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My theory as to why headphones appear to 'burn in'. - Page 3

post #31 of 261
Quote:
Originally Posted by maverickronin View Post

I think headphones do burn in, and whether or not they do, there is a much more plausible mechanism for them to break in than something like solid state electronics, so I think the position is justified until more hard measurements come in.  Headphones have moving parts, and the properties of those parts can be changed by repetitive movement, just like breaking in a new pair of shoes.  I doubt anything actually does take several hundred hours to break in though.  If anything did take that long to break in it would likely either sound awful right out of the box, since it requires significant loosening up, or else it would sound fine out of the box and any changes that occur over time would be very small because the diaphragm was very tough and took longer than normal to break in.

 

I also have a data point of my own, that points against a purely psychoacoustic explanation.  When I got my DT990/600s I thought they sounded great right out of the box.  By day two, something seemed a little of and it was soon clear that the highs were far to high for my tastes. Maybe it was just what I was listening to, so I listened to the same albums I listened to on the first day again.  Well, I tried to anyway.  I couldn't make it more than a few songs through most of those albums.  The treble was grating on my ears.  Then I found someone else on here who had the same problem with his.  They started out great but the treble just kept creeping upwards.  I really wanted to keep them though.  I wanted to like them.  In fact I like everything else about them.  The bass, the soundstage, the detail, it was all great but I couldn't stand the treble at all.

 

I decided to give them another 100 hours of burn in before I decided to return them or not.  I used music, pink noise, white noise, sine wave sweeps, and even a 25hz or so rumble.  I tried listening to a few tracks every 24 hours or so and it seemed to be getting even worse, but not by a large enough margin to know I wasn't imagining it.  After they'd racked up about 125 total hours I gave them one last try with the same tracks I used when I first opened them.  At first it seemed so-so.  Not as good as fresh out of the box, but not quite as bad as I remembered earlier.  Then, suddenly *VIOLIN SOLO* and I nearly fell off my bed as I hastily reached for the volume control.  That definitely didn't happen the first time I listened to that song with with those headphones a few days ago.  It was decided.  They were going back.

 

The psychoacoustic hypothesis of burn in explains why someone may like a headphone better after getting used to it's sound, but it does not at easily explain why someone would like a headphone at first but quickly change their minds.  I'd also like point out that the only change large enough for me to be reasonably sure I wasn't imagining it occurred very quickly compared to most burn in recommendations.  It was certainly less than 10 hours of use, and probably less than 6, though I don't remember exactly how long.

 

Based on a little bit knowledge, logic, and personal experience, its my opinion that headphones some do in fact burn in but that the process takes place over tens of hours, if that.  Certainly not hundreds of hours.  The DT990/600s are the only 'phone I've noticed such a dramatic change in though.


While I do agree that headphones likely do change with use, I do feel that the majority of perceived change noted is more from psychoacoustic adaptation, rather than from a physical process with the headphone.

 

There are cans that I've grown to dislike with time because their negative aspects become more apparent as their positive aspects lose their wow factor.  I'd definitely not put such an experience down to burn-in.  It's like taste fatigue with food.  At first, you love it and then it becomes not so nice anymore.  Very coloured cans are very much like that for me.  I don't consider becoming tired, and eventually irritated with the sound to be due to burn-in.  You either grow to appreciate more and more, a particular sound signature, or the opposite. 

post #32 of 261
Thread Starter 

 

Beerguy0. If you read posts on the K701/2 you will find many comments of its burn in time being in the hundreds of hours. I asked myself why is that? My theory is that the K701/2 are known for their detailed and revealing sound. If you get a pair and have maybe had less detailed and revealing headphones, or speakers in the past, there will be a noticeable difference.

 

As you work your way through your music collection, you will keep noticing these differences. Some people will, correctly I say, attribute that to the headphones, as they were from day one of ownership. Others will, incorrectly I say, attribute that to the headphones burning in.

 

This applies to other headphones as well, particularly high end ones. I just used the AKGs as an example.


Edited by Prog Rock Man - 8/4/10 at 10:57am
post #33 of 261

I've only just read this, it's past midnight so bear with me if I get incoherent on this. I've skimmed most of the posts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prog Rock Man View Post

Here is why I think that the audiophile idea of headphone burn in, as in it is attributable to the headphone is nonsense and the actual reason as to why it appears to happen.

I have been collecting vintage headphones and overall I have 13 headphones, new and old. I tend to listen to one for a few days and then switch. I recently got a loan of so IEMs to try for the first time. I did not really take to them due to the lack of soundstage, comfort and lack of bass and treble. I was complementary about it sound, but thought that when I go back to my AKG K280 Parabolic full sized around ear four diver headphones, which I had been using prior to getting the IEMs, the K280s would sound spectacular. But they didn’t for a day or so.  Then they did. They returned to their spectacular sound. this paragraph alone skims onto psychoacoustics to me and can possibly be explained in different ways.

