Do you believe that your standby switch on your tube amp is necessary?

Do you think that you need to warm your tubes up before playing?

Well, I have some bad news, it looks like you’ve been living a lie.  Don’t worry, until about 4 hours ago, I too was living this lie, but now I’m about to set you free.

Using the standby switch on your tube amp is more likely to damage tubes inside (especially rectifier tubes) than it is to extend their life!

There’s no real reason for having one on guitar tube amps, and the standby switch is there like a lot of things in the guitar world.  People would be upset if it vanished and aren’t very receptive to change.  The only reason that the very first guitar tube amps featured a standby switch is because they didn’t really know what they were doing, and nobody since has really bothered to remedy this.

A lot of guitarists falsely believe that warming your tube amps up with the standby switch is necessary to avoid putting wear and tear on your tubes.  This supposed wear and tear is cause by cathode stripping,which is when particles of the oxide coating are ripped from the cathode when the cathode is exposed to the extremely powerful electrostatic field from the anode.  There’s also the threat of cathode sputtering but…

You don’t actually need to worry about either of these when it comes to guitar amps because the only time it becomes an issue is when you are using extremely high power tubes (and I don’t mean KT88s!) that don’t really find themselves inside of amps.  According to London Power, guitar amps usually run at less than 500V – which is far below the threshold for tubes requiring anything resembling a warm up.

Warming up guitar tubes might even be bad for them because of something known as cathode poisoning.  Cathode poisoning is primarily caused by a fully heated valve without any anode current running to it.  Over time, a permanent undesirable layer is created between the oxide coating and cathode tube.  Valve Wizard claims that amps with tube rectifiers should not be used in conjunction with a standby switch because switching from standby into your amp’s operating position causes current to surge into your tube which eats tubes up very quickly.  This most notorious example of this are some Vox models.  Many familiar with tubes know this as hot switching…which is a practice most companies that manufacture tubes say is very bad for the longevity of a tube’s life.

If your amp does have a standby switch, fear not.  Simply stop using it and enjoy longer tube life!  Now spread the word by sharing this article on Facebook and enlightening your uncivilized friends that are chewing through tubes because of their standby switch.

Still curious?  Or maybe you don’t believe us?  No problem.  Check out the articles we linked above by London Power and Valve Wizard, you’ll see exactly what we mean.  Wampler also wrote a fantastic piece on how useless your standby switch is.

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