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Something thats puzzeled me about burn in...

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
It seems like when I first got to headwize it was like set in stone that EVERY phone improved over use. But lately it seems like people have been saying particular phones don't do this, or that NO phones do this...

Well, my thing is, why doesn't somebody just order a new pair of phones they already own from a place with a good return policy, compare the older one to the one straight out of the box, and clear this whole thing up!?
post #2 of 38
one reason is that two different pairs of the same headphone can sound different do to variation. look at headroom's graphs... the left and right channel measurements can be very different. so if you have two pairs, how can you say that the difference is due to normal sample variation or due to burn in?
post #3 of 38
Skippy, I believe that these discrepancies in the Headroom graphs are more likely due to problems with the testing mechanism rather than actual differences between earcups. It is of the utmost importance that a pair of headphones are matched well; Grado and Sennheiser both pride themselves on their earcup-matching prowess.

However, it does seem to be true that different pairs of headphones can sound different. Unfortunately, Vka didn't want to compare our two MS Pros when I visited him the time before last, and so I've never compared two of the same headphone. Perhaps someone would like to try this?
post #4 of 38

Because "sample variation" differences are REAL

Because sample variation differences are REAL. By that I mean they can be measured, as well as heard. Many CLAIM to hear differences before and after burn-in, but the jury (scientifically varied tests!!!) is out. WAY out! I am quite skeptical about the effects of "burn in". I'm also quite skeptical about MOST claimed "enormous differences", including the new 'high resolution' formats (DVD-Audio and SACD). And I think skepticism is the healthiest attitude to take toward EVERY supposed "enormously audible" difference! We'll all be better off if we MAKE THEM PROVE IT!

There's a SUPERB article in the October Sound and Vision written by David Ranada about why NOBODY has yet proven not only that either DVD-Audio or SACD are superior to one another, but that EITHER is (AUDIBLY) superior to regular 16 bit 44.1khz. In the article, they cite tests which PROVE that there IS audible difference between sound heard which contains "ultrasonic" frequencies (above 20khz, where DVD-Audio and SACD succeed, but cd fails). The test also proves that the differences heard were INTERMODULATION and HARMONIC distortion WITHIN the "audio band" (below 20khz) caused by the ultra-sonic content "beating against" frequencies below 20khz. In other words, (and this is something I've suggested and suspected before) when people hear "big differences" the nature of the difference is that systems which reproduce lots of energy above 20khz are generating LOTS of distortion products below 20khz, and it's the distortion products which we hear, and which cause some to declare that there's "much more detail, and air". When a crossover was introduced so that the frequencies below 20khz, and those above are being reproduced by separate drivers, the distortion disappears, and along with it the "enormous differences"!
post #5 of 38
Mike, I listened to Yo-Yo Ma's SACD of solo piece on Vka's SCD-C333ES. I have never heard a cello sound that real on CD -- and I know, since I had another Yo-Yo Ma redbook CD present to listen to when I was there. The fact is, CD has big distortion problems because its low-pass filter must go into effect just 2 kHz under its highest-possible frequency (22.05 kHz).

If you've never heard it, Mike, I don't think you should comment on this. SACD simply does sound much more real (not just "better") than CD, and if you haven't heard it, you really shouldn't go around bashing it.
post #6 of 38
So if you haven't heard SACD you can't even comment on it to the extent of saying you are skeptical? I'm skeptical about burning in cables, but I haven't tried it myself so I guess I should never comment on it. I have to burn in a cable myself before I can demand that someone offer scientific proof that cables can burn-in. I think skepticism is healthy, and I see no reason to bash someone for stating that a little evidence and proof would go a long way to supporting the hype.

RE: Headphone burn-in proof, one method would be to obtain an accurate freq-response graph (and possibly other measurements) of the headphone when purchased, then redo the test after burning-it in. If you could keep the headphones/microphone/etc. in the exact same positions too, that would be better. I don't know that anyone has ever done this. Even if it could be proven that freq-response significantly changes after burn-in you couldn't easily prove (if at all) that the change is necessarily for the better. So all we have to go by is anecdotes.

