If you’re considering using UK guitar pedals in the USA, here’s what you need to know before you plug in

Whether you live in the USA and you’re importing some awesome Laney Black Country Customs guitar pedals or you’ve hit the big time and you’re about to tour in “The States”, you’ll need to know whether you can use UK guitar pedals in the USA.

I’ve put together the different scenarios for you, so you know what to take out on tour with you, or whether or not you should consider buying accessories for your UK-made pedals for use in the USA. This is especially useful if you’re a bass player taking your ampless rig to the USA.

Fortunately, the answer is “yes, you can use them” as long as you follow some conditions.

But first – you need to know the difference in power from the UK to the USA.

What power is the UK compared to the USA

The UK plugs you have in your home, run between 230-240V. Officially the UK is at 230V at 50Hz  – see here.

The USA uses a 110V-120V 60Hz AC. However, most homes in the USA now are wired for both 110v and 220v use.

However, venues in the USA may be different… So you can’t always rely on being able to use your pedals or pedalboards.

Why is this important to know?

You need to know what power supply you need! Technically, what plug you need.

Importing pedals from the UK to USA to gig or play with

Here are 3 scenarios:

  1. Power Scenario #1: Battery
  2. Power Scenario #2: PSU (power supply that plugs into wall per pedal) e.g. Ibanez AC509 Pedal Power
  3. Power Scenario #3: Pedal Power Supply i.e. Strymon, T-Rex, Voodoo Labs, Truetone 1 Spot

Power Scenario #1: Battery – Using batteries to power pedals in the USA from the UK

If you use batteries to power your pedals, you will have no problems whatsoever. Aside from batteries draining, of course.

If you’re playing a gig IN the USA and you’ve travelled FROM the UK with pedals you’ve bought from the UK will have almost ZERO problems playing with them using batteries alone.

Word of caution: disconnect the patch cables when you’re finished playing otherwise the batteries will run down.

Things change if you’re using power supplies.

Power Scenario #2: Using External PSU’s / Daisy Chaining To power pedals

Let’s say for example you’re using pedals with the standard regulated 9V DC PSU, centre negative, 2.1 x 5.5 x 10mm connector type. This is the normal plug you see on almost all pedals these days.

All Black Country Customs effects have this connection. This is the industry standard.

BCC spiral pedal 9V connection

If you’re daisy chaining your pedals using a UK PSU e.g. a single power supply that plugs into the wall (NOT pedalboard power supply) then you might run into problems.

Almost every plug you buy from the UK will be set up for 230-240V. The USA uses 110V power in a lot of venues so your pedals might not work correctly unless you have a PSU supply that has an input of 100-240V –50-60Hz which is capable of handling both UK and USA power requirements. Check the back panel wording – example below.

Example of power supply for UK pedals that work in the USA 654x843px

This is an example of power supply for UK pedals that will work in the USA

If it has both numbers then you’re good to go! Just get a travel plug adapter.

If it only says 220-240 volts then you have two options: One is expensive – one is very cheap.

Hack #1 – Good option: get a down-step transformer. A down-step transformer is a unit that literally down-steps your power from 230V to the 110V required in the USA. If you are thinking of touring in the USA and want to use your pedals by daisy chaining them (which is not a good idea for sonic clarity anyway) then you will have to buy a down-step transformer or converter. This can be expensive.

Hack #2 – Better option: buy a pedal power supply from the USA. This is an inexpensive hack that will cost you around $20-$30. If you’re travelling to the USA from the UK, you could buy a PSU power supply there. As long as you are providing the 9V output requirement and at least 100v input requirement, you’re good to go.

Just make sure that any power supplies you use DO NOT exceed the maximum voltage you need – otherwise, you’ll damage your pedals

Hack #3 – Best option: Buy a PSU that has a dual voltage rating of ‘INPUT: 110-240V’ and 50-60Hz and you’re set for all eventualities. You just need a travel adapter. I refer you to the image above again.

Power Scenario #3: Using pedalboard power supplies

Again, if you’re using guitar pedals with the standard Regulated 9V DC PSU, centre negative, 2.1 x 5.5 x 10mm connector type as well as a range of other options and power your board with a pedalboard power supply, you need to check the user manual and the panel on the plug to make sure that it provides an input of 110-240V.

Let’s say you’re based in the USA and want to use a UK guitar pedal on a pedalboard.

If you are based in the USA and you have a pedal power supply, and you want to use a 9V UK guitar or bass pedal from Black Country Customs that you have imported into the country, then you need to make sure that your pedal power supply A.) supplies at least 9V power to your pedals and B.) enough milliamps (mA).

When it comes to mA, most pedal power supplies will provide more than enough power and often need only around 10mA to work. However, some higher draw pedals such as the Difference Engine Delay pedal need around 150mA, and the Laney DB-Pre requires 100mA, so make sure your pedal power supply or your separate power supply provides this. There’s usually a higher mA socket on options from Strymon, Voodoo Labs, Truetone 1 Spot etc.

If you’re based in the USA, you likely have USA plugs and power supplies – so don’t worry – your pedals will work as long as you’re providing the right voltage and mA.

Let’s say you’re based in the UK and you want to take your guitar pedalboard to the USA with you.

Most pedal power supplies these days from Strymon, Truetone 1 Spot etc. have a dual voltage switch or an automatic switch built in that flicks between USA and UK power requirements as soon as it detects power. Just check to see if your pedal power supply has a “Voltage Selector” of 115/230 volts, for example.

If it does, you just need a travel adapter for your plug.

If it doesn’t, for example with the likes of a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2, (that particularly company produces two different versions of their power supplies – one for the USA and one for Europe/UK ) then you need to get another pedal power supply from them or another manufacturer designed for the US or a step up & down transformer to take on tour with you if you don’t want to rewire your board.

In summary – if you have a dual voltage adapter built into your pedalboard power supply you can use your pedalboard from the UK in the USA. If you don’t have a dual voltage power supply, you need a transformer/down-step converter.

Newer pedal power supplies have this dual power or “world tour” feature. So just check yours before you buy anything extra.

Can I use my UK guitar pedals in the USA?

In a nutshell, yes you can use UK pedals in the USA if you are using “normal” 9-volt style pedals that don’t plug directly into the wall via a hardwired plug (a plug permanently soldered to the pedal) as there may be different power considerations.

You just need to use the PSU with maximum volt output of 9V or pedalboard power supply set up to the USA requirements of at least 100 volts.

If you are travelling to the USA with a UK pedal power supply for your pedalboard that does not have a dual voltage switch, you will need either a down-step transformer or a USA pedalboard power supply.

If you just want to take a guitar pedal over to the USA from the UK, check if your PSU can supply an input of 110-240V or just buy a USA PSU while you’re there.

Pedals will work as long as you have the right amount of power going to them.

Final thoughts

One thing to always remember when buying guitar pedals, bass pedals from the UK to use in the USA (or power supplies), is that you should always buy from a reputable brand or retailer. Try to steer away from “boutique” unknown name pedals that are unbranded where possible as they can be very unpredictable if you start moving between countries and changing power supplies and are potentially made with poor materials.

There’s nothing worse than a pedal failing on you when you’re mid-way through a song. Don’t risk it. Buy direct from a brand or a reputable retailer.

We recommend the Black Country Customs guitar and bass pedals as they’re lovingly crafted by expert pedal builders, and designed in the UK.

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