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What is headphone "burn in" and do I need it?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone. I just bought my first set of IEMs....Shure SE215 in clear. I plan to use them with my iPod Touch, iPad3, iPod Shuffle. They will be used both from the units themselves and also with a Headroom Total BitHead amp/dac. First off, what is burn in? Do I need it? I listen to mainly Christian music both contemporary and top40/rock/rap. Thanks for the help.

post #2 of 32

Burn in is something that happens to the headphones just by using them. Thats of course if you believe in burn in, there is also brain burn in, which many believe is just your brain getting use to the headphones.

post #3 of 32
Most dynamic driver phones, no matter how big or small (IEMs) benefit from the drivers being broken in by playing music. The drivers loosen up and get used to projecting sound, and sound better after anywhere from 20-100 hours.

Your SE215 is different from most Shure phones because it has a dynamic driver, not a balanced driver (which does not need any burn-in). You can listen to them and they will burn in fine, or you can plug them up to a source and let them play for 24-48 hours, then start to listen to them. Either way is fine - and neither way will hurt them.
post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Watagump View Post

Burn in is something that happens to the headphones just by using them. Thats of course if you believe in burn in, there is also brain burn in, which many believe is just your brain getting use to the headphones.


Don't push an opinion on the OP like it's a fact.  There is no proof for or against burn in.  Pushing your belief on someone just isn't right.

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by kmhaynes View Post

Most dynamic driver phones, no matter how big or small (IEMs) benefit from the drivers being broken in by playing music. The drivers loosen up and get used to projecting sound, and sound better after anywhere from 20-100 hours.
Your SE215 is different from most Shure phones because it has a dynamic driver, not a balanced driver (which does not need any burn-in). You can listen to them and they will burn in fine, or you can plug them up to a source and let them play for 24-48 hours, then start to listen to them. Either way is fine - and neither way will hurt them.


I'll disagree with BA burn in here  as well as my HF2s, along with another HF3 (ABXed against an HF5 by another member) also burned in.

 

@OP: about burn in; basically, it's the belief that as a driver ages, it is able to break in.  This break in essentially results in a change in perceived sound.  Although the change is positive most of the time, it isn't always (PUR1000, Hephaes, ASG-1).  The causes of break in aren't yet know to why they exactly occur.  There are many theories behind why burn in occurs:

  • Driver burn in: as drivers age, the sound of the driver changes due to physical changes the driver undergoes.  Think about a shoe breaking in (especially if you run :p).
  • Brain burn in: the idea that it's your brain adjusting to the sound of the driver with time.  So as you listen to the headphone more, your brain adjusts to the sound and changes it for you.
  • Tip/Pad burn in: the idea that as time goes, the tips of the IEM (along with pads if it's a headphone) will break in and conform more to your ear.  This causes a better seal, but a better seal changes the sound.
  • Placebo: this is the idea that the person is hearing things, but really isn't.  It is normally used by people who don't hear the effect as a means to explain why they don't, and others do. 

 

There really is no solid evidence for or against burn in.  Although many here will soon start quoting Tyll's graphs, even the small change in those can be audible (human ear is quite sensitive).  The question really becomes what is audible and what isn't (in the changes of the graphs over time; Tyll is not the only one to test this burn in).  I'm not going to go into specifics about that now. 

 

As for if you need burn in.  If you like the headphones as they are now, you don't need to burn them in.  Enjoy them and enjoy the roller coaster ride they put you through as they burn in, but there is no guarantee that you'll hear it though (as stated before, not everyone does; it's not a problem if you don't).  If you do still find the need to burn in a pair of headphones, plug them into a device, play it for hours on end until you feel they are done burning in (normally around 100-200 hours; some as low as 50 though). 

post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 

This is all rather new to me overall. I got a Headroom Total BitHead amp/dac and Sony MDR-V6 headphones for XMAS. I can say this....I like the sound of the MDR-V6 better than the Shure SE215s. I think that I will like my new IEMs . :) I did not break in the Sony headphones....I just used them.

post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post


Don't push an opinion on the OP like it's a fact.  There is no proof for or against burn in.  Pushing your belief on someone just isn't right.

 


I'll disagree with BA burn in here  as well as my HF2s, along with another HF3 (ABXed against an HF5 by another member) also burned in.

 

@OP: about burn in; basically, it's the belief that as a driver ages, it is able to break in.  This break in essentially results in a change in perceived sound.  Although the change is positive most of the time, it isn't always (PUR1000, Hephaes, ASG-1).  The causes of break in aren't yet know to why they exactly occur.  There are many theories behind why burn in occurs:

  • Driver burn in: as drivers age, the sound of the driver changes due to physical changes the driver undergoes.  Think about a shoe breaking in (especially if you run :p).
  • Brain burn in: the idea that it's your brain adjusting to the sound of the driver with time.  So as you listen to the headphone more, your brain adjusts to the sound and changes it for you.
  • Tip/Pad burn in: the idea that as time goes, the tips of the IEM (along with pads if it's a headphone) will break in and conform more to your ear.  This causes a better seal, but a better seal changes the sound.
  • Placebo: this is the idea that the person is hearing things, but really isn't.  It is normally used by people who don't hear the effect as a means to explain why they don't, and others do. 

