Burnin - should you bother?

Headphones, Headsets, Earbuds, Canalphones - stuff that goes on, around or in your ears.
Post Reply
User avatar
Marcus
I Recommend It!
Posts: 15824
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:59 pm
Location: Perth
Contact:

Burnin - should you bother?

Post by Marcus » Thu Oct 27, 2005 9:49 am

There's a lot of divided opinions on this one, I'll give mine ;)


First - there are no long-term benefits of burning in your headphones. It's purely a short term thing.
Whether burnin effects the sound of the headphones, your your perception of how the headphones sound hasn't really been established.
There was a time where I swore that a good long burnin made a difference, now I have unlimited access to multiple pairs of the same model I can do proper tests - comparing "burnt in" models to ones that aren't. The differences aren't as big as some might think or claim.

Despite that, my belief is to form a proper opinion of -any- audio equipment you should stick with it for a while, get used to it and the hole it left in your wallet.
Whether it's a case of the equipment's sound characteristics changing over time or it's just you getting used to the sound is a moot point.

In a lot of cases people will judge something on first impression, but to form a valid opinion of audio you kind of have to grok it first. Examine it from multiple directions, give it time.

If you think running your headphones overnight with some kind of white/pink noise CD is going to chance the sound, go for it.

The only thing I do NOT recommend is running frequency sweeps at high volumes because this could damage the drivers.
There are cases of people hating the way headphones sound after "burning them in" using sine wave sweeps.

Bottom line, simplest way to burn them in (in my opinion) is to put a CD that you like that has a good range of frequencies or styles of music on repeat, just above your normal listening volume, overnight.
However the only time I ever bother doing this is when I'm testing new headphones for either eval or review. The rest of the time I don't even bother, if burnin is real the headphones will go through the process in their own time. You shouldn't be forming an opinion in the first day or so anyway, give them at least a week or two of solid listening (without switching back and forth to others).

Anyway, that's my thoughts - I hope I make sense :)
Last edited by Marcus on Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Sol
Lurker
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2005 7:19 pm
Contact:

Another so-called 'audiophille' myth

Post by Sol » Tue Dec 27, 2005 10:47 am

I think the idea that audio equipment needs 'burning' is another myth that so-called audiophiles fall for in their futile quests to reach audio perfection. Listeners need time to adjust to the sound of any new speakers of headphones they buy. Have you heard of selective hearing? We all hear environmental noise that we ignore by focussing on what we want to listen to. It is similar with new headphones and speakers; after a while they sound different because you are focusing on different parts of the sound. It's all in the mind.
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER!

orF
Lurker
Posts: 10
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 10:24 pm

Post by orF » Sun Jul 23, 2006 12:16 am

It's definitely not a myth, my first pair of headphones was a pair of Sennheiser HD570's and they exhibited some strangenesses in the first day or so of using them which disappeared.
They seemed sort of jumpy with some kind of harmonic type wierdnesses.
I noticed the exact same thing with my next pair of headphones.
And the DAC I bought recently sounded completely flat and lifeless, but after a few hours of listening it gradually became fuller sounding and more bass appeared etc.
It must have something to do with the components(even cables) filling up with electrons.

I wouldn't play loud music on repeat to break in a headphone, it will happen naturally by listening to music normally.
Plus a headphone being "broken in" is a fun experience I find, you never know what strangeness you might hear in your music or when hehe. :)

whirlwindz
Lurker
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:33 pm

Post by whirlwindz » Fri Sep 01, 2006 10:30 pm

As an Electrical Engineer, i can tell you that the concept of burn-in may indeed be valid. The headphone 'speakers' essentially consist of a flexible polymer membrane attached to a wound copper coil surrounded by a series of magnets.
When electrical current oscillates in the coil, the membrane flexes back and forth. The nature of polyemers is one of initial deformation, before settling into a stable state. In layman's terms, the plastic membrane 'stretches' after the initial few hours of use before settling into a stable state. As the membrane stretches, it essentially 'loosens up' allowing a greater dynamic range to be reproduced.
So yes, the theory of 'burn-in' is valid, however the degree of noticability may be small. Its likely only true audiophiles may, if they're lucky be able to perceive a difference in sound quality after the headphones have been 'burnt-in'.

