Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 22

Thread: I Believe Amps Break In. Who's With Me?

  1. #1

    I Believe Amps Break In. Who's With Me?

    This is sometimes a debate, whether or not an electrical device like an amp breaks in like an electromechanical device, like a speaker. So I'm going to put it out there: I think they do.

    There's a lot of voodoo around. There are people who think cables break in. Um...no. There are people who believe that electrical cords break in. Uh...not really. But amps...amps are different for some reason. They pass a lot of current. They get hot, stuff happens to the transformers and the parts, and I think you can hear it.

    My HX/DA has really opened up in the month or so since I have had it. I really noticed it doing a session yesterday. It's hard to explain, but it just sounds sweeter, feels a little looser, and is altogether more wonderful than an amp has a right to be.

    This is just my opinion, of course. What do you think about whether or not amps break in?

    Note: I'm referring to tube amps, primarily, not modelers, and not solid state.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  2. #2
    Carvin Striations cwhenke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    362
    I think that do based on personal experience. I don't know why, but I agree that the heat and the current cause subtle changes.

    I can't say I've ever heard an argument that says they don't, so I'm waiting to hear one. Of course, that's going to be like proving a negative, so I'm not sure what a counter-argument will be.
    Too many and never enough...

  3. #3
    Senior Member Rider1260's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Posts
    325
    They most certainly will change over time, Tubes, Caps , Transformers etc all change sometimes better sometimes not.
    I find that a fresh set of tubes need a bit of time at power to sound there best.
    I feel the same about PRS guitars they seems to be a bit tight at first but after a bit of playtime and a fresh set of strings ( happy happy happy )
    PRS Family - SCT, 408, 305, CU22, MEII
    Others LesPaul , Stratocaster , Guild
    Amps - Mesa MK2B , Egnater Tweaker 15
    Effects - Tonal Insanity Guitar Effects ( I make them ) TC Electronics Nova

  4. #4
    Senior Member andy474x's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Boston
    Posts
    970
    My SE amp certainly opened up after a bit of play time... and continues to do so. The juice, the heat... to me it's like when you get a new car, and the gas and brake are really touchy for the first little while, then it starts to break in. Well, sort of.
    -I'm no expert, but it seems to work and I haven't electrocuted myself yet. Which is pretty much the standard I live by.

    SE Custom 24 25th Anniversary - SE Akesson+57/08's - SE 30 Head/Cab

  5. #5
    Happy Egads's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    1,798
    Definitely. The tubes will break in and change with some play time. It's hard to accurately judge a new amp until it's got some time on it.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Egads View Post
    Definitely. The tubes will break in and change with some play time. It's hard to accurately judge a new amp until it's got some time on it.
    Yes, and I think other stuff also changes with some play time, too. I've put new tubes in older amps, and it wasn't like breaking in a new amp.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  7. #7
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    deep in the raspberry...
    Posts
    2,914
    Tubes are living, breathing organisms,,,
    Thbbbbbt...
    Check it out: Phillybri used to have a band: Resonance But he's soooo over them now!

    ísɹǝqɯǝɯ uɐıןɐɹʇsnɐ oןןǝɥ

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    Tubes are living, breathing organisms,,,
    I had an organism just the other night. (cymbal crash).

    But seriously folks, I got an antibiotic and it went away.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  9. #9
    Warped frustrated old man John Scrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Chicago area
    Posts
    78
    Even solid state amps "normalize" after being beaten in a bit. Speakers? Absolutely and sometimes freakishly obvious about it.
    John Scrip - MASSIVE Mastering - Chicago IL
    2011 PRS Custom 24
    Proud Member of ROLBAMTMWAOBGMMPRSC24OA

  10. #10
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    San Antonio
    Posts
    41
    Speakers make the biggest difference between new and worn in IMO. Tubes just get worse with time lol
    71 LP goldtop - Burstbucker 1, Chris White mini-hum neck
    LTD Horizon with 3 humbuckers - Burstbucker 3, Burstbucker 2, Burstbucker 1
    LTD M-100 - brass Floyd block, Bill Lawrence USA L500XL, GFS A2 Classic(A5)
    Lap steel made from scraps and a diseased ash tree - GFS A2 Classic
    JSX with low-gain preamp tubes, KY77's, and custom enclosures(ostrich), Texas Heats

  11. #11
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    70
    Quote Originally Posted by Rider1260 View Post
    They most certainly will change over time, Tubes, Caps , Transformers etc all change sometimes better sometimes not.
    I find that a fresh set of tubes need a bit of time at power to sound there best.
    I feel the same about PRS guitars they seems to be a bit tight at first but after a bit of playtime and a fresh set of strings ( happy happy happy )

    I asked Paul and doesn't believe in it. Coming from the world of High-End audio I know this to be true. One of the cheapest tweaks you can do is to experiment with different power cords now that most new amps are IEC. Not only will better pieces provide more current, they can also improve your sound just the way instrument versions.

    Cheap in, cheap out.

