Tube warm up complicating my listening

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ghost rider, Aug 19, 2017.

  1. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I been wondering how much time your tube gear takes to sound it's best?

    My problem is it takes a good 45min before I really like how it sounds. Don't get me wrong it's not that it sounds bad just a little raspy. Normally I turn on the system then declick a needle drop while it warms up. Even then it takes about 15 of music playing through it to really open up.

    So mostly during the week if I have to work and feel like listening to music I look at the clock and if I don't have at least a couple of hours I don't bother even turning it on. I have turned it on and by the time it warms up I don't feel like listening anymore or something comes up like my wife wants to watch TV, she usually goes to another room. I sometimes miss the days when I could just turn it on and it sounded great based on my perception of what sounds good at that time.

    So anyone else experience warm up fatigue?
  2. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    It's competely true that tube amps sound as they're supposed to once they're warmed up. That said, we all have to get over (or past) the very best that our gear can sound and focus instead on the music. I don't think we should make good the enemy of great. I mean, being upset that an amp doesn't sound its best shortly after it's turned on prevents us from enjoying music for too long. If all the tubes are correctly biased and none of the tubes are nearing failure, ten minutes should be all that's needed for warm up before playing music. The amp should be eminently listenable at that point, and gradually rise to its best shortly thereafter.

    Basically, I think that if your amp takes forty-five minutes to start sounding its best and is raspy up to that point, you've probably got some tube biasing issues and/or a tube or two near failure.
  3. John Woo

    John Woo Well-Known Member

    in my experience, 45mins is about right for a full tube amp to warm up nicely. when i had the Prima Luna running 4 x KT88s, when the first CD was spinning i would still be up and about doing my stuff and start to listen to the 2nd CD onwards.
    FashionBoy likes this.
  4. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    My Audio Research tube integrated clicks on after about one minute and I'm totally happy from there on.
  5. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So 15 minutes is normal for you
    So 15 minutes is enough for you. I don't think my tubes are bad I'm just being a perfectionist. Raspy was likely to strong of a word. I doubt anyone other than me would think so.

    Also adding to this issue I have a complicated setup. All my gear is in another room and my amps sit on a open shelf. I use a fan to keep it cool and always turn it on when the amp is on. May double my warm up time.
  6. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    5 mins.
    Time you search for record, stylus to track ..should be alright. If it's a album first track ( or second)may sound distorted. Second Lp always sounds better. I'm too impatient.:)
    Agitater likes this.
  7. Tullman

    Tullman Senior Member

    Boston MA
    I put the radio on about 45 mins before listening. I usually go in the other room and do some other things while enjoying the music experience from the tuner. My entire system needs to warm up. It sounds good right away but things sound more relaxed and open after 45 minutes of playing time.
    Benzion, ClausH, FashionBoy and 4 others like this.
  8. Manimal

    Manimal Forum Resident

    Southern US
    Shoot, I like to get my solid state warmed up a few hours before. Usually not a problem I just crank it up in the morning for the evening session.
    I don't think this is a thing limited to the tube guys:)
  9. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Your situation really rings a bell. Combine it with tube angst, and you have the potential for really screwing up a hobby that was meant to bring pleasure :cry:

    I have had both tube and solid state gear over the years. What I enjoy with solid state is that I can just leave it on all the time, and it is always warmed up and ready to play. I’m back on tube gear now, and that has required some adjustments in listening habits and general attitude.

    First of all, I would agree with Agitater that the fact that something gets even better shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying it when it’s merely good. I allow for about 15 minutes of warmup, which is supposed to porlong tube life, and after that the sound of my system is very enjoyable. Sure, it gets a little more refined after some hours of play, but it’s marginal, and I simply don’t worry about it. I have no problems focusing on and enjoying the music during the first hours.

    Also, I’ve just had to accept that sometimes I turn on the gear without getting a lot of listening done. That’s just life. Just take it to be a consequence that you have other things going on in your life, which is a good thing. However, I have had to battle tube angst to be able to practice this approach. To combat tube angst, I have - too late, and at quite some expense - secured a sufficient stash of NOS rectifier and preamp tubes to last me the next 20 years or so (for power tubes my plan is to buy the best available current production options; I’m very pleased with my Emission Labs 300B XLS, and they are guaranteed to last 5000 hours).

