If you have observed that some musicians and sound guys usually turn their amplifiers on for a while before they use them, you are not alone.
The motive is that they believe amps need to warm up before they can work well and sound good. But how true is it? Do you need to allow amps to warm up before use?
Tube amplifiers of any kind need to warm up before they work efficiently; otherwise, they will begin to sound bad over time. Solid-state amps, on the other hand, do not need to warm up at all before functioning.
This is the simplest and most concise answer I can give you. If that’s what you came here for, then there you have it.
Let’s take a deep dive into why tube amps require to be warmed up and solid-state amps don’t.
One thing you should also know is that every amp is different. Some may require a relatively short time to warm up, while others need to warm up for a longer period. So we’ll talk about how long you should warm up your tube amps. Let’s get into it.
Do Solid State Amps Need to Warm Up?
No, solid-state circuit amps do not need to warm up before being used. This is because solid-state circuit amps have transistors as part of their internal components.
These transistors are highly conductive and can conduct and amplify audio signals instantly. Thus, they do not need to warm up before operating efficiently.
Moreover, a modern-day solid-state amp comes equipped with a power-up sequence that kicks in immediately after you flip the power switch.
When the power is switched on, an electrical current runs through the entire circuit, thereby activating the amp. Due to this, the speaker relays in the amplifier trigger some few seconds after the power is turned on.
Therefore, there is no noticeable difference between when you leave your solid-state amp to warm up before use and when you don’t. Thus, if you notice that your solid-state circuit amp tends to sound noticeably better after warming up, then there’s a problem.
There may be a malfunctioning component in your amp. It could be that the solder joint on some of the components inside the solid-state amp has become cracked. Due to this, they only make a connection after the thermal expansion has taken place.
Do Tube Amps Need to Warm Up?
Yes, tube amps need to warm up before they can function efficiently. Warming up the tubes of this type of amp is essential in getting the best possible sound from your amp.
This is because tube amps have vacuum tubes (or valves) in them, which need to be warmed before they can operate efficiently. So allowing tube amps to warm up before use is very necessary.
Allowing your tube amp to warm up before use enables it to maintain a good tone with your electric guitar. To warm a tube amp, all you need to do is to flick its standby switch and leave the amp on standby mode until the tubes have warmed thoroughly.
For tube amps that do not come with a standby switch, you can warm them by simply turning them on whiles leaving the speaker inactive.
When tube amps are not made to warm up before being used, they may not perform to their full capacity straight away. On top of that, the sound they produce may degrade over time. This sound degradation is usually noticeable after 30 minutes of playing, and it causes the guitar tone to become harder to control.
In this situation, the tube amp may not produce the exact tone you play on the guitar. If you are unfamiliar with this, imagine plucking a harsh tone on your guitar while your amp produces a mild tone instead.
That is exactly what happens when you fail to warm a tube amp thoroughly before using it.
Therefore, to get your tube amp to sound great at all times, you must allow it to warm up thoroughly before you use it.
How Long Should I Let My Tube Amp Warm Up?
If you have read what I wrote about why tube amps need to be warmed up before use, one question that might have crossed your mind while reading it is, how long do you need to let your tube amp warm up?
Ideally, you must warm up a tube amp for at least 20 to 30 minutes before you start playing the guitar. However, this varies from one tube amp to the other. For most tube amps, 30 minutes is the standard time required for their tubes to get thoroughly warmed.
Although 30 minutes is usually the standard for most tube amps to warm up, the best thing you need to do is consult the specifications and manufacturer’s recommendations for your tube amp.
These documents will tell you the exact duration you need to warm your tube amp before you can use them.
Can My Amps Get Damaged When I Leave them On?
Audio equipment costs lots of money and must be well taken care of. Due to this, most people will do anything just to ensure that they last as long as possible.
One thing I have noticed many bass and guitar players do is turn off their amps when taking a break. I’m sure you may have noticed it too. They claim turning amplifiers off when they are taking a break prevents the amp from getting damaged.
Does this mean you might damage your amp when you leave it on whiles not in use?
The answer is not as straightforward as it seems. The truth is high-quality amps can remain on for days without any issue. They run on minimum power and automatically enter standby mode after being idle for some period. These types of amps are durable and reliable.
On the other hand, inferior amps can get damaged when you leave them on for a long period when they are not in use.
This is because internal components of the amp, such as the filament, can get worn out when exposed to constant heat as a result of being left on for long durations. The damage does not occur in the short term but takes a while to build up.
Unfortunately, there is no way of determining whether a particular amp can stay on for a relatively long duration without getting damaged.
Since there is no way of certifying whether your amp can withstand being on for a long period without developing any problems, it is advisable to turn your amplifier off while taking a break from playing.
Do Headphone Amps Need to Warm Up?
Just like every other amp, headphone amps greatly improve the listening experience of those who use them. Headphone amps are available in two main classes. These two classes of headphone amps are transistor/solid-state headphone amplifiers and tube amplifiers.
A solid-state headphone amp does not need to warm up before being used. They are ready to use as soon as it is turned on due to the transistors used in manufacturing them.
On the other hand, tube headphone amps cannot be used immediately after they are turned on. They need to warm up so that the valves inside them can get warm enough to operate efficiently.
However, in recent times, tube headphone amplifiers are not as common as transistor/solid-state amplifiers. So if you’re using a modern headphone amp, they don’t need to warm up.
One thing you should note is that the amount of time required for a tube headphone amp to warm up depends on the amp’s model. This is because the inner components of every headphone amp vary slightly from each other. Therefore, they may not require the same amount of time to get warm.
Every amp performs the same basic function of amplification. However, their internal components and methods involved in their amplification vary. These variations are a determining factor as to whether a particular amplifier needs to warm up before use.
However, modern-day solid-state and transistor amps generally do not need to warm up before being used. On the other hand, all-tube amplifiers must be warmed up before they can operate efficiently.