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How do I choose the right power supply for my pedals?

The most common cause of problems in pedalboard project is not paying enough attention to the choice of a power supply unit (PSU). Even if the voltages may be correct for all pedals, there are often problems with noise interference and therefore the overall quality of the signal. Extraneous noise can be a nasty distraction for you and your audience during ballads and quiet parts in songs.

In our view a power supply is the pedalboard’s engine, and should be chosen carefully to fit its purpose. Otherwise your rig the won’t be operating correctly. Silence is an important part of any music, and only a well-chosen power supply will help you to eliminate extraneous hum and buzz.

Sadly, many people start their pedalboard project by gathering together a number of pedals, slapping the effects on a fitting frame, and only thinking about the need for a power supply as the last item on the list. Many musicians don’t have a good grasp of the principles behind powering a pedalboard, making it hard for them to choose the correct type of power supply. Many musicians also don’t have the time necessary to sift through all the available information by themselves. This is where this guide steps in.

The trinity of effects, frames and power supplies

In reality you should look at designing a pedalboard as a three-way game. Once you’ve decided on the necessary effects and additional AB-boxes, bypass loopers etc., you can choose to move forward, either by selecting the power supply first and choosing the pedalboard frame to fit the power supply, or vice versa. Power supply manufacturers follow the trends and developments on the pedalboard frame front very closely, which means that you should be able to find at least one power supply-model for any frame on the market.

We are making things easier for you by listing all compatible pedalboard frames – along with their installation requirements – next to each power supply we sell online.

If you’re currently troubled by signal hum, or if you’re using a whole range of separate wall-warts to power your pedals, we’d strongly suggest you get yourself a single professional power supply to power all your effects in one go.

Will my power supply work abroad?

A power supply uses the AC off the wall and transforms it into the voltages and currents needed to power your pedals. European and Australian wall sockets supply 230 volts, but in the USA and Southern America the wall grid delivers 115 volts. Japan is the third major territory with its own voltage, namely 100 volts, but, because of Japanese hospitality and engineering knowhow, most venues are able to offer any voltage a visiting band might require. This means that your main problem for European touring band will be the Americas and vice versa.

If you’re planning on playing in the States with amplifiers hired locally, it would be most convenient to use a pedalboard power supply running on 115 volts. Other option is to use a local step-up transformer to pump up the 115 volts to the 230 volts you need.

The toroidal transformers of Voodoo Lab power supplies work only with a single voltage, which is why the company produces two different versions of each of their power supply models – one for US and one for Europe.

All Cioks Standard- and Professional-ranges power supplies come with a voltage switch, allowing you to switch from 230 to 115 volts. Taking into account the exquisite facilities in Japan, this feature makes Cioks power supplies fit for use all around the globe.

All switch-mode power supplies can generally be used anywhere. The latest switch-mode designs by Cioks and Voodoo Lab can be used at any voltage between 100 and 240 volts. All you need to do is to pack the correct wall plugs.

One power supply or more?

If you’re using a large number of effects you could try powering your pedalboard with two power supplies, instead of a single, large one. Especially if the musician already owns a power supply, finding a suitable second power supply might be a natural choice. This choice should be based on the amount of power needed, as well as on how the second power supply can be integrated with the first one already on board.
Some of the Voodoo Lab and Cioks models come equipped with an parallel AC output routed directly from the power supply's AC input. This makes it easy to use two power supplies simultaneously, while running only a single power cable from the pedalboard to the wall AC grid. Cioks offers special adapter for use with their power supplies, and it’s easy to make a link cable for Voodoo Lab power supplies yourself with regular spare parts for electricians.

As a rule of thumb you could say that a main power supply should include a dedicated AC-link output to make connecting an additional power supply easier. If you’re lucky, your old power supply already comes equipped with a link socket, which would make expanding your system a doddle.

But it’s far from the end of the world, should your power supply not include a link output. In such cases a simple two- or three-outlet power strip can be installed underneath the pedalboard frame, supplying the two PSUs, without having to run two AC-cables to the power grid.

Do you need to take an expansion into account?

