Here are a handful of options to keep everything powered up, no matter how big—or small—your board might be.
It takes an absurd amount of time for us to refine our approach to pedals by trying out anything we can get our hands on. However, not enough time is spent figuring out how to properly power those boards we’ve so carefully pieced together. Overall power, variable voltages, and portability all need to be considered when choosing the right power supply. Below are 10 different options that will assuredly keep your board up and running, but also give you peace of mind.
A slimline power machine, this 7-ouput unit offers four different voltages, a 5V USB outlet, and a 24V aux output—quite a bit of options for a supply that is only 1" thick. For international travelers, it will handle any type of power you throw at it.
If your pedal inventory is creeping into the double digits, the CS12 offers a dozen customizable outputs to get all your stomps the power they need. Four of the outputs can move between 9V and 12V, while one output has variable voltage. All in, the CS12 cranks out 3000mA of isolated power.
With nine outputs pumping out 500mA each, you’d be hard pressed to find a pedal that the Zuma can’t hang with. It’s also easily expandable, with a 24V thru jack to connect to other Strymon power supplies.
One of the oldest names in the power game offers up the latest iteration of their classic model. It sports six 9V outputs each spitting out 500mA, a pair of switchable 12V/9V outputs, and an X-Link output that allows you to connect a Pedal Power X4 or X8 for up to 16 more isolated outputs.
This compact power supply offers up 10 isolated outputs that range from 100mA to 450mA each, plus a pair of adjustable outputs that can be dialed in from 6V to 15V via a small knob.
If you’re named after a close friend of the God of Thunder (no, not Gene), you better bring plenty of power to the table. It features a total of eight isolated outputs (six of them at 100mA and two at 300mA) and has a complimentary power output.
If you have a mid-sized pedalboard with a handful of power-hungry pedals, this expandable eight-output unit offers plenty of juice. Alongside the six 9V, 500mA outputs you have two adjustable outputs that can go from 9V to 18V and a pair of USB outputs to keep your non-pedals gadgets powered up.
If you need to be really portable, this rechargeable power supply might be the ticket. With two hours of runtime, it can be recharged by nearly any mobile device including computers and even your car. Housed inside are six 300mA outputs and a pair of 500mA outputs for more power-hungry stomps.
High-gain amp wizard Dave Friedman has created this power supply, which features 10 350mA outlets, to offer zero field hum. It works everywhere in the world, no matter what power you get to feed it. Plus, it’s designed as a riser, so if you don’t have room under your board, you can mount a pedal right on top.
This small-but-powerful unit would be perfect for more compact rigs—even if your board is tight on space. The five outlets shoot out 120mA each, and you can switch between 115 volts and 240 volts for international travel.
Actor H. Jon Benjamin recorded a jazz album wherein he played piano, but he doesn’t know how to play piano. Let’s explore the musical conundrum of skill versus emotion.
“The guitar is the easiest instrument to play and the hardest to play well.” —Andrés Segovia
You probably know H. Jon Benjamin’s voice. He’s the voice actor for Archer in the animated sitcom Archer, as well as Bob in Bob’s Burgers, and Carl in Family Guy. (Okay, so I watch a lot of cartoons). In 2015, Benjamin recorded a jazz album, Well, I Should Have…, with some true jazzers—Scott Kreitzer on sax, David Finck on bass, Jonathan Peretz on drums—and Benjamin on piano. Here’s the twist: Benjamin does not play piano. Nor is he a fan of jazz. He just went for it, and Sub Pop released it.
Admittedly, I couldn’t make it through the entire album, but I did enjoy a two-song serving. Most of the time, Benjamin sounds like a not particularly gifted 13-month-old child in a room with a piano and little else to entertain him. His timing is … well … time-less: a bit like tennis shoes in a dryer. His note choice is arbitrary, there’s no sense of melody or dynamics, but every now and then, he plays something that sounds like music, usually when he gave it some space. Regardless, the band was swinging, so his pocketless nonsense sometimes kind-of worked. Honestly, I’ve been lost at a gig or a session and sounded about as musical as Benjamin until I recovered. As you might imagine, the album angered a lot of jazzers (who kind of seem a little angry anyway), but if the point of jazz is to push boundaries and transcend norms in a spirit of true artistic experimentation—mission accomplished.
Who hasn’t listened to jazz and wondered, “Did they mean to do that?” Throughout Thelonious Monk’s entire career, there were people who saw him, heard him, and even hired him, who thought Monk didn’t know how to play piano; as if his entire career was a ruse, a deep fake. With his fingers splayed out and attacking the keys in this unorthodox method, all that dissonance and weirdness combined with mental illness made Monk’s music a bit difficult to digest. But that’s art: genius working on the border of the frontier of new ideas is rarely recognized.
