International Voltage Adapters
July 6, 2004 2:23 AM   Subscribe

International Voltage adapters...

OK, so I am leaving Japan with a variety of different gizmos at different consumer grades, but I am not completely clear on what I will need to do to run it. I have been running my american turntables here for a couple years with no problems, but they are modern and have switches for different currents. I am more worried about my high end stuff, I have a few pieces of hardware that take the standard appliance type cable (like you plug into a computer or a monitor), and are shipped worldwide, but I am totally unclear how the ratings work. Does anyone have any experience with this? Am I better off getting one here before I move back? Should I also get new power cables rated for u.s. outlets. I probably will anyway, as it doesnt seem worth risking this much over a $6 cable, but any input would be helpful.

Additionally, I have a few other things (like an mp3 player) that take regular DC adaptors, do these fall under the same rules? I checked a few other boards through google, but it seemed like most people were giving very conflicting answers, and I know people here have done the transpacific jump. I have seen japanese things on adapters work, but not under extended or heavy use.

The bigger stuff I plan to just leave in one place, but it would be nice to be able to keep the player and a few other things portable, being able to carry the adapter without needing the extra baggage.

Oh, I have heard that there are different power standards in different parts of Japan, I am in tokyo, and planning on swinging out to akihabara for this stuff in the next couple days, so the sooner, the better.
posted by lkc to Technology (5 answers total)
Electrical devices - ie the bits that plug into a mains supply - should have a panel giving the rating of the device. In the case of an adapter, the input voltage, frequency (eg AC 230V / 50Hz) & sometimes current (in amps (A) or milliamps (mA)) & output voltage & current (eg DC 2.4V / 350mA). In the case of a device that has the transformer built in - eg amplifier - or a device that uses mains direct - eg iron - the panel will show the input - eg AC 240V 50Hz

Nowadays, especially with portable electrical equipment, the transformers have variable inputs due to the fact that manufacturers can cut costs by producing one transformer model that works for every market in the world. Sometimes they are switched - as in the case of your decks & a lot of PC power supplies - & sometimes automatic as with my Nikon camera battery charger (an input of AC 100-240V 50/60Hz 0.11A-0.065A) which I can plug it in anywhere in the world where I can get a voltage from 100V to 240V.

Check the panels on your gear. If you see a range you're in luck, if not then you'll have to get another adapter. Portable electrical devices take all sorts of voltage/current combos from their adaptors but you can get switchable adapters from electrical stores. Just make sure you get one that covers all voltage (V) & all current (A or mA) settings that you need for your gear.

If your non-adapter equipment doesn't take variable or switchable input then you will have to get some kind of mains transformer.

I've just done a world tour & plugged in my UK-bought camera, iBook & mobile everywhere with just 3 different plug converters (with added use of a matchstick in Sri Lanka).

More (less garbled!) info here.
posted by i_cola at 4:01 AM on July 6, 2004

If you have to use a voltage convertor because your equipment isn't dual-voltage, make sure you check the wattage rating. Most electronic gadgets don't use a lot of watts, but plugging a 1600W hair dryer into a voltage convertor rated for 50W will fry the convertor instantly and could be an easy way to burn your house down.
posted by fuzz at 5:59 AM on July 6, 2004

The biggest problem comes from devices that use large amounts of power (watts), such as amplifiers. Pay attention to any recomendations for use for power converters, there are some weird ones that are fine for an appliance but not for electronics!

Heavy-duty transformers (rated over 500 watts) suited for amplifiers are not cheap, but it pays to add up the watts needed for a variety of gear. Take a Japaneese extension cord with multiple plugs, then one adaptor can power the whole. If you need no power conversion, its a simply plug adatpor. Otherwise, you add up the watts for all the devices to make sure the transformer is powerful enough.
posted by Goofyy at 6:51 AM on July 6, 2004

All I'm sayin is BE CAREFUL!! I bought a nice voltage converter from Brookstone before my trip to Kenya this year, got there, set it up according to the directions, plugged in my 2 week old Palm Tungsten E to charge and KABLAM. Fried it instantly. I still don't know what the hell happened. but I have a shiny new paperweight.
posted by tristeza at 4:29 PM on July 6, 2004

My converters from Brookstones gave no problems and are still in use after 6 years in Europe. I use one to power my synths. It is, IIRC 85 watts. I have used it to convert both German and British 220 to American 110. Perhaps you got a defective item.

I have heavy transformers for my amplifier and pancake griddle (home electric griddles are unknown anyplace I've looked in Europe). I was fortunate, the transformers were given by a friend returning to the States, the pair are worth about $800!
posted by Goofyy at 4:27 AM on July 7, 2004

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