Personally I don't bother worrying about burn-in at all. There are many at the other extreme, however -- for example, see the Cardas website for some serious talk (which I find quite funny) about burning in cables and traumatizing them by moving them.

post #7 of 38
As far as I know this is still a free country and you are free to comment on anything. however, was that all Mike was doing or was he trying to PROVE that the only DIFFERENCE people were hearing between SACD or DVD-A and redbook CD was DISTORTION. Who cares if you can prove if burn-in is mechanical, psychoacoustic or psychosomatic? Who cares if you can prove SACD is superior to redbook CD.

post #8 of 38
Ok, let's use a simple analogy - and something everybody is familiar with: new shoes. I guess everbody made the experience that some kinds of shoes need to be walked in to be comfy. Burn in is similar: Some mechanical audio devices actually improve by burn in - you only use some signal instead of your foot. Another anaolgy are new tires on your car: Grip and comfort improve after 100 to 500 km - depending on the type of tire.

Of course, with audio equipment there might also be a burn in effect on the user's side, as you get used to the sound. Generally, relaxation is fairly useful for the enjoyment of music. So by getting used to your equipment and recordings, you will also know when to exspect a sudden peak in the music or a scratch in your record or whatever and thereby be prepared. I know that well from buying records: When I listened to a new record for the first time, I hardly noticed the music, because I was so busy checking whether the record is ok. It usually took me a second or third listen to actually enjoy the music...

Greetings from SF!

Manfred / lini
post #9 of 38
I guess what I really meant to say was that I thought that the extreme skepticism exhibited by Mike was unfounded. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about all skepticism, and neither am I talking about burning in cables; I'm talking about the new high-resolution formats. There is much documentation readily available on the technology of SACD and DVD-A which shows why these formats are of higher fidelity to the original signal than redbook CD. This in itself is really as close as one can get to "proof." Mike also didn't sound like he was just skeptical, but more like someone who didn't believe that SACD and DVD-A actually do sound better.
post #10 of 38

Brilliant, Dan G!

I quote from Dan G
"I have never heard a cello sound that real on CD -- and I know, since I had another Yo-Yo Ma redbook CD present to listen to when I was there."

Hmm. So you "know" the new format is better because it sounds more real than a completely different recording, captured with completely different microphones in completely different positions, made on a completely different recording chain, by completely different people, in a completely different venue, with completely different acoustics. Because of this "comparison", you KNOW that the new format is better. Uh huh.

Er, I rest my case, Dude
post #11 of 38

Don't tell me what I mean, DanG!

Although I appreciate you trying to state "what I mean" for me, you miss by a mile.

I am not saying that the new formats aren't MEASURABLY better than standard "redbook" cd. They certainly are. I'm saying that it hasn't been proven that they are AUDIBLY better, under properly controlled conditions (identically mastered recording from the same source material, with an identical number of channels (for multi-channel certainly DOES sound audibly better to most listeners!), with perfectly matched levels (or as close as is possible), and without the listeners knowing what specifically they are comparing, so their personal biases can't enter into the equation. Only when the above requirements have been satisfied, can it be proven that the new format(s) offer an AUDIBLE benefit!

If we were starting from scratch now (with no commercial recordings or equipment having been released in any of these formats), and given a choice between redbook cd, DVD-Audio, or SACD, were I to be given a choice as to which one should be selected as "standard", I probably would choose either DVD-A or SACD. Most likely SACD. But that isn't the case! There are hundreds of millions of cd players in use, and billions of cds. Much music is lost FOREVER each time we make a transition from one format to the next. Many, perhaps MOST historic recordings never made the transition to cd. And many, perhaps most won't make the transition to the new formats either (if they succeed). So yes, it IS "about the music". And if we TRULY care most about music, we should be very, VERY careful when adopting a new format to replace an old one, that the new one actually has an AUDIBLE benefit. And like it or not, the only way to prove (or disprove) this is with scientifically controlled testing!

