How many hours to break in a guitar amp speaker?

I bought a new amp recently, has about ten hours or less of playing time at this point.

I’m wondering at what point other guitarists and musicians consider an instrument speaker to have fully broken in and achieved it’s maximum tone.

Or is that an old musicians tale and speakers sound as good as they are ever going to right from the start?

I assume this is a combo amp (amp + speaker), aye?

It’s mostly an old musicians tale at this point. The speaker is going to replicate or produce sounds most perfectly when it is brand new, before any wear and tear from use affects the speaker’s diaphragm or any of the paper/poly materials or the wire which is wound around a magnet.

ETA: What did you get?

There’s definitely a difference, but it’s not an issue except for in recording situations.

How long it takes depends on the load on the driver, the quality and material of the cone and driver(s) and the crossover (if there’s a tweeter as in some bass cabs.

The breaking in is primarily the cone and driver ‘settling in’ and also the drying up of any glues at the joins.

Your impedance and wattage output/handling are the big factors, and it varies immensely. Push high wattage regularly for a month or so and you’ll be fine. Your neighbors might not be, but that’s the price they pay for living next to a rock star (in the making), right?

If you really want to nerd out, push a test tone through your amp at a variety of SPLs and record it or snapshot the frequency response with an RTA (real time analyzer). Do it again every couple of weeks until the response is leveled off. Use the same placement and distance each time, of course. There’s several free RTA apps for smartphones, and also SPL meters.

ETA: Bo is mostly right on about the degradation of tone over time. But there’s a definite period of settling in after the amp starts getting regular use, that lasts quite a while before entropy takes over. As with most machinery and electronics, regular careful use and maintenance goes a long way.
Also, the process is far more evident after a repair job, and I attribute that to the above mentioned glue drying and the new interactions between cone and driver (and of course the skill of the tech)

Nothing to add. Good posts.

Thanks for the replies.

It’s a Carr Mercury 1-12 with an Eminence Red, White And Blue speaker. I’ve had it about 2 weeks and I’m wildly in love with the gritty crunch in the 1/2 and 2 watt settings with the boost on. It’s exactly what I was hoping for in that zone. It sounds great at the 8 watt setting as well but it gets surprisingly loud.

The reverb is also top notch, though 1/4 turn on the knob is plenty.

The clean tone is a little less than what I’d hoped and I was wondering if it might improve with use. To be fair, it’s being compared to my other amp, a (well seasoned) Twin Reverb which is one of the all time kings of clean tone. The Merc seems a little flat and 2D in comparison. Of course the TR has no gritty crunch at anything less than neighbor rattling volume and weighs 70+ lbs, so the Mercury is filling a niche. I’m a living room hobbyist, not a gigging musician.

Maybe some weekend I’ll try hooking the Carr up to the TR speakers just to see how that sounds.

I had never heard of them, so I went to their website to check them out. Very nice sounding amp.


For the retail price that they list for the amp you bought, you could have gotten an Orange amp head with a speaker cabinet, or a Marshall, or a MesaBoogie, or damn near anything.

What made you decide on the Carr?

You gotta Carr Mercury and didn’t post about it?! Dude fill us in! What was your selection process and how did you pick it?
Bo - CM’s carved their own niche in upscale bedroom amps maybe 5 years ago. Great rep for tone at very low volumes. I know Oranges can be great as well.
RH - I don’t think it’s about the speaker. Call Carr and talk to someone, explainsong what you are looking for. Also get to the Gear Page and search for threads there; there are a bazillion threads on Mercurys there.

“What was your selection process and how did you pick it?”
Selection process started when they first came out and I read a review and thought it sounded like the perfect amp for what I wanted but considered it way out of my price range and it seemed unlikely I’d ever get to demo one as there are no dealers near here. I’ve been looking to get something a little more manageable than the TR for years and these were the things I wanted,

  1. Smaller physical size.
  2. All in one. Wanted to get away from external effects but didn’t want digital modeling either.
  3. Tubes
  4. Crunch and grit, built in, no pedals.
  5. Real spring reverb
  6. Made in USA.
    I also wanted something that appealed to my aesthetic preferences which is retro classic. I do like the way the Mercury looks. The build quality is also very nice. As you’d expect.
    Read lots of good reviews over the years, had a good profit sharing check this year, started thinking about the Merc again (intrigued by the built in attenuator), started watching YT demo vids. Started surfing Ebay waiting for a good used one. Finally said “screw it” and ordered a new one.

