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Gear failure and ethics

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jondog, Mar 1, 2003.


  1. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    We had major gear failures at our gig last night. I'm trying to figure out if it was my fault and if so what I should do about it. Here's the story.

    The stage had *no* outlets, so the guitarist ran an extension cord to the same outlet that the cash register was on. He plugged his gear into a surge protector strip on the end of it. He also has a surge protector on the other end at his pedalboard. When I plugged my rack in, also surge protected, I heard a loud pop. I yanked the plug and checked everything I could think of, but didn't see anything. I plugged back in and everything seemed fine. 10 minutes later the guitarist says his relatively new Boss pedalboard isn't working. We try the outlet w/ the tv on it. Nothing. 10 minutes later there is a burnt smell coming from my rack, it's my little rackfan dying. We run a longer extension cord downstairs into the kitchen, which allows me to realize that my compressor + adapter, subharmonic synth, and eq pedal adapter have all died. We quickly rearrange all of our gear because it's time to play, and actually do a halfway decent job despite losing so many tone tweakers.

    So, now it's the next day and I've taken everything apart and I'm trying to figure out if I'm responsible. Yes, my plugging in made the pop, but was it because something I plugged in was bad, or because the circuit was already overloaded? Why did stuff seem to work when I plugged in the 2nd time? Why didn't any of at least 4 surge protectors trip? Why didn't the house breaker trip? Why didn't my BBE fail? It was on and plugged into the same circuit that fried everything else. If it was something in my rack, I have 2 primary candidates. My fan is older than me, but it has worked fine in that rack for at least 8 months. My subharmonic synth was bought off of ebay, and last night was the 1st time I used it, but I did test it at home and it worked fine except for a wonky pot. I opened it up today and there are no burnt spots on the circuit board but it's definitely dead.

    As if all this wasn't enough, 1 of the powered PA mains failed last night too. I don't know for sure, but I think it was an unrelated problem.

    Please help. What should I look for? If my fan or synth did cause the problem, should I offer to buy my guitarist a new pedalboard? How can I know it wasn't his or the venue's fault?
     
  2. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Hmmmm ... where did the "pop" come from? What kind of surge protectors do you guys use? Do they have spike protectors in them? The only thing I can think of is that when whatever it was blew, it sent a high-voltage spike onto the power line, and the surge protectors did not have time to react before the damage was done. Although the transformer in the pedalboard's power section should have protected the guitarists's gear.

    Bottom line, it may be that your gear killed everything else, but I wouldn't go around feeling responsible. You have a reasonable expectation that your gear will work when you plug it in.

    Now, do you happen to have the kind of surge protectors that have a damage guarantee on them, like the ones you buy for computer equipment? You could conceivably have a claim, if so.
     
  3. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I don't know where the pop came from for sure, but it was probably one of the surge protectors, not his pedal board. They are just regular 6 outlet surge protectors, and unfortunately w/out the warranty insurance that comes w/ some. They are not plain power taps, they all definitely have breakers.

    The one that my eq adapter died on is a Power Sentry and it has a little red light labelled "Protection Working." When I was checking this a.m., I thought it was fine because the light still comes on and the plugs still work. Upon closer inspection, there's a little burn at the seam so I opened it up and the guts are very charred. This *might* be the one my inlaws gave me, and it *might* have a warranty and they *might* have it because they save everything. I'll ask them. Why does it still work if the guts are charred? How can I know if the "protection working" light is just for show or if this unit is still protecting despite being burnt?

    Thanks for your opinion on responsibility, I was feeling like it was my fault.
     
  4. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Have you tried plugging you gear into another plug bar? Maybe that's all that's cooked.
     
  5. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yes, that's the 1st thing I did. The power strip still works, despite being charred on the inside. The gear doesn't, despite having no burns on the inside.

    Power Sentry does have a warranty on some models, but my model isn't on the website. I'm calling them on Monday. Their warranty says you have to plug it directly into the wall, like nobody ever uses an extension cord! Maybe they won't ask about that part.
     
  6. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Ya know, I was debating whether to purchase a used Furman power regulator. Thanks for your post, my decision is made . . .
     
  7. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Yeah, but do a search on the Furmans. Most of them are just rack mounted power strips w/ a breaker, just like the strips that failed on me. To get any more protection you've got to get the more expensive voltage regulated one, and some people even say that doesn't do much. I'm pretty sure Furman doesn't offer to replace gear that gets fried like many of the computer strips do. The real protection is supposed to come from the computer style regulator + battery backup, and those things are very expensive and weigh a ton.
     
  8. So, what you are saying is that both you and the guitarist were running multiple pieces of gear off of the same plug? Wow, with all due respect I don't know if I'm more surprised that the breaker that was protecting the outlet didn't trip when you fired up all that gear or that you even plugged that much stuff into one outlet in the first place. You can only pull so much juice out of an outlet/circuit without having voltage problems and potentially damaged equipment.

    It's also possible that the outlet wasn't wired/grounded properly. I always check the outlets that I will use at a gig with a testing device first.
     
  9. jondog

    jondog

    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    A tester is a very good idea, what do you use?

    What else can you do when the venue does not provide multiple outlets? It was his fx (not amp), and my entire rig on the same outlet, not the whole band. My amp wasn't even turned on when everything fried, so I don't think we were pulling too much juice.

    Right now I'm blaming the venue. I talked w/ my guitarist again and he said when he told the manager he said "No, No, you can't plug in there!" Thanks a lot, it was kinda late. He was a dick overall. Maybe they had no breaker on their cash register outlet because it would be bad for business to ever have it go down. That's gotta be illegal.
     
  10. I'm sorry to hear that the manager didn't warn you first. That stinks. The tester I use I bought at Home Depot for cheap. They sell a few different types but the one I bought is not fancy (not much bigger than a standard plug) and you plug into the outlet itself. It has 3 lights on it and a chart that tells you what each combination of lit up lights means i.e. no ground etc.

    If a club only has one outlet near the stage I'd try to run an extension to another outlet near the bar or whatever no question about it. If there isn't another outlet available I'd bring it up with the clubs staff. I won't put my gear at risk.
     
  11. Phat Ham

    Phat Ham

    Feb 13, 2000
    DC
    It's not that big a deal to run everything off of one circuit if you're not trying to pull too much current. In my band we regularly plug everything into the same circuit (sometimes different outlets will be on the same circuit). Out PA is 1000 watts, the guitar amp 100, my amp 500 for a total of 1600W. With a 15A breaker at 120V that's 1800 Watts, so even if we were drawing a continuous full load we'd still be under the 15A limit. You can get away with using a good bit more power with a 15A breaker since musical equipment does not draw a continuous full load. Putting everything on the same circuit can also help get rid of ground loop problems.