How Many Pedals Can You Daisy Chain?

An image of a pedal board. How many pedals can you daisy chain?

In fact, should you daisy chain pedals at all?
You may have read a lot of information of daisy chaining pedals and still be no clearer. Hopefully we can give you some personal experience of running daisy chain power supplies and those expensive fully isolated power supplies.

First off, there just isn’t a definitive right or wrong here no matter what you’ve read. We’ve run both fully isolated dedicated power supplies and also, like many, we started with a single power supply and a daisy chain. We’ve also ended up with a mix of daisy chain and other power supplies. So, the short answer is yes, but there are time when it just won’t work.

Power Draw
So the first thing you must ensure is that the pedals you have don’t draw more current (measured in mA, milliamps) than your single power supply can output.

All power supplies will have their output printed on them. Simply take a look at your pedal manuals or visit the manufacturers websites and add up all the current draws. As long as the total current draw of all the is below what the power supply is rated for then your almost there.

Positive and Negative
Your power supply will usually have a single standard pedal output barrel connector called a DC Connector or DC Plug.

A 9V DC center-negative power supply is the de facto standard for pedals. That means a center-negative plug will have the negative voltage on the center conductor and the positive voltage on the sleeve (outside) conductor. Just remember that some do differ, and not checking could in some cases damage your power supply or even worse, your pedal.

Now you simply add your daisy chain cable and you are away… budget brilliance…


Why a daisy chain might be a bad choice
We’ve all run daisy chains at some point, and to be honest we’ve personally had very few issues. However, occasionally we’ll add a new pedal (EHX are known for issues for example) and things just don’t play ball with a daisy chain set up. It’s not really the fault of the pedal, it’s the way you are powering them. You can still be well within the current draw parameters but suddenly you get a lot of noise through the set up.

This is electrical interference and usually presents itself as hiss, hum, crackling or digital noises as soon as the pedal is in the chain, or when turned on. There are some great articles out there about the causes and reasonings for this if you’re interested (hear is a good one, but on old site that’s no longer updated 

But in a simplified way, it is simply because you are drawing power from the same source, and it’s all connected with the same power wires, it’s the ground wire that gives you the main issues.

So you have two choices now…

Yeah, this is expensive and a complete non-starter if you’re pedals are velcroed to a board and/or you have more than a few pedals. Yes, it’s an isolated power source (no ground wire connections now), and will get rid of the issue, but it’s not exactly an environmentally sound option or even a cost effective one, especially with digital pedals where if they do take a battery, they often eat it so quickly.

So, step up…

Fully Isolated Power Supply
First thing! Just because something says it’s fully isolated, doesn’t mean it is. The web is littered with cheap power supplies that promise to be fully isolated, clearly stating such. And we don’t stock these at present so we’ve nothing to gain by telling you this.

Please remember that right now the terms fully isolated and cheap are mutually exclusive. Steer well clear. You may not get noise off one, but they are little better than a daisy chain system, be very careful at the low end of the market.

So, you are left with having to spend a little more. But then if you’ve got a few pedals, you know how expensive that can get. Don’t they deserve a little smooth-power love?

A truly fully isolated power supply will remove the noise. There are sometimes other issues that can occur, such as power supply transformers being too close to a sensitive pedal, but they are overall a very worthwhile investment for a bigger board.

We’ve rigged up a range of pedals with a daisy chain and been OK, but even then, replacing that with a fully isolated supply brought the background noise down noticeably. And a few pedals just didn’t play well together with a daisy chain, again the true fully isolated supplies (models like Fender’s Engine Room, Strymon, Walrus Audio Pheonix, Truetone 1-spot, Voodoo Lab and more are worth a look at).

Once last note: mounting them can be fun dependant on your chosen power supply and pedal board, so check out the options!

Hopefully this helps just a bit. Drop us a line if Moji Music can help you out more.

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