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My explanation for the burn-in phenomenon. Have a look.

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I know, you probably rolled your eyes right?

Lets get some facts right off the bat before I delve into it a bit deeper. I don't believe in solid state burn-in. I don't believe in IEM burn-in (be it dynamic or BA) and as for regular headphones, think that the first hour is enough for any type of headphone. However.. things DO change over time. So... how do we explain this if its not burn-in?

Few things change over time

1) Your 'reference' material switches from whatever it was before to your new headphone, dac, amp. So the first few times you listen to your new toy, you're comparing it to memory of what you remember it sounding like. After spending some time with the device though, you get accustomed to its sound signature and before long, this is now your new reference. Having washed out the idea of how it sounded with your other system before, you now listen to how it currently sounds and you notice changes from your first listen.

2) The mind-set changes. The first day you get the new toy (headphone, dac, amp) and plug it in you're in 100% analytical mode. You're not listening to music, you're analyzing the sound. This is a very detrimental mind set to be for purposes of enjoying the music. But none of us can avoid this mindset, as we want to know if our hard earned money was spent well.

After a while however, we stop analyzing as much because we already did that and have established some opinion of it. If it was bad opinion, you may never get to the stage I'm talking about here or even in #1 because you just don't like it and want it gone and your money back. However, if you spend some time with it (especially if it truly is an upgrade over what you had before and you've been able to notice it), you eventually stop analyzing like I said (mind has been made up for the most part) and start listening to it like you should. And all of a sudden you're convinced its even better now with some more burn-in time because music has 'never sounded so good'

Anyway.. this is my take on it with my own personal experience. Things do change over time and do get better.. but its not burn-in of components... IMHO!
post #2 of 17
I am convinced that SS stuff does not need any burn-in. Tubes yes!!!
You right about the money thing. When you buy maybe HD800 for 1400$ and put it on at home, the phones need to sound good because of the money. If you do not like the sound at first you say they need to be burned-in. Over time the sound is getting better and better and you think yeaaa they are so good. But in reality you were suggested by your mind how good the sound is. Its 90% psychology and 10% other factors.
post #3 of 17
Tubes don't burn in so much as they start wearing out.

You wouldn't call a tire with 10,000 miles on it "better" than a new tire.
post #4 of 17
Yes, this is true. But it does not matter how we call it.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well tubes do need to 'warm-up' more then 'burn-in' but thats every time you turn it on and a design characteristic.

I'm more trying to explain headphone/SS 'burn-in' ideal
post #6 of 17
I agree, the burn-in process of components whose moving parts are critical for sound quality ( i.e. transducers ) does make sense, but it's going to take way less than the thousands of hours many recommend...
post #7 of 17
You should have heard my 1978 Pioneer Monitor 10 before waking up. After a while the bass kicked in and I was happy. It took at least a day of burning in.
post #8 of 17
I think the expression 'burn in' is a bit misleading. I would be careful as you maybe hearing an effect but precluding the cause by using this terminology.

Unless you are certain of the cause I would use the term 'break in' instead.

Sure as equipment warms up sure you may hear a change. Especially in a 'hot' circuit like a class 'A' amp. But this effect would happen every time you turned it on. (resistance of copper increases 8% for every 20 degree increase in temp. I'm sure properties of discreet circuit components like transistors and resistors are also effected).

From new it's just as likely mechanical hysterisis may change as a speaker 'breaks in' so to speak.

With all the best intentions in the world, if you throw in the placebo effect, I'm sure you can come to any conclusion your looking for, especially if you have already described the effect by what you think is the cause.
post #9 of 17
I think you are starting with a bad premise here. You cannot call all possible changes over time, with all types of equipment, the same thing, "burn in" or whatever. You are trying to make a sweeping generalization over a wide range of situations, and based on limited or no data one way or the other.

And if something like burn-in were demonstrated or not demonstrated for say one headphone there is no reason to assume the same thing would be found with another. There could be different materials or other design issues at work. And whatever you found would not apply to say an amplifier because you would be dealing with different issues of physics.

I find far more inherently improbable that there would not be burn-in effects on most things we listen to. Over a long enough period of time everything will change. Some things will deteriorate over time whether used or not, some will change more if used.

It always seemed to me that there were pretty simple explanations for some "burn in" effects. With headphones, earpads clearly change with use, generally getting more compressed. although I have had some that actually hardened such as the old Koss liquid filled cushions. Well this will certainly change sound by changing the seal around the ear, and/or the position of the driver at the ear. These pd changes are something that just about anyone can confirm from common experience.

As regards other sources of burn-in I would have thought it pretty obvious that just about any driver material will change its stiffness after repeated flexing. This would again change sound. Again it seems improbable to me that most phones would not change their sound over time, for better or worse depending on what level of material stiffness was assumed when the
phones were designed.

I find there is a bad tendency in these forums to posit a psychological explanation for physical phenomena. I was an experimental psychologist for many years and there is very little evidence for being able to influence the ability to discriminate between different stimuli, of whatever modality, based on mind set. Eskimos may have words for 50 for types of snow but that doesn't mean that non-Eskimos can't make the same distinctions when presented with these 50 different types of snow, just that they don't have the language for it and don't do it regularly.
post #10 of 17
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
Tubes don't burn in so much as they start wearing out.

You wouldn't call a tire with 10,000 miles on it "better" than a new tire.
less tread depth = less tyre squirm = sharper handling dynamics. Racing cars under road tyre rules will always buff away at the tread ie, accelerate wear, before racing.

All mechaical components benefit from "burn in" or "bedding in"

Not sure about electronics though.
post #11 of 17
My day goes so much better now that I stay out of the burn in debate.
post #12 of 17
a lot of speaker and most cable companies recommend and have literature about burning/breaking in their components before optimal performance can be expected. to me, saying that components don't benefit and settle down from initial use is equivalent to saying that all amps sound the same - a bit ridiculous.
post #13 of 17
If there was "burn in" the measured specs of the device would have to change over time to support this claim.
post #14 of 17
I think we discount #2 quite a bit when trying to explain the evolution of our auditory impressions when "breaking in" a new piece of "gear"
post #15 of 17
I entirely agree with the OP, i think that the burn in phenomena is pretty much entirely psychological.
I switch between my headphones every few months (I don't know why.. i just prefer it to switching all the time) and every time, for the first few days i'm still getting used to their sound signature again, despite having owned them for a while. But after i get used to them, they sound good to me.
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