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Power Surges and Amp Modelers Don’t Mix Well

I own two Digitech RP500s, and it’s a good thing, because one of them might be about to die. The cause of death–if indeed it’s imminent–is a power surge.

The rock band I’m playing the Inc. magazine Battle of the Corporate Bands with rehearses Thursday nights. A week ago Thursday, rehearsal was interrupted several times by power surges and failures that shut down every piece of gear we had.

Digitech RP500: it don't like bad power, no it don't
Digitech RP500: it don’t like bad power, no it don’t

No piece of electronic gear likes a power surge. But amp modelers are different from most of the stuff a rock band uses. Amp modelers are chip-driven, and chips seem to be more sensitive to variations in power than tubes or transistor circuits. At rehearsal this week, my RP500 was behaving in a decidedly flaky fashion. I brought up a patch with a rotary speaker effect on it, for example, and the rotary speaker wasn’t on, even though the light for the effect was lit up.

I was able in that case to get the effect to turn on by punching the dedicated effect footswitch, so not a showstopper. But it’s not supposed to happen. It would be a real drag in a performance situation where I want the effect on from the moment I go to the patch. I might not even notice it wasn’t on if the monitors weren’t loud enough, and that would be a double real drag. And who knows what else is no longer working the way it’s supposed to.

I’m going to see what happens with this RP500 over the next few days. In the meantime, it’s a good thing that new RP500s are selling for $200 now. It’s pretty clear that it was a good idea to get a backup for that device. (That’s something Lee Oskar said to me–if you use a piece of gear all the time, get a backup.) If this one goes south, a new one is in my near future. While I figure that out, I’m going to make sure that I never, ever plug an RP in again without a power conditioner between it and the wall outlet.

2 replies on “Power Surges and Amp Modelers Don’t Mix Well”

I have a surge protector power strip in my pedalboard case for that very reason – and I bought a used RP for backup, just in case….

I bought a power conditioning strip, which includes surge protection as well as cleanup for noisy power, for about $80. Expensive piece of gear, but it assures high quality AC to the power supplies for all my devices.

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