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Guitar pedals aren’t exactly cheap. While you can find some good deals on used pedals or certain brands like Donner and Behringer that specialize in low-cost but still good-quality options, for the most part, you will be spending a decent amount of money on pedals.
Since pedals aren’t cheap, protecting them from unnecessary wear and tear is important. Although pedals are resilient pieces of equipment as they are designed to be stomped on, they are not invincible.
You can do many things to help increase the longevity of your pedals, such as avoiding spilling liquid on them and regularly cleaning them. But what about keeping them plugged in?
Is it ok to keep your guitar pedals plugged in?
It’s not recommended to keep your guitar pedals plugged in, while it typically won’t cause any direct damage to the pedals, there is a chance they can become damaged due to power surges. It’s best to keep guitar pedals unplugged from a power supply when not using them just to be on the safe side.
There are, of course, some nuances to this, which I will talk about below. I will also talk about keeping your guitar or patch cables plugged into your pedals when not in use and whether or not this is a good idea.
Is It OK To Leave Guitar Pedals Plugged In?
In everyday situations, keeping your guitar pedals plugged into a DC adapter and into a wall outlet shouldn’t cause any issues to your pedals (usually). However, there are a few important points to take into consideration. Personally, I never keep my pedals plugged into a power source, just to be on the safe side.
The opinions are mixed on whether or not leaving guitar pedals plugged in can cause any damage to them over time. Some players state that keeping pedals plugged in could wear them out and decrease their longevity.
While this could certainly be true, it might not be directly related to keeping them plugged in but rather the overall effects of usage over time.
No matter how good you take care of your pedals, they will degrade over time, but I look at scenarios like this in this way: It certainly won’t harm the pedals to keep them unplugged, but there is a chance it could harm them if you keep them plugged in. So, in my mind, it makes no sense to keep them plugged in.
When the option is no damage versus the potential for damage, why wouldn’t you opt for the choice that won’t cause damage? Even if the chance is low, pedals are expensive, so why take the risk?
Another factor to consider is not about damaging your pedals but simply the fact that your pedals will still be consuming energy when plugged in, so obviously, unplugging them solves this problem.
You should also keep in mind that while most pedals on the market today use DC for power, there may be some that might run on AC. Always make sure that you never connect AC power to a DC pedal or vice versa, as this can cause some serious damage to your pedal.
As I explained in my article on how to use multiple guitar pedals at once, pedals can be powered in a few different ways, such as by a daisy chain or a power supply unit.
Let’s look at these different ways to power your pedals and if there is any potential risk for keeping your pedals plugged in using those methods.
Method 1: Daisy Chain
Powering your pedals via a daisy chain simply means powering multiple pedals from one DC plug using multiple connectors that route back to the original DC adapter plugged into the wall.
This method is cheap and effective but does run the risk of increased noise production and the potential to damage pedals over time.
When you daisy chain guitar pedals, you can create ground loops in every pedal, which can cause all of that unwanted humming.
Using a daisy chain will not inherently cause damage to your pedals. Still, it does increase the risk of damage because it will not regulate the power supply to each pedal, nor does it have any protection against power surges and the like.
This means that keeping your pedals plugged into the wall while using a daisy chain only increases the risk of these mishaps happening.
So while leaving a pedal plugged into the wall might not inherently be an issue, if you are using a daisy chain to power multiple pedals, there is a chance they will become damaged.
If you have multiple pedals connected using a daisy chain, I would recommend leaving it unplugged from your outlet. Daisy chain is the method I use to power my pedals, and I always leave them unplugged from the wall.
Method 2: Power Supply Unit
Power supply units are the optimal choice when attempting to power multiple pedals. These units, such as the Truetone 1 Spot Pro Pedal Power Supply Unit, will power each pedal individually instead of one source for multiple pedals. This greatly eliminates the humming noise often associated with Daisy Chain configurations.
But what about safety regarding leaving a power supply unit plugged into the wall?
Although the power supply unit is the optimal choice over daisy chains, it will still not protect your pedals from power surges.
However, the simple fix is to buy a power strip with surge protection and plug your power supply unit into the power strip. However, once again, it’s still a good idea to keep the power off.
The New York Times and many guitar forums recommend the Furman brand for high-end electronics (aka guitar pedals), although they can be quite pricey.
Can You Keep Guitar Cables And Patch Cables Plugged Into Your Pedals?
We’ve established that keeping your pedals plugged into an outlet likely won’t cause any serious issues, but it still isn’t the best idea. So what about keeping your guitar cable or patch cables plugged into them?
The first consideration is if your pedals are running on battery power or if you are powering your pedals via an external power supply such as a direct plug into the wall, via a daisy chain, or a power supply unit, as we have discussed above.
If you are powering your pedals by one of the external methods mentioned above, keeping a guitar cable or patch cable between your pedals is not a big deal, especially if you are disconnecting the power supply, as that will avoid all of the potential issues involving electricity that I mentioned earlier in this article.
If you are using a pedalboard with several pedals, it doesn’t make much sense to disconnect every single patch cable running to all of your pedals, as this would be an extremely inefficient process. One of the intents of a pedalboard is to make a guitarist’s life easier, not more difficult.
However, if you have any pedals that run on battery power (or the option to do so with a battery connected), keeping a patch cable plugged into the audio input will drain the battery.
This means that if you are using batteries to power your pedals, you need to make sure to unplug your cables from the input jacks. Otherwise, you will be replacing your batteries all of the time, and that cost can quickly add up.
Most of my guitar playing is done in my home recording studio, so I typically unplug and return all cables and pedals to designated spaces on my shelves.
I have a lot of equipment crammed into a relatively small area, so I do my best to keep my space as clutter-free as possible. I also typically only use one or two effects pedals at any given time when working on a song, so I don’t usually have the need to keep them all on my pedalboard.
However, there are situations when I will hook up multiple pedals and leave them all on my pedalboard for several weeks at a time.
I also use the daisy chain method to power my pedals, so I am not concerned about keeping the patch cables plugged into the audio input jack.
How To Turn Off A Guitar Pedal
When you are done using your pedal, click the switch to turn the effect off. From there, you can unplug the pedal from the DC adapter (if that is how you are powering your pedal) and remove the audio input cable.
Unplugging the pedal from the power source or removing the cable from the input jack likely won’t do any damage, but you might get a loud popping sound similar to when you remove or insert cables from the guitar while the amp is on.
As a general rule, I try to avoid doing this, but in terms of damaging your guitar pedals, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Remember, guitar pedals are resilient. They are designed to be stepped on all of the time.
That being said, we still need to take care of our equipment, and doing little things like clicking the pedal effect off before unplugging them is not a bad idea.
I hope you have found this article beneficial. You should now have a much better understanding of some of the nuances surrounding guitar pedals and what to do with them when you are not actively playing them.
The better you care for your pedals, the longer they will last, and the less money you will have to spend getting them repaired or replaced. Who knows, with all that saved money, you might even be able to buy more pedals to play with!
Until next time, keep on playing!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.