Opinions: battery powered

how important is it for music gear to be battery powered? i’m not talking about disposable batteries-- but objects with a battery that can be charged.

good case: op-1. here it makes sense because it’s hand-held and mobile. all-in-one so does not require any extra gear, hence it’d be a hassle to tether it to a power outlet.

but definitely i see that everything doesn’t need to be battery powered. particularly when battery-powered-ness adds cost, weight, and maintenance.

should the aleph have included a big battery internally? it’s not really hand-held, but table-top. it’s sortof like a stomp box, sortof not. it basically requires other gear to be useful, it’s not a standalone thing.

so what are your feelings about battery power? what needs it, what doesn’t? and for the battery-serious, do you have a viable solution for running on external battery packs?

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Multi-voltage external laptop batteries seem to make sense but are not universal. They generally assume positive tip barrels, and that isn’t always a valid assumption for music gear.

I’m starting to really appreciate the concept of the c1t1zen USB power board for powering small cases of eurorack. 250mA +12V output max, enough for a module or two. Use a powered USB hub to power multiple of these mini cases. Use an external USB battery to power one or two.

I’m hoping to post case designs suitable for laser cutting to thingiverse in the near-ish future. Inspired by the nonlinearcircuits cases already on thingiverse, but made to accommodate the c1t1zen power board and in very small sizes for small numbers of modules per case. Another complementary idea is to design a rack that holds multiple of these mini-cases and a place to hold the powered usb hub.

Trying to make eurorack work more like Korg Littlebits. Mix and match mini-cases to make a setup for a show. Use a small number of them to stay mobile. Use more of them in the studio. But maintain the flexibility to decide what you have on your desk and what you have in a drawer, and what you take in a backpack, from moment to moment.

Credit to @scanner_darkly, @MrsHardy and the rest of the @disquiet crew for brainstorming.

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If equipment is USB powered then there’s always the option to use it from a USB wall wart, direct from a computer, or from a USB battery. To me that’s the best compromise. Especially now with the availability of USB-C PD, you can power even relatively power hungry devices from USB.

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Battery-powered would be low on my list of requirements when buying something. It can be nice to have, and I agree play-anywhere kind of devices like the OP-1 would seem unfinished without it, but function, form, portability, integration with other equipment, cost would all be much higher priority for me.

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yes i’ve been thinking about this too. also solves the issue of sorting out wall warts and special connectors.

so perhaps an internal battery is really only relevant when something is absolutely hand-held?

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I know nothing of the technical contraints

however from the standpoint of a user who enjoys the freedom to rearrange my recording setup even mid recording/performance…if a battery is GOOD (like aforementioned op-1, Nintendo ds series, etc) I’ll always prefer charge-and-go over tethered power solutions

I’d pay extra if that were the only barrier to providing such a feature

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That makes rational sense. Except depending on the device, it can be hard to say in advance if something should be handheld or not. This is why “mobile first” has such traction in corporate UX right now. If you design that way, you’ve covered all your bases.

I want my stuff mobile but not for handheld use (eg. recording on train)

when I’m setting up to record at home or at a friends house or hotel I’d like to choose a spot rather than have it chosen for me by the location of outlets

I’ve also currently found recordings limited to however many pedals and mixers fit on one powerstrip (I always think I need additional slots) If more of my gear ran on batteries I could arrange things differently

Might not actually be better but I’d like to find out

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This is key for me. I moved into a new apartment a few weeks back, and the dining room has a beautiful bay window. I find that I’m constantly lugging gear out here, setting up power, etc. because I prefer working out here during the day.

Battery power isn’t a strict requirement for me, but it makes gear a whole lot more appealing. One less cable to set up and transport. The OP-1 is still the leader in portability since it recharges off of USB and not another DC brick that I have to label and manage. The Squarp Pyramid isn’t battery-powered, but it’s at least USB powered, which is a step in the right direction. One powered USB hub for five USB devices is way better than five DC bricks.

