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Wall Warts - what are the main issues?
Old 20th October 2013
  #1
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WhiteBeetle's Avatar
 

Wall Warts - what are the main issues?

I'm not a gigging musician but read a lot of condemnation of wall warts, even to the extent that some will rule out a synth if it uses one.

What are the main problems? Are they more likely to become disconnected? Get lost? Fail?

From a home use perspective, they allow lighter keyboards and, apart from having more stuff on the floor, are not a huge issue for me.
Old 20th October 2013
  #2
PES
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Don't know, and don't have a problem with them. The extra space (and number of sockets, if you can't arrange them properly) they use is the only thing that bothers me, but the lighter cables weigh up for it. Less to fail inside the synths too; external PSU's are easy to just replace.
Old 20th October 2013
  #3
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I think it's because they are so clunky

Sent from my SGH-T999
Old 20th October 2013
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPhoenix View Post
I think it's because they are so clunky.
Yup...clunkiness is an issue. If you pack a wall wart with the gear, you better be sure that it's wrapped well. Otherwise it will bounce around and the blades will scratch up your gear.

If you pack it separately, there's a chance you'll mix it up with similar ones of a different voltage or polarity. I found the magic smoke preset on one of my MIDI modules that way.

Even if the wart doesn't crowd out other outlets on a strip, the larger profile can be an issue. They're easier to trip over - and more likely to break if you do. Plugging 'em behind a Furman in a rack is a royal pain in the arse.

At home, the larger wall warts are more likely to fall out of an electrical outlet. It's worse when the receptacle's worn or one is of those stupid new tamper-resistant ones.

I prefer floor warts (inline power supplies) to wall warts. They don't have all of the issues noted above, and seem to be a little more durable in my experience.
Old 20th October 2013
  #5
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I have no issues with "lump-in-line" external power supplies, but would still prefer a removable three-prong power cable be on all my gear.
Old 20th October 2013
  #6
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One of the things which I love about my Ultranova is USB-buss power. Just one lead to the laptop deals with sound, midi and power.

Mind you, they can fall out easily.
Old 20th October 2013
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waveform:blue View Post
Even if the wart doesn't crowd out other outlets on a strip, the larger profile can be an issue. They're easier to trip over - and more likely to break if you do. Plugging 'em behind a Furman in a rack is a royal pain in the arse.
This mainly for me. Kind of an odd one out example, but I played a show on Friday and at one point our sampler/noise guy's (he has an MPC and bunch of pedals and other devices) keyboard stand gave out and the whole thing crashed to the floor mid-song. All the wall warts jumped out of their sockets, all the regular cables stayed put.
Old 20th October 2013
  #8
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marino's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
Are they more likely to become disconnected? Get lost? Fail?
Yes.
Old 20th October 2013
  #9
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I feel that it's both about clutter and longevity.

It feels more robust too with a real power cable. I don't like the lighter cables, it feels cheap and finicky.

If you've a good solid chassis why not protect you PSU within it? Even for small units it bothers me to have them effectively be in two pieces. I should get one of those multi supplies to clean things up and free up some sockets.

But none of this would ever be a consideration when making a purchase.
Old 20th October 2013
  #10
Gear Addict
 

Wall-warts and lump-line power supplies are just a fact of life these days, especially for manufacturers trying to keep costs down, but the most common complaints about them used to be:

1) If you were using rack-mounted power distribution units these often required the gear to have IEC connections and thus gear that came with a wall-wart PSU would need special arrangements.

2) The bulkiness has already been mentioned, but that could present a problem if you have to plug a wall-wart into a plug-board because it might mean that some of the adjacent sockets get blocked and aren't thus usable. It doesn't help that wall-warts are all different shapes, so whether they cause an issue or not depends upon the shape of the PSU and the orientation of the sockets on the board.

3) Wall-wart PSUs tend to be unshielded transformers and as such they tend to generate an electromagnetic field that can easily induce hum in nearby audio cables. Granted that's an issue with power cables generally but it can be worse with a PSU.

