Over time you’ve acquired some decent recording equipment. You’ve got a computer, hard drives, an audio interface, studio monitors, and hopefully a power conditioner. Once everything if fired up and running, is it safe for the gear to leave it on all the time? Is it bad for the gear to power it down a lot?

In the professional studios I’ve been in, the majority of them seemed to leave their gear on all the time. I’ve heard people say the power-on process is more harmful for the circuitry than actually leaving the gear on 24/7.

I’m no electrical engineer, so I really don’t know what’s “technically” best. So I turned to one of my co-workers back at Sweetwater and asked him. Here was his response:

Part of the decision revolves around how often the gear is used. If you are running a pro facility, with morning, evening, and even overnight sessions, it makes a lot more sense to leave stuff powered on, than if you’re a hobbyist who uses the stuff for a few hours every other day. Leaving all your gear on all the time obviously uses more electricity, carries more risk of fire, and potentially changes your HVAC costs as well.So what do I personally do? I leave my computer on all the time. I have heard that your system drive will last longer if the write heads don’t have to access the boot partition as often. Not sure if that’s true, but that’s what I do. I always turn off tube gear when not in use (although I like it to warm up for at least 20 minutes before doing anything with it). There is a lot of current in gear like that, and I think leaving it on will shorten component life (Walter Sear says he always turns everything off, and has Pultecs from the 60’s with original tubes that still sound great). Some gear takes too much time to warm up, so if I had dbx 160VUs, for example, I would probably leave them on, but in my studio, I turn off everything but the computer.

There is also good reason to at least shut off phantom power to microphones when not in use (if not store them safely away), since polarizing the capsule will attract dust and particles to it.

Great advice. What I normally tell folks is that if you’re only using your studio one day a week (or heaven forbid even less), then there shouldn’t be any problems powering down everything.

What do I do? For the last few months I’ve spent time every day in my studio, so I usually leave my gear on. It’s more for convenience than anything. Since I use a Furman power conditioner, I can just turn it all off with one flick of a switch. The only downside is that it also turns off power to my Macbook, not allowing it to charge during the night.

I’ve also found that my external hard drives sometimes act funny if I’m always powering them on or off. For example, I’ve got a LaCie drive that I use for backup, and if I power it off, it sometimes won’t mount the next time I power it on. Kind of annoying.

What are your thoughts? Do I have any EE readers out there? Lend us your wisdom. Leave a comment. 🙂

[Photo by me’nthedogs]

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  • James Bergman

    I try not to leave my computer or equipment on all the time unless I am going to be using it at night or am just away for an hour or two. However, any more time than that and I think it is worth it to shut down my equipment. It keeps it from overheating, and saves a lot of power. It is harder with items that need time to warm up before using, but I think there is software that can be installed to turn it on 20 minutes before anyone gets to the office. http://shavlik.com/products/protect/power-management/

  • Somewhatnewguy

    I think it sounds good, for some reason i only get worried about my yamaha H50’s. i have a habbit of turning them on and off when my desktop is on.(Buts its aggrivating and i would love to leave my monitors on but its my first pair so im scared :/)
    Dont wanna risk that popping sound heh, also my last avid interface stayed on even though my PC was off via USB. I just got a native instrument interface today, gonna see how that works 😀

  • I always worry about fire safety / power surges in my studio, its built into a not-so-stable warehouse building that I rent one room of. So I turn off everything at the source and the power strip / conditioner. Overkill for sure.

  • It’s all depending on the quality and rigidness of the powersupply (elco’s, transformator used, …).

    Some power-supplies are more sensitive to power fluctuations than other. With a lot of devices the power is supplied by an external adapter which mostly doesn’t has a standby mode when you switch off its device while still consuming power. In most cases equipment will tend to survive longer when you don’t switch it on and off too frequently unless the supply has an extra protection/filter built in at switch-level.

    Also; keep in mind that the quality of our electronic devices have
    been slacking because of regulations and budget decisions. Components are cheaper than ever and even the quality of pure solder has reduced in quality to prevent the use of lead/tin (regulations); killing devices more than ever when they warm up their soldering joints resulting in ghost/shorts/no connection.

