When it comes to tube amps, you have to know how to use them well or you won’t get the most out of them.
They use complicated circuitry which is one of the reasons why their output can’t be easily mimicked by other machines.
Anyone that has ever bought a tube amplifier knows that they need to be warned up before they can work properly. Some tube amps come with specific instructions with regard to this and its important to know this.
A question I recently got …was basically a person asking how long a tube amp should be warmed up for. I therefore decided it was a worth it and necessary to write out a full article so I can provide more information on this.
With that said, How long should you warm up a tube amp?
You should warm up a tube amp for about 15 to 20 minutes so it can deliver the best tone. This information will sometimes be made available in the specifications and/or operating manual of the tube amp.
Powering on your amp and using it right away without warming it up sends a shock of voltage through the tubes which can lead to different problems like loss of functionality and permanent damage in the long term.
Why your tube amplifier has to warm up
I can bormbard you with a bunch of technical jargon in explaining this but I won’t. I’ll simply provide you with what is important to know.
The tubes in your tube amplifier are designed in such a way that they have to reach a certain temperature for them to start working.
They’ll play okay when they’re warmed up to the minimum warm up requirement. But once they reach the right and stable heat requirement their tone will improve and sound better
If you don’t warm up the amp moderately which is for about 15 minutes and above.. the tone of your playing (e.g guitar) will not sound right and most pros can easily notice this and wait for their amp to warm before they resume playing.
How do you warm up a tube amp?
Like I’ve mentioned above you need to get your amp to a good heat temperature for it to perform the right way.
To warm up your tube amp its best to turn on the standby mode and leave it in standby mode for about 15 to 30 minutes or however long it takes for it to warm up (I say this because some amps have a prescribed heating time in their operating manuals which you need to follow).
If your band is playing a gig.. you might want to use rehearsal and prep time to warm up your tube amp so that you can go straight into your performance when the amp ready to be used.
Some amps don’t have “standby mode” and we need to address how you can go about warming them up.
In this case you’d have to Turn on your amp but leave the speakers off in order to enable the tubes.
Tubes don’t easily get damaged but you should be careful in not leaving your amp on all day.
Valves have a short life span therefore you should be strategic when warming up your amp. Only warm it up when you’re certain that you’re going to be using it later on.
A set of tubes has a lifespan of around 800 hours and in standby mode tube amps can get hot to about 140°F.
Care and Maintenance
In order to maintain a great tone of the amp for an extended period of time. You need to ensure that you use good proper care and maintenance in the everyday handling of your amp.
Proper use of the standby switch is one of those actions that you can take in prolonging the life of your tubes and your amps.
Like I’ve repeatedly stated in this article, tube amps operate their best when they’re hot. But it’s also worth knowing that it is important to warm up and cool down your amp appropriately.
You can utilize the stand by switch when it’s time to cool down your tube amp. This may save you a step when it’s time to use the amp.
It’s also important keep the amp in a room where it won’t accidentally or be intentionally played with when it’s in standby mode because it’s easy for somebody to accidentally create a surge or loud pop of volume unintentionally.
It’s also important to keep liquids and beverages away from tube amplifiers because a spill could easily lead to catastrophic damage.
Remember that tube amps store a lot of electric power which is dangerous.
Another good maintainence tactic is ensuring that you have good and solid cable connections with no issues that could lead to electric shorts in the whole system.
You should also make sure that you store your amp in a controlled enviroment. The last thing you want to do is keep your amp in a humid room.
A good rule of thumb is to warm up a tube amp for about 15 to 20 minutes so it can deliver the best tone.
Powering on your amp and using it right away sends a shock of voltage through the tubes which can lead to short term problems and in worse cases permanent damage in the long term.
Good quality tube amps are designed to be used for years.
If you follow some of the basic steps I’ve discussed above for extending the life of your amp’s tubes, you can ensure that you get the most out of your amp.