  12. #12
    Ignoring the speaker, and tubes which obviously do change through degradation, the tone of any amp changes with voltage reaching the amp, humidity and temperature effecting the sound waves themselves. No two amps are exactly the same due to component variations already, then due to further component drift from tolerance specs and the same humidity and heating and cooling cycles in a tube amp, I can see their tone changing slowly throughout the years. That's one of the things about vintage amps right now that is so interesting - None of them sound just the same to begin with. Sure, they're close to each other, but years of component drift has left them "tweaked" from stock. If you go through a tube amp from the 60s and replace the old carbon comp resistors with new stock same-spec carbon comp resistors, it'll sound different. Electrolytic capacitors do break in as well, but there hopefully aren't too many of those in the actual audio path.
    Do I think a transformer sounds different once its broken in? Well, I suppose its quite conceivable if its not broken in at the factory, but this I have the most trouble with. I can see the older transformers with their plain enamel windings aging and changing tone as heat and humidity do their thing inside the transformer, maybe adding or removing some stray capacitance. By the same token the laminations of the transformer oxidizing has to have some minor effect on tone as well, as the metal pits I'd expect the capacitance to increase.
    I've dribbled the wax out of a output transformer in an old single ended amp by overdriving the living crap out of it, and it DID sound different after I did so - I thought for the better. You can smell the solvents baking out of tube amps while you use them, and they sound better when they've been on a while. I wouldn't run an import tube amp around any parakeets for the first few weeks. I tend to think aged steel in a transformer might be a good thing, and I don't want to say too much and look crazy, but...I can't say that a rusty transformer always sounds worse....
    Last edited by rabidhamster; 11-25-2013 at 06:46 PM.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by tabl10s View Post
    One of the cheapest tweaks you can do is to experiment with different power cords now that most new amps are IEC. Not only will better pieces provide more current, they can also improve your sound just the way instrument versions.

    Cheap in, cheap out.
    I won't say you're wrong about this; I just haven't heard it.

    I once conducted a fairly lengthy double-blind experiment with speaker cables, power cords, my old Krell amp and B&W 801s I had in my studio back in the day. The results were that I was convinced that the higher end speaker cables made a difference; in fact, I could correctly identify the high end cables 9 out of 10 times vs. the heavy duty standard speaker cable I had been using., and in fact I wound up buying the speaker cables used in the test.

    However, I was not convinced that the power cords made any difference. I'll put it this way - I didn't hear any difference at all.

    The power to my studio was provided by 2000KVA Sola isolation transformer that was custom modified by my studio tech for balanced AC power. The AC was not coming from the household Romex cabling, so the AC power was clean and consistent, and my studio had (and has) a very, very low noise floor.

    It wasn't a matter of "I'm not sure," or "I think maybe I can hear something."

    Changing the power cables didn't make any sonic difference that I could hear between the stock AC cable that came with the Krell, compared to several very expensive ones provided to me for the test by the local high end hi fi shop.

    I make my living with my ears, and I'm pretty picky about sonics. I'm very confident in the results of my test, at least with the equipment I used. I'm no expert in physics or electrical engineering, but I'm pretty sure that an AC cable doesn't add to or amplify current, since it can't produce current that isn't there in the first place.

    However, the expensive AC cables did look the business. For my trouble, the dealer insisted that I keep one of the cables, though now it's somewhere at the bottom of my gigantic steamer trunk of spare cables and studio parts. It is about as thick as my wrist!

    Anyway, this is one of those things that people debate endlessly, and either you're a convinced believer or not. I'm not.

    Maybe something will happen down the road to change my mind. I don't call it snake oil, that isn't my way of addressing things. But I do wonder how much of it is the result of wanting to hear a difference.

    I once tried the cable with a guitar amp (I think I had a Bogner then) but didn't notice any change.

    Here's an interesting ABX test of power cords written up by a guy who wrote in a review that he could hear the difference between a $2500 power cord and a standard issue one, in which he admits that the test results surprised him by showing that he and a group of interested audiophiles weren't able to identify which was which in a way that was more than random chance (49%):

    http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volum...s-12-2004.html

    One thing I will say: I have nothing against people enjoying themselves and making or listening to music in whatever way floats their boat. If nothing else, this stuff can be interesting and fun. And as long as the money isn't an issue, sometimes there's enjoyment in simply thinking one has done everything possible to make equipment sound better. And I'm ok with that.

    I recently put together a new pedalboard, and tweaked my pedal connection cable choices here and there by trying out different ones. With instrument cables, I do find there are sonic differences, and I actually used different cables for my analog pedals and my digital ones coming off my true bypass loop box.

    I dunno why I did this, ultimately it probably doesn't matter. But I enjoyed the process of listening, swapping cables, listening again, etc. It made me happy to do that and come up with what I think is a cool result. Maybe I could pass a test over this combination of cables, but probably not. And I don't much care. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and that's enough!

