Originally Posted by ag8908
In the same way that your eyes adjust to different levels of light (i.e. they behave differently when you're out in the sun, when you're indoors, and during the night) -- your ears adjust to different sound signatures. Put on a headphone that feels bright at first, listen to it for two hours, and it won't seem as bright anymore. Same with bass levels and every other feature.
So I think that's the biggest part of "burn in."
However, objective measurements have shown that full sized headphones do exhibit a different frequency response after burning in and, being mechanical objects, they can't be expected to behave exactly the same after a year of use as they do after one hour of use.
Yes. I agree on both points. I am particularly intrigued by the first one. That brings up the question, is there some qualitative level of sound quality that our ears and minds are attempting to adjust to? And how do our ears or minds arrive at what we consider "the best" sound quality?
Further, if our minds have some sort of pre-set notion of what "the best" is, then how do we discover "better" sounding gear? You can read in any number of places on this website, how people discover newer and better gear of all sorts. Stranger still, their conclusions that some piece of gear is better, may come immediately, or after some extended period of usage (which often involves running the said piece of gear over time, without actively listening to it).
It is this notion that running new gear for a period of time after buying it, constitutes "burn in". It doesn't seem to matter what sort of gear is being discussed. This is where it gets weird.
It really amazes me to read the Schiit Vali thread, with people constantly discovering how awesome the Vali sounds, yet they consistently remark on the "ringing" effect of the tubes used in the device. In case you're not familiar, this is an American made, hybrid tube/ss amp, that is squarely in the middle of what I call "Budget-Fi" land ($119 bucks). It has been compared to amplifiers costing far more, by members of this forum whose opinions are considered quite reliable and trust-worthy.
Because of the extended period of time between news of the amp and it's actual release, that thread held a protracted series of discussions about sound quality. It really amazes me how this device was compared to amps costing many times more, by the few people who were lucky enough to have an advance copy of the device. Even after its release, many remain amazed by its performance for the price. I wonder how Schiit can continue to sell its more expensive devices, if the amp is truly the giant killer it's made out to be.
Given the ability of our ears and minds to adjust to new gear, it might not come as a surprise that people rave about the amplifier as much as they do. One might reasonably wonder whether they should spend $1000 for an amplifier, or $119 for an amplifier, given the rave reviews. If you are budget conscious like me, you might be very happy to spend only $119 on an amplifier, if it can sound as good as something ten times it's price. Especially with the knowledge that our ears will eventually adjust to whatever quirks might exist in the sound quality produced.
Of course, the manufacturers of audio gear would prefer that you spend cubic dollars to purchase their gear, because of course a Woo Wa7 at $999 sounds better than a Schiit Vali at $119. Right? Even if it does, won't our ears adjust to whichever device our wallets can afford?