User avatar
dc
Super extra mega special!
Posts: 4011
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:12 pm
Location: Sydney
Contact:

Post by dc » Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:26 am

what's your take on burn in of solid state gear and audio/electrical cables?

User avatar
Marcus
I Recommend It!
Posts: 15824
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:59 pm
Location: Perth
Contact:

Post by Marcus » Sat Sep 02, 2006 11:34 am

I agree that the theory is valid, but there is no inherent NEED to burnin headphones ;)
eg: "burn them in for 200 hours before you listen" is a stupid suggestion. I normally recommend people just stick with any audio product for a while before forming an opinion, burnin or not :)
Headphonic
http://www.headphones.com.au
Ph: (08) 9207 3666
Don't forget to Like us on Facebook!

whirlwindz
Lurker
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:33 pm

Post by whirlwindz » Sun Sep 03, 2006 3:59 pm

Solid state gear cannot get 'burnt-in". In our engineering laboratories we cycle a variety of Bipolar and Mosfet transistors for extended periods of times at varying voltages as frequencies in order to determine their 'durability'. There is no change in attributes over the testing periods, except when in some cases the devices simply fail. Their response remains static throughout the test. Cables also cannot get burnt in. A cable is essentially a conductor with a sea of free electrons 'floating' in a metal lattice, which get shoved around by a varying electrostatic potentials (voltages) at each end of the cable. As with solid state devices, there is no deterioration and/or change in the behaviour of a copper cable as a result of use. The only change in performance is when either the connectors or part of the metallic internals of the cable oxidises, which can result in an increase in resistance.
Hope that info helped.

User avatar
dc
Super extra mega special!
Posts: 4011
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:12 pm
Location: Sydney
Contact:

Post by dc » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:48 am

i think a lot of the burn-in is psychological but some people swear by burning in solid states and cables lol =)

User avatar
Erwin
Banned
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 12:56 am
Location: Sydney (Cabramatta) :{

Post by Erwin » Thu Apr 05, 2007 2:59 am

I have a Senn HD600 with a Zu Mobius cable. When I first used the Senn with the cable, it had a shimmer in the sound. When I read the leaflet that came with the cable, it said that this would happen and that it should disappear after a couple hours of use. After about of four hours of burn-in, I tested the cable again and the sound was clear as crystal. I found that after trying the stock cable that the Senn sounded like it had a veil drawn on the sound. It is the same effect that I experienced when I changed from oxygen free interconnects back to the normal standard cables.
I used to be a skeptic when it came to replacing standard interconnects to higher grade cables until I decided to change to see if there was a difference. There definitely was.
The same goes for the Senn standard cable.
My other Senn 600 has a 3 metre Cardas cable which also sounds far superior than the standard Senn cable, but not as good as the Zu Mobius. The Cardas is oxygen free copper whereas the Zu is silver and sounds a little brighter in the higher frequencies.
I recommend anyone with a Senn 600 to do the upgrade. :eek:

mepat1111
Lurker
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:57 pm

Post by mepat1111 » Sun Apr 15, 2007 7:18 pm

I think you will find that the perceived difference is more to do with your ears than it is with the headphone themselves.

For example, I heard one particular vocalist through a crappy Shure dynamic microphone on a regular basis for some time, and I thought the vocalist sounded quite good. One day for a special event (but through the same sound system) I heard that same vocalist using a very high quality Neuman (sp?) condenser microphone, the difference was amazing - but I'd always thought that the person sounded fine before.

My point is that your ears get used to certain sounds, so as Marcus said, you need to give it time and let your ears adjust before you can really judge. I'm currently using a pair of Sony MDR-V500 headphones for djing, they only cost me about $120 a couple of years ago, but cause I've used them for so long and my ears are used to them, they sound perfectly okay to me.

