'Burn-in' questions for the experts?
Jan 21, 2015 at 10:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

Digital7

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No doubt it's been discussed a million times already, but please indulge me 5 simple questions...

1: Is burn-in a verifiable fact and been proven many times?
2: Is there ever a case were boomy or shabby bass tightens-up with burn-in, or is it only ever the other way around, as in lack of bass can possibly increase?
3: Is the sound of the headphone dictated soley by the frequency graph readings for the headphone, or does tuning by the company come into play as well as other design factors?
4: Can 'air' and treble clarity at the top-end of the frequency spectrum increase with burn-in? Meaning, if 'openness' and 'air' are initially restricted somewhat, can it definitely improve with burn-in and open-up more?
5: Can a headphone that seems highly questionable frequency wise become more balanced with burn-in?

Detailed answers are preferable, and these are serious questions. Cheers.
 
Jan 22, 2015 at 3:07 AM Post #2 of 18

cdsa35000

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No Q&A from me but just some common sense:
Its material flexing and durability test to find premature failures, like losing/burnt glue, coil, alighment, mechanical/vibration noise.frame, cold solder, bad contact etc.etc.
 
Jan 22, 2015 at 11:06 AM Post #3 of 18

ahunatu

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The effects of burn in are probably very slight. The biggest thing is your brain getting used to the different sound. Tyll did a test with an AKG you can find where he could tell the difference every time but that only means he can tell the difference between two headphones manufactured to be the "same."
 
Anyway I wouldn't let my headphones sit for 48 hours playing non stop because that just seems silly, but I'm not above playing some loud dubstep for a few minutes to "stretch" them a little even if that stretching is mostly probably just in my head.
 
...so no concrete answers from me.
 
Jan 22, 2015 at 4:52 PM Post #5 of 18

Mink

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No doubt it's been discussed a million times already, but please indulge me 5 simple questions...

1: Is burn-in a verifiable fact and been proven many times?
2: Is there ever a case were boomy or shabby bass tightens-up with burn-in, or is it only ever the other way around, as in lack of bass can possibly increase?
3: Is the sound of the headphone dictated soley by the frequency graph readings for the headphone, or does tuning by the company come into play as well as other design factors?
4: Can 'air' and treble clarity at the top-end of the frequency spectrum increase with burn-in? Meaning, if 'openness' and 'air' are initially restricted somewhat, can it definitely improve with burn-in and open-up more?
5: Can a headphone that seems highly questionable frequency wise become more balanced with burn-in?

Detailed answers are preferable, and these are serious questions. Cheers.

1. Not that I know of. Maybe a fact in someone's private life, but it is never universally proven.
2. I can only speak for myself. No. I can get used to a boomy bass and let my ears make that a new reference, just like I did/do with the Denon D5000s. And no the lean(er) bass of my Roland RH-300s hasn't gotten any bigger in time.
3. I suspect tuning comes into play as well. But I don't believe for instance that the wooden cups of my Denon D5000s add anything to the sound. It's not those cups that make their sound warmer than their little brother the D2000s.
4. Maybe, but I think no. My ears can adjust and come by with little air.
5. It could be perceived as balanced by someone's ears, the shape of the ears and how the sound interacts with them varies from person to person. 
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 1:07 PM Post #6 of 18

Sefelt103

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1. No. Burn in is a mystery. Technical measurements show no difference after 100s of hours of use.
2. What you describe are not opposites. Both can happen.
3. No. Two headphones can have similar curves and sound very different.
4. Yes. People often describe headphones as opening up.
5. Perhaps. Burn in might alter the frequency balance. I doubt an unbalanced headphone would become neutral though.

Burn in for me is a mix between some physical wearing/loosening up in headphones and the listeners adjustment through their brain to those headphones.
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 1:59 PM Post #7 of 18

kramer5150

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I am not an "expert".... just a guy who listens to headphones a lot.
 
1: Is burn-in a verifiable fact and been proven many times?
>I don't think its been proven analytically with measured data.  IIRC Tyll did a detailed case study to show that it didn't exist with his test sample population.  It would unfold a layer of inaccuracy to assume identical results over the entire production or extrapolate results over the headphone industry as a whole.

2: Is there ever a case were boomy or shabby bass tightens-up with burn-in, or is it only ever the other way around, as in lack of bass can possibly increase?
>I don't think its been proven analytically with measured data.  There are certainly thousands of listening impressions however to suggest one way or another.

3a: Is the sound of the headphone dictated soley by the frequency graph readings for the headphone?
>No
 
3b: Does tuning by the company come into play as well as other design factors?
>Yes

4: Can 'air' and treble clarity at the top-end of the frequency spectrum increase with burn-in? Meaning, if 'openness' and 'air' are initially restricted somewhat, can it definitely improve with burn-in and open-up more?
>I don't think its been proven analytically with measured data.  There are certainly thousands of listening impressions however to suggest one way or another.

5: Can a headphone that seems highly questionable frequency wise become more balanced with burn-in?
>I don't think its been proven analytically with measured data.  There are certainly thousands of listening impressions however to suggest one way or another.
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 2:09 PM Post #8 of 18

Music Alchemist

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Burn-in has been measured, but as far as I know, it was never anything awfully significant.
 
The main type of burn-in that headphones and headphone users definitely go through is breaking in of the ear pads (which can change the sound somewhat) and brain burn-in (becoming accustomed to the sound of a headphone).
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 2:13 PM Post #9 of 18

Digital7

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Thanks guys for chiming-in.

