While longtime tube amp owners are familiar with operating the standby and power switches, the process may be slightly confusing for new guitarists or those switching over from solid state amps. Solid state amps only have a power switch that turns the amp on and off, but all of a sudden there’s another switch next to it on your new tube amp! Fortunately, the standby switch is very straightforward, yet absolutely essential. So essential, in fact, that all of Carvin Audio’s 50 Watt or more all-tube guitar amp models - such as the V3, X100B, and BELAIR come loaded with one. This article will explain what the standby switch does and how to use it.
Unlike solid state amplifiers, tube amps need time to “warm up” before they get to providing you rocking tones. In fact, tubes operate best when they are hot. It’s akin to stretching and getting your muscles ready before you go for a run. Therefore, if you turn on your tube amp, crank it up, and start playing at full throttle before letting the tubes warm up, you are risking damage to your amp, just as you would risk injury if you were to just start sprinting without stretching or jogging first.
So that’s when the standby switch comes into the picture. By turning on your amp in standby mode, you are reducing wear and tear on your amp and extending the life of your tubes. When that switch is set to standby, you are basically telling your amp to not send the full available voltage to the tubes immediately- rather, just enough to get them warmed up. A good thing to get into the habit of is to turn your amp on standby as soon as possible when you get to the rehearsal space or on the stage. This will give your amp adequate time to warm up while you set up your pedals, tune your guitar, or socialize. Ideally, you want your amp to be on standby for about one to two minutes before you start playing at any volume.
Another useful function of the standby switch is muting your amp without turning it off. If you are taking a quick break on a session or between sets, go ahead and set the switch to standby. This will prevent you from having to turn the amp off and then on again and having to warm up the tubes all over again.
When powering-on the Carvin Audio V3, turn on the power switch with the standby switch engaged this is the down position on the V3. Wait a minute or so, and then turn the standby switch to the up position and you’re ready to rock. (corrected March-2)
One of the common complaints about owning a tube amp is maintenance of the tubes (and maybe the increased weight!) However, using your tube amp’s standby mode properly can go a long way and keep your tone sounding sweet for years.