    This way, if I turn on my system and don’t get to do any listening, the total cost amounts to less than a dollar most times, and that doesn’t keep me up at night.
    Rickchick, SandAndGlass and Agitater like this.
  10. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    I have owned MANY tube amplifiers, and have 5 different ones set up right now in 3 homes: mine, my parents', and my wife's. They all sound good when I first turn them on... then they sound obviously better in about 45 minutes to an hour... and the real magic REALLY starts happening after about 3 hours of on-time.

    At one audio show, where I borrowed a pair of tube amps, and I was very finicky about achieving the best possible sound, I realized it took about 7 hours of on-time before the system was absolutely fantastic sounding. So the first day, the sound didn't get incredible until close to show closing time. That night, I set my alarm to turn them on at 3 am, so that by 10 am, the magic was in full effect.

    In one sense, the improvements are subtle, with some better defined bass, a little more impressive dynamics, and a larger soundstage presentation. But, in another sense, these subtle improvements over hours of on-time make a very large difference in listening satisfaction.

    This improvement over time, from 45 minutes to a few hours, is just a fact, which I happen to enjoy. For a short listening session I am not disappointed by the sound; I usually just listen to CDs during this warm-up time. But for a long session, when I start after dinner, and stay up until just-before-sunrise, the music just keeps sounding better and better, until I just cannot keep my eyes open any longer. I play CDs, then some records, back to CDs, and maybe a reel-to-reel tape. I love it.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    Rickchick, rxcory, FashionBoy and 4 others like this.
  11. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Interesting that you could bring on the magic by turning the gear on early, Warren. I have been observing the same phenomenon, i.e. that some king of (added) magic arrives after a number of hours. However, that is typically late in the evening, which means that it could be down to: i) gear that is in fact performing better because of warm-up, ii) cleaner power, iii) wine intake, or iiii) a combination of all.

    Sometimes iii) isn't applied, in which case I also notice an improvement in sound, but I would still say that iii) accounts for more added magic than i) :D
    gekados likes this.
  12. Lonson

    Lonson Just a Lucky So-and-so

    Try running your system for three days! My tube gear goes to another level.
    Aftermath and Rickchick like this.
  13. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    Did that when I had tubed gear back around 1990. Even the tubed power amps ran 24/7 ... o_O
    Lonson likes this.
  14. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Usually yes, sometimes no. Even though I spend a lot of money on a lot of different components - replacing, upgrading, experimenting, testing amd demoing - I listen to music, not the gear.

    This is a useful clarification. Consider just enjoying the sound of your music rather than the sound of the gear. I think it might be true that too many audiophiles are primarily alert for flaws in reproduction rather than the enjoyment of whatever music is being played.

    So you'd be happier if your amp warmed up faster, but you're running a cooling at it that prevents the amp from warming up faster. The logical thing to is to shut off the cooling fan so you can listen to your music sooner. Just a suggestion.
  15. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    My system takes at least 45 minutes to warm up; if I have the ability, I'll sit through the warm up phase, sometimes to check if a flattened record plays, other times, to play a record that just came to get more familiar with the music or play test it. During this period, there is a gradual increase (by me) in volume level. (I'm always a little touchy about turning on a tube amp cold and cranking the soup out of it). All the electronics in the main system (phono/power supply/line stage/amps) is made up of tube gear as are those in the newly assembled vintage system. The main system just blooms when it finally hits that mark--high frequencies open up, far more depth, everything just snaps into focus- its kind of fun when that moment occurs and it's very noticeable. It does keep getting better as it plays longer but there is definitely that 'aha' moment.
    What's interesting is that the main system plays nowhere near its ability early in the warm up stage (even though horns/SET amps can sound pretty good even at lower volume). The vintage system, by contrast, has more of its potential from the moment you turn it on (though I follow a similar ramp up procedure), using Quad ESLs, matching early Quad tube amps and the big Mac 110Z. Dunno if it is the circuits, the ESL panels (which are always on- but that's just to keep the panels charged, nothing to do with tubes), or the nature of the system itself. It definitely improves after it has been on a while, but not to the same degree as the big system. I can also reach much higher db on the main system peaks, but don't listen at ear breaking levels on either system when going full tilt.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2017
  16. showtaper

    showtaper Concert Hoarding Bastard

    Try using a space heater. Those tubes will be warm in a jiffy.......:D

    (Are you sure it's not your brain taking 45 minutes to warm up??)
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    rischa likes this.
  17. Spsesq

