Power all kinds of music gear with USB.
Welcome to the second episode of Bat Utility Belt, where I share quick profiles of my favorite music gadgets and why I like them. These are devices that I reach for all the time…and typically cost less than $100.
Today’s winner is even more affordable. The MyVolts Ripcord is a five-foot (1.5m) power cable with a USB plug at one end, a DC barrel plug at the other, and a voltage converter in between. Depending how much power your synth draws, a Ripcord lets you punt your wall-wart adapters and run your synths from USB phone chargers or even battery packs. (MyVolts offers a compatibility checker on its site.)
Ripcords work by converting the standard 5V USB output to a variety of voltages up to 18V; each model delivers a specific voltage. I use the 9V center-positive version to power my Korg Kaossilator Pro and Wavedrum, and the 9V center-negative one to power my effects pedals. The Kaossilator and Wavedrum are already wonderful jamming instruments. Being able to slap on a USB battery pack and take them anywhere makes them even more fun. MyVolts’ Instagram feed shows endless examples of ways other musicians are powering gear on the go.
The Ripcord is thoughtfully designed, with a braided fabric sheath covering the wires, color-coded plugs to show voltage and polarity, an easy-to-grip power plug, and an integrated cable wrap. I’ve also used a generic USB-to-9V adapter and a bulky one I soldered up myself, but find the Ripcord cable is more flexible and less likely to tangle. Some Ripcord owners have even replaced the cable with a barrel jack to enable custom-length cable runs.
Everybody’s Surfin’ USB
Being able to use ubiquitous USB battery packs and chargers to run my synths has made a world of difference in my mobile jams. It’s also helped me build some powerful briefcase systems I’ll cover in an upcoming column.
That said, power may still be an issue in some Ripcord setups. If your device draws too little current, your USB battery pack may fall asleep. I have a miniature delay pedal that makes some batteries shut down. Conversely, if your device draws too much current, Ripcords won’t work. They’re designed to output up to 9 Watts of power. Because Watts = Volts × Amps, you can get 1,000mA at 9V or 750mA at 12V. MyVolts also sells a clever adapter called the Current Doubling Y Cable that lets you merge two 12V Ripcords to produce 18W (1,500mA), enough to power thirsty gear like the Elektron Analog Four.
Calling Cool Gadgets
I’d love to hear about your go-to music gadgets. Post the details on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and and tag your nomination #BatUtilityBelt. You can also reach me through Batmosphere.com. If I feature your submission in an upcoming column, you’ll win a free subscription to Synth and Software. Oh, wait—that’s free already. Let’s make it a mystery prize instead. Cheers!