Underpowering a digital effect?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by deathness, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. deathness


    Jan 19, 2015
    I did a search, but there wasn't much and none of it conclusive. I was wondering if underpowering a digital effect like a reverb stompbox would harm it? It seems not to be a problem with analog (what with the prevalence of "starve" knobs on modern effects) but I was interested in experimenting with my Boss RV-2 to see if underpowering it can give it even more of a lo-fi feel and add random artifacts and such. It's my only pedal, though, and I don't want to track down another one! It runs on a 9v adapter (no battery) with a relatively high draw of 130ma.
  2. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    There are actually power supplies I've seen that simulate a weak battery for creating certain effects with older analog pedals. However, with digital electronics in general, my experience has been that they require a certain minimum voltage to operate or they either fail to work or do some really odd/nasty stuff. Usually in the digital world (in general) as long as you're above the minimum voltage and not sending it something that will fry it you get pretty much the same result.

    I know there are some preamp pedals that give you more headroom if you use a higher voltage powers supply (within their design limit of course), but I suspect that in those instances it's not a digital component that is providing the benefit.
    bassbrad and deathness like this.
  3. deathness


    Jan 19, 2015
    That's kinda what I figured. Thanks!
  4. Mosfed


    Apr 21, 2013
    Washington DC
    Partner - CCP Pedals
    In my experience, digital pedals either work or they don't. You can often get away with giving less than the spec requires but it doesn't come with any of the benefits that you can get when starving certain drive pedals.
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  5. One thing I have experienced with starving digital effects is raising the noise floor or they just don't work at all.
    Al Kraft likes this.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Unlike analog circuits which will operate, in many cases, along a power continuum, digital devices are basically binary creatures. They either function correctly and as designed - or they don't. And most usually don't "gracefully degrade" as it's sometimes called.

    If the power drops below the required tolerances, most digital devices will simply malfunction or stop working altogether. Sometimes they might malfunction in interesting ways. But far more often they'll malfunction differently (i.e. unpredictably) each time depending on the state of the digital circuit at the moment the threshold gets crossed. So it's hardly worth trying IMO. But it's your call.
    deathness and Al Kraft like this.
  7. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    I've done a bunch of circuit bending and some pedal mods - I've probably tried starving most pedals I have.

    I'd say the above advice covers 90+% of digital pedals. It is highly unlikely that you could hurt a digital pedal by starving it, though it has happened; that said this pedal can operate with a battery, so it'd be pretty dumb if it couldn't handle a low voltage. I've seen low voltage mess with a digital pedal's ability to start up correctly, but it has never yielded a useful sound for me. Some will not function correctly, though this usually has more to do with operation, and you may get glitches that don't involve the sounds it make (might get no effect, no thruput, volume drop, etc). Get the voltage low enough and it just won't be enough to power the pedal (duh). But there's an outside chance it'll work like you hope.

    You could build or purchase an external starve box (I wanna say Dwarfcraft made one at some point). Or you could just run it with a battery and be surprised if something sweet happens.
  8. deathness


    Jan 19, 2015
    Actually the RV-2 has no battery clip. It was the first reverb in stompbox form (there was no RV-1) the smallest reverb units before the RV-2 were tabletop and rackmount units. The reverb chip was so big they had to do away with the battery clip and make the pedal slightly taller than the average boss unit.

    Thanks for the info tho! I'm not surprised digital units wouldn't really respond interestingly to lower voltage. Was mostly curious. Appreciate everyone's insight and explanations.