If you believe that SACD or DVD Audio sounds better than redbook cd, and are told during the tests which is which, then your prejudice alone is sufficient to produce the result that your preferred format "sounds better". Even if what you are actually comparing is two identical cds on two identical cd players, and are LIED TO...with NEITHER of the choices you're presented with actually being SACD or DVD-Audio, you STILL will choose the "format" you are TOLD is the one that you BELIEVE to be superior, though in fact NO DIFFERENCE EXISTS. THIS has been proven time and time again. And this is why double-blind testing is ESSENTIAL. Otherwise, we're just chasing our own tails, and not PROVING anything!

If it truly is "about the music", then we should be EXTREMELY skeptical about any new format whose introduction GUARANTEES the loss forever of great music which will never make the transition! "But we can still listen to the cds and lps" or the older material, you say. SURE, the audiophile who supports every format under the sun with their system, and who would rather spend money on equipment and recordings than food and shelter can. But the average music lover, with limited resources, will only own one, or perhaps a couple of formats. And music which isn't available in these supported formats will NEVER BE HEARD. THAT, my friend, is truly sad! GREAT music on am radio is infinitely superior to mediocre music on the finest audio system! Because "it's the music, Stupid" (paraphrasing the Clinton campaign in '92, and NOT referring to anyone here as "stupid")
post #12 of 38
Mike Walker,

The only tests I've performed with SACD/CD is to blind compare those recordings I have on both formats and, so far, every album I have in both formats sounds significantly better on SACD, and is easily picked out. I know there are some SACD's that are reported to sound worse than their CD counterparts, but I've avoided those by searching for reviews on every SACD I buy on Audio Asylum before I order it.

As for my testing methods, I admittedly have not been able to measure volume so precisely that volume was exactly measured matched. But the differences are very clear, at least with the albums I've got.

I'm not sure, Mike, if you've heard SACD yet, but if you haven't, you really ought to at least give it a listen. I think you'll understand what all the fuss is about. Even Sam Tellig -- who is not fond of the SACD format / concept -- doesn't argue its sonic superiority. His argument is more about his opinions that the format will likely fail (and that he doesn't want to have to duplicate his CD collection).
post #13 of 38

Jude, I don't argue it's sonic superiority.

Jude, I don't argue the sonic superiority of SACD. I say it has yet to be PROVEN!

Don't you have re-mastered versions of regular audio cds in your collection that sound MUCH better than the original release(s)? I sure do! And it doesn't prove that the technology used in producing the remastered version is superior, only that the mastering job was superior!

Simply having the same recording in both formats (SACD and CD) and stating that the SACD sounds better doesn't prove that the format sounds better! Obviously the cd and sacd were mastered at different times, with different methods, by (I'm guessing) different mastering engineers, using different techniques (different equalization/compression/limiting and other mastering tricks). All that such a comparison really can prove is that the mastering job on the SACD is superior! And if the SACD is multi-channel, (the cd obviously is stereo) then NOTHING is proven at all! The same number of channels must be present!

I freely admit that having IDENTICALLY mastered recordings in both SACD and redbook cd is a tall order, since the technology used is so different. But only with identically mastered recordings, matched levels, the same number of channels, and double-blint testing can ANY conclusions be drawn about the AUDIBLE superiority of the new format(s). Again that's a VERY tall order.

So we don't understand each other, I'll tell you now that both SACD and DVD-Audio DO offer measurably superior results, so in theory at least they are BOTH superior to regular redbook cd. What I seek, and believe we all should, is scientific PROOF that they are AUDIBLY superior. Why am I so skeptical? In large measure because on a daily basis I am able to compare 16 bit 44.1khz recordings with a direct microphone feed, and hear that they SOUND identical (giving high quality equipment, such as is used in my studio). The question that nags me is "if 16 bit 44.1khz sounds IDENTICAL to the live microphone feed, how is it possible to improve upon "identical?" THAT is what we should be asking ourselves. Whether the new formats are "better" is almost a side issue. Whether they are audibly DIFFERENT should be the first thing we investigate, for if they aren't proven to sound different, then "better" is irrelevent!

