I’ve been avoiding any sound-shaping pedals and a pedal board for my acoustic guitars for a long time. I didn’t use any guitar electronics at home (with rare exceptions), and used only a mixing preamp with EQ on the stage, and that’s it. However, recently I decided to try some sort of looper device, and … it opened a Pandora’s box! In this short post I describe my first mini pedal board. Moreover, it’s powered via a rechargeable USB battery. Read all the details below.
Here are key design points:
- I needed a compact pedal board for two devices: Zoom A3 acoustic guitar pedal, and TC Electronic Ditto X2 looper
- I wanted to use USB power for avoiding dealing with extra power cords and batteries, both at home and on stage
- All wiring should be minimized/optimized for that layout
Pedal Board, Bill of Materials:
- Gator Mini Bone pedal board
- Zoom A3 Pre-amp and Effects for Acoustic Guitar
- TC Electronic Ditto X2 Looper pedal
MyVolts 9V USB power cable for TC Electronics Flashback Mini Effects pedal
- Aug.2017 update: MyVolts doesn’t make these adapters anymore.
- You can try to use something like this: Dc 5v to Dc 9v Step Up Voltage Converter, USB A to 5.5 x 2.1mm
- 8″ right angle patch cable
- Pancake (low profile) 1/4″ TS Plug
The most ‘advanced’ feature of this pedal is USB Power.
Ditto X2 accepts standard 9V power only, with center wire negative. Zoom A3 can be powered either by the same power adapter as Ditto, or via its USB port.
Some time ago I successfully tested powering Zoom A3 with a large-capacity USB battery (~12,000 mAh). Together, Ditto X2 and Zoom A3 consume between 200 and 300 mA. It means that 6,000-7,000 mAh battery can provide power to both of them for 15-20 hours! The only limitation was to find a battery that fits between two pedals, has two output USB-A ports and one charging micro-USB port on the front side.
To be able to power up both pedals, I bought a 5v USB to 9V adapter (see the link above), cut a wire, and soldered my own Y-adapter with 2.1 mm jacks. It worked like a charm 🙂
I also found a very good thread about using USB batteries for powering guitar electronics on Acoustic Guitar Forum, and took a few ideas (such as a model number for the 5 to 9v adapter) from there.
August 2017 Update. You might also want to look at modern rechargeable batteries having 9v output in addition to the standard 5v
- XTPower MP-10000 External Battery Pack with 10,000mAh using dual USB 5V and DC 9V / 12V 2A.
- If 10,000 mAh capacity is not enough for your pedal board, here are a few bigger options:
It was easy enough to use any short patch cord for connecting unbalanced output of A3 to the mono / left input channel of Ditto X2. To reduce cable clutter, I cut an 8″ patch cable with right angle 1/4″ TS connectors in half, and soldered a low profile pancake plug to one of the cables for better cable management.
The only thing which I don’t like is not about the pedal board itself, but about Zoom A3’s role. It has a lot of very cool features including a rich set of guitar effects, but its main function is to mix signals from the guitar’s pickup and embedded microphone, and provide phantom power to it. The main disadvantage though is that A3 doesn’t have an effect loop.
Due to that, Ditto X2 can be connected either before or after the A3. In the first case, I’ll be able to send through the looper only the pickup’s signal. In the second case, I won’t be able to use A3’s XLR/DI output (which is important on stage). It’s not a big deal now because currently I don’t use a looper on stage, but I recently bought a Boss OC-3 octaver (another story) which should replace X2 in this setup in the near future.
Looks like I’ll need to add another decent DI into this configuration as the last hop in this entire signal chain.
I’ll very appreciate your feedback and recommendations.