break-in--bane or boon ??


as a reviewer , i often receive equipment which is new and has no playing time.

i have to decide whether to break in the component and if so, how many hours is necessary.

i have often asked manufacturers for guidance.

one cable manufacturer said the cables--digital, analog and power, required no break in. another said 24 hours.

when i reviewed a mcintosh tube preamp, i was told by a technician that no break in was necessary. all i needed to do was leave the preamp on for one hour in order that the tubes were "warmed up"

can someone provide an objective explanation as to the basis for break-in and how to determine how long to break in different components ?

for example, cables comprised of different metals, if they require break in, is there a difference in the requisite time for a given metal, e.g., gold, silver or copper ?

can someone provide an explanation as to what is happening during the break-in process ?

can one devise a mathematical equation to quantify break-in hours, as a function of the parts in a component ?
mrtennis
Tough question.
Every component or cable i ever had was different.
Some items seem fine from day one and never actually change any.
(or at least not to notice)
Other items start out horrible, and get better in a few hours.
Some are fine, but after being used just mellow out.
No reasons I can fathom.

The worst first sound to final good I ever had was from a 7 meter Hero balanced cable pair. Took a few days.
Cable break in is imaginary. They will sound different from each other but there's no break in. Its just your ears adjusting.
After assuming for many, many years that there must be somebody somewhere who indeed had all the answers when it came to just what exactly was happening with break-in (which I believe to be a very real phenomenom - just as I believe accomodation of hearing is quite real too), in the end I gave up as it became evident by default that no such person seems to exist, or ever has...maybe some physicist locked away in a lab somewhere knows the answers, but a recognizable source within the audiophile community doesn't seem to exist and I suspect it's because these things may, in complete totality at least, simply be unknown. IME there seem to be a few patterns that recur: that copper speaker wires usually take a good week or 2 to (fully) break in, that silver IC's often take somewhere around 400hrs (or even more) and that many manufacturers don't seem to want to be caught acknowledging that it exists to their customers. Maybe in the belief that it may either confuse them or that it may possibly discourage sales...or perhaps to avoid being in (what they take to be) the embarassing position of effectively having to admit to their prospective buyers that there's an aspect of their product's behavior that they themselves cannot properly explain...

My own experiences with a FryBaby that I've had for years strongly suggests to me that, with wiring anyway, insulation is likely the biggest factor (by far) that determines break in. But, you can look at the review I wrote up for that in the Agon reviews section.
Ivan. What you said may be true in a highly resolving system but not in mine. What makes the difference in my system is speaker placement. Stands, mass loading etc. But to be fair this is what I wanted and is why I have what I have. I do agree with the silver/copper but have never noticed any break in. However I'm not really an aidiophile but more a practitioner of music.
Donjr, don't get me wrong, your comments are entirely welcome. My system (and I've not yet been in a position just yet to finally post it on Agon and let everybody know what I'm working from) is a somewhat minimal CD-only, ss rig that cost less than $5k, with a little over a grand of power conditioning thrown in (which does do a pretty good job of helping with the resolution, I must admit). But, honestly I would never expect a fellow Agoner to apologize for their rig, no matter how humble! That's one of two faux pas at this point in my hobby I try to avoid: 1) expecting someone else to apologize for what little they have and, on the flip side, 2) complaining that I don't have enough money to afford what I want ;) Either one of those thing is bad form to me. But, so many of us, including myself, have had very humble beginnings in this hobby and I see no reason to forget that. I also expect myself to extend that sense of courtesy to others who've had different experiences than my own - even if it is with the same gear as I use. If someone is talking about their direct experience then they're talking about their direct experience. That's all the authority anyone needs. What I was trying to do in my post above was talk about my own experience, in no way did I mean that to be taking pot shots at you, or your system, I apologize if I made it seem as though I were.
Roy, you've certainly been around a lot of components. What does your own experience suggest?
hi joe:

well there is the placebo affect.

what is so confusing is the difference of opinion among manufacturers.

i have found some cables do require break-in. i experienced this when i connected a pair of interconnects between a cd source and a receiver for 300 hours. then i reviewed the cable. i still had the cable in the system and three days later the stereo system sounded different. it could have been that the cable was not fully broken in.

there is only one way to be sure.

keep listening to the stereo system which has the componemt under consideration until the stereo system does not change its sound.

it's disconcerting when cable designers say that a cable doesn't break in but rather yours ears acclimate to the cable.

so the conclusion is that there is a variation in advice from manufacturers and there is no rule of thumb. i guess just wing it.

so i allow 300 hours, as a standard practice.
donjr is correct. YOU adjust to the sound of components over time; there are not radical changes to the sound of a system.

Read my "Audiophile Law #6: Thou Shalt Not Overemphasize Burn In" at Dagogo.com. I would post the link but it seems when I do it is quickly banished to some nether region. Do a search and you'll find it quickly.

The upshot of the testing was clear; components do not "burn in," no matter how much such a process is popularized. 300 hours for burn in is a complete waste of time. If the sound is not correct, change something. Active changes to the rig are FAR more productive than pining away for a change.

Ignore this advice and you will be wasting your time, pining for different sound which you could be actively pursuing but instead "waiting for it" to happen. Ridiculous! :(

I'm not interested in wasting weeks for a supposed change. I make the changes happen! I can take a new system and in one evening get it several steps closer to my ideal. I don't sit around and hope for it to change; that's absurd! It would be like hoping for a car to improve its handling.
The truth is that if you wait for a system to change you are effectively dumbing down your expectations, settling for less - the initially disappointing sound.