If you feel you might want to add more pedals to your pedalboard in the future, or if you’d like to power an external pedal effect using the board’s power supply, you should select your power supply accordingly, by leaving one or two vacant outputs.

Another point to consider is the possible later addition of digital effects, which would mean you’d have to make sure that your power supply should at least have one output supplying 400 mA (or more), even if your currently connected pedal runs on 10 mA, or less.

What about AC-pedals?

Pedals that run on AC-power are usually types that include a tube circuit in their electronics. Some older digital effects also require AC-power. This days trend seems to be that most effect pedals run on 9 volts DC, with less and less AC-pedals can be found on the market.

Be very careful whenever you are about to connect a pedal to an AC-output on your power supply, because some DC-pedals can be seriously damaged if AC is fed to them.

Voltage and current – How do I find out what my pedals need?

Planning the power requirements of your pedalboard is best done neatly on a piece of paper or using a spreadsheet software. You will find the values either printed directly on the pedal or its label, or by reading the owner’s manual.

The values you need to know are:

  • V = volts (called the voltage). Take care to always check the input voltage first, as a too-high voltage could damage your effect.
  • A = amperes (called the current; usually in mA = milliamperes). Next check the pedal’s current draw (mA). A too-high current won’t damage your pedal (in contrast to incorrect voltage), which means it is not a problem to connect a pedal drawing only 10 mA to a 100 mA power supply output. The pedal will only take in the amount of current it needs. If you have a lot of current surplus, you can use the output in question to power additional effects by using a output splitter cable.
  • AC or DC. Check for the type of power. Never connect an AC-outlet to a DC-pedal, or vice versa, to prevent damaging your pedals. Most pedal effects will run on DC.

All of the effects Custom Boards offers come with an online list of these specifications. For pedals bought elsewhere, you should consult the manual or the manufacturer’s website. It’s easiest to find the data on the Internet if you use the correct key words for your search, along with the pedal’s name:

– current draw
– power draw
– mA draw
– power consumption
– power adapter specs

Power needs for different effect types

It will be easier to plan your pedalboard’s power layout if you already have a broad understanding of the different effect types and their usual power requirements. A broad generalization would be:

  • Traditional overdrives, distortions, boosters and wah-wahs run on very little current, and usually need only between 4 and 20 mA.
  • Digital tuners and modulation effects tend to stay in the middle, usually needing somewhere between 40 and 60 mA.
  • Early digital effect units, which still run on nine-volt batteries, need between 60 and 80 mA of current. Generally, if the device can be run using a nine-volt battery, 80 mA is normally the upper limit.
  • Digital effects from the first decade of this millenium, like Boss’ double-pedals or many digital EHX-models, need 150 to 200 mA. The same goes for most MIDI-controllers.
  • True Bypass loopers meant for use on pedalboards use somewhere between 150 and 400 mA, depending on their features.
  • Modern digital pedals – like Strymon- or Source Audio-effects – generally need between 200 and 300 mA.
  • Eventide-effects tend to be quite power-hungry, needing currents between 400 and 500 mA.
  • More than 500 mA are usually only required by pro-grade multi-effects or some pedal-sized preamps.

Polarities and connectors

The last two points to take into account are:

  • DC-polarity.
  • Type of plug needed to connect the effect to the power supply.

The plug’s specifications are made up of the connector type and the connector size. The polarity is usually given as a graphic symbol for a connector’s tip/center and sleeve, or as a written term “center negative”/”center positive”. Note these specifications in your list, too. 

Making a power plan

Here is an example of the chart that you can do by yourself. Fill in the specifications for each pedal you plan to attach to your pedalboard.

 Pedal Voltage  AC/DC  Plug type Current draw (mA)
Fulltone OCD   9-18 V   DC 2.1 mm/center negative 8 mA
Strymon Mobius    9 V   DC 2.1 mm/center negative 300 mA
Fulltone ’69 Fuzz     9 V    DC 2.1 mm/center positive 2 mA

Here are a real world examples of our "Power Supply Evaluation Service".

