blue LED’s in a small area. Thankfully there is an almost invisible button to the left of the LED’s and it turns them off.

I love the PS5 for convenience, it’s so nice to have all these 9 volt DC power outlets and no power umbilical connection to the wall. A Master On-Off power switch on the back lets you shut down all power draw with a single click, very handy just in case lunch or a phone call goes long. By turning off power when I’m not using it I can get a couple of 4 hour sessions out of a single battery charge.

The construction of the Joyo Power Supply 5 is top notch. A heavy steel enclosure wraps the battery and electronics in a rugged and compact package. A light on top of the PS5 turns from green to yellow to indicate you’ll be needing to charge soon. I have plugged in the charger while using the PS5 and it indicates charging while I continue to use the power outlets. 

SOME OF MY POWER SUPPLIES

I have a lot of power supplies, all of them are capable of powering guitar effect pedals.  I call these “box style” power supplies because they are packaged in a metal box and have multiple outlets like the much more expensive Voodoo Lab products. I like supplies that have multiple outlets with a minimum of 200 mA capability per outlet. The only place these supplies let down is in the area of real electrical isolation which is a key component in achieving seriously low levels of hum.

Unfortunately when it comes to isolation most of the cheapie power supplies are little better than the daisy-chain cable style of connection. Those claims of isolation are for the most part lies. It comes down to a matter of convenience, I find the little box style power supplies to be handy and easy to use in spite of their non-isolated perfromance. Using quality power supply cables and keeping the connectors clean are easy ways to keep things functioning and delivering their best performance.

If I wanted to assemble a little pedalboard with four or five pedals to perform live I think I could make one of these bargain $35 power supplies work. It’s when you spread out to feeding your guitar into multiple amplifiers and using effects on all of them that unbalanced guitar cord madness creates low level hum that is very difficult to silence.