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Effect of cold on amplifiers

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Wxp4759cb, Dec 24, 2005.


  1. Wxp4759cb

    Wxp4759cb

    Nov 23, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    What is the effect of really cold temperatures on bass amplifiers? Occasionally I am forced to leave me AI in the car for a few hours and it is dropping below freezing outside now. Is there any danger in this as long as I let it warm up for awhile before powering it up?
     
  2. No danger at all.. no effect. If you have a tube amp and turn it on from extremely cold temps, you might have a problem, but solid state... not an issue.
     
  3. bassist14

    bassist14

    Oct 17, 2005
    Germany
    hello chris,

    it can be dangerous, if you bring the amp from the cold car in a warm room, the humidity in the air can condense inside the cold amp. (like on a cold window in a warm und humid room.)
    i made a simliar experience with a keyboard that played alone without touching the keys a single "f" for 20 minutes...
    so maybe it will be better to wait some time before turning the amp on, after taking it out of the cold, to avoid damage caused from condendsed water inside the amp.

    merry christmas
    bassist14
     
  4. Actually, in a similar thread over on the BG side, Bob Lee of QCS recommends turning on a SS amp immediately when coming in from the cold so that the amp warms up prior to the condensation happening when the amp is brought in. That being said, I typically have enough time between set-up and the gig so that 15-20 minutes pass, which should be plenty of time either way.
     
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    I don't disagree with the advice you have reecived thus far. As you were advised, condensation can be an issue. I would say that, generally, it is not good practice to force any of your equipment to endure temperature/humidity extremes. A few hours as you describe really should be no problem, though. When things really do become extreme, I find a way to haul all of my "stuff" indoors. The bass never, ever, ever, ever, ever sits in the car unless I have no good alternative and that environment mimics a proper indoor environment (e.g., at night, 70 degrees, appropriate humidity).
     
    DC Bass likes this.
  6. Uncletoad

    Uncletoad

    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    This all seems needlessly paranoid to me. I've been gigging for decades and left all my amps in the cold van or truck for extended periods of time. I bring them in from the freezing cold, set them up and they work flawlessly. I can't recall one maintainence issue related to cold or condensation. This includes 2 all tube SVT's, several Crowns (which are 15 years old and never seen a repairman), a walter woods, an SWR, an Eden, an EA etc etc. I've never heard of a production company that unloads their trucks between each gig worrying about cold and their gear. They pack up the trucks and leave the stuff in them untill they go to the next place and do it all again.
     
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I used to have an Acoustic 370. Left it in the car all summer and winter between gigs. In the winter if I came in from extreme cold into extreme warm and humidity, it would take about 30 minutes before it would make and sound at all. I suspect that thing is still working just fine, wherever it is....
     
  8. bolo

    bolo

    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    I guess I belong in the needless worriers camp. I can't recall (the 70's were my "formative" years) if my fear is based on real-life experience or just needless anxiety. Used to tote around an SVT head in the late 70's and early 80's.

    So I thought Chris Braddock's original question was legit. Often wondered the same thing myself.

    Anyway, my backup rig probably takes the most abuse temperature wise. It sits in the van during every gig.
     
  9. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Yeah, but some of us are needlessly paranoid. ;)

    I agree with you. I think you're quite correct that, in all likelihood, you'll be just fine. That said, I don't have a truckload of equipment and, given the choice, I'll roll my small rig indoors when there are temperature/humidity extremes. This is not just superstition-- there is the probability, albeit small, that temperature extremes can cause mechanical damage (cracked PC boards, etc.). Like anything else, it's a risk/benefit consideration. I don't mind the bit of extra effort to avoid the, admittedly very small, chance of damage. If it were not easy to do, I'd leave it in the car!
     
    DC Bass likes this.
  10. bolo

    bolo

    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    I was gonna say that, but I was too paranoid.
     
    sissy kathy likes this.
  11. bassist14

    bassist14

    Oct 17, 2005
    Germany
    ok,

    i am not paranoid enough to say that i might be paranoid :help:
     
  12. bolo

    bolo

    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    bassist14, you're not the needlessly paranoid one. I meant me.