    That ain't so bad. Feeling good is...well...good!
    Last edited by LSchefman; 11-26-2013 at 09:04 PM.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  14. #14
    Warped frustrated old man John Scrip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Chicago area
    Posts
    78
    I asked Paul and doesn't believe in it. Coming from the world of High-End audio I know this to be true. One of the cheapest tweaks you can do is to experiment with different power cords now that most new amps are IEC. Not only will better pieces provide more current, they can also improve your sound just the way instrument versions.
    Gotta say (and if anyone didn't know / notice, I'm a mastering engineer by trade), I never subscribed to the whole "cables make a difference" thing for the most part but I absolutely will subscribe to the GOOD QUALITY cables of PROPER LENGTH.

    I swapped out all of my old cable (and this was good cable, mind you) one day for all "custom length" Belden 1800F and saw a 2.something dB drop in the noise floor. Several years ago, I changed out all my power cables for "proper length" (and rather high-quality) Pangea cables and saw a drop of just around 2dB.

    Now -- That could be because the cables were of higher quality or that they weren't coiled up in the rack with all the signal cable -- Or a measure of both.

    But either way, an investment in less than a couple $k gave me a 4dB lower noise floor. And in this business, that's a cheap tweak and a HUGE benefit.

    That said -- I've seen the comparison between the $10,000 MIT speaker cables and the wire hanger (there was no discernable winner).

    THAT said, I think as long as you're using "good quality" stuff and you're not using 20' cables to go 3', you're probably in pretty freaking decent shape.
    John Scrip - MASSIVE Mastering - Chicago IL
    2011 PRS Custom 24
    Proud Member of ROLBAMTMWAOBGMMPRSC24OA

  15. #15
    John, one of the things I did in my studio that reduced the noise floor by quite a bit was switch to balanced power. You've probably already done it, but I've been using balanced power for over a dozen years, and my noise floor is vanishingly low.

    Another benefit is that power cables induce less noise to signal cables.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  16. #16
    Member prsrocker1988's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    IL
    Posts
    189
    Absolutely... Not only that they break in, in a short time - but also that they typically sound better as they get older. My '55 5E3 Deluxe sounds way better than any of the new replicas I've tried. I'm pretty much a vintage amp guy for home, studio, and live. but I do like what I hear out of the DG amps, particularly the 50. But generally prefer a clean 6V6 or 6L6 (normally 6L6 live) amp and use pedals for distortion/overdrive.

  17. #17
    I'd like to try both DG amps, actually. I'm in love with the HX/DA, and was thinking that it might be interesting to have an alt-amp again, as I like to have more than one sometimes for layering tracks.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

  18. #18
    Senior Member Brad737's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH
    Posts
    536
    Obviously speakers and power tubes change dramatically, but I was surprised to discover that the transformers break in as well. The builder sent me some sound clips and told me the trannies weren't broken in yet. (I thought it sounded awesome.). But sure enough, after about 15 hours, that amp really opened up. It hasn't changed noticeably to my ears since then.
    Model citizen...Zero discipline

    http://reverb.com/shop/brad737

  19. #19
    SuperD Boogie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Indy, IN
    Posts
    1,096
    Talking about noise floor reduction. Many years ago, I used to sell electro-magnetic interference/compliance (EMI/EMC) devices into the consumer electronics industry, specifically AT&T when they used to make telco stuff (answering machines, phones, security systems, etc.). The whole 'noise' topic was always a tough conversation because it's a fact of electronic life and a.) difficult to isolate the source(s), b.) difficult to correct for the identified source(s), and c.) very expensive to correct for the source(s). Of all of the approaches and whiz-bang techniques, the best was always the most simple...cut down the power cord length and apply ferrite cores on the cable. Still a problem? Use torroid filters on device-side AC input, or better, use a regulated AC/DC power supply and get the rectifying process away from the sensitive gear...all because the typical power supplied in the US is unbalanced and inherently dirty. Better power would reduce the cost of electronic devices. Les, when you went to a balanced power system, did you drop nearly 15dB instantly?

    More to the topic, I do agree that tube amps have a 'settling period' of some sort and that's why I prefer to buy from the used market.
    + '01 Custom 24 + '11 DGT Standard (Mr. Clean) + '09 SE One + Super Dallas + Stealth 2x12+

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogie View Post
    Les, when you went to a balanced power system, did you drop nearly 15dB instantly?
    Yes, I think it was around that number - this is going back a number of years. My studio was always star-grounded to reduce noise, had short power cables, etc. , but the reduction in noise floor was not only measurable, it made a noticeable difference. A bunch of hash that you could hear through headphones just disappeared. It was pretty amazing! We did measure a big change on my tech's scope, too.

    The only problem at the time (this was back in the mid 90s when the benefits of balanced power were just being discovered in the studio world, and there wasn't much on the market that you could buy) was that he achieved the noise reduction via modding this large and heavy SOLA isolation transformer, and that thing made a mechanical humming/vibration noise, so I had to soundproof my HVAC room, stick it in there, and put it on rubber mounts. Later, as I began to need less hardware, and didn't need 2000 KVA in the studio, I replaced it with a Furman 1220 and later still, an Equi=Tech product that I still use, that is mechanically dead quiet.

    "Settling period" is a good way of putting it.
    If something is too hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV.
    -- Homer J. Simpson

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •