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Custom Boards’ guide to power supplies – Voodoo Lab

Voodoo Lab’s power supply units have become synonymous with reliability and professional quality. Their power supplies represent the highest professional standards, which is exactly why they are in use in the rigs of innumerable professional guitarists around the world. This pedalboard belongs to Andy Summers from The Police.



Voodoo Lab combines superb American engineering and ease of use in their products. The low learning curve is probably another major point in their success. Voodoo Lab always keep their fingers on the pulse to keep up to date on the newest gear effect companies release. For the last past years the market has been inundated with power-hungry digital pedals, and Voodoo Lab’s latest power supply X4 reflects this trend.

 

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus

Voodoo Lab’s Pedal Power 2 Plus is still the most-used power supply for pedalboards on the planet. It features eight electrically isolated outputs and an ultra-quiet toroidal transformer. It is easy to understand and powerful enough as the single PSU on most pedalboards. This model’s Plus-designation points to its row of DIP-switches, which allow the user to select different output voltages.


One of the original innovations on this PSU was the inclusion of a female IEC-connector, allowing you to chain two PSUs, or you can connect the PSU of an external effect unit. Even as recently as 2012 power-hungry digital effects often had to be run using separate PSUs, which was made easier by Voodoo Lab’s integrated output. The IEC-socket is still a worthwhile addition for expanding your power supply.


The Pedal Power 2 Plus offers you eight isolated outputs, with outputs 5 and 6 designed specifically for digital pedals. Officially both of these outputs are specified to output 250 mA, but according to the company’s service technicians you can even run a 300 mA pedal off of one output, as long as you make sure the other output never draws more than 250 mA.


Strymon, for example, tends to quote slightly higher figures for their pedals’ power requirements than what the pedals actually draw. The largest Strymon models draw 192 mA (measured), which means it’s no problem to run one small Strymon model and one of their larger pedals using outputs 5 and 6.

Alternatives to nine volts

The DIP-switches found on the Voodoo Lab’s bottom let you select a number of different voltages for the unit’s outputs. The switches are very useful for some vintage Boss pedals – marked ACA – but these days most of us will get by fine with all switches set to “normal”. If you only use nine volt effects there’s no need to use any of the DIP-switches.

  • Switches 1-4 raise the corresponding output’s voltage from nine to 12 volts, which is what the old Boss ASA-power supplies used to supply.
  • Switches 5 and 6 switch outputs 5 and 6 to unregulated mode, meaning that the voltage drops when a pedal draws more power. Originally this was designed to cater for Line 6’s Modeler Series pedals. In normal mode both outputs deliver 9 volts and 250 mA of power.
  • The most interesting option is the Sag-control offered by switches 7 and 8. If you’ve always wanted to know what effects an almost dead battery has on the sound and behaviour of your fuzz or overdrive pedals, you can try it here. When Sag is selected you can adjust the output voltage freely between nine and four volts. An added benefit is that once you’ve found a suitable setting it will stay the same. In a real drained battery the ideal voltage stays unchanged only for a couple of hours. It is true that a battery’s voltage isn’t the only thing that changes when it is almost depleted; the battery’s own resistance also starts to fluctuate, which has a direct bearing on the sound and behaviour of a fuzz pedal, for example. Still, Voodoo Lab’s Sag-function is an easy way to experiment with lower-than-standard voltages.

The different outputs on the Pedal Power 2 Plus. If you only use 9 V pedals there’s no need to touch the DIP-switches:

Section 1: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12.3 VDC (60mA)
Section 2: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12.3 VDC (60mA)
Section 3: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12.3 VDC (60mA)
Section 4: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12.3 VDC (60mA)
Section 5: 9 VDC (250 mA) or 12-14.5 VDC (50-200 mA)
Section 6: 9 VDC (250 mA) or 12-14.5 VDC (50-200 mA)
Section 7: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 4-9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 8: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 4-9 VDC (100 mA)

In summary, this power supply is an excellent and easy to mount option to the pedalboard that has eight effects, in which two of those need more current.

Voodoo Lab ISO-5

Voodoo Lab next introduced a smaller power supply with five outputs, called the ISO-5. One of the outputs delivers 400 mA and can be for supplying nine or 12 volts DC, while the last output offers 18 volts DC (100 mA). This PSU works best with only certain types of pedalboards. It’s great if one of your pedals requires 18 volts, but if you aren’t using such a pedal, the last output will stay vacant. Twelve volts are offered as an alternative to the nine volts on output 4, which means you can power up to five effect pedals without resorting to daisy-chaining.


The ISO-5 works great on many smaller pedalboards, but it can also serve as a very handy additional PSU next to the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, as the ISO-5 offers a 400 mA output, something not found on the 2 Plus. On the other hand the Pedal Power Digital model offers a whopping four of those, which means that in many higher power applications the Digital might prove the better choice.

Section 1: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 2: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 3: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 4: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 5: 18 VDC (100 mA)

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Digital

Exceptionally easy-to-use power supply. It features four outputs, each delivering 9 volts DC at 400 mA. As you can guess from its name the Digital is designed for use with digital effect pedals.

You can use two of the outputs as 12 VDC outputs, alternatively, but the number of isolated sections in this PSU is four. This means that you can get either four 9 volt outputs, two 9 and two 12 volt outputs, or three 9 and a single 12 volt output. The Digital works best either with small pedalboards with digital pedals or as an add-on to the Pedal Power 2 Plus.

