Too cool for comfort

November 12, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Can audio components run too cool?

This is an interesting question. We've all experienced how different our systems sound when we first turn them on. Cold they sound like their temperature: stiff, sluggish, perhaps a bit sterile. Warmed up for an hour or so we become much more engaged.

On the other side of the proverbial coin is the opposite: too hot and they can lose the life of the music. I've experienced this more than a few times when equipment stacks have been poorly ventilated. Let them cool down to normal operating temperatures and life returns to the music.

In the end, most equipment sounds its best when it's happily within its acceptable operating range.

As a rule of thumb, I like a minimum of 30 minutes minimum to get started. If the system's been on all day that works too (as long as there's proper ventilation).

As in most things the extremes are not where we want to be.

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39 comments on “Too cool for comfort”

  1. That's why I'm mighty partial to the L & R external rows of two & a half inch deep
    aluminium cooling fins that run all the way from the front, to the back, of my amp.
    I give it an hour to warm-up with a clean piece of cotton fabric covering it to
    speed-up the warming-up process...mmmm, toasty 🙂

  2. I've always avoided anything that I have to wait any significant amount of time to warm up. My integrated unit operates at between 32 and 42 Celsius. The unit tells you the temperature of the processor and amplifiers. It stays warm when off, consuming just under 5W, about 8W when on in standby. My phono stage is permanently on, consuming a trickle of power, its maximum is 17w. Everything else runs cold.

    It seems rather old fashioned that you have to guess when your stereo is fit for purpose and, if it is temperature dependent, why don't they all have thermometer readings available? In the old days you used to have to let you car warm up, that wouldn't sell now.

    1. Most wives need at least half an hour to warm up; is that significant?
      It seems rather old-fashioned to mess around with vinyl...& yet...
      It's no biggie to press the power button on your amplifier & your SACD
      player just before you make a few important's all about
      the ability to plan your time efficiently & to avoid being logistically impaired 😉

  3. Unless on vacation or the power goes off, the amps, active speakers, and subwoofers are always in standby, preamps and all digital components are are always on, no standby options, except my tubed Lampi DAC and I always turn it on to warm up a couple of hours before listening and switch all equipment in standby to full on. The system just sounds best this way and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

    1. Here’s the thing. For tube amps/preamps leaving them on for best sound may make a difference, but shorten the life of tubes and their not cheap to replace. However wt solid state gear I don’t see any need to “warm” them up to get best sound??? Again like every thing left on will shorten the life expectancy of the gear. I own Yamaha amps and preamp for my bi-amp setup and after a short listening session the amps are definitely warm. Imo don’t see the need to “warm” gear up prior listening.

  4. For my sins I leave my amp on 24/7 unless I’m away for more than a day. Not in standby but with an eco setting that saves 48 watts but still consumes 32 watts. In the current climate and energy cost emergency that’s £46 a year, not to mention help save the planet…

    Thinking about turning it off overnight at least, but I thought even with modern electronics and class D amps it’s less of a strain, in terms of kit rising and falling in temperature, thus always sounding best and prolonging its life…
    … is that no longer true?

  5. Some people need readouts and technology to function. Some have the patience to wait.
    Temp change is not instantaneous and the bigger the mass the harder it will be to change the temp quickly.

    Heat and electronics don’t mix well. Absurd cold and most electronics don’t mix well, although I rather absurd cold for my electronics.

    I had a set of M700’s - after being on continuously for 24+ hours they didn’t sound as good as they did for the 1st 8 hours after turn-on. I have a tube preamp that sounds best and has the longest tube life (for both sound quality and longevity) when left on. I have a solid state pre that has no on off switch and it is stated in the manual it has a 4 hr warm-up time from when the power is 1st applied.

    Operating temp is different than the ambient temp (which is often stated in specs).

  6. Not only the amp needs to warm up, all of the active components need a decent warm-up time as well. Just over an hour and my system is sounding somewhat musical. And, over the first half hour to hour of playing time, the SQ gets better and better. It’s definitely not my imagination.

  7. I worked as a tech and then an engineer for 45 years and I learned quickly electronics do not like heat, warm is fine but if you let them stay hot the lifetime and performance begins to crater unless they are designed for such operation.

    My Perfectwave DAC sits on top of my Rogue RP5 tube preamp and I noticed the heat coming from the tubes was making the DAC a bit too warm. I found putting higher feet on the DAC allowed better air circulation and tamed the heat nicely

  8. Just an aside. Those minimal watt/ amperes being drawn at idle is sorta fine at home. But on a boat you’ll soon have done battery power storage issues. Self contained boats generate their own electricity, water etc.,

    Most of my gear reaches operational temp. Quickly. And once there I don’t hear any improvements one hour later.

