Tube amps are amazing pieces of gear. They are behind the tones of almost all classic songs you could imagine.
But with great power comes great responsibility…
The technology of valve amps is ancient, and a bit out of tune with the modern lifestyle of immediateness.
These are fragile things and you should take proper care of them if you want them to stick with you for the long ride.
Turning on and off such machines is almost a ritual for many players, and there are a lot of myths around it.
If you want a short answer to the question central to this article, here it is:
Your amp will cool down to a safe temperature in between 1 to 3 minutes after you turn it off. This wait is important if you are planning to transport it since hot valves are slightly more fragile. Adding 1 to 3 minutes of stand-by before this will make the heat dissipate slower and stress the valves less.
For those who want to dig deeper into this matter, in this post I will try to answer the most pressing questions about how, when, and why you should turn off your amp.
Are you ready to get started?
Why should I let my tube amp cool down?
Tube amps work at high temperatures. These high temperatures will make the materials of the valves softer and more fragile than at room temperature. Letting the tubes cool down is a common practice to avoid any kind of damage to the internals, particularly if you have to move or transport the amp.
Is this absolutely necessary and if you move an amp that’s not yet fully cooled down it will explode? Probably not. You see, this is just being extra careful, and probably even being ritualistic.
Is the probability of damaging the tubes higher if you hit the amp while they’re still hot? Yes, it is, but I wouldn’t say that it’s significantly higher than if those valves were completely chill.
If you don’t intend to move the amp after playing, turning it off right away would be fine, however, I would recommend you just leave it on stand-by for a minute before committing to the on/off switch.
Call me a psycho, but the stand-by working temperature is lower than the high-volume one, and this will make for a less sharp curve of heat drop than just turning it off. Especially in cold environments.
Of course, the smoother the safer.
How to properly turn off a tube amp?
There is not much science about how to turn off a tube amp, however, a common practice is letting it cool down on stand-by for a minute or 2 before turning it completely off. Leaving the switch on standby is also good for avoiding unexpected high-volume scares the next time you turn it on.
As I mentioned earlier, turning an amp directly off would not break it, but it won’t make it any good neither.
Would my amp tubes cool down if I leave it on stand-by?
Yes, tubes will cool down when put on stand-by after a high volume session, however, they would not completely drop in temperature. The stand-by mode of tube amps prepares the tubes with a heater that leaves them at a lower temperature than when they’re turned on but considerably higher than room heat.
The stand-by mode is great if you plan on taking a break and returning later. It will keep the valves warm so they take less time to develop their best tone.
Is it ok if I turn my tube amp back on without letting it cool down?
Nothing would happen if you turn on a tube amp that’s not completely cool yet. However, the habit of turning an amp on and off very frequently could stress the tubes. There is a startup process that could take durability from the valves. Your amp will not break, but it will probably lose some hours of life.
Should I turn off my amp if I’m taking a break and will come back later?
If you are planning on using your amp again in a few minutes, you should probably leave it on stand-by since it will preserve its working temperature. Turning it off and back on would stress the tubes slightly more due to the startup process and take more time to regain their working temperature.
Would my amp take longer to cool down in warm weather?
Not really, amp tubes work at high temperatures that are way above the warmer climates. Once you turn off your amp all the excess heat will dissipate regardless of the room temperature of where it is until it matches it. You shouldn’t worry too much about the cool-down process anyway.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.