 

There really is no solid evidence for or against burn in.  Although many here will soon start quoting Tyll's graphs, even the small change in those can be audible (human ear is quite sensitive).  The question really becomes what is audible and what isn't (in the changes of the graphs over time; Tyll is not the only one to test this burn in).  I'm not going to go into specifics about that now. 

 

As for if you need burn in.  If you like the headphones as they are now, you don't need to burn them in.  Enjoy them and enjoy the roller coaster ride they put you through as they burn in, but there is no guarantee that you'll hear it though (as stated before, not everyone does; it's not a problem if you don't).  If you do still find the need to burn in a pair of headphones, plug them into a device, play it for hours on end until you feel they are done burning in (normally around 100-200 hours; some as low as 50 though). 



 It's all personal when dealing with perception once you question how much change one can actually hear. I think the OP wants personal experiences and let him decide for himself as he'll get both sides.

My take is that break in is real and varies by device where some move much more or at least in more important ways than others. Perception of same can be impaired by many variables in the chain and the simply the time involved. I wont argue it as I don't really care if somebody else believes or not but that's what I, personally, perceive.

 

post #7 of 32

It varies from people to people. Some can't tell the difference, after all. But I would do it just to be safe, whether it exist or not. 

post #8 of 32

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post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremypsp View Post

It varies from people to people. Some can't tell the difference, after all. But I would do it just to be safe, whether it exist or not. 



I would actually second this.  Some people claim they can't hear it on a certain set of headphones.  Then 10 headphones later, bam, they hear it on that specific model.  Either way, for the end user, it really doesn't matter whether you do it or not, since it does it as you listen.  However, for a reviewer, they should keep track of how long they burn in for (50 hours is normally minimum for reviews just to be safe, more is normally done for some headphones though).

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post



I would actually second this.  Some people claim they can't hear it on a certain set of headphones.  Then 10 headphones later, bam, they hear it on that specific model.  Either way, for the end user, it really doesn't matter whether you do it or not, since it does it as you listen.  However, for a reviewer, they should keep track of how long they burn in for (50 hours is normally minimum for reviews just to be safe, more is normally done for some headphones though).



True... only noticed burn-in after I got my Monster Turbines. 

post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremypsp View Post



True... only noticed burn-in after I got my Monster Turbines. 



For sure.  I'm one that has heard burn in on just about all my IEMs.  The HF2's peaks went down (ASG-1 owners call this shoutyness) while the treble did the same.  This did cause a bigger perceived bass presence.  The ASG-1's mids toned down a bit, while the bass texture and punch came in more as well as the treble detailing and high hats.  Dunu Hephaes was a roller-coaster of itself going from tolerable to bad, to extremely bad, to WTF happened, they sound wonderful :p  I can't think up of one that didn't change (they changed very little, but was still detectable to my ears after some time). 

 

Some of my slower burning in headphones made me go, "OMG, I can hear that treble now."  I'd have no clue on when it happened, but it did happen (I like to have a base to compare to when measuring burn in; so I compare it directly to an already burned in pair of headphones; usually it's a pair that has a similar signature to the one in question).  This may be the reason why I hear it easier. 

post #12 of 32

What strikes me as odd is when people dismiss Headphone/Earphone burn-in but testify to cable and crossover burn in.

 

I personally don't adhere to the sentiments of "burn-in", but I find it pretty humorous when people can pick and choose that adamantly.

post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post



For sure.  I'm one that has heard burn in on just about all my IEMs.  The HF2's peaks went down (ASG-1 owners call this shoutyness) while the treble did the same.  This did cause a bigger perceived bass presence.  The ASG-1's mids toned down a bit, while the bass texture and punch came in more as well as the treble detailing and high hats.  Dunu Hephaes was a roller-coaster of itself going from tolerable to bad, to extremely bad, to WTF happened, they sound wonderful :p  I can't think up of one that didn't change (they changed very little, but was still detectable to my ears after some time). 

 

Some of my slower burning in headphones made me go, "OMG, I can hear that treble now."  I'd have no clue on when it happened, but it did happen (I like to have a base to compare to when measuring burn in; so I compare it directly to an already burned in pair of headphones; usually it's a pair that has a similar signature to the one in question).  This may be the reason why I hear it easier. 


I don't know, because many people seem to just call it "brain burn-in", though I have compared my Turbines to a fairly new one in the shop and the difference is very huge. Much like how my Turbines were before burn-in. But for my other 'phones (mostly balanced armatures), the difference is minimal. Though I think there's still a small change. 

 

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremypsp View Post


I don't know, because many people seem to just call it "brain burn-in", though I have compared my Turbines to a fairly new one in the shop and the difference is very huge. Much like how my Turbines were before burn-in. But for my other 'phones (mostly balanced armatures), the difference is minimal. Though I think there's still a small change. 

 



I'll admit that it generally goes that armatures will burn in less than dynamics, but that isn't always the case.  The Etymotic EtyKids (dynamic model) changed very little only having a slight decrease in the aggressive mids. 

post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post



I'll admit that it generally goes that armatures will burn in less than dynamics, but that isn't always the case.  The Etymotic EtyKids (dynamic model) changed very little only having a slight decrease in the aggressive mids. 



But I think that balanced armature, no matter how little, will still need a little burn-in. Because they basically work the same as dynamic drivers(move air) just that they move less air. But Etymotic IEMs don't seem to be the type that requires a lot of burn-in. 

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