Side-note: The MPC Live isn’t “handheld”, but a lot of people are buying it because of the 4-6 hour battery. It’s nice to lounge on the couch or at the park without worrying about power.

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On the other hand I’d rather not incur the extra cost and waste of having a battery for each device if they don’t need it. If I had 5 different things and I used 1 of them at a time, it would be better to just have one battery I can plug things into. In a sense a laptop is like this. I can plug in different MIDI controllers other instruments into its USB ports and use them from its battery, they don’t each need to have their own power supply. If you don’t want to use a laptop, you can get a USB battery will multiple ports and power all the instruments from that.

Consider also longevity. In 5-10 years when the battery inside your device has died, how will you use it if there is no replacement available? If the battery is external you could just get a different one. If there is the option to power it another way, you could just forgo the battery and do that.

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I’ve got this workflow these last weeks/months where I go to the painting workshop of the person who makes most the graphic artworks illustrating my music since years, and I work a few meters from her painting drawing cutting and whatnots. In that set up, I wish more of my gear was battery powered so I could focus on one or maybe two instruments, bring it in backpack, put in on the table, and experiment for a few hours. It’s funny you brought that up today because I was talking yesterday about how I would have liked the Octatrack MKII to be battery powered, because it’s such an all in one tool and it would be perfect for this kind of use. So yeah, definitely, I think battery powered gear can actually lead to a new creative approach, and can allow us musicians to reassess the way we interract with the world.

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+100 for internal battery :slight_smile:

i’ve been using a ravpower battery for my euro lunchbox more than the ac block - even when i’m near an outlet. i like being able to leave the psu/battery charger in my studio space and freely move to wherever inspires me. out by the garden, coffee table, van, etc. it’s not so much about being handheld - just being able to turn on in an instant, wherever it sits.

the rav is switchable between 9/12/16/19/20v comes with a bunch of adapters & two usb ports… so yeah, pretty flexible.

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Also discontinued (the industry appears to be moving away from barrel connectors towards USB-C connectors). A search for “multivoltage external laptop battery” reveals several competing products, however.

the one i have seems to be in stock

this one
looks identical & is cheaper

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My opinions here echo yours. I have a fair array of gear, and the devices that have me pining for a battery are the ones that stand alone. I fly interstate weekly would love it if the Octatrack was battery powered for departure lounge times. Other team-player devices aren’t that much of a worry. Regarding usb, one thing I like about usb is how much more compact a usb hub is than a power strip. Also usb batteries etc. I will say though, the only ground noise issues I have come from USB powered instruments. External batteries with enough juice to power a few boxes for a non trivial amount of time have always seemed to exceed baggage restrictions on mAh.

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really really good insight, thank you for this. didn’t even occur to me.

i was about to post “why do you guys keep talking about USB hubs when you could just get a huge USB battery…”

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The key question is: How certain can I be that the device can be totally powered by that battery for a session? Rehearsals are about 2½ hours, Gigs are only about an hour, but sound check before, and might be left on while someone else plays, and may need to be available for a final “all hands” jam… so 3 hours? For me to be comfortable, a full charge needs to last about 4~5 hours.

I want rechargeable power… and I want as few things as possible… so built-in rechargeable batteries seem like the thing - but those have a life time - and where is one going to find a replacement in five years? Not sure how that figures in.

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Also:

OP-1 is a good example of a nice battery-based design. When I had one, I really never had to worry about the battery running out.

BUT

The TE PO series is a whole different story! I think the battery solution there is atrocious. I use a couple of these in a studio, and the batteries drain very quickly, and find myself just throwing away, and buying batteries constantly. The fact that there is no charging capability or some sort of adapter that you could use instead of batteries is just silly.

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(Although I rooted for battery powered gear earlier, it’s a good moment to point that for live use : charged gear all the way, I could never rely on a battery powered electronic instrument on stage, NEVER.)

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How about rechargeable AAA batteries?

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