Should Amplifiers Be Left On? Here are the facts!

An audiophile does all that’s possible to take good care of their equipment, including turning gear off when taking a break during a listening session. However, debates often arise when it comes to amps; some say they can be left on without becoming damaged. But is that really the case?

Amplifiers shouldn’t be left on, as internal parts — like the filament — can wear out after long-term and constant heat exposure. High-quality and reliable amps can remain on for hours, days, or weeks without suffering damage. However, it’s best to turn your amps off when you’re not using them.

Keep reading for an in-depth explanation of why you shouldn’t leave your amp on all the time and the best ways to keep your audio equipment in working order.

Amplifier left on standby

Is It Bad To Leave an Amp on All the Time?

Generally, leaving your amp on for several hours doesn’t damage it, at least not in the short term. That’s because most modern amps are designed to use minimum power while on and automatically go into a standby mode after a certain period. Amps not enclosed in a closet or a tube are generally more reliable and durable.

Most amps come with circuits that stabilize at a given temperature, preventing failure due to turn-on power surges or the thermal effects of continuous warming. Therefore, these amps can be used for a certain number of years, depending on their reliability, design, cooling, and airflow mechanisms.

However, it’s critical to note that some circuits age faster when operated at higher temperatures, which might increase when you leave your amp on 24/7. Because of that, it’s best to monitor your amp’s temperature and turn it off in case you notice a rise despite no audio playing.

Leaving such amps on all the time eventually causes them to fail sooner than expected, depending on their design and construction quality. Besides, by leaving your amp on, you’d be using more electricity, which could increase your power bill by several hundreds of dollars in the long run.

In a nutshell, my two cents are that you shouldn’t leave your amp on all the time. Although modern amps may come with features that allow them to withstand some beating, leaving these components powered for long causes them to consume more energy and heat up.

As a result, you’d be compromising your safety; there’s always a risk of accidental fire where excess heat is involved. Also, it’s a sure-fire way of increasing your power bill, which could seem negligible in the short-term but massive in the long term.

How Long Can You Leave an Amp On?

So, what’s the maximum number of hours to leave your amp on? Some audiophiles have left their amps on for weeks on end without damage, as one discussion forum highlights. Also, did you know that the US military would run tube amps nonstop for weeks, months, and years on end? (source)

As I’ve mentioned before, leaving your amp on doesn’t damage it in the short term. However, doing that causes a slow, gradual degradation that you may overlook. In my opinion, you should be more concerned about the damage caused by instantly turning on your amp, especially if it’s a tube amp.

For example, if your tube amp hasn’t been in use for a while, its filament may be cold and brittle. When you power it on, the energy rush into the filament may cause rapid expansion, causing it to break. Sometimes, the filament may already be weak due to its nonstop operation.

For that reason, it makes more sense to turn off your amp when not using it.

Say you keep a tube amp on for an extended period. In that scenario, other components, such as the electrolytic capacitors, may dry out due to constant heating, shortening the entire amp’s lifespan. Also, you may have to replace the tubes more frequently, which may end up being costly and annoying.

The key takeaway here is that leaving your amp on, especially a tube type, means it’ll require maintenance sooner, like replacing the tube and the PS filter cap. 

Think of it this way: your amp will offer excellent service for X amount of hours, which can be three years if you leave it powered for the whole year, or five years if you turn it off when idle and keep the audio device containing the amp in an open, well-ventilated space. This is maybe an extreme example, but you understand what I mean.

Ways To Take Care of Your Audio Equipment

My instincts tell me your goal is to keep your audio system in tip-top shape for the longest time possible, as evidenced by your concern that keeping an amp on may damage it. If so, here are some of the effective methods of taking care of your audio equipment:

Keep Equipment Away From Heat

Although leaving your amp on doesn’t damage your system, it helps to install heat-emitting devices, such as space heaters, radiators, heating ducts, and kitchen appliances, away from your audio equipment. Also, watch out for direct sunlight. Store the equipment in a well-ventilated room; avoid storing powered components inside enclosed spaces.

Wrap Up the Wires

Loosely hanging cables, strewn all over the place, can be a hazard to yourself and your music system. For example, you (or your guests) can easily trip over them and pull them out of your amp or receiver, causing damage. Therefore, ensure they’re out of the way when you’re using them, wrap them nicely, and put them away when done using your equipment.

Replace Worn-Out Parts

Your audio system’s plugins, amps, and other components wear out due to prolonged use or mechanical damage. Therefore, it’s best to check your equipment regularly and replace any worn-out or defective parts.

Keep the Volume Low

Resisting raising your music system’s volume to the loudest possible can be hard sometimes. Although it may be fun, it can, in some cases, hurt your stereo equipment by causing too many vibrations that can easily rip and tear some parts of the amp.

Although components like amps and receivers can handle pretty loud music, they have a tipping point. For most situations, though, your hearing will be damaged before the audio gear when playing too loud. But it is best to read your devices’ manuals to determine how much noise they can withstand.

Clean Any Corroded Plugs and Sockets

Did you notice your gear’s contact surfaces becoming corroded? If so, it’s important to act urgently to prevent further damage. It’s a good idea to clean such surfaces using a deoxidizing solution. We recommend the popular Deoxit D5 Contact Cleaner from Hosa Technology. It is a great cleaner for all sorts of electronic connectors. It cleans, protects, lubricates, and improves conductivity in connectors, contacts, and other metal connections.

Clean Painted and Finished Surfaces

You can ensure your equipment retains its glossy, aesthetic look by cleaning it regularly using a soft cloth dampened in a mild cleaning solution. Avoid chemical cleaners since they may dissolve the paint and plastic. A vacuum cleaner with a dusting brush could also come in handy when you need to rid the equipment of dust and lint.

Final Thoughts

An amp is designed to take a beating from excessive heat and loud noise. Because of that, leaving it on for hours, weeks, and months doesn’t damage it. It can keep functioning well for years, depending on its quality and reliability. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely bombproof; its parts will slowly degrade with use.

As a result, it’s best to always turn your amp off when stepping out or taking a break from listening to music. You can also keep your audio system in the best condition by unplugging and putting it away when not in use.