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The Inherent Value of Burn-In - Page 3

post #31 of 372
I don't believe that "burn in" is a mental product. Miniscule acoustic details will inevitably change with wear, similar to how instruments change over time and ultimately sound very different than they originally did.

However, I believe that the actual technical changes occur very slowly, due to the resiliency of modern drivers. A burn-in period of several hundred hours is too small to make a significant difference in my opinion. On the other hand, it is undeniable that noticable changes WILL occur after hundreds of thousands of hours, when the drivers become significantly worn.

Whether or not those changes are "preferrable" is a different matter.



This scenerio can be compared to the world of vintage electric guitars, where some people go so far as to intentionally subject their guitars to rust in order to replicate vintage 1950s/1960s sound. Society labels vintage sound as "superior" because historic music was produced in the era of vintage guitars. Many modern musicians strive to replicate the sound of old and iconic songs, thus they unconsciously push society to believe that "vintage sound" is preferrable to "fresh of box sound" through their social influence.



it is an undeniable fact that a driver that is close to breaking will sound very different from a driver that is freshly produced. if society (the headphone community) chooses to idolize vintage sound, then burn-in will (by definition) improve sound quality.

on the other hand, if society chooses to idolize modern sound, then burn-in will become detrimental to sound quality
post #32 of 372
That's a good point, Jawang. Material fatigue is a fact, and after years of use (or just plain hard use), the materials actually change, and the change has to impact SQ. But as you say, the process may take a while. And the changes may be good or bad. Thanks.
post #33 of 372
Sorry, but in theoretical fantasy land it is impossible for things to change after the first few seconds of burn in.
post #34 of 372
I went looking for a thread on "burn in" since the topic came up in a thread on the HF-2s. This one looks current so I guess I will post here.

One of the mods in that thread has gone from saying the headphones sounded like absolute crap to completely amazing in just 60 hrs. of "burn in."

Ok - Let me just say that I do not doubt that time and usage can change the physical characteristics of the drivers and whatever other mechanisms are there! It just seems like common sense that using almost anything causes it to wear over time.

I also think it is very likely that we become accustomed to acoustical "sound signatures," and that it can take time to adjust to new ones! I think the "burn-in" phenomena can be attributed to a combination of both of these factors. So again, I do not doubt that the person talking about the burn-in LEGITIMATELY hears some differences.

But here are some of the other things I notice about this issue. The first is that I have hardly ever seen anyone /anywhere/ say that something sounded WORSE after "burn-in!" It's almost always, like 99 percent of the time, the person saying it's better. That just strikes me as completely ODD, especially when "burn-in" is said to be able to change the sound so dramatically! Why /wouldn't/ bass be experienced as "flabbier" or something like that? It's always for the better - very strange!

The second is that with the extremely sophisticated measuring instruments we have available today, I cannot believe it would be that difficult to test the issue definitively by actually /burning in/ a few dozen, hundred, whatever headphones and have a final answer. And I don't mean just measure any possible physical changes in the materials, but the actual /soundwaves/ produced from pre- to post-burn in. They should be /markedly/ different, especially with the dramatic changes that people are reporting from burn-in!

Another thing I notice related more to the first point of acoustical tolerance or familiarity, is that whenever I listen to someone's stereo that I've never heard before, it's like I can hear it /better/ than at any other time, not worse. I notice all the "flaws" and differences compared to what I am used to in a VERY noticeable way. Then after I have heard the new sound for a while, it becomes more "naturalized," and I STOP noticing all the individual characteristics of it so much and get more used to the overall sound.

So I think this is one of the main factors of "burn-in." We simply aren't used to the sound! So then we start noticing all the differences compared to what we ARE used to, until over time the new sound becomes more "naturalized" and we get accustomed to it. I honestly think that is the main factor at work here. And sometimes when we "get used to" the friend's stereo, we don't necessarily like it, whereas again, burn-in proponents almost ALWAYS seem to like what they have "gotten used to." That makes me highly suspicious!

But wait -- there's more! I think another factor is /often/ (not always!) in play here. And that factor is what I might call the 'rush' factor, or maybe the "novelty rush" factor.

Whenever we buy some new gear, I think there is usually a little bit of a "rush" that goes along with that. "Oh wow, I can't wait to get these," etc. Then we actually get them, they're new (or new to us), we listen to them, etc. and we get another rush from that. But then what? Unless we can "defer" the new-toy rush a little bit longer, we are back at square one again -- "the thrill is gone," as B.B. King said.

But how can we do that? How can we sustain or prolong that rush? We can't fool ourselves that we didn't get them, or mail them back to ourselves again to get another "rush." This is where "burning in" comes in. Now we can take some more time to "burn them in," where we prolong things in anticipation for a week, two weeks, or more while we "burn them in," and at the end of that time we have virtually /another/ entirely "new" item in its supposedly "final" or "optimal" state to get another rush or kick out of.

