Drive pedals and batteries

KC

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I've read a few times on the various interwebs that drive pedals sound better when they're running off of batteries, and specifically off of non-alkaline dollar store batteries. Has this been your experience? Any ideas what would make it so?

I'm always going to run my gig board off a power supply, don't want to worry about a battery going south mid-set. But lately I've been running my living room pedals off of batteries and everything seems to sound pretty great. In particular the Zen drive and the Tchula. Am I hallucinating?
 

BFcaster

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Not sure about drive pedals in general, but I 100% agree that germanium fuzz pedals sound better with non-alkaline cheap dollar-store 9v batteries.

I have tested a germanium tonebender clone with a wall-wart power, with independent power and with batteries of all types (rechargeable, alkaline, non-alkaline, etc..).....they function and work as they should, but they sound less than their potential. Like, you'd say to yourself 'why did I pay this much for this pedal??'.
The kinda cool thing is that they sound even cooler/better as the battery starts to lose its charge. I've got a cheapy battery in my tonebender clone that's gotta be at like 10% and the pedal sounds amazing!
Just my two cents..
 

Happy Enchilada

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hopdybob

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as far as i know, rechargeable batteries don't match the full load volt of alkaline batteries.
wen using a power supply, it is maybe the same like with a battery screwdriver.
the battery will deliver more strength than when it would be a device connected to a power socket.
at least, that is being told to me :confused:
 

Tele-friend

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Yes, Analogman suggests using non-alkaline cheap dollar-store 9v batteries with fuzz pedals.
I use a battery in my Analogman sunface.
Does it sound better this way? Hard to say, maybe.
 

MatsEriksson

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I've read a few times on the various interwebs that drive pedals sound better when they're running off of batteries, and specifically off of non-alkaline dollar store batteries. Has this been your experience? Any ideas what would make it so?

I'm always going to run my gig board off a power supply, don't want to worry about a battery going south mid-set. But lately I've been running my living room pedals off of batteries and everything seems to sound pretty great. In particular the Zen drive and the Tchula. Am I hallucinating?

Just ask Eric Johnson, the don, and expert of batteries on pedals. ;) It's mostly analog dirt pedals. Digital makes no sense really. The main thing with anything "boost" or "dirt" is that they do very little in terms om mA. They are at most 50 mA or 10 mA or 25 mA. If using a power supply you are connected to earth, grounding, and share juice with a lot of other pedals. You can hear hum and noise through power supplied pedals no matter how great and sturdy built they are.

But the most thing, is that there's only one pedal that fares better with batteries than power supply and it's the old Fuzz Face, vintage ones. They DO eat batteries for breakfast but it's when they lose the 9v and goes down to 6-7 volts they starts to sag and many people likes this. Me myself thinks batteries in pedals are a thing of the past. And for environmentally sound opinion, it's best to avoid. I do basically think that eventual advantages or drawbacks in sound is so subtle that it is neglible, and you're hooking up to something else anyways later down the chain, or before the pedals that will be grounded earthed, and induce something else into the signal path, and it's quite moot and futile.

The carbon 9-volt (non alkaline) gets to its sag position (low voltage) within 10-15 minutes of installing a fresh battery, of any fuzz face or similar. And it sounds "good" or really adds a different character to sound for a while. Then after half an hour it is down again below usable voltages and you have to change it out. Better, they do not sound (Yoda phrasing here). Sagging batteries can just as well add to noise and hum as well as change the sound altogether. Belive it or not.

- - - - - - -

There is an urban legend still going on that Eric Johnson can hear the difference between different brands of 9 volt batteries. Today, when the topic comes up in any interview he challenges everyone to show him any old interview in the past where he actually said this. They have still to come up with it. What he really did and has to explain still today, is what everyone else is hearing too is that some batteries of the alkaline design takes just longer to drain/fade, and he kept them that is not showing any signs of voltage drop the longest. It can be ANY brand, but as he once settled for - say - Duracell, he didn't find any point in trying different brands out. The important thing is that everyone else heard that difference too. Not ever directly, but after 10-15 minutes the batteries starts to "sag" and makes a detrimental effect to the sound. Absolutely the reverse of whatever someone else is thinking that the Fuzz Face pedals sounds better when the batteries are going south ever so slowly. The sag.

But Eric Johnson has always been sweating the small stuff. Most of us don't to that degree. But granted, if he wouldn't do that he wouldn't have his own signature tone, that he is unique of having. He likes to tinker.

Skärmavbild 2021-12-11 kl. 09.04.58.png


Here's a pic of his board in between sound check and gig. You can see the brass plugs on the input jacks as been unplugged, as they look "longer" when they are just plugged out a bit. The wah, fuzz face, TubeScreamer are the ones that runs on batteries still. And that's why he has entangled pedalboard with a lot of space, and wires of ample slack lying around so he can unplug/plug them quickly.

