Here’s an excellent post we thought you might like from producer, engineer, and musician, Kieran Whitehouse.
If you’re anything like me then you have your guitars hung up on the wall at home, in pride of place for all to see. If you’re anything like me you’re also constantly polishing your guitars, checking their intonation and obsessing over that tiny scratch next to the strap pin that you don’t remember seeing last week.
Upkeep is vitally important to our instruments, and that means more than just cosmetic attention. The same goes for our guitar amps (and more specifically our amplifier tubes). After all, any tone junkie will tell you the oomph from your amp comes from the vacuum tubes.
So with so much resting on your tone, here are 7 ways to prolong your tube’s lifespan.
- Power Up Properly. Your tubes aren’t going to like being fully powered on without sufficient time to warm up. We’d recommend checking the amp manufacturer’s specific instructions on how long for, but leaving a short amount of time for the amp to get to playing temperature will really help not only your tubes but other amp components too. Remember when your parents used to tell you off for flicking the lightswitch on and off when you were a kid?!
- Avoid Cold Temperatures Right After Playing. Give your tubes a little time to cool down before moving your amp, especially if you’re going from a hot rehearsal room or gig to a cold car. Pack your cables and pedals away first too, leave the tubes a little time to settle down after powering your amp off and they are less likely to become damaged during transport..
- ‘’Don’t Store Your Amp Anywhere You Wouldn’t Want To Sleep’’. This is a golden rule my first guitar teacher told me! In particular damp places like a garage or shed are going to cause damage over time. Moisture won’t only affect the tubes but also cause irreversible speaker damage.
- Regularly Service Your Amp. Much like a car, servicing your amp regularly can help identify issues before they become worse and this can be invaluable when it comes to both your tube and amp upkeep. Find a reputable guitar or amp technician, check their reviews and allow them to give your amp a ‘once over’ to check everything is as it should be.
- Bias Your Tube Amp. Actually this should read ‘’ask a trained technician to bias your amp’’. Biasing your amplifier tubes is really important to prolong their lifespan, but equally is often overlooked. Essentially the process involves making sure your power amp tubes are being fed the correct voltage based on their resistance. If your amp is over-biased there won’t be enough voltage being fed to the tubes, resulting in a thin sound (quite the opposite of what you want from your tube amp!). When your amp is under-biased you’ll end up with too much voltage which can not only reduce the life of your tubes but also cause some serious damage to the amp. If you’re picking up new vacuum tubes it’s a good idea to ensure they are matched and ensure you get your amp biased!
- Match Your Impedance. If you’re using a head and speaker cabinet make sure your impedance matches, you’ll often find an impedance switch on the back of the head. If you’re unsure on impedances, do some reading up as incorrect matching will put unnecessary strain on your tubes.
- Handle With Care. An obvious one, but avoid bumps, knocks and dropping your amp. Your pride and joy may be the tonal powerhouse of your band but your tubes are actually very fragile and can take damage easily from sudden impacts.
Of course, common sense prevails when it comes to looking after your tubes. Don’t be afraid to ask that friend of a friend to not put his beer on top of your amp at gigs. If you see your amp precariously balancing itself on top of a pile of flight cases, move it to somewhere it’s less likely to take a fall.
There is nothing more satisfying in this life than cranking your amp up and riffing away. Keep on top of those tubes to make sure a damaged tube doesn’t interrupt your jam session!
For more guitar, recording and music production tips head to Producer Hive.