4) They can sometimes be difficult to replace if they break. I've seen all sorts of different voltage and current ratings on wall-wart/lump line PSUs, not to mention all manner of different size/shape connectors at the DC end. Finding an equivalent replacement for a broken PSU can thus be difficult, particularly once the manufacturer discontinues the unit because they won't necessarily keep replacement PSUs for discontinued products in stock. I've never personally been in the situation of not being able to obtain an equivalent, thankfully.
Old 20th October 2013
  #11
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Wall warts are bearable only when they are all clearly labeled.
Old 20th October 2013
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krushing View Post
This mainly for me. Kind of an odd one out example, but I played a show on Friday and at one point our sampler/noise guy's (he has an MPC and bunch of pedals and other devices) keyboard stand gave out and the whole thing crashed to the floor mid-song. All the wall warts jumped out of their sockets, all the regular cables stayed put.
Whoa...MIDI crash.
Old 20th October 2013
  #13
ozy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
Are they more likely to become disconnected?
yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
Are they more likely to Get lost?
yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
Are they more likely to Fail?
yes

Their plus side is:

power surges will destroy a 20 or 30 bucks device (the most expensives) which you can replace in seconds,

while the destruction of an internal power supply will often mean that your machine is seriously damaged,

and will always stop you from completing the gig.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boschen View Post
Wall warts are bearable only when they are all clearly labeled.
this is correct.

May I add: and when their cables are properly rolled up and tied during transportation
Old 20th October 2013
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozy View Post

May I add: and when their cables are properly rolled up and tied during transportation
Aaand it's physically separate/insulated from the gear so the prongs don't scratch or dent it.
Old 20th October 2013
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
I'm not a gigging musician but read a lot of condemnation of wall warts, even to the extent that some will rule out a synth if it uses one.

What are the main problems? Are they more likely to become disconnected? Get lost? Fail?

From a home use perspective, they allow lighter keyboards and, apart from having more stuff on the floor, are not a huge issue for me.
I am a gigging musician. they are a pain in the ass. the get lost, they break, the plugs flips out when someone comes too close to them, they never have the right length of cable, so that the plumper thing hangs around anywhere in the middle of nowhere, the cables are way to thin and tidy and after a gig you have 1 or 2 blank parts on any of them and so on and on.

the only way to deal with them accordingly is imo to put your gear in cases and build this wall warts with the gear into the case, so that you will never see them again. unless one fails and have to replace it.
Old 20th October 2013
  #16
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I've always thought they would make a good flail-type weapon though. It is late at night and you are packing up. A mugger says hand your stuff over. Because I pack them on the outer pocket of my laptop bag I could imagine just whipping it out Gogo Yubari style.
Old 20th October 2013
  #17
ozy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whiteaxxxe View Post
they are a pain in the ass. the only way to deal with them accordingly is imo to put your gear in cases and build this wall warts with the gear into the case, so that you will never see them again. unless one fails and have to replace it.
Old 20th October 2013
  #18
m.o
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For manufacturers especially small scale ones, using external power supplies can make it much simpler/cheaper.
Since they don't have to have their main unit classified and tested/approved to the same standards as a mains voltage powered unit.
Old 20th October 2013
  #19
For me it's way more reassuring to plug in a computer-style cable (derping on the real name). Plus the warts take up room on power strips.
Wall warts are a necessary evil at best.
No reason besides greed for companies like Mackie, Elektron, and DSI to have wall warts, and it bums me out a little. My old monomachine had a real cable, but the Octatrack has the inline dongle. Same with the older Mackies vs newer.
But it wasn't a dealbreaker for me buying the gear. There are workarounds. 6 inch extension cords make all outlets on a power strip or rack unit accessible, etc.
The other lame thing is the aren't universal. Some are special order, making a broken one at the wrong time a nightmare.
And they break a LOT, the cords on some wall warts are incredibly cheap.
Ok I'm done lol.
Old 20th October 2013
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteBeetle View Post
Mind you, they can fall out easily.
And that's the biggest problem with USB bus power. Can't someone design a USB cable that won't fall off so damn easily?!
Old 20th October 2013
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaughtrhaus View Post
No reason besides greed for companies like Mackie, Elektron, and DSI to have wall warts, and it bums me out a little. My old monomachine had a real cable, but the Octatrack has the inline dongle. Same with the older Mackies vs newer.
Yeah I don't get it/ When I'm spending $1-2000 on a piece of pro audio gear I want a switching power supply that works with any standard mains cable and which can't be pulled out of the back of the machine by accident. I know that mixing up power supplies has been a problem for many Elektron users (eg the A4 and the OT use different voltages) and I was pretty annoyed to see that the Tempest came with a cheap-ass external power supply when even an MPC1000 takes an IEC mains cable. It just screams 'unprofessional' to me. Sure, having an internal PSU go bad is a big problem, but these are about the most standardized electronics subsystems out there - I've never had one die on me. And frankly I trust a switching power supply to cope with dirty power a lot more than I trust a wall wart.