    Anyone remember the tune Paranoid by Grand Funk? That was in their early years, when they were good. I love Mel Schacher's tone on the red album and E Pluribus Funk. It was probably from a blown woofer being overdriven by a West amplifier.

    Oops ... wrong side of Talkbass.

    I hope the secret TB police won't come and take me away for posting in the wrong place.

    You won't tell them, will you?
     
  13. bassist14

    bassist14

    Oct 17, 2005
    Germany
  14. westland

    westland

    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    Dave Funk in his manual talks about this ... the main reason for amp failure is thermal cycling ... the physical expansion and contraction (do to cold/heat cycles) of integrated circuits which causes their wiring to break. He recommends turning on his amp with the fan running immediately after bringing it in from the cold, and not playing through it until it warms up to room temperature (15 minutes or so).

    With tubes (just speculating) the component wiring is more robust (hand wired and so forth) so the big problem would be the glass (which is pyrex I think on tubes) ... you may not want to turn on the heaters right away.
     
  15. Well, he may recommend that, but the notion that you can plug it in _before_ condesation happens is not true at all.

    In a whole other context than this, I have used DATS, analogue tapes, a plethora of recorders and so on, and the thing is that when you bring in any cold equipment, especially metals (as they have more cold (i.e. lack of heat) in them, the moisture from the air condensates immediately.

    When you hit the dew point, the humidity in the air condenses, and goes from a gaseous state to fluid. This happens imediately when the air hits the equipment.

    With that said, I'm not at all worried, unless it's extremely cold, and if it is, I just make sure my equipment does not come in contact with the air, until it is warm (i.e. I plastic wrap it, put it in a plastic bag), and turn it on, keeping a constant eye on it, if it's high-powered, and when it's warm - around room temp, I remove the bag.

    The thing is, he is actually letting the water condense, and while all that condensation is in there, he turns it on, so he can let it vapourise. And that at the worst thinkable time - where most water is inside the equipment.

    Back when I was using tape, it would usually take a while until the tape was warm enough to be used, so I usually kept a few next to my body. I guess that would be hard with an amp, though :D
     
  16. Wxp4759cb

    Wxp4759cb

    Nov 23, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    Most people seem to be addressing the effect of cold on the amplifier part of an amp (with a lot of helpful information), but what about the speaker component?
     
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I guarantee that Lee De Forest did not have Pyrex available. ;)
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Good question. I've been wondering about this as well because fuel prices are going up so much and I keep my amps and speakers in the (heated) garage...how cold can I let the speakers get and still be safe?
     
  19. I would assume that it depends on what the speaker cones are made of. If they are made from wood pulp, you could easily damage them quite quickly, assuming they were cold-soaked, and you played something soon after getting them indoor. On the other hand, if they were made of mylar or some other modern fabric, it really shouldn't matter much (except for the sound if they were cold-soaked - those magnets can hold an awful lot of chill ).

    And perhaps the rubber could be so cold that it becomes fragile, so I would start slowly, and "lowly". And only after a while, optimally after at least three hours, so I'm sure they are room temperature. Realistically, though, I would propably give them twenty minutes to half an hour, and then carefully plug in the amplifier (having it turned all the way down), turning it up gradually, while playing a bit.
     
  20. I just realised you might be asking about something else.

    It's not a matter of how cold - you could easily go -20 degrees centigrade, without damage. It's the sudden change in airtemperatures that makes it go wrong.

    But if you want to be absolutely sure, you have to keep them above the dew point. and that depends on the temperature and the relative humidity (and altitude above sea level, but for all practically you live at sea level).

    Anyways, I have found a nice little calculator on the net, so you can at least make approximated estimates.

    http://www.lamtec.com/dew-point-calculator.htm

    Btw, it's when the thing you bring to a warmer place is below the dew point and you move it somewhere that is above the dew point that things will condense. So it doesn't have to be freezing. although the more difference in temperature, the longer it will take until the condensing is over.

    I'm still with the plastic wrap on this.