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  • Portable Power: Gas or Electric?

    By Jon Chappell_1 |

    Two solutionsone wet, one dryfor when you have to supply your own juice





    In the summer months, musicians can find themselves outside as easily as inside. Most clients who hire musicians for a picnic, wedding, or other event realize they have to supply AC power for the band’s equipment (P.A., amps, lighting, etc.). But sometimes the client can’t, and, not being experts in such matters, they will often turn to the musician for answers. So it helps to know how to bring your AC with you, when necessary.


    Basically, there are two solutions: 1) a portable gas generator; and 2) a 12V battery and an inverter. The generator is usually the best way overall because it can supply the most power, run the longest, and has the receptacles built right into the unit. A 2,000-watt generator (shown above) is enough to power a trio or quartet of acoustic instruments and a vocalist for a whole night. You can go longer if you have reserve gasoline on hand to pour into the generator, but try not to spill it on your tux.


    Generators of this ilk, such as those made by Honda, run quite quiet and are super reliable. If you use a 50-foot extension cord and a power strip, you can place the generator far enough away from the action that you can hear the tearfully timid bride eke out her vows.


    A heavy-duty 12V battery, such as the type that powers a car, a boat (called a “marine battery”), or a tractor is also a good solution for the simple reason that it doesn’t make any noise and requires no smelly (and potentially messy) gasoline. With a battery, however, you also need an inverter, which converts DC to AC. Generally, a battery with an inverter can’t handle the loads that a gas generator can, but it’s great for individual musicians. If you’re going this route, buy a “deep cycle” type battery, such as ones built for marine use. And get the best  inverter you can afford to keep noise out of the system and your signal clean.




    Jon Chappell is a guitarist and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has contributed numerous musical pieces to film and TV, including Northern Exposure, Walker, Texas Ranger, All My Children, and the feature film Bleeding Hearts, directed by actor-dancer Gregory Hines. He is the author of The Recording Guitarist: A Guide for Home and Studio (Hal Leonard), Essential Scales & Modes (Backbeat Books), and Build Your Own PC Recording Studio (McGraw-Hill), and has written six books in the popular Dummies series (Wiley Publishing).

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    Hey, Jon, you missed a whole class of products -- power packs with built-in outlets, car batteries, and interverters.  I have seen these as large as 28AH.  The solution is equivalent to the inverter you discussed, but it avoids most of the DIY cons and looks more professional.


    Here's one example: http://www.duracellpower.com/portable-power/power-packs/powerpack-600.aspx


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    I've got one of those 2000 watt hondas. I LOVE it! I have used it many times to power a whole band; 750 watt PA,500 watt bass amp and two 150 watt guitar amps. never misses a beat. very quiet kinda pricy though ($1000)

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