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One Control Micro Distro

Pint-sized powerhouse

 

 

by Phil O'Keefe

 

 

 

 

If there's one thing that everyone who uses effects pedals needs, it's a way to power them. Sure, the option to use batteries is there - at least with many pedals - but not all pedals can be battery-powered. There are also the hassles that come along with batteries, which anyone who has had one die in the middle of a gig will be all too familiar with. Plus there are environmental concerns too, not to mention the cost - if you have a board with a half-dozen or more effects pedals on it, the cost of replacing your batteries for home practice, band rehearsals and gigs can add up - fast. Because of this, many players opt for external power supplies, but using individual power adapters for each pedal brings its own share of hassles, from having enough room on a power strip to plug them all in, to the amount of space such a setup requires on your board. So what other choice do you have? Probably one of the best options is to use a single power supply that can power more than one pedal at a time. That's precisely what the One Control Micro Distro is all about.

 

 

 

 

What You Need To Know

  • The Micro Distro comes in two versions - the "all in one pack" under review here, and a second version that only includes the Micro Distro unit itself. The Micro Distro is a very small unit (the main "Distro" housing measures only 3.85" W x 1.38" D x1.89" H and weighs 4.48 ounces) that is designed to power up to nine pedals simultaneously.
  • The Micro Distro is available in three colors - black, shiny silver and fairy pink. Hey, I didn't make up the names - I just report 'em!
  • The main power distributor's small size means it will take up very little physical space on your pedalboard. The housing of the Micro Distro is made from aluminum; not only is it small, but it's relatively lightweight, and yet it feels rugged and tough. 
  • The size of the cardboard box that the Micro Distro comes in is somewhat misleading - you'd think it would contain a much larger unit; however, the box size needs to be considerably larger than the main Distro unit itself because of everything that One Control includes along with the Micro Distro.

 

  

  • Not only do you get the main distribution unit, but also a separately boxed external AC adapter, as well as a bunch of power cables that you plug into the Micro Distro at one end, and into your various pedals at the other. 

 

 

  • The Micro Distro package comes with nine DC cables of varying lengths for powering your pedals: One shorter DC-15-LS cable, which is 15 centimeters long, three DC-30 LS cables, which are 30 cm long each, three DC-50 LS cables, which are 50 cm long, and two DC-70 LS cables, which are 70 cm long. Additional cables are available separately in the event you need more of a particular length, or need a replacement for a lost or damaged one.
  • All of the included cables have a right angle 5.5mm x 2.1mm plug (the industry standard "Boss-size" plugs) at one end and a straight plug of the same dimensions at the other. All of the power I/O on the Micro Distro is wired center-negative; again, following the industry standard. 
  • The included AC adapter can work with anything from 100V-240V at 50-60Hz, although the wall plug itself is not interchangeable - it came with a plug that's compatible with US-style wall power outlets permanently affixed to the adapter. The adapter has a 2A @ 9V DC output that you plug into a dedicated power input jack on the Micro Distro to power it, and by extension the pedals connected to the Micro Distro. 

 

 

  • The Micro Distro has eight jacks that each provide 9V DC.
  • In addition to the 9V power output jacks, you also get an additional jack that can supply anything from 12-18V DC. This outlet has a small "Sag" control knob that lets you adjust the output voltage.
  • The power from the 2A power supply is distributed to the outputs, and short of the overall 2A limit, there is no limit on the amount of current any one 9V outlet can supply, although the 12-18V output is limited to only 50mA; as long as you don't exceed 2A of total current draw, you're good to go. 
  • You can plug the included AC adapter into a power strip on your board (the best approach if you have other pedals that require their own separate power supply units), or directly into a wall outlet or extension cord.
  • You can combine two Micro Distro units to power boards with more pedals (up to 17) than can be powered from a single Micro Distro unit. As long as your total power requirements don't exceed 2A, both Distros can be powered by a single AC adapter. One Control sells additional Distro units (without an AC adapter or the nine connecting cables) and power cables separately.
  • The Micro Distro has an Auto Shutoff Mode. If the unit is overloaded and you attempt to draw more than the rated 2A of current from it, it will shut itself off. Removing it from the AC outlet and allowing it to cool for a while should reset it.

  

 

Limitations

  • The outlets on the Micro Distro are not isolated. However, I experienced no grounding issues or hum while testing it with a large variety of different pedals from multiple manufacturers. 
  • The 50mA current draw limit for the 12-18V output is rather restricting - many 12-18V pedals will require more current than this to operate properly.
  • While the higher-voltage output can be set for anything from 12 to 18 volts, there are no markings or detents to indicate where those voltage settings are on the "Sag" control - you may need to use a digital multimeter to insure you are sending your pedal the correct voltage - this is particularly important to do if your pedal has a "do not exceed" voltage that is less than the 18V maximum setting on the Sag control.

 

 

Conclusions

Sized about the same as many micro pedals, you'll appreciate the Micro Distro's very compact dimensions - especially if you have very little space available on your pedalboard. But size alone isn't going to matter if the power supply doesn't work reliably, or if it causes ground issues with your rig. Fortunately I experienced no issues with either reliability or hum - the Micro Distro does its job quietly, effectively and reliably. While the 12-18V output may lack sufficient amperage  for some higher-voltage pedals, and there's no setting marks for different voltages on the dial, the higher voltage output is still nice to have for those pedals that are compatible with it - after all, not all pedals run on 9V! Plus, you can use it to "starve" some pedals - some overdrives and fuzzes can give different sonic results that you may find appealing when supplied with less than full voltage. Being able to stack two Micro Distro units and power up to 17 pedals from one AC power supply is another useful feature that those with larger pedalboards will appreciate. All in all the Micro Distro is a pint-sized powerhouse that is capable of powering some pretty large boards without issues or hassles - it's definitely a worthy candidate for general pedalboard powering purposes.  -HC-

 

 

Want to discuss the One Control Micro Distro pedal power supply or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects Forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!

 

  

Resources

One Control Micro Distro Pedal Power Supply ($220.00 MSRP, $175.00 "street", additional Distro units sans adapters and cables sell for $135 "street")

One Control's product web page     

 

You can purchase the One Control Micro Distro from:

Sweetwater   

Adorama  

Amazon     

B&H Photo Video     

   




__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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