Even here, the Tube Driver Pedal is elevated on a wooden plank and slanted in an angle to the rest of the pedals. It's a dirt pedal. It has no batteries, but runs from its own dedicated power supply built in, and I think it affects other pedals around it, if not put in a "shadow" range for magnetism radiating through the air. But who am I to speak?

Skärmavbild 2021-12-11 kl. 09.12.54.png


By and large, he put all his effects at a distance, not only because ease of unplugging, but so they don't affect each others in sound, and induce something else into the chain. My best qualified guess, is that - too - he uses george l's cables and plugs exclusively and he use straight plugs ONLY. Their straight plugs are longer as well as the George L cables aren't that bendable. Their angled plugs are a PIA and often prone to failure. You can also detect that each pedal has a velcro bottom, so the actual pedals can't be moved around, and he can't accidentally knock them off/over while doing tap dance when playing.
 

MatsEriksson

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I am not sure about boutique builders designing deliberately pedals for carbon 9 volt batteries. If they should walk that extra mile, they can and should make them sound the same with any power supply or any other battery, recchargable, ithium, carbon, alkaline or whatever.
 

wulfenganck

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Well, I once tried my overdrive- and fuzz-pedals with a) power supply, b) battery, c) dying battery.
I heard a difference with the fuzz-pedals, but I found it rather marginal and nothing which couldn't be recreated by the "before" and "After"-knobs (kind of bias-adjust) of my Digitech Carcosa or the "Bloom"-knob from my Fender The Pelt.
I actually didn't recognise a difference with my od-pedals. There was a difference with those who accept anything from 9 to 24 Volt, mainly the increased headroom with higher voltage.
But again, the differences were ratehr marginal and nothing substantial.
Given the fact that I'm mainly playing live and not a recording artist (except for our own amusement), I really, really, REALLY doubt that you'll even recognize the difference live amongst the whole band.
 

JustABluesGuy

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I remember once noticing the difference in a drive pedal as the battery in it was dying. It was “interesting” and sounded kind of cool, but not usable for anything other than brief few minutes before dying.

Can cheap dollar store batteries do something similar? Maybe? I will probably never know, and can’t say I am all that concerned.

I’m happy enough with my pedals running at their recommended voltages to not bother with such power supply esoterica.
 

Killing Floor

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It’s not so much that they sound better or more consistent or more as the way back designers of Dallas Arbiter intended. It’s the player. If you play a session intensely worried about your pedal tone you are not giving 100% to your performance.

So absolutely, as a musician, if you decide not to trust your tools you will not play or sound your best. And that includes panicking that your battery isn’t the brand Eric Johnson likes.

Yet the number of famous tone monsters using clean, isolated power supplies since the 70s should speak for itself.
Just ask Analog Man, KoT would sell if they didn’t have a center negative jack. And famously, nobody tells them how to design pedals and how to run their business. So why? Because they know what works and they balance that with what a few niche buyers want.
But if you want to risk your gig or session on inconsistency that’s your call. Eric Johnson had a guy. Most of us do not.
 

cousinpaul

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Buffers and buffered bypass pedals can be a factor too. Some dirt pedals sound better if placed first in the chain. I notice this with my Distortion+ and Colorsound Overdriver clone.
 

MatsEriksson

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"Almost always better -> Almost always worse"

says it on one pedal. Guess which one? It's a switch between two settings. It has Ge diodes. I can very well attest to that the old Fuzz Faces of yore could sound substantially different from item to item and the design and producers couldn't care less. They sounded way different from item to item, that could NOT be remedied by any battery, power supply or not. I e the difference in sound was larger from item to item, than any battery difference would make. SRV even put his FF into the freezer (if there was one backstage) first for half an hour before the gig, and then let his roadie rush it out to stage, hook it up, just one minute before starting the gig.

And regarding the comparison video above. There's no way for us telling that just because a power plug can be detected visually when hearing and looking at the same time, it could very well be the other way around. That the power supply sound, is in fact a scam, and is from battery, and the carbon/alkaline tests as well, which we can't detect at all. And as it's shown with the gig-rig "thingy" that converts power supply to some kind of sag or whatever to mimick battery, could be reverse as well. Then all of the battery aficionados would still go "battery sounds better".

I have a Modtone powersupply with sag potentiometers on 2 9v outlets. Yes, the sound changes and is different, but not necessarily better. I feel and detect when I lean in with the pick that the dynamic headroom disappears, and limiting and compression kicks in. The "sag".

