Want to know How long do guitar amps last? Below is an average number for solid state amps and tube guitar amps.
- Tube amps: Amps will last more than 10 years but you need to change tubes once every 12 to 18 months
- Solid state amps: 30-50 years.
Below are more statistics on each type of amps and what makes them more durable than the rest.
How long do solid state amp last?
Solid state amps have a much longer shelf life, compared to the tube amps. They have less sensitive components, like the tubes in tube amps.
The factors affecting the longevity of the solid state amps are:
- Solder quality: The weakness part of a solid state amp are the joints connecting the different components. If they are soldered badly, it will affect how long they can last. Conversely, if you are good in soldering, you can repair it if the joints are disconnected.
- Components: A solid state amp from a branded manufacturer usually carries more durable components. The price of the amp can also inform you on how good the components are.
- Power supply: One of the easiest thing to give out is the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply. If they are better quality, they can withstand the AC for a longer period of time. On average, amplifier capacitors last for about 10 years before quality begins to deteriorate. Usage is still possible after 10 years but be prepared to hear some quality differences.
How long do tube amp last?
Tube amps, on average, do not last as long as solid state amps. The main culprit is the tubes. They give out easily and need to be replaced frequently. The actual replacement frequency depends on the following:
- Combo amp vs separate amp head: The former is exposed to a lot of vibrations. They will need to be changed out several times a year with regular use.
- Electric Abuse: An often overlooked reason for over cooking your tubes is overloading your amp. This happens more frequently for tube amps. When setting up your amp circuit, pay attention to the load balance between your components. Check everything from pre amp to speakers.
- Types of tubes: For tube amps, the actual model contributes to how long they will last. In general, EL84 are meant to run hot and will burn out quickly, thus leading to more frequent changes. In contrast, models like 6L6GC, EL34, 6V6 are more durable. Also, some tubes are more expensive but are more durable. Below are actual hours on how long the different tubes last
- 12ax7 tubes: 5000 to 10000 hours (3 to 5 years)
- 12au7 tubes: 5000 to 10000 hours (3 to 5 years)
- 616 tubes: 1000 to 1800 hours (6 months)
- 6j1 tubes : 5000 to 10000 hours (3 to 5 years)
How do I know my tubes needs replacing?
The first thing to know is that you need change all the tubes in your amp even you start to suspect your tubes need replacing.
There are 3 types of tubes in any tube amp: pre amp tube and power tube. On average, this is how long these tubes last:
- Power tubes: 12 to 18 months
- Pre amp tubes: 24 to 36 months
- Rectifier tubes: 36 to 60 months
Power tubes are the first one to go. You can tell easily they need replacing via the following:
- You will hear unpleasant white noises,
- Low end notes becomes unclear and distorts more easily than before
- Reduction in audio power
- Change in the color hue or complete lost of color of the tube
- Might seen flames
Pre amp tube can usually last much longer. However, you need to know what does a bad preamp tube sound like?
- Squeak, hum or other feedback is usually a sign of bad preamp tube
- No reduction in audio strength which makes it more tricky to detect a bad pre amp
- Visually, the tube can turn to mist white in really bad cases. Unfortunately, this might not be visible most of the time
- Loss in signal in one the modes your amp has
Rectifier tubes tend to last the longest. It is pretty easy to detect when one needs replacing via the following:
- No sound when you select the channel where vacuum tube rectifier is
If you go to any guitar forums and asked this question, you will get plenty of variations in the answer. What I have presented is a conservative estimate. Actual durability will depend on the some of the factors I listed above.
However, if you are looking for a more long lasting amp, solid state amp will almost always be the winner.
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