 

There is the issue of listening to one pair of cans with a certain sound signature and then another with a polarising sound signature. This enhances the difference, be it worse or better and makes the hearing perception of a person possibly change.

 

Also, it could all be brain 'burn-in'.

 

On top of that, you have the issue of mood. I know I have that. The more you strain to look for something and get all technical, the harder it is to enjoy. The moment I relax and sit back, the music starts to come alive. I know there are times where I enjoy my IE8s lots, or times when I get a headache and I have issues of motion sickness and so I know I have liquid imbalances in my ears. That's just another take from my side and I'm sure there are other things that will affect sonic perceptions received by the ear and transported to the brain.

 

There are possibly other reasons, but I'll leave it as that for now.

Thinking back to various headphones and their supposed burn in, there are too many inconsistencies for there to be actual burn in. Some examples;

AKG K702. Supposedly  needs hundreds if not thousands of hours burn in. But they are very detailed and make little background noises easier to hear.  If you are not used to such detail then as you listen to music over the year, particularly albums you only listen to occasionally, you will keep noticing little details you have maybe not been able to hear before.  That is then attributed to the headphone, but it is not, it is you hearing something for the first time. I can see to some extent why you are saying what you are saying here, but honestly, you either hear things on a pair of cans or you don't and if more detail gets revealed, either the person was not as perceptive before or it could really be 'burn-in'. I own a pair, but I'll leave my take on 'burn-in' till later.

Sony DR4C. The 10,000 ohm headphone. Very difficult to drive and it took me a while to set the amp right for these to sound at their best. They are from the late 1970s and so are run in in as much as any minor mechanical changes to the driver have happened. But they got better as I got used to using them.

The AKG K280 Parabolic. As I said above I loved these from the start. I then tried IEMs which overall, I did not like as much. But when I went back to the K280s, because the change was so extreme, it took me a while to get used to them again. They have not changed, it was me.

Grado SR80s. They often sound a bit too bright at first, but quickly get to their dynamic attacking best. Moving on to something else afterwards can make that headphone sound dull.

AKG K44. Bought new my baby, cheapest cans, but remarkable in that I am always used to their sound and it has does not change one iota moving from one headphone to another or over a period of listening.

Sony DR5. They have always sounded bright and a bit thin. They were sold as hardly used, so may not have run in. But they sound unchanged in the time I have had them.

AKG K140. Vintage and going by marks they are well used. No change with them, but like the Sony DR4C they needed getting used to and sound a bit flat when I move to them from something more dynamic and bright.

All of the above changes are caused by me and my ears. The idea of burn in attributable to the headphones is not consistent and can be explained by changing from one headphone to another, or just getting used to each headphones sound; its dynamics, and particularly detail. I agree that this is a very real possibility and I do not doubt it and in fact, I attribute a lot of that to myself, but you will also need to appreciate the mechanics of sound and drivers. I don't understand how the work, but again, I'll save a little till later.

That is my reason why burn in does not happen as some audiophiles claim it does. All posts which say ‘that headphone needs burn in’ should actually read ‘that headphone needs getting used to’ or ‘that headphone does not suit your hearing, you can either try and get used to it, or get another pair.’ You are threading down the line of imposing your view on everyone and that's not fair. Most people understand that posts are meant to be read with a grain of salt. There are naive people that walk in without understanding and some are ignorant and remain happy.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bisayaboi View Post

My theory, on "burn-in" is very simple.

 

First of all, I don't believe any sort of audio gear will improve over time; since listening to audio is purely subjective it's really the individual believing there is a "burn-in" or improvement in their audio equipment and the individual getting used to the headphones.

 

Same as how people prefer different sound signatures. It's a personal thing and the "burn-in" experience is unique to the individual.

 

As much as I don't really believe in burn-in anymore, I almost always enjoy/like my audio gear more later than when I first get them because the more I get used to listening the headphone, wearing the headphone, etc. the more I enjoy the experience more.

 

Again, before someone conclusively decides to take a measure of understanding mechanics and has been involved in making drivers for example, making a sweeping claim that it can only be mental 'burn-in' may be disrespectful to others who believe it exists or to people in the audio industry.