User avatar
Erwin
Banned
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 12:56 am
Location: Sydney (Cabramatta) :{

Post by Erwin » Sun Apr 15, 2007 11:08 pm

To metap1111, I agree with what you said, but that has nothing to do with burning in a component. I have had about ten different model headphones in my time. Each one was usually an upgrade and sounded better than the previous one. When using the previous phones you could readily hear the difference and the inadequacies of the phones compared to the new ones. What do you do then, when you test a set of phones straight out of the box against a known set of phones that have had considerable use (burnt in) with a test track which you know intimately. You make a comparison of the sounds of each headphone. You then burn in the new phones for a few days without listening to them. You then make the comparison again with the same phones. The old phones sound just as you remembered them, but the new ones suddenly have noticeably improved in quality. This is not subjective. I used to be a skeptic unitl I decided to try it as a skeptic and found myself a believer. I can understand anyone being skeptical who hasn't done the test.
I have run my Senns from the output of my 100 watt Mosfet amp (0.005% distortion) and that was much better that out of the headphone jack of my CD player. I then built a 15 watt class A headphone amp (0.0007% distortion) an the difference between it and the mosfet amp was very noticeable. But that has nothing to do with burn in.
I read a report in the Yank magazine Stereophile about a new model Wadia CD player. It was the cheapest player in the line. The reviewer stated that the company recommends a burn in time of about a week before the player will be starting to sound as it should. The reviewer tried the player out of the box, giving it about an hour to get warmed up and settled and said it sounded dull and lifeless. He then tried it out occasionally to see how it was going whilst letting it run continuously. After a month of continuous non-stop running he stated that the played sounded almost as good as the top model in the line. The point is that a reviewer is listening and judging components just about every day and comparing them against his standard setup. It's his job. When he does a before and after test of a component in comparison to his reference setup, and he notices a remarkable difference after doing a burn in of the component under test ,it must be true.

User avatar
Erwin
Banned
Posts: 74
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 12:56 am
Location: Sydney (Cabramatta) :{

Post by Erwin » Sun Apr 15, 2007 11:32 pm

To d-cee. The difference that good quality cables make to a hifi setup compared th the standard RCA leads that come with most hifi gear is remarkable. When I replaced the standard cable between my CD player and my Class A amp, I swapped the two cables over at least five times whilst playing my test track. The difference was very real. It was like crystal clear compared to veiled and grainy. I can't comment on whether the new cables sounded better after being burnt in because I didn't try it. I do know for sure that the Zu Mobius headphone cable sounded much clearer and lost its shimmering sound after being burnt in. I can't say the same for the Cardas headphone cable because I never did the comparison. But if someone did the comparison and said there was a difference, my experiences would incline me to believe them. This is assuming that the setup being used has the resolving power and the reviewer has both the hearing ability and the acquaintance of the media being used for the test to hear the difference. Its no good listening the first time on a setup and a particular cd track, and then later doing the follow up test with a revised setup and/or a different cd track. Stick to known quantities.

User avatar
cloughie
Post-a-holic
Posts: 2298
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 7:24 am
Location: Coffs Harbour

Post by cloughie » Mon Apr 16, 2007 5:09 am

I think it's still subjective until blind tests are done & repeated several times. The closest I have heard to proper testing is Marcus trying headphones on his customers without them knowing which are the "burnt in" ones.

User avatar
Marcus
I Recommend It!
Posts: 15824
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2004 5:59 pm
Location: Perth
Contact:

Post by Marcus » Mon Apr 16, 2007 8:27 am

Cable burn-in is an even funnier one.
You won't find one double blind test that confirms that expensive cables make a difference, let alone one that says cable burnin exists. Without proper testing (ie: DTB) there is no scientific evidence to support it. I don't care how good people think their hearing is, if you can't reproduce results in a DBT you seriously need to question your perception.
Headphonic
http://www.headphones.com.au
Ph: (08) 9207 3666
Don't forget to Like us on Facebook!

User avatar
mark
Lurker
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Jun 25, 2006 12:22 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Post by mark » Mon Apr 16, 2007 8:24 pm

I'd wouldn't mine trying to do some DBT testing with my equipment, but it's too hard, so I rarely bother. When I do testing that isn't blind I can't help but think that maybe I like something more because it's newer, or more expensive, or 'supposed to be better'.

That said, my favourite moments of headphone listening havent occurred when testing new equipment for the first time and trying to analyze them - my favourite moments are when I am sitting doing something while listening and suddenly realise how great a song that I've known for years suddenly sounds. Hearing a bass guitar that doesn't sound like it's rumbling or distorting, or hearing new instruments in the background of the mix that you hadn't noticed before through the course of 'everyday listening' is what floats my boat.

Post Reply