How Long Should I Let My Tube Amp Warm-Up?

When you get your first tube amp it’s very likely that the person handing it to you warns you about how you should let it warm up before turning it on and playing it.

But why is that necessary? And for how long should you let it warm up?

If you just want a short answer to this age-old question, here it is:

Tube amps need to warm up for around 30 seconds and there is no actual risk of damage if you do it for less time. The only problem would be that there wouldn’t be any sound coming out from the speakers. Being this said, it will take around 15 extra minutes for the amp to deliver its best tone.

For those who want to dig a bit deeper, and get to know their tube amps better, in this article I will answer the most common questions related to the warming up of your tube amp.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

Why do tubes need warming up?

Without getting very technical, the tubes in your amplifier need to get up to a certain temperature to actually start working. They even have heaters to do so. Once they get up to the minimum heat threshold they start producing sound, and once they reach their stable working heat, the tone improves.

How long does it take for the tubes to get to a safe temperature?

To begin with, there are no unsafe temperatures for the tubes, however, they will sound better when they reach their stable working heat. Around 30 seconds is enough to get them producing sound, and around 15 to 30 minutes to get their best tones.

It’s completely alright to be careful with your gear, however, over-worrying would only waste precious time that you could spend playing.

What happens if you don’t let your tubes warm-up?

There are no serious implications if you don’t let your tubes warm up before playing. However, the longer you let your amp warm-up, the less harsh and warmer it would sound until it reaches a stable temperature at around the 20-minute mark. If you turn on a cold tube amp you won’t get any sound for the first 30 seconds.

As I mentioned, if you turn on a cold tube amp you won’t get any sound for the first 30 seconds, but this would not hurt anything else than your patience.

Is it bad to turn your amp on and off?

Although tubes don’t really get damaged by not letting them warm up, switching them on and off rapidly and frequently might reduce their lifespan since the firing on procedure might put them under a little stress.

Don’t be overzealous with your amp being idle. If you are just taking a break you could leave it sitting on stand by.

Should you leave your amp on all day so it stays warm?

Valves have a rather short lifespan so you should be strategic with how long your amp is turned on or even on stand-by. A set of tubes has expected durability in the order of 500 to 800 hours. Although leaving your amp on would keep it warm, don’t do it unless you are certain of playing it later.

Are your tubes completely warmed up after the recommended safe period?

If we consider from 30 seconds to 3 minutes as the safe warm-up period, which actually is just what it takes for the amp to start producing sound, it will take between 15 to 30 minutes for the heat to continue climbing until a stable heat and what’s considered to be a completely warmed up amp.

Do sound change when tubes warm up?

The sound of a tube amp suffers a significant transformation as the tubes warm up. If you start playing with cold tubes, by the 30 minutes mark your sound will be warmer, rounder, and have a better dynamic response. This is one of the limitations of these kinds of amps, but also what gives them character.

How to get my tube amp warmed up?

The best way to warm up your tube amp is to leave it on standby for 15 to 30 minutes before you use it. This is not required for safe use, but it will guarantee you get the best sound possible out of it from the moment you start playing. Tubes are ancient technology and you should be patient with them.