So you put all these factors together, and I think there is your "burn in." Some mechanical changes + expectations and placebo effect + psychological "reward" mechanisms. Undoubtedly something is happening, but the fact that none of these changes in the SOUND have (to my knowledge) actually been systematically measured when it would be quite easy to, in addition to the claims of the burn-in proponents of extreme and dramatic changes, along with general psychology and comparisons to other experiences of new exposure to different sound systems, all lead me to believe it is /mostly/ a psychological phenomenon!

I hope I don't get banned!
post #35 of 372
If I had the power I would ban you for sounding like Dr. Freud and repeating the same old argument that people tend to say burn-in is good. If you have so many psychological theories why don't you make one up for "why people don't say things wearing out sounds bad".
post #36 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by haloxt View Post
If I had the power I would ban you for sounding like Dr. Freud and repeating the same old argument that people tend to say burn-in is good. If you have so many psychological theories why don't you make one up for "why people don't say things wearing out sounds bad".
Hahaha! Dr. Freud

It actually is kind of freudian, I never thought of it that way.

Things wearing out do sound bad! Don't they? It must be called "burn OUT."
post #37 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by iggy-starnuts View Post
Another thing I notice related more to the first point of acoustical tolerance or familiarity, is that whenever I listen to someone's stereo that I've never heard before, it's like I can hear it /better/ than at any other time, not worse. I notice all the "flaws" and differences compared to what I am used to in a VERY noticeable way. Then after I have heard the new sound for a while, it becomes more "naturalized," and I STOP noticing all the individual characteristics of it so much and get more used to the overall sound.

So I think this is one of the main factors of "burn-in." We simply aren't used to the sound! So then we start noticing all the differences compared to what we ARE used to, until over time the new sound becomes more "naturalized" and we get accustomed to it. I honestly think that is the main factor at work here. And sometimes when we "get used to" the friend's stereo, we don't necessarily like it, whereas again, burn-in proponents almost ALWAYS seem to like what they have "gotten used to." That makes me highly suspicious!
Well said. The most thorough discussion of the psychological aspects of burn-in that I've read on Head-Fi. I found myself nodding in agreement throughout -- except for the section excerpted above. I'm not sure that unfamiliar sounds in new cans always register as negatives and that getting used to new 'phones will make their shortcomings less obvious.

In my experience, the unfamiliar can just as likely register as positives, and time only accentuates or enhances this positive in a direction away from the old and familiar. When I return to the old, they no longer sound as good as they used to, compared to my new standard.
post #38 of 372
Haloxt, caps form up in seconds. There are formulas and measurements to back that up. They also deteriorate over time. So do resistors and most other components. If someone wants to refer to that an as "improvement," then that's their opinion. Every component is rated for a certain lifespan. The more you run it and the hotter it gets, then the shorter its life will be. If someone wants to shorten the life of their caps and resistors, then they can pay for repairs or replacement earlier than more sensible people.

There's also a significant psychological factor at play. Your brain starts "filling in" missing parts, develops certain expectations and assumptions, and does a fair bit of signal processing.

One of the most powerful examples of this I've seen is with my glasses. They're rimless and each lens has a screw that's inside my field of vision. It was irritating at first, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped seeing the screws.

The screws are just not in my field of vision. I know that the screws are there. I can see them when I take off my glasses. And I know my brain tuned out the screws. It's kinda creepy, but the mind plays all sorts of tricks on you. I have no doubt that listening to a pair of headphones for a few hundred hours also causes you tonstart filling in the blanks.

That's just the way humans are wired, so you have to be careful not to ascribe changrs in yiur mental state to the hardware. I know my glasses are pretty much exactly like when I picked them up, but the screws aren't visible any more.
post #39 of 372
While I'm a believer of such phenomenon, I have to say that there is much debate as to whether or not "burn in" makes a difference at all, or even exists. From my experience, though, I have to say that burn in seemed to make the sound seem a little more refined, and perhaps a bit more bassy (I have Grado SR225i's).
post #40 of 372
Maybe as things wear out, our ears are able to either 1. grasp meaning better or 2. enjoy it more. This is a theory many people have, but don't bother to distinguish it from the opposite theory that gear become more technically capable due to burn-in. They both lead to the same conclusion that people perceive burn-in as sounding more accurate and more euphonic but the theory of wearing out suggests understanding auditory perception as the avenue to the answer and the theory of technical improvement from burn-in suggests understanding the physical mechanics of burn-in as the avenue to the answer.