Right now for example, I "feel" that my SRH840's are feeling more comfortable than before. Almost like I'm wearing nothing on my head... though it's probably just me getting used to wearing them opposed to the headphones actually improving over time. ever thought that it might be the pad taking the shape and getting used to your head shape just like how a shoe needs to be worn for a little while to be broken in? Those are simple things and drivers are more complicated. I do not profess to understand how they work, but I can accept if they require 'burn-in' to some degree. I can't think of any electronic device that I definitely believe that you will believe requires 'burn-in' off the top of my head. Perhaps, from my recollection, I've seen some CRT monitor screens start off dim, or even lights, and then they get gradually brighter. 'Burn-in' or just our eyes getting used to it? Granted these are different parts of body perceiving the object, but you know where I am going with it.





Quote:
Originally Posted by beerguy0 View Post

Maybe it's just me, but this makes no sense.

 

Whatever, maybe they do and maybe they don't.

 

 

Isn't the whole point of headphones like the K702 to reveal more detail in a recording? I would call this a real effect of a more detailed headphone, not attributable to burn-in. The "little details you have maybe not been able to hear before" are a direct result of better, more revealing headphones. Otherwise, what is the point of headphones like the K702? Agreed.

 

 

Again, you lost me here. You're hearing details for the first time not due to burn-in, but due to the fact that the details were not present with other headphones. Agreed.

 

 

 

As to burn-in, I'm not sure if it exists, or if it's audible if it does exist. When I first got my TF-10s, I was quite disappointed upon my first listen. I thought the midrange was sorely lacking. (I mostly listen to classic rock, so I like some attack in my phones) A bit of tweaking with the EQ in Rockbox fixed that, but I now find that they don't sound as bad as I first thought, even without the EQ. (I still like them with EQ better than flat.) But, is that me getting used to the sound signature, or the phones burning in? (I can go back and forth with other phones, and I don't get that same sound as my first listening when I go back to the TF-10.) Or did I just learn to get them inserted properly? Did my ears physically adjust to the fit of the phones? Who knows, but I like them now a lot more than I did in December. And it's because of these unexplained phenomenons that we cannot make sweeping claims either way. And my stand is pretty much the same as yours. I only hope I remember everything I want to say at the end of this.

 





Quote:
Originally Posted by Prog Rock Man View Post

 

Beerguy0. If your read posts on the K701/2 and you will find many comments of its burn in time being in the hundreds of hours. I asked myself why is that? My theory is that the K701/2 are known for their detailed and revealing sound. If you get a pair and have maybe had less detailed and revealing headphones, or speakers in the past, there will be a noticeable difference. But the difference will be immediate, not after the donkey amount of hours.

 

As you work your way through your music collection, you will keep noticing these differences. Differences are different to different music. Being naughty and not changing the words. But again as before, most people should be able to discern this thought I concede, not all. Some people will, correctly I say, attribute that to the headphones, as they were from day one of ownership. Others will, incorrectly I say, attribute that to the headphones burning in.

 

This applies to other headphones as well, particularly high end ones. I just used the AKGs as an example.


My own take on 'burn-in'? I've always been half and half and non-committal. I have no fool-proof evidence to back either claim.

 

My reasons to believing that burn in exists rests simply on the notion that just like a shoe requires some usage to mold its shape, and you could argue that this is getting used to something, but it should be distinguished that it is the object itself that is changing its shape to accommodate you. Likewise, a bulb, especially those that are supposedly energy saving like my IKEA light bulb, starts off dark and then brightens up after a while, achieving both a brighter light, and wait for it, a more pleasing light visually. Drivers may perhaps work on similar principles in that when they aren't used yet, they do not change shape or move, etc. But when they are turned on, things do change supposedly and I can dig that. Name me something that is used that does not change its shape or something else upon first use, besides trying to hit a rock with my fist. I can sit on clothes and try and compress them and there is a point that it does stop compressing. There is a point that my IKEA light stops getting brighter.

 

On the other hand, I struggle sometimes to believe that headphones require 'burn-in' to sound so much better as some have claimed. My reasons for this are simple. Why would a manufacturer wish to sell a product that does not sound great or at least, good, at first instance? And if something really requires time to 'burn-in', they should tell us if they believe it to make drastic changes. I think, if I'm not wrong, the HD800 stipulates 'burn-in'.

 

A lot of the times that I feel that I think there may be 'burn-in' changes, I am quick to attribute it my mood. I've put over 1,000 hours on my IE8s and the general consensus prior was that it sounded better after 200+ hours minimum. But about a month back, I've really started to love them a whole lot more than ever before. But I have no way of knowing that it is due to 'burn-in' nor do I think it is. There are many extraneous factors, again, mood being one of them and the possibility of being sick to name another.