Old 20th October 2013
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilDragon View Post
And that's the biggest problem with USB bus power. Can't someone design a USB cable that won't fall off so damn easily?!
.. and while they're at it, design a CD/DVD that doesn't get scratched? The old 3.5" floppy disks in the hard cases had that solved 20 years ago.. but I digress.
Old 21st October 2013
  #23
ozy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m.o View Post
For manufacturers especially small scale ones, using external power supplies can make it much simpler/cheaper.
Since they don't have to have their main unit classified and tested/approved to the same standards as a mains voltage powered unit.
this is the answer
Old 21st October 2013
  #24
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oopfoo's Avatar
My solution to the wall wart problem is a 1' (30cm) extension cable, like this one:

Ativa Indoor Outlet Extender 1 Black by Office Depot

It moves the wart away from the outlet, saving space at the outlet, and cuts down on the cable-to-wart strain. While not a perfect solution, it does make the things a little more bearable.
Old 21st October 2013
  #25
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I wish they would standardize them, along with cellphone chargers. Design all (well, most) gear to use a standard power connector, standard voltage (say, 12V--an internal regulator can change this inside the gear as needed) and a standard max current draw and have all the wall warts conform to this. Then if one breaks, it's simple to replace; if you mix them up, you won't let the magic smoke out, etc.

If gear makers did this, a company could make a generic power supply with multiple output leads so you can power several devices with a single PSU, increasing efficiency and reducing clutter.

Or maybe have a different standardized connector for different voltages. 12V supplies use one type of connector; 5V another, 6V another, to prevent mix-ups. And the polarity should always be standardized; there's no reason for tip to be positive on one piece of gear and tip negative on another.

Also, it shouldn't cost that much to put a couple feet cord between the wall plug and the wart, eliminating all the issues with plug warts such as taking up two or three sockets.

Of course, with profit and greed being the #1 motive of companies, along with differing voltage and current requirements of different equipment, I doubt we'll see this anytime soon.
Old 21st October 2013
  #26
m.o
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Another idea (that won't go anywhere because of cost) would be to at least have gear manufacturers design in simple protection against wrong polarity and under/over-voltage, possibly with a simple "power bad/power good" LED...
Old 21st October 2013
  #27
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Wallwarts have been around for over twenty years and they still cause problems.

I have a "lump-in-the-middle" wallwart that is sturdy enough for gigging, but most wallwarts are just trouble waiting to happen. And I have little faith in their ability to filter out noise in the AC line.
Old 21st October 2013
  #28
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I always laugh at SOS reviews as they very often mention the wall warts as a huge problem. Really, them SOS reviewers are truly haters of these external items. Wall wart RACISTS!! LOL

I don't get it. I even think it is a good thing to have this part externally because they tend to fail more often than the rest of the machine so they are user-replaceable.



.
Old 21st October 2013
  #29
What I've seen done is Velcro and extension cords. It's easier than building a case, you could even get away with velcroing them to your keyboard stand...
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