The runner up in the selection process was a Victoria Ivy League. Lots less expensive but no built in reverb and that’s a biggie for me.

“Call Carr and talk to someone, explain what you are looking for.”

They have a rep for fantastic customer service so I’m sure that’s an option. At this point I don’t feel I’ve spent enough time with it to be calling HQ yet.
I’m not saying the clean sound is bad , it’s just different from from what I’m most used to, Fender Blackface sparkle.


For the retail price that they list for the amp you bought, you could have gotten an Orange amp head with a speaker cabinet, or a Marshall, or a MesaBoogie, or damn near anything."

It is a lotta money and trust me, I considered a lot of other amps. I was at one point considering a “real” Blackface Fender from the point to point wiring, pre-CBS days. My TR is a reissue. That would have been cool but too close to what I had already.

Thanks for the clarification WordMan and River Hippie. I’ll have to keep them in the back of my mind for when I spot a used one at a good price somewhere.

River Hippie, that sounds great - congrats. So you play mostly your homebrew, hardtail Strats through it? Cool.

ETA: Oh, hey - what tube is yours configured with? EL34 or 6L6?

Yeah, one of my main guitars is a hardtail Strat with CS '69 pickups. The other one is a trem. The amp I have has an EL34. The older ones came with a KT-66. According to the manual it can also take a 6L6, KT-88 and 6550 with a bias adjustment. Another thing I liked about the amp is that it has easily accessed test points for measuring the bias. I should check it to see if it’s at the recommended setting. The manual recommends .040VDC for a “clearer, leaner sound” to .052VDC for a “thick tone.”

All great. To be clear - that may be your issue. You are a Fender/6L6 man and you have a Marshall power tube in there. Marshall’s don’t “sparkle,” dammit :wink:

Call Carr, describe your issues, tell them some schmo online suggested that you ask whether a switch in power tubes will get you closer to the tone you had with your Twin and ask what they think. I’ll be curious.

There’s a breaking in period?

I have quite a bit of time off work over the holidays, I may just swap a 6L6 out of the Twin and see what happens.
I’m wondering if the difference between 1 vs. 2 speakers may be coming in to play? The two speakers in the TR are identical make and model but perhaps there is enough difference in response between the two to give a slight stereo effect. The Carr speaker plugs into the chassis via a jack just like the Twin so it would be a simple thing to plug the TR speakers into the Carr. The manual says it can handle an ohm mismatch in the 8 watt setting but not in the attenuated settings.
BTW, the 1/10 watt setting is not that usefull IMHO. It is super quiet but at that low volume it just doesn’t have much fidelity. It’s like it needs a loudness switch like on old stereo receivers. I need to try cranking the bass way up on the 1/10th setting, maybe I didn’t try that yet. Like I said before, I haven’t spent enough time just tweaking the knobs. I go right to the sweet /crunch spot and just stay there!

I’m spending too much time posting about it on the internet when I should be playing with it!

In general, the first 20 to 30 hours of loud air pushing through speakers makes the most significant difference in breaking-in and the associated tone adjustments. Some manufacturers do some breaking-in at the factory; Eminence does this for at least some of their speaker models.

I’ve broken in several dozen new speakers for guitar or bass. They certainly sound more brittle when brand new.

Carr amps are great. Good choice.

Thanks EM. I see you have a minty fresh join date. Welcome! Lots of guitar geeks around these parts.

WordMan, Thanks for the heads up on The Gear Page. I think I was kind of aware the place existed but on your recommendation I checked it out and learned a thing or two. Good site.
I read a couple threads on the Victoria Ivy League (my second choice) and I think I would have been happy with one of those too.

I could break it for you in seconds. Oh wait, break in. nm.


ETA: Wait - have you looked into my hypothesis that your issue may be related to the power tube type you have?