 

I would probably lean to believing that cans may require some burn-in, but I struggle to believe that it needs a lot or that it changes a whole lot. That's my opinion of course. I'd love to hear from the audio companies actually talking about 'burn-in'. Heck, I think people with some experience with mechanics or audio equipment should be able to chime in. Mind you, I'm very much open to the possibility that 'burn-in' may not even exist.

 

But to me, at the end of the day, I don't care either way. What matters to me more is that I enjoy my music and that's the crux of it all to me at least. Sound is subjective, everyone's experience is different. I just hope that whatever you choose, you choose enjoyment, not something that you may lose sleep over or get personal and annoyed with.


 

post #34 of 261
Thread Starter 

Cravenz. you accuse me of imposing my views on others. I have put forward a theory on a forum, left it open to be be debated and have not flamed anyone who disagrees. How is that imposing my views?

 

Xnor has referred to a number of posts elsewhere where he has made measurements and found mechanical differences so small that it is very hard to see how they are audible.

 

How can your experience of the IE8s be anything other than psychoacoustic? Any mechanical changes in them needed to produce the changes you describe would surely be easily measureable.

post #35 of 261
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prog Rock Man View Post

Cravenz. you accuse me of imposing my views on others. Read again, I said you are threading down the line, I should have gone, bordering close to doing it instead. I have put forward a theory on a forum, left it open to be be debated and have not flamed anyone who disagrees. kudos to you. How is that imposing my views? because even though you claim that to be the case, which is all well and good, your last sentence, without being properly disclaimer-ed, comes across as so.

 

"All posts which say ‘that headphone needs burn in’ should actually read ‘that headphone needs getting used to’ or ‘that headphone does not suit your hearing, you can either try and get used to it, or get another pair.’"

 

Xnor has referred to a number of posts elsewhere where he has made measurements and found mechanical differences so small that it is very hard to see how they are audible. I read his posts and it's pretty much in line with what I said at the bottom. Hope you actually went that far and didn't think I'm just pulling everything to go against you. It's more, questioning what has been said, and if it gets answered, it may further cement your claims. Keyword, may.

 

How can your experience of the IE8s be anything other than psychoacoustic? Errr...isn't that what I am saying? Likewise, a lot of what you have written yourself, is errr...the same? Any mechanical changes in them needed to produce the changes you describe would surely be easily measureable. Yup, possibly, but I'm not here to discourse. Merely point out what I think which could be better written, but apparently you've missed the point.


At the end of it, it only seems like you have focused on the one bit that bordered on being personal. And just to make things clear, I had no reason to offend you nor did I have the intention to. Again, I'm half awake. I've re-read half of what I said, but I probably would still stick with what I said. I stand corrected if I made mistakes at this late hour however, so I again state, I may be incoherent and apologise for being so if I am.


Edited by cravenz - 8/4/10 at 11:17am
post #36 of 261

I think things break in because they do. The way to tell is to take one with 200 hours on it and compare to a new from box of same with kit that isn't putting a big sig on the sound. Wav files and good source componenets or quality CD player.

post #37 of 261

Unfortunately, there's no inexpensive way to properly test this.  A new pair of K701s tested fresh out of the box, and then after 10, 25, 100, 250, and 500 hours of pink noise would be a nice experiment.  I'd bet that if there is any statistically significant change, it would only be between 0 and 10 hours.  Just maybe 10 and 25.  Then repeat with another half dozen models or so.

 

I realize that I don't have iron clad evidence to support burn in, but since it does have a plausible mechanism of action, does not in my opinion make an extraordinary claim, and doesn't ask much of one who accepts the claim, I think the idea that transducers can change over the first several hours of operation is due tentative acceptance.

 

This is not to say I accept all the claims of burn in.  Due to differences in materials and construction some transducers should change more than others with burn in while others may not change at all, so not every headphone should require burn in.  I also find it likely that the longer burn in supposedly takes, the more likely it is the result of psychoacoustics and not a physical change in the transducer.

 

That's just my opinion though.  Since we only disagree for 10 hours or so, I'm not going to get worked up about.    I like talking about this kind of stuff anyway though.

post #38 of 261

Need to read those posts, but not now. Will also try to dig up some graphs. Must stop thinking aloud.

post #39 of 261

I don't think a burn in necessarily make a headphone or a speaker sound better, it only means they will get another sound. Since speaker drivers and headphone drivers are physically moving mechanical parts it is only natural that they sound slightly different after some use/wear and tear.

 

Although I believe well built cables might improve sound of a speaker or headphone, I don't believe in burn in of cables. And I certainly don't believe in sound difference between digital cables if they're built to specifications.

post #40 of 261
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaxilus View Post

Your psychoacoustic experience is not mutually exclusive to burn-in.  Burn-in doesn't negate psychoacoustics and psychoacoustics does not negate burn-in.