- - - - - - - - - -

What I do not like with most analog pedals (including the infamous Klon Centaur/KTRs) that has just 9 volt adapter or voltage is when they include an internal charge pump to ramp it up to 18 v internally. This is a big no-no in my book. you can use batteries too, but they drain sooner. The sound may be slightly more headroom and dynamic, but it induces heterodyning and high pitched whisteling effects especially when combined with digital pedals that has AD/DA converters which are pristine and can "track" frequencies over human hearing. If you use any shimmer, pitch shifter, octave downs, it tracks pitch above 20 Khz and takes it down to one or two octaves under, and then starts to get in the way for other, and you hear it big time. The charge pump has a spike at 22-23 khz which can be easily measured with any soundcard with 96 Khz sample rate. You wont hear it but you see it in the waveform.

Now, the manufacturers of dirt pedals thinks that this is not within their responsibilty to make a simple filter and include it. The digital pedal manufacturers thinks its not within their responsibility to make a filter to buck that. They are not the ones doint the charge pump. So I do favor pedals that has "real" 18 v input from 2 9 v outlets in the power supply or dedicated adapter. Then this high whistle pitch (whining) is gone. 18 v pedals with 2 9 v batteries are out of scope with most manufacturers.

There are definitely even differences between different power supplies used. Especially those modern "switched" ones, compared to traditional torroid transformers. I've heard difference between Strymons Zuma and my Modtone even with digital pedals and analog pedals. It's mostly noise headroom and dynamics. But as said before, the differences are so subtle that it is neglible. New or old strings on your axe will make the sound differ even more than any carbon/alkaline comparison. Or thin or thick gauge strings.

Eric Johnson, and Josh Smith may be sweating the small stuff. And so it may be. All kudos to them. Me myself couldn't care less. I DO prefer less noise, hum, and increased headroom and dynamics, and especially that it is consistent DURING my playing a gig, at least for 2 hours. Having to rely on batteries that sounds great for the first 30 minutes and then starting to slowly go south (start to sag) is not my idea of consistency. Rather have power supply that keeps it up, and is constistent for 4 hours or even more. All day. And live with that small and miniscule change in sound, if any, there is. The trade off is simply not worth it.
 

Wound_Up

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I've read a few times on the various interwebs that drive pedals sound better when they're running off of batteries, and specifically off of non-alkaline dollar store batteries. Has this been your experience? Any ideas what would make it so?

I'm always going to run my gig board off a power supply, don't want to worry about a battery going south mid-set. But lately I've been running my living room pedals off of batteries and everything seems to sound pretty great. In particular the Zen drive and the Tchula. Am I hallucinating?

I've only heard this about Fuzz pedals.

And you can buy the carbon zinc batteries for like $0.50 each in bulk as long as you don't buy the ones from Danelectro that are marked up because they have a Dano label.

I picked up a pack of 20 heavy duty 9V's at the dollar store for like $12

Edit: OK so it was more like $25. It's been a while. I bought Rayovac Heavy Duty Carbon Zinc batteries at the local Big Lots' store. That's about the same price I paid for the firs few I bought from Danelectro because I found them on sale last year so I got a couple of packs.


Well it also turns out that my fuzz face that I built apparently uses less than 1mA so I doubt I'll ever use all of these batteries lol! According to my measurements, it uses around 0.8mA at the maximum. Zero point eight. Less than 1.

Yea, I won't be out of batteries any time soon at that rate
 
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richiek65

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Where I'm at we have 240v. I hear that some days it's 240, other days due to grid issues, it's 239, 238 etc and that these variances can affect amplifier tone quite a bit? So for pedals, a volt or two could have a similar effect?
 

wulfenganck

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There are other reasons as well for me AGAINST feeding my fuzz-/overdrive pedals on dying batteries apart from the (IMHO) rather marginal tonal difference within the bandmix:
I don't find it particularly desirable to produce hazardous waste. And yes, batteries are hazardous waste. That may sound a bit "woke" to some, but I do think everybody has to start with his/her own self for a change. It's apparently not "only 5 batteries per year, those won't make any difference".
Apart from that, I prefer gear that does what I want it to do. I stopped using an E-Bow because I was simply not proficient enough to reproduce the sounds live the way I had used them in rehearsal.
I also don't want to rely on hitting that sweet spot in batteries exactly when gigging.
 

Old Deaf Roadie

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The thought of having to deal with pedal batteries makes any pedal that "sounds better with a battery" a nonstarter for me. Batteries are an ongoing expense & they leave the door wide open for potentially fouling a gig. The only battery power I use is for my wireless, which is a candidate for downsizing as it is not used much.
 




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