    Spsesq Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    I think 45 minutes warm up is way to much time. Something must be amiss. My Cronus Magnum II with the KT120's has a slow start up mode and once it clicks on, it takes about 5-10 minutes for the tubes to be warm enough to give me the full sound I expect from the rolled Mullards installed in the 12au7 slots.

    During those first 5-10 minutes I catch up on emails, etc then concentrate on the music. Otherwise, if I take some time after listening to do some other activity, I leave the amplifier on if I am planning on listening more later on.
  18. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    So have you ever noticed that when you come back, after the amplifiers have been on for a long time, that the sound is a little better than it was earlier?
  19. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    My Fisher X-100 definitely sound best after running for a long time, but it sounds perfectly delightful at start-up too.

    I usually fire up the system an hour or two before I plan to listen. That also includes turning on my Thorens TD-124 so that the motor can warm up and reach a stable pitch.

    I do share the OP's discomfort with firing up the tubes only to have enough time to listen to an LP side or two. It feels wasteful, but that's the way it goes.

    For a while I was running a solid state amp - a Rega Brio-R - in my main system, and it was a delight having it ready to go at all times.
    bhazen and ghost rider like this.
  20. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    I agree. We should primarily be enjoying the music. If there are sonic flaws, or the sound is not quite what it will be later, just be patient. A later music selection, or a little more warm-up time will ultimately bring a pleasant surprise.

    Sometimes we will hear nirvana sound, and sometimes we won't. But the music itself has plenty of value without focusing on what audiophile qualities are not quite up to snuff (yet).
    Tullman, macster and Rolltide like this.
  21. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    I guess one day the world will run completely out of NOS power tubes, and the silver lining to this is we'll just leave our Russian and Chinese tubes on all day without guilt. That's what I'm telling myself, at least.
    bigal00769, SandAndGlass and Encore like this.
  22. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    Consider searching this inquiry (search is your friend) as much of this ground has been covered, though having a current conversation is just fine too. There are many thoughtful observations at the link below. I also contributed a little story to explain the consistency of recognizing warm up effects. Disclaimer: I am far from having golden ears and still hear it very clearly.

    Does system warm up REALLY make a difference?

    45 minutes is about right... I actually hear a fidelity bump (golden tones and warmth. A sorting out of the sound stage) at about 30 minutes and then an additional settling in at about 2 hours with my OTLs etc. when I play vinyl, which is most of the time, I have 55 tubes in between the source and the speakers, 3 of which are tt power supply/speed regulating. I have thirteen less if I going with a digital path, though somewhat rare.

    Funny though, back in the day, even my solid state gear shown reasonable improvements in fidelity with a thorough warm up. Friday afternoon I would come home and switch on the mains, and the gear would get better and better sounding through Sunday and then I would shut them down Sunday night. Never sounded that good during short listens during the week days.

    The results and rewards of warm up are very obvious imho.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  23. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    My gear sounds good after about 3 or 4 minutes and great after about 30 minutes I think warm up is gear and tube dependent I have a pair of Amprex 12ax7 that will occasionally crackle and pop for over an hour.
  24. Encore

    Encore Forum Resident

    :eek::eek::eek: I don't think I would be able to combat my tube angst with that many tubes ...

    Wouldn't make much of a difference.

    Back in the day, I had a custom-built (well, DIY) solid-state power amp, which resembled the Octave Research OR-1 (Octave Research OR-1 class A beast very rare • $1,400.00 ), which a friend of mine had. Both should be left on 24/7 (despite guzzling lots of power--but that was then) to sound their best, and I swear that they both only attained full performance after about 30 days of on time, where the sound stage expanded significantly o_O
  25. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    I wait about 15 minutes and put on a album. After 30 minutes I consider it warmed up.
    Andy Saunders likes this.

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