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21 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

Your Amp's Standby Switch: What It Does and How to Use It

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.

V3 Tube Amp with Standby Switch

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.


  • Posted On February 27, 2017 by Keith

    To the article’s author and all who posted comments: thank you for doing so, as all of this information is important to those of us who need to know more.

  • Posted On February 20, 2017 by Phil

    Question regarding turning off an amp with a standby switch. I have an amp that doesn’t have a separate standby switch but instead it’s part of the regular on/off 3 way toggle. The up position is STANDBY, the middle position is OFF, the bottom position is ON. So when I turn it on in STANDBY, I have to click through the OFF position to get to ON. My question is, when I turn it OFF, can I just go directly to the middle OFF position or should I go to STANDBY, then back to OFF, or is it okay to just go directly to OFF?

  • Posted On February 19, 2017 by Ken Wilson

    With all due respect, you are totally wrong. Standby switches are both unnecessary and a safety hazard.

  • Posted On February 19, 2017 by John

    Leading amp “gurus” agree that the standby switch is unnecessary and does not extend tube life for amps with less than 1000Vdc.

  • Posted On February 19, 2017 by Loathsome Critic

    Your next to last paragraph about the V3 seems to completely contradict everything your article says previously. First you say let tubes warm up before turning on standby switch, then you say with the V3 turn them both on then wait then turn standby off then on again when you want to play????

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