To answer your question Jude, NO I have not heard SACD, or any direct stream format. Nor have I seen a single player in stores, nor a single recording available ANYWHERE in my area. The only place I've seen them is online, and from mail-order high-end specialty stores. I suspect that my experiences are similar to those of most people. I AM an audio nerd, and I can't locate the damn things to listen to. If that's the case (it is), then what possibility do these wonderful new formats have anyway? (DVD-Audio players ARE available at Best Buy and Circuit City in Hickory North Carolina, although a meaningful demonstration in a place like that is obviously impossible.) And although I have seen the DVD-Audio players, I have yet to see a DVD-A recording! My guess is that both formats will fail commercially before most consumers even become aware of their existance! The fact that we're probably now in a recession certainly won't help matters.

I haven't heard an outcry from (non-audiophile) listeners complaining about the sound of conventional cd. Have you, honestly? I submit that since most average people are satisfied with the sound quality of cd, SACD and DVD-A are solutions in search of a problem. ESPECIALLY with today's economic climate, I'm afraid that, although these formats may well be superior, they will fail before their audible superiority (or lack thereof) has been proven/disproven!
post #14 of 38

Re: Jude, I don't argue it's sonic superiority.

Originally posted by Mike Walker
I haven't heard an outcry from (non-audiophile) listeners complaining about the sound of conventional cd. Have you, honestly? I submit that since most average people are satisfied with the sound quality of cd, SACD and DVD-A are solutions in search of a problem. ESPECIALLY with today's economic climate, I'm afraid that, although these formats may well be superior, they will fail before their audible superiority (or lack thereof) has been proven/disproven!
LOL! MikeMan, I don't hear an outcry from non-audiophile listeners about their came-with-it headphones either! Or their came-with-it interconnects. Or the quality of their AC. In all seriousness, though, I understand the point you're making, but a guy like me doesn't wait for people to adopt my audiophile ways. As I've said before, I fully agree with those who question the future of SACD -- I certainly wouldn't bet my life on its success. But after hearing some of my favorite albums (mostly jazz and classical) on SACD and sounding better than I've heard them since vinyl, how can I pass that up?

By the way, have you tried balanced power?
post #15 of 38
Jude asks "By the way, have you tried balanced power?'

No. I'm UNbalanced Jude, can't you tell?

Seriously, I take your point about AVERAGE people being satisfied with the 'phones that come with their Walkman. They certainly wouldn't be interested in the exotic headphones we discuss here. However, high quality headphones can be plugged into a system playing any format. For the format itself to be accepted, and financially viable, it MUST appeal to someone other than audiophiles. THIS is why I think SACD and DVD-Audio are doomed. Even if they ARE audibly superior (and I don't question your hearing acuity, or value judgements Jude), what do you suppose the odds are of an "average Joe" getting a MEANINGFUL demo at Circuit Sh*tty or Worst Buy? Virtually NIL. So what if the local audio "salon" can demonstrate the new formats in all their glory? They're "preaching to the converted". Only high end audiophiles frequent such establishments. "Average Joe" will NEVER hear a meaningful demo. Combine the above with the state of the economy, and I see NO WAY either format can survive. Quite a shame, too! I know that there's a certain audiophile satisfaction that comes from buying equipment/formats with "overkill" (VASTLY greater performance than can be heard). But take a look around, the audiophile fraternity is shrinking VERY rapidly! In fact, it's almost exclusively the domain of old farts like (I'm assuming) most of us here, whose interest in quality audio reproduction pre-dates personal computers and the World Wide Web. Those young people who decades ago would have become audiophiles, instead are computer "geeks".

Look at the failure of audio-only publications in the US! Those of us who just SIT and listen to music, without simultaneously doing something else (reading/playing with the kids/etc.) are a tiny minority! I know, it saddens me too! But it IS the truth! I simply don't think the audiophile community in America is strong enough to support ANY new format(s). And I hope that I'm wrong, because if I'm right, the implications for the future are chilling!
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