Possibilities:

1. Things don't burn-in, the belief is entirely due to placebo.
2. Our minds change, people's sensories instinctively adapt.
3. Things wear out and become less technically capable, people perceive it as better technically and euphonically.
4. Things really do burn in and become more technically capable, and people perceive it as such.

Things that lend support to 3.

1. People like tube gear even though it has a lot of distortion, some say such inaccuracy makes music more engaging which is sometimes said of burned in gear.
2. Less strident highs and lows but better extension is a common observation of burn-in which could possibly be due to things wearing out but since less strident is more relaxing it may have a tendency to make people keep their minds on detail and thus notice better extension.
3. The things people say causes the beneficial effects of burn-in are actually things that are generally considered to wear out gear, ie leaving things on and letting things get hot.
4. People who spend a lot of money on expensive gear might get sadistic pleasure from leaving them on and in unventilated hellish temperatures.

Okay that last one is a little Freudian but it's how I feel atm now I'll go back to my roasting audio system and see if it is dead yet.
post #41 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
There might be a sight change in mechanical units (e.g. headphone drivers) but there's no reason to perform elaborate rituals.
Yes, there is. As I'm typing this, I'm breaking in my HD 800. Counting 35 hours. The first few minutes it sounded awful. After one hour it was listenable, but severely lacked refinement, sounded shrill and sharp. After 24 hours it showed its potential. After 35 hours it's beginning to sound great. I just listen from time to time, just for brief periods. The rest is dedicated heavy break-in. If I would renounce this «ritual», I would be at the 1-hour stage and still frustrated.


Quote:
Just use it straight out of the box and let what happens happen. Anything else is a waste of time.
I see it exactly the other way round and therefore renounce the ritual of «letting what happens happen» – that would be a waste of time for me.
.
post #42 of 372
This thread should be a sticky. It's about time we had a discussion regarding the arguments for burn-in pro and con. There are multiple threads on so many issues here on Head-Fi, but we virtually no threads on burn-in. Just do a search and you'll see what I mean.
post #43 of 372
Jazz, I had a different experience with the HD-800. I immediately plugged it in and started listening. It sounded great, and it still sounds great after a few hundred hours. I intend to give it hundreds, if not thousands, more. Do you think your expectations were that it wouldn't sound good right out of the box? That could significantly alter what you heard.

Also, I'd like to point out that the assertion about tubes is debatable. In some ways, they're superior to solid state. I appreciate solid state, but I've always found tubes more musically rewarding.
post #44 of 372
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
Do you think your expectations were that it wouldn't sound good right out of the box?
I expected it to sound good or even great out of the box, but with some limitations (taken from the reviews). Hence I was surprised about what I heard. Not even disappointed, because such a discrepancy between my expectations and the actual sound was kind of fascinating again. Also, from earlier experiences with new gear I knew that the situation wasn't hopeless at all.


Quote:
Also, I'd like to point out that the assertion about tubes is debatable. In some ways, they're superior to solid state. I appreciate solid state, but I've always found tubes more musically rewarding.
Although I tend to give solid-state amps more credit, I agree somewhat with this statement. Tube sound isn't just higher distortion and (thus) euphonic coloration, but it's also defined by the absence of solid-state «coloration».

Paradoxically, I liked the EMP with cold or just lukewarm tubes better than with fully heated tubes. And I preferred current-production (Sovtek, Electro-Harmonix, Reflektor) to NOS tubes – because of a less tubey, more neutral characteristic. .
post #45 of 372
I'm currently listening almost exclusively to my Grado SR325is. When I first put them on, I was quite amazed at their sound considering how uncomfortable they felt. I'm still impressed with them and I can't say that they sound 'better' after some degree of 'burn in'.

I did yesterday, go back to my HD650's with Cardas recabling. For the first time since owning the HD650's I heard what so many have described, i.e., the veiled and closed sound of the HD650's. Mine has hundreds of hours of use and it was obvious to me that I had gotten accustomed to the Grado's forward sound which contrasted so much with the Senn's more laid back presentation.

The Denon's were also different, but the impact less. I found it easy to switch from the Grados to the Denons, but not so with the Senns.

I must say that these boards had me biased towards expecting better sound with mechanical burn in. However, I'm growing more and more skeptic and think that in most instances, it's more a mental thing than anything else. My loss of belief in mechanical burn-in started with the IEM's I got. I just never really noted any.

I also recently got two other cans, the Sony MDR 7509HDs and an Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9a. I had both of those at work and left each burning in for four days and heard no difference after my impressions.

So for now, all play time with these Grados have been with them on my head. I'm loving it. What great cans!!! I am not overwhelmed with a shrill top end and this may well be secondary to the amp I'm using. I tried the Grados on the Mac's headphone out and do wonder why there's doubt that they don't really need an amp to sound great. They sound very different when not amped.
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