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How Difficult to Make Head Switchable 110v/220v?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by GKon, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    I know very little of electronics and how amps are built, so please excuse any ignorance in the post.

    I've got an older Fender 80w, 4 channel P.A. that has a handy little switch in the back which allows me to choose between 110v and 220v. It's simple, and very handy for me, as I have traveled between the U.S. and Greece, bringing my equipment with me, and allowing me to use it in both countries.

    Of course, there are other heads, amps etc. that also have this feature.
    More often that not, though, this feature is not built in.

    My question is:
    How difficult would it be to take a bass head that does not have this feature, open it up and convert it to provide this feature? I'm sure each individual case is different but, generally speaking, for someone that knows what they're doing, would it be possible and cost effective to convert a bass head to be switchable between 110v and 220v?

    Last edited: Feb 11, 2016
  2. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Unless the head is already built with either an external or internal switch to select between voltages, its not feasible.

    Its not just a switch. It is basically how the transformer is built.
    Aqualung60, ColdEye, WRM and 2 others like this.
  3. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    Yes, I understand that it's not just a switch. I guess my post made it seem like I was completely clueless. Sorry about that.

    My question is, how difficult would it be to rebuild(?), replace(?), redesign(?) the transformer to make it switchable.
  4. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    It wouldn't be economically feasible or practical.

    You would want to get an external voltage converter.
    JackANSI and GKon like this.
  5. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    You answered your own question perfectly in your first post. [​IMG]
  6. Mark Reccord

    Mark Reccord Supporting Member

    It would require replacing (or rewinding) the power transformer with one that has multiple primary windings to accept the different voltages assuming we're not talking about an amp with a switched mode power supply here. While actually swapping transformers and adding a switch isn't difficult for someone who knows what they are doing, it's not cost effective at all and it might not be easy to find a suitable replacement with the right windings, power rating and physical size. Your best bet here is an external converter.
    GKon likes this.
  7. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    Τhanks folks. That's what I was wondering.

    Having traveled back and forth from the U.S. to Greece since I was a kid, I am very familiar with the use of external transformers.
    I was hoping making an internal change would be something easy or simple.

    The heads I've had that are switchable have been so convenient to use. I then have to ask and wonder why not design all of them like that.
    Is it an expensive design element to incorporate into an amp?
  8. hen the amp was being designed and the power transformer spec was settled upon, it could have been ordered with a split primary. Simplest would have been two 110/120v primaries. In series for 220/240V and in parallel for 110/120V
    jastacey, Bob Lee (QSC) and GKon like this.
  9. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    Would this work?
    Micro Center - Computers and Electronics

    "This voltage converter allows 230v devices like those found in Europe to be used in North America. The unit plugs into a standard North American socket and accepts an European VDE or schuko plug. This step up transformer has an input voltage of 110 Volts AC and has an output of 230 Volts AC at 50HZ. The maximum power rating is 45 watts."


    It's only $19.99 If it works for my specific application (Behringer BXR1800H), then I see why it's not cost effective or necessary to
    do any internal "surgery" to make it work.
  10. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    Thanks for the explanation. I appreciate it.
  11. agedhorse

    agedhorse SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Difficult to impossible depending on the particular amp.

    The $19.99 converter should not be used with any amplifier based product. It works by limiting the conduction angle go the AC waveform and this the RMS voltage, but the peak voltage is usually too high which damages anything but simple motor or heater type appliances. Don't try it unless you are ok damaging your amp in an unrepairable way.
    mbelue, JackANSI and GKon like this.
  12. That thing will melt if you try to run a bass amp from it. It’s for things like electric razors.
    GKon likes this.
  13. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    That's exactly what I was wondering. I appreciate the info.

    So, would you be willing to offer some recommendations of what I could use without doing damage to my amp?
    I want to see what the appropriate item would be and how much it would cost.
  14. If you are moving back to Greece I would suggest you sell all your musical gear and buy fresh when the move is completed.If the moves are temporary the cost of shipping the stuff will add up significantly. Still be cheaper in the long run to have musical stuff at both ends.
  15. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    Some amps do not have a switch but can be internally configured to operate with different line voltages. They are designed to be set up for different countries. So if you are lucky, this can be done. The power cord needs to be changed, as well as the fuse.

    If the amp can not be easily reconfigured, an external transformer that you can leave in Greece or the USA is a good way to go. These transformers come with different specs. You will need to buy one to go with the amp that draws the most power.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2016
    newfuture and GKon like this.
  16. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    I've moved back to the U.S. from Greece, but left my amp in Greece. I don't plan on going back there for any amount of time, so having amps at both ends doesn't make sense for me.
    I'd like to simply see what's available as a transformer and what it will cost. If a transformer costs as much as a good used or new head here in the States, I'll just buy a new head.
    If, however, it's cheap enough, I can hand carry my head back with me from Greece and just use that.
  17. I’d just pick up a used head here and leave the Behringer in Greece. Used amps of that quality are not that expensive in north America. To use a 240V amp in this country you’ll need a 120/240V transformer, a suitably sized enclosure fuses and suitable sockets.

    I built such a beast when my sister brought me her keyboard from the UK. The large Hammond die cast box has an IEC socket for inlet and a 13A three prong UK socket for the keyboard. The power switch illuminates to indicate applied power. A fuse protects the whole shebang. Everything is grounded as it should.
    Seth Miller and GKon like this.
  18. friendlybass


    Jul 19, 2012
    Transformer would be the way to go. I'd snag one of those beefy metal brick type like they've got in europe
    GKon likes this.
  19. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Albuquerque, NM
    Thanks fellas. We had giant and heavy transformers when my family moved to Greece when I was a kid. Since it seems that's what I'd need,
    I'd rather just pick up a good, used head here. I just saw a GK 1001RB at a local pawn shop on blowout for $200. Well worth it.
    friendlybass likes this.
  20. spankdaplank


    Jan 19, 2003
    I moved from the USA to the Philippines 5 years ago. I brought a lot of musical equipment with me. Wall voltage is 220v here. I must say, using a stepdown transformer at gigs is tedious at best. One thing I was able to do before I moved was to upgrade my bass amps to a Carvin BX500 and a Peavey VB-3. both are rated to run on 120v to 230v automatically due to their SMPS power sections. On my studio equipment I ordered 220v wallwarts wherever I could and actually changed out a couple of internal transformers on some rack equipment.
    One of the main reasons I went through this effort is because the standard wall outlets here are EXACTLY THE SAME as USA - two parallel blade wall outlet, rather than the European style round blades or the mega plus sized parallel flat blades. So it is super easy to forget (especially at my age). This has resulted in a couple of releases of magic smoke already. I have a permanent transformer and 120v outlets in my studio and the 120v plugs are marked with bright yellow tape.
    Killed_by_Death, petey293 and GKon like this.

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