    The best tips I can offer, before feeling the pain which I had to go thru because of a lightning strike:

    * use digital connections to external devices to keep your studio separate from grounding issues. Fiber optics do not transport any power keeping the devices “optically split”.
    * ground, ground, ground ground and ground!
    * Put your most precious devices behind an (ACTIVE) UPS system which deals with most issues of unclean power (powerdrops/brownouts/spikes) and induction problems, which are silent killer number 1, next to wear. Those precious devices are not available anymore years after and you’ll blame yourself for not protecting it better.
    * Keep your studio equipment and home-use devices on a fully seperated line. Your studio power-feed should only be used for the comfort of your equipment.
    * A killswitch/emergency stop is no comfort at all, when you need to kill all power in a hurry. More advanced is a start-stop system by using a relay; which could act as a buffer-switch when your power gets flaky.
    * do NOT put power-consuming devices like lights, motors or anything else on that very same power-feed to keep it as clean as possible. Anything creating interference and powerspikes is a risk for long durability.
    * Powered speakers are best to be put on a separate system although quality speakers will have their own filters built in.
    * Anything containing fluorescent displays and tubes will wear lots faster when kept on.
    * Older devices tend to have better/more decent power supplies and protection circuits than newer
    * Be very cautious when two devices, of a separate manufacture year, die at the same moment! It’s mostly the sign of trouble.
    * Don’t put power conditioners parallel; they will more probably cancel eachother
    * Don’t throw away any equipment which died; learn to solder, learn the ropes of electronics and join the challenge to do your own cheap repairs, mods and even upgrades to your existing materials.
    * The best test, when buying second hand materials, is to jiggle at all connectors and keep the device powered on while working during two days; if it stays working you most probably had a good deal.
    * Computers tend to give a very noisy environment. Power supplies and soundboards could be a menace if not optically divided from your studio equipment.

    Enjoy your gear for as long as possible, once it’s not there anymore you will miss it..

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  • sparqee

    My email/internet computer is in the same room as my music gear. I leave my internet stuff on 24/7 but the music gear only comes on when I'm going to use it. My music computer is currently crammed with 4 hard drives and they generate a lot of heat so to reduce the chance of heat damage I turn things off. Now that bigger hard drives are getting more affordable I think I need to replace two of those drives with one bigin'.

  • Speaking of Walter Sear, I was at a SPARS meeting at Avatar many years ago where this subject came up at a studio owners meeting. the debate went back and forth between a few people. Walter embellished his position by putting it this way: (and I paraphrase) “At the end of the day, I go to sleep and my equipment goes to sleep as well.” Maybe he's anthropomorphizing a bit but… I think the consensus was that it was a matter of personal choice and there wasn't a compelling reason for either the practice of powering down or keeping stuff on. If anything, switches have a finite lifespan in terms of cycles. Usually, better quality switches are on the order of 100,000 power cycles. I think, unless someone was going to power on and off many dozens of times a day for the next 30 years… Of course, I'm planning on keeping my HD system for at least that long. 😉

  • tobybaxley

    I leave my computer, external hard drive and analog mixer on. I turn off my monitors and pre-amp. If the monitors spiked or popped when powering them up and down, I would leave them on. They're whisper quiet, though so I choose to leave them off when I'm not in the studio to save on energy consumption.

    Good tip though about letting tube equipment warm up for 20 minutes or so.

    I can't say enough good things about Sweetwater. Mike Conyers there has been very helpful to me on several occasions.

  • DreamsilentProductions

    I tend to turn my stuff off just because of how much power I use in my room and how much it costs!

    I have everything hooked up to a power conditioner too but since my monitors are also connected to it, turning it off from there makes them pop so I still turn most things off one at a time.

  • Always on: computer, monitors, interface, power conditioner, USB MIDI controller.

    Turned on as needed: Preamp, effects, external hard drives.

  • I’m in the shut it all down till you need it again camp (assuming you don’t need it in an hour). Great post though, some good things to consider!