Wine improves with time, but not components. I can get more change in five minutes with a cable swap than the supposed 300 hour wait. I can tune a rig in 1.5 hours with a test of four sets of discrete opamps. So, why should I sit and be discontented for 300 hours? Ridiculous! :(

To date I have had no one, professional or amateur, contest my findings. I also have found no one who has replicated the test. I suggest those who doubt my little test, who ardently belive in Burn In, get double components and do the informal testing. I can tell you what will happen; you'll not be able to hear the difference. :)
Mrtennis, "so i allow 300 hours, as a standard practice."

Given the factors in play, it sounds like the wisest strategy.
I'm afraid thing are even worse than we might assume since active burn in devices and burn in tracks on some Test CDs will further improve cables that have been in the system for many years. Infuriating' ain't it?

GK
Doug, I thought that your article was excellent. Which is not say that I deny that all or even most claimed breakin phenomena are real. But I strongly second your basic theme that the only way to know for sure is to compare two identical cables or components in the same system at the same time, with one of them having been broken in, and one not.

I would further emphasize and/or add a couple of thoughts:

1)In addition to the possibility of user acclimatization, and the vagaries of aural recollection, it seems highly expectable to me that over the course of 300 hours of use sonically significant changes will occur that are unrelated to the cable or component being assessed. Aging or ongoing breakin of other system components, changes in AC line voltage and AC noise conditions, changes in RFI/EMI conditions, record wear due to repeated use, even seasonally-related changes in room temperature (temperature being a parameter that is fundamental to the physics of transistors and other semiconductors, for one thing). Again, as you indicated, the only way to rule out those kinds of possibilities is by direct comparison between identical items that are at different states of breakin.

2)I would expand your disclaimer about speakers being a special case, to which your article doesn't necessarily apply, to include all transducers (i.e., speakers, headphones, and phono cartridges), and also tubes.

As a point of interest, the most notable, extreme, and repeatable example of breakin that I have experienced is with my Stax electrostatic headphones. If they are not used for a period of a few weeks, which happens occasionally, there will be a day-and-night deterioration of their sound quality, that is instantly recognizable on most music. It can be corrected by having them play highly compressed rock music for a couple of hours, at volume levels that are higher than I would dare use if the headphones were on my head. That has been a consistent and repeatable phenomenon throughout the 25 years or so since I purchased them new.

Regards,
-- Al
Break in is real.

No way to determine reliably.

You have to let things run their course naturally.

Not good news for those looking to do quick, spot reviews of gear which is just another reason why all of those must be taken with a grain of salt.
Almarg - It isn't just your Stax headphones. A few years ago, I was forced for housing reasons to not listen to music for a year. My wife & I get to our new house and I set up my mid-fi Paradigm speakers - which haven't been played for a year -- and within an hour concluded that they sounded terrible and were done and needed to be replaced. After a few days of sporadic use, they regained their rich and pleasing - if undetailled - sound.

My conclusion is that break-in doesn't just apply to new equipment, but potentially to any gear that was left lying around for a while.
Break in is real. Trust your ears. As for manufacturer claims, I've heard from enough that it can take a couple hundred hours for a component, wire, or even just a chip to break in.

The actual changes I've heard were not so subtle, but across the board incremental (not the mathematically small type) so as to make me stop and take notice and appreciate.

It was never a big deal for me as I've witnessed this all through my being involved in this hobby.

As for my ears growing accustomed to the device at hand. Phooeey. Something that was bad to begin with, and broke in through time, still sounded bad and just had to go to the wayside.

Additionally, I've grown to accept something more dynamic, or detailed, or organic sounding that I didn't have before but that is not the same as getting used to something vs. it breaking in. One is a different presentation that would be audibly noticed by practically anyone and the other is something maturing, blooming or opening up as time passes. One is quite distinct from the other.

All the best,
Nonoise
Douglas_schroeder, "To date I have had no one, professional or amateur, contest my findings. I also have found no one who has replicated the test. I suggest those who doubt my little test, who ardently belive in Burn In, get double components and do the informal testing. I can tell you what will happen; you'll not be able to hear the difference. :)"

Well, apart from Geoffkait, I will also contest your findings.

However, before going into that, I will say that the phenomena of the listener "breaking in" to the component is just as real. I myself often notice this during parts analysis, which normally devolves into a mind numbing game of waiting. Our ears surely adapt to whatever's in front of us. I absolutely believe that explains a lot of why people live comfortably with their systems, only to have another listener come away mortified after spending time with it. As both you and Al stated, perhaps the most efficacious means toward countering this remains A/B testing.

The concept of break in parallels things like wearing in a new pair of leather shoes or blue jeans. There's a period where things undergo change; the before and after states behave differently in some sort of way(s).

A few quick anecdotes:
1) Working as a chemist / material science engineer during my 20s at a company that made high technology electronic materials, I performed many experiments on the conductor, resistor, and dielectric materials we produced for the likes of NHK, Vishay, Dale, Sfernice, Roederstein, Mallory, Panasonic, Sanyo, General Motors, etc. Proving the concept of break in to a degree orders of magnitude above irrefutable, the electrical characteristics of these materials do change in large measure during the early part