“As you might imagine, the album angered a lot of jazzers (who often seem a little angry anyway), but if the point of jazz is to push boundaries and transcend norms in a spirit of true artistic experimentation, mission accomplished.”
On the other hand, you don’t have to know what you’re doing to make good, or even great music. Even a cat walking across a piano can play something cool, or creepy, and almost always engaging. Even when a musician really knows what they’re doing, there are often bits of music that go beyond what the player is capable of crafting intentionally. That’s part of music’s magic—play long enough, and your fingers will unconsciously stumble into a cool riff or melody. It may be dumb luck, or it may be that the player is channeling some benevolent spirit of music who sings through them.
For an example of channeling, check out Daniel Lanois. He’s produced and played on a handful of albums that are on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of all Time” list. When I watch Lanois play guitar or pedal steel, I get the feeling he has no idea where he’s going, or what he’s playing. It feels like he’s connected to something spiritual, and the result is something between a prayer and a howl.
That’s why those Lanois albums hold up so well. If a hired-gun guitar virtuoso played those sessions, those parts probably wouldn’t have said as much. Most studio aces would play something they’ve played before. It would sound great, but probably wouldn’t be as effective as Lanois’ playing. If you know your instrument extremely well and work out a clever part, you run the risk of thinking your way out of the emotion. It happens to great players regularly, so maybe it’s hard to let the muse drive the ship when you’re a highly skilled captain. Kurt Cobain was not a technically gifted guitarist, but Nirvana’s body of work expressed something—angst, depression, alienation—that millions of people immediately related to, so much that Nevermind single-handedly changed popular music. At a time when popular music was “Nothin’ but a Good Time,” big, teased hair, guy-liner, and garish colors, Cobain didn’t shy away from dealing with negative emotions and the challenges of life. In fact, he embraced it and connected with the masses.
“But that’s art: Genius working on the border of the frontier of new ideas is rarely recognized.”
Music does not discriminate. It can be created by anybody: geniuses, idiots, children, or senile old people with one foot in the grave. There are no sure things. You can spend a lifetime dedicated to creating music, become a brilliant musician, and still occasionally sound like you have no idea what you’re doing. As blues great Coco Montoya told me during his Rig Rundown, “Sometimes you get Coco, sometimes you get caca.”
There's more in Corona than a slice of lime. The California city is also the home of Fender’s Custom Shop, and PG’s John Bohlinger, with our crack video team of Chris Kies and Perry Bean, descended on the shop recently for a different kind of rundown.
The tour starts with master builder Andy Hicks, who recount his CV, including a stint in the Gretsch Custom Shop, where he built the Malcolm Young 1963 Jet Firebird G6131 limited edition. At Fender, he leads a tour through the company's metal shop, which includes a press installed by Leo Fender. Saddles, pickup bobbins, shielding, bridge plates … check. You can watch a CNC machine cut Strat pickguards, and then stop in on Josefina Campos, perhaps Fender’s most famed living pickup maker, with 31 years of experience. Campos’ pickups are destined for Master Built guitars. How do you know if you've got a Campos pickup? She signs and dates each one. At Fender’s wood mill, where both the Fender USA and Custom Shop sawing gets done, you see alder, ash, and maple blanks, plus rosewood for fretboards. Learn about the "Golden Neck,” and see how Custom Shop necks get hand shaped. In Custom Shop final assembly, everything comes together. Guitar bodies have been painted and aged. Assembled neck are bolted in. The wiring and electronic installed. “All the guys in here are experts about their own work as well as everything else,” Hicks explains. That's part of Fender Custom’s quality assurance gameplan. On this day, Team Built instruments were on the menu. Master Built guitars are the province of a single builder, from start to finish. And master builder Austin MacNutt gives us a close-up look at one of his special projects, the Jerry Garcia “Alligator” Stratocaster, in a limited run of 100. And in Hicks’ own shop, he talks about the process of creating a custom guitar, from talking to the buyer about his or her desires, to plugging it in and playing it. He also displays a very special Jaguar, made from a 50,000-year-old piece of partially petrified wood, with a blonde inlay from mastodon tusk. FYI, he currently has 50 to 75 guitars at various stages of the three-month process of custom building. Hicks also talks about creating his annual prestige model. It's a secret. You've gotta wait till next year!