Case 1

Effects: Analogman Mini Chorus, Dunlop Original Crybaby GCB95, Fulltone OCD, Mad Professor Little Green Wonder, MXR Dyna Comp, Neunaber Immerse Reverberator, Simble, Strymon El Capistan, Walrus Audio Monument

Possible additions: None at the moment, but some pedals may be swapped. The Crybaby could be swapped for a Fulltone Clyde Wah, and the Dyna Comp could become a Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor in the future.

Pedalboard: Pedaltrain Classic 1

Recommended PSU: Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus

Additionally required are: Voodoo Lab Output Splitter -cable and an additional cable for use with the splitter. We’d recommed using cable with straight plug on the other end with Output Splitter. Remember to secure the connection with electrician’s tape.

The power supply will be installed to the Pedaltrain Classic 1 using a Pedaltrain Voodoo Lab Mounting Kit.

You will have to drill 3 mm holes for the mounting kit with this drill bit

Leave all the DIP-switches on the power supply’s underside in their NORMAL positions. All pedals use the standard DC-cables in black with the standard 2.1 mm plugs. Depending on the year of manufacture the Dyna Comp might require a mini-plug, but this cable is also included with the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.

Connect the pedals as follows:

  • Output 1 (9V 100 mA): Analogman Mini Chorus
  • Output 2 (9V 100 mA): Dunlop Crybaby CGB95 (also works with a Fulltone Clyde Wah). Use a straight plug for the wah-wah, because of the thickness of the pedal’s housing. An angled plug might be prone to pop out.
  • Output 3 (9V 100 mA): Fulltone OCD
  • Output 4 (9V 100 mA): OUTPUT SPLITTER: Mad Professor Little Green Wonder & Mad Professor Simble. Connect the Little Green Wonder to the black-and-white cable and the Simble to the all-black cable.
  • Output 5 (9V 250 mA): Strymon El Capistan
  • Output 6 (9V 250 mA): Walrus Audio Monument
  • Output 7 (9V 100 mA): MXR Dyna Comp (also works with the Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor)
  • Output 8 (9V 100 mA): Neunaber Immerse

Case 2

Effects: BOSS Tuner TU-2, MXR Dyna comp, BJF Baby Blue, BOSS Combo Drive BC-2, BOSS Equalizer GE-7, BOSS Chorus CE-3, BOSS Gigadelay DD-20, Strymon Big Sky, Digitech Jamman Solo XT

Possible additions: The Boss Gigadelay could be swapped to a Strymon Timeline (or similar) in the future. There’s also the addition of a mini-sized pedal coming up soon, which means the PSU should have enough power reserves.

Pedalboard: Pedaltrain Classic 1

Recommended PSU: Cioks DC10 Link. This power supply will power all the pedals, even leaving one output vacant for later use.

The Cioks DC10 Link will be mounted to the Pedaltrain Classic 1 with Pedaltrain Universal Mounting Kit.

You will have to drill 3 mm holes for the mounting kit with this drill bit

Should the Boss CE-3 be an old model, requiring a Boss 12 V ACA-power supply, switch the DIP-switch of this output to “12 V”, but leave the rest set to “9 V”. All pedals work with the black standard cable and the standard 2.1 mm plug.

Connect the pedals as follows:

  • Output 1 (9V 100 mA): Boss TU-2 Tuner
  • Output 2 (9V 100 mA): Boss GE-7 Equalizer
  • Output 3 (9/12V 100 mA): Boss CE-3 Chorus (switch the DIP-switch to “12 V”, if the label on the pedal reads "Use ACA-adapter only")
  • Output 4 (9/12V 100 mA): MXR Dyna Comp
  • Output 5 (9/12V 200 mA): BJFe Baby Blue OD
  • Output 6 (9/12V 200 mA): Digitech Jamman XT
  • Output 7 (9/12V 400 mA): Boss BC-2 Combo Drive
  • Output 8 (9V 400 mA): Boss DD-20 Giga Delay. Should you swap to a Strymon Timeline you can use the same output. For other future effects use either this output or the adjustable output 10, which is currently vacant.
  • Output 9 (9V 400 mA): Strymon BigSky
  • Output 10 (9-24V 800-300 mA): not in use


If you have purchased all the parts and components but get a feeling that you might not be up to the task after all, we can make your pedalboard for you, using the components you have bought from us. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything go to waste.


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