  9. Unfortunately several hours run time seems to make a big difference for most quality gear, although there’s probably also a lot of gear which immediately reaches its individual peak (or doesn’t get better than others after switch on, depending on the point of view).

    In my experience there’s mostly a quite big difference between cold, 1h run time and several hours run time.

  10. I’ve never experienced the “too hot “ side of this, but the cold? Absolutely.
    My amps run far better when warmed up, especially my solid state amp. That thing needs a good half hr to get going and loosen up.

    All my equipment is very well ventilated. I don’t stack anyhow.

    Anyway. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend.

    I listened to this today/yesterday as my usual tradition to honor the War Vets.


      1. That is the way to go. Not much dampening required when you do that.
        For me, I’m just lucky I’ve got a wide enough rack. 😉

        However I’ve maxed out my space. Lol. Mr. Nick will upgrade someday soon.

        1. I'm not sure if you've read this from me before, but I've only got two 'boxes' SACD player & an integrated 2ch amp, so I'm not playing with a heap of gear to start with.
          I have removed the factory feet on both components & replaced said feet with IsoAcoustics - 'ISO Puck' vibration absorption feet, sitting on top of 2" thick IKEA bamboo chopping boards, sitting on top of 1cm thick cork sheets...on my thinly carpeted floor.

          1. Well in a lot of cases that is pretty much all you need. 🙂
            Nice touch with the ISO pucks though.
            I agree with that move.

            And yeah I guess I haven’t asked about the whole contents of your system yet, but I do note your speaker history. You went from Harbeth to Devore O 93’s or 96’s?
            You had the Harbeth’s for over 20 years I think I remember you saying?

            Anyhow. Sounds like your in great shape. I like John Devore. I’ve got his YouTube channel and I like the way he candidly speaks about his enthusiasm for vinyl. 🙂

            1. I had Celestion - 'Ditton 66' floorstanders for nearly 38 yrs (1981 - 2018); Harbeth - 'HL Compact' (now ES7-3 XD) standmounters from 1993 to 1999 & the DeVore Fidelity - 'Orangutan O/93' floorstanders since December 2nd last year.
              A Matantz - 'SA12 SE' SACD player & a Musical Fidelity - 'M6si500' integrated amp are my current components.


              1. Yeah that is pretty nice.
                What a great path you’ve been on as well. Thank you for sharing that with me.
                I also like your more simplistic approach to a set up in your home.

          2. Wow, that’s ‘alotta’, isolation. Glad you’re pleased. I ama’ bit agnostic, but I do like wide and low equipment racks. Prudent amount of air. The gear seems to duck for cover with respect to reflections and soundstage. I’ve done my fair share of A/B …. Listening. Apparently I have a perfect setup or I Simply have tin ears.

  11. The one amp I really noticed a significant difference after about an hour warm up was a Bryston 4B.
    And here I thought the music just really started to sound better after that 3rd SCOTCH... .

  12. * A little off today's topic *

    We had quite a discussion about this a while back and I ran into this article this morning. It's quite refreshing to see a government agency trying to plan for how electric rates could change due to electric cars in advance of the crush. What a novel idea. Hmm, if you plan for it, would that make the load non-reactive? 🙂

    1. As usual when it comes to government ( and large corporations ) the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing. NY, where I live, is trying to force electric cars on everyone by mandating that gas powered cars can no longer be sold after 2035. This is going to drastically increase electricity consumption. Where is the extra electricity suppose to come from if you want it to be "green"? Solar is very inefficient so you have to cover a lot of real estate to get the extra electricity from solar. Wind is a huge capital investment with no payback. The payback time on those huge windmills is 20 years and they wear out in 20 years. If you are willing to relax "green" just a little you can use natural gas to run the power plants. That will take a lot of retrofitting and getting states like NY to allow fracking to free the gas.

      Somebody better start doing some serious planning before we have everyone driving an electric car. Oh, don't even get me started on mining for lithium. Talk about ungreen!

      1. Hi Tony. Don't know if you caught it or not but I talked about some of this in Copper Magazine Issue #154 Ohm's Law. Due to the word limit on an article, you can't really go into considerable depth, so I tried to provide a few salient links that lead into multiple entrances of a rabbit's warren of information. And, you are correct, you can't replace in 5 years what took 100 years to build. It will be another 100 years of learning.

        1. Jack, Thank you for the link. What worries me most about the future ( assuming I am here to see it ) is that the problems we face are becoming more technical and most politicians in office are not pulled from a pool of scientist, engineers and mathematicians. As things get more technical we are going to need people in office that do not need to be tutored on what a STEM education gives you, and can anticipate what is needed rather than react to what is lacking.

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