I agree with those first two sentences, but I think that it's mostly psychoacoustics that make the difference. Most headphones will indeed physically break in from when they are new, but IMHO the effect is minimal compared to the listener adjusting to the new sound signature which is dependent upon the HRTF of that individual.


Edited by grokit - 8/5/10 at 1:58am
post #41 of 261

I had hoped to avoid this thread but seeing as I'm getting quoted a few times let me clarify why I think this thread is pointless as it is currently represented. 

 

1-Burn-in is defined as mechanical and electrical changes in new hardware over time that alters sonic character. 

 

2-Psychoacoustics is defined as the mental and auditory adaptation to the sonic qualities of a speaker, phone, whatever.

 

1 and 2 are different phenomena and blurring the two together is like saying cats=dogs.

 

The logical and semantic problem is that many here, including the OP, seem to say 2=1.  This is both a misunderstanding of the terms and the phenomena.  If people refer to their psychoacoustic experience as burn-in it is simply a misuse of the term on their part.  Not unlike how many equate soundstage = imaging.  People refer to imaging as soundstage all the time.  If you want to be constructive in the analysis of audio qualities at least define your terms appropriately and understand what you are talking about.  People discussing and debating phenomena when they are mixing up their terms due to lack of comprehension or understanding is an exercise in circular logic ad absurdum.

 

There are 4 possible modalities as I see it:

 

1-Discuss burn-in.  Is it real?  If so, to what degree?  Etc.

2-Discuss psychoacoustics.  Does hearing change?  Does mental memory change?  Variables involved?  Etc.

3-Discuss psychoacoustics being misrepresented or wrongly attributed to burn-in.  Semantics, logic, blah, blah.

4-Discuss psychoacoustics is burn-in.  2 = 1.

 

The argument made by the OP and many burn-in 'critics' as I see it is argument #4.  This argument is a logical fallacy and non-sequitur leading to pretty much the muddled mess I surmised it would be.  

 

As for my personal experience I can say for a fact burn-in is real.  I never put headphones on long enough during burn-in for psychoacoustics to take hold.  It takes me less than 20-30 secs to pick a song on my source, press play and know if the treble is harsher or smoother than yesterday, the bass is tighter or looser than yesterday, if a snare drum sounds as plasticky today as it did yesterday.  These are changes I have heard and experienced from burn-in not psychoacoustics.  I simply don't allow enough time for my ears or brain to adjust to the sound.  Honestly I haven't yet ever found myself adjusting and learning to like treble harshness, flabby bass or plastic drums.  So I say go pound sand on that argument.  Consistently saying yeah my phones are sounding better to me all the time w/o frame of reference is definitely psychoacoustics.  Burn-in can result in a phone sounding better, worse or the same.  Depends on the phone.  All burn-in does is condition the phone to achieve its true natural state for better or worse and reduce risk to potential driver damage.  That's it, nothing less nothing more.  If you haven't experienced the burn-in phenomena yourself then fine.  I can say of all the phones in my signature I can say for a fact to have noticed sonic change w/ at least 5 of them.  Most of the rest I noticed little if any difference at all.

 

Hope this helps some of you.  I have nothing left to say on the matter.  Thank goodness.

 

post #42 of 261
Thread Starter 

Anaxilus. Again, for clarification. My theory is that people mistake physcoacoustics for burn in. Your non 3 on the list and not non 4.

post #43 of 261

I had the impression that we're talking about that people think they hear differences due to 1 (burn-in) while in fact it's a matter of 2 (psychoacoustics).

 

I'm saying this for the last time now. Mechanical changes exist, but I don't think that the resulting differences are big enough to be audible.

 

As for the last paragraph Anaxilus, how can you be so sure? How do you know how long you have to listen for psychoacoustics to take hold? (lol?)

 

> "That's it, nothing less nothing more."

Are you somehow related to leeperry? ;) You seem to be a bit overconfident.


Edited by xnor - 8/5/10 at 12:41am
post #44 of 261
Thread Starter 

Thinking it is 1 when it is actually 2 is the same as 3, isn't it  

 

I thought from the thread title 'My theory as to why headphones appear to 'burn in'' and then talking about how psychoacoustics are the actual reasons for the change in sound and not burn in, it was clear what I meant. If that has not been the case, I apologise.

post #45 of 261

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

Are you somehow related to leeperry? ;) You seem to be a bit overconfident.


Lol, their opinions are not very humble, IMHO


Edited by grokit - 8/5/10 at 2:02am
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