Section 1: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 2: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 3: 9 VDC (400 mA)
Section 4: 9 VDC (400 mA)

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 4x4

This power supply, too, is easy to use, but it still is quite a powerful device. Voodoo Lab’s Pedal Power 4x4 offer eight outputs – four each for digital and analogue pedals. You could think of this PSU as the Pedal Power 2 Plus’ “bigger brother”, because the 4x4 offers the same number of outputs, but more power.

The 4x4 is a lightly larger device compared to the 2 Plus, the Digital, the Mondo or the ISO-5, but it still fits underneath the larger Dingbat or Pedaltrain pedalboard frames.

Section 1: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 2: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 3: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 4: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 5: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 6: 9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 7: 9 VDC (400 mA)
Section 8: 9 VDC (400 mA)

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Mondo

Taking into account its size and features the Pedal Power Mondo is easy to get to grips with. This power supply is easiest to understand if you think of it as a Pedal Power 2 Plus and a Pedal Power Digital fused into a single device.

The Mondo combines the features of both units under a single roof. Just like the 2 Plus the Pedal Power Mondo can be expanded thanks to its IEC-output socket. The Mondo contains a whopping 12 sections, but it doesn’t offer an 18 volt output, except by linking two outputs with Voodoo Lab’s Voltage Doubler-adapter cable.

Section 1: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12,3 VDC (60mA)
Section 2: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12,3 VDC (60mA)
Section 3: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12,3 VDC (60mA)
Section 4: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 12,3 VDC (60mA)
Section 5: 9 VDC (250 mA) or 12-14.5 VDC (50-200 mA)
Section 6: 9 VDC (250 mA) or 12-14.5 VDC (50-200 mA)
Section 7: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 4-9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 8: 9 VDC (100 mA) or 4-9 VDC (100 mA)
Section 9: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 10: 9 VDC and 12 VDC (400 mA)
Section 11: 9 VDC (400 mA)
Section 12: 9 VDC (400 mA)

Voodoo Lab Pedal Power X4

Power supply designs improve all the time and in the fall of 2018 Voodoo Lab introduced its first switch-mode PSU ever. The new Pedal Power X4 is extremely light and very compact, which means it can be installed onto any commercially available pedalboard frame. On the largest Pedaltrain frames you can even fit the X4 underneath the lower rails, which makes this PSU a real lifesaver in advanced pedalboard projects.

This PSU offers four outputs suited for digital pedals, so you can think of it as an updated cousin of the Digital model. Due to its switch-mode based technology the X4’s power-distribution principles differ from traditional analogue PSU, though.

Voodoo Lab’s Pedal Power X4 features four isolated outputs that are able to offer a total of 1,000 mA power, as long as the draw at a single output isn’t larger than 500 mA. These specifications mean that in practice the power on offer is enough for almost all available pedal effects, even Strymons or Eventides. You could also think of each output delivering a mean level of 250 mA each, and if one pedal uses less the “surplus” can be divided between the three other pedals. This makes it possible to use configurations such as “300 mA + 300 mA + 200 mA + 200 mA” or “400 mA + 500 mA + 50 mA + 50 mA”, which all fit inside the 1,000 mA parameter. As in the company’s other PSUs you are able to use Output Splitter- or Voltage Doubler-adapter cables for other options.


You can also use the Pedal Power X4 as an additional PSU in combination with other units. In these cases the X4 works like an additional power distributor, dividing up the available extra power if and when needed. As an example, you could run the X4 using a Pedal Power Digital’s 12 V/400 mA output, which would turn the X4 into a power distribution device offering a combined total 400 mA at its four outputs. You could use this to run four 100 mA pedals, or a single 250 mA pedal and three 50 mA pedals.

The most important point is that the combined draw at the X4’s outputs never exceeds the power fed into the PSU, which in our example would be 400 mA, or 1,000 mA with the X4’s own power supply.



Analogue regulation

An important technological innovation in the Pedal Power X4 is its use of analogue regulation. Some bat-eared guitar players dislike the way their fuzzes and overdrives sound, when using regular switch-mode PSUs. This is due to the fact that a digital switch-mode PSU also uses a digital voltage regulator. Voodoo Lab have taken this problem into account when they developed the X4. In this PSU the voltage is produced using normal switch-mode technology, but the regulator is a traditional analogue design. The Pedal Power X4 is in fact the world’s first hybrid PSU for effect pedals, managing to combine the best aspects of both technologies.



Light as a feather

Voodoo Lab’s Pedal Power X4 is unbelievably lightweight. You actually have to pick one up yourself, before you understand how much lighter it is. The X4 comes with two pieces of 3M Dual Lock tape (SJ-4570) in the carton. We at Custom Boards usually use a thicker gauge variety of Dual Lock for our pedalboards, but the X4 is so light this thinner tape will hold it in place safely.

Over the short period of time the X4 has been available we have already had many very positive experiences, as this new model makes power supply that much easier in cramped pedalboards. And this is before taking into account that a switch-mode PSU doesn’t produce a hum-inducing magnetic field, which makes its placement and hook-up less of a hassle.

We are certain that Voodoo Lab will continue to make further inroads into switch-mode technology, which maybe might result in a Pedal Power 3 model as thin and as light as the X4. This would be godsend for us pedalboard makers.

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