What a mystery. I asked my local 'expert' headphone/Amp dealer, whose being doing this for many years for a very long time and selling the most expensive headphones in the world, and when i asked him he point-blank replied "Absolutely, it's a fact, burn-in is real!"

Now if you know who this man is, then you would take his words seriously without question, and he's not into hype and misnomers and fallacies, so what now?

Surely there must be a website somewhere dealing with this subject with verifiable objective data etc. It's all quite fascinating IMO
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 2:17 PM Post #10 of 18

Music Alchemist

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Surely there must be a website somewhere dealing with this subject with verifiable objective data etc. It's all quite fascinating IMO

 
Click my link for many of them!
 
Interestingly enough, some of the Sound Science people who insist that all amps and DACs sound the same (unless they were intentionally colored) say that headphone burn-in is real as well.
 
I'm going through a burn-in process while listening to a particular new pair of headphones, but I'm not sure if it's just my brain adjusting or if the actual sound is changing.
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 3:08 PM Post #11 of 18

kramer5150

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Thanks guys for chiming-in.

What a mystery. I asked my local 'expert' headphone/Amp dealer, whose being doing this for many years for a very long time and selling the most expensive headphones in the world, and when i asked him he point-blank replied "Absolutely, it's a fact, burn-in is real!"

Now if you know who this man is, then you would take his words seriously without question, and he's not into hype and misnomers and fallacies, so what now?

Surely there must be a website somewhere dealing with this subject with verifiable objective data etc. It's all quite fascinating IMO

Well... in defense of the believing individual (and I am in NO WAY picking  sides here),his/her ears+brain readily perceive and hear it.  So why wouldn't that make it real from his point of view?
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 3:16 PM Post #12 of 18

HPiper

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I don't think anyone is concerned enough to devote the time and equipment needed to do an actual scientific study about burn-in, so all you are likely to get are peoples impressions. It just seems to me that in the case of headphones (and speakers) you are dealing with a suspension system of sorts and new, it is likely to be a bit stiff. So at least a little use is going to allow that suspension to stretch and sort itself out. After that I think it is mostly the brain sorting it out not the equipment.
 
Feb 3, 2015 at 8:51 PM Post #13 of 18

tinyman392

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No doubt it's been discussed a million times already, but please indulge me 5 simple questions...

1: Is burn-in a verifiable fact and been proven many times?
2: Is there ever a case were boomy or shabby bass tightens-up with burn-in, or is it only ever the other way around, as in lack of bass can possibly increase?
3: Is the sound of the headphone dictated soley by the frequency graph readings for the headphone, or does tuning by the company come into play as well as other design factors?
4: Can 'air' and treble clarity at the top-end of the frequency spectrum increase with burn-in? Meaning, if 'openness' and 'air' are initially restricted somewhat, can it definitely improve with burn-in and open-up more?
5: Can a headphone that seems highly questionable frequency wise become more balanced with burn-in?

Detailed answers are preferable, and these are serious questions. Cheers.


Question also arises, what kind of burn in are we talking about?  Pads, tips, etc. physically will break in to soften up, create a stronger seal and possibly move the drivers closer to your ears.  People do also talk about brain burn in, your brain adjusting to the sound.  Generally, though, people who burn in aren't listening to the headphones while burning them in.  Personally, I don't feel the brain does too much to it over the long timeline (maybe the first few hours), the majority is done by the pads, tips, etc.  I feel that brain and driver burn in play a minimal amount in the sound (but can definitely make a small difference).  
 
As for the drivers, it has been measured by many people.  The changes generally are no more than 5 dB, on average about 1-2 dB throughout the entire spectrum.  The question is whether or not that is audible.  There are measured differences, we don't know how audible they are (and that may very well vary person to person).  
 
There is a case of boomy bass tightening up, there is also cases of lack of bass increasing.  Reason for that?  Not sure.  Could be a better seal, or something else entirely.  
 
Frequency graphs will dictate how a headphone sounds.  The problem with this approach is that is generally closer to a one-to-many relationship.  You may read a chart and see one thing while another person will read it differently.  There are multiple ways to show "punchy" with a headphone.  And they often overlap with others as well.  Essentially, you need both, personal listening session(s) and measurements, to really make sure you're not hearing anything out of line.  
 
There have been instances of more air with burn in.  This is typically due to the bass tightening up (lower bass = more treble).  
 
If a headphone has questionable measurements (whatever that means) will not change that much (measurement-wise) with burn in.  The typical signature will remain and issues softening up, but never truly going away.  The differences between a burned in headphone and a non-burned in headphone are minute at best.  They can be audible if A-B'd directly (or if you have a reference to compare to with time).  They will not make a huge difference, but sometimes the smallest change is all that is needed.  
 
Feb 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM Post #14 of 18

yomomma1

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Well this is what PSB have to say on the matter.
 
"After speaking with our PSB Engineering & Development team and Paul Barton himself, we can all strongly agree that our speakers and headphones don't require "break-in" or "burn-in" sessions for a set amount of time.

Our collection of speakers and headphones are engineered and designed to perform to their maximum potential right out of the box.

With headphones, the seal of the ear cup can change over time as the leather starts to loosen and become more comfortable on the listener's head, sometimes changing how sound is heard through the ears of different listeners."
 
Feb 7, 2015 at 1:38 AM Post #15 of 18

billybob_jcv

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I would like to see someone run a test where a group of people were each given the same brand headphone every day for a month. Half the group will get a new headphone every day, and the other half will get a headphone that was used by their group the previous day. If the theory of burn-in is true, then the headphones should sound the same every day. If burn-in is primarily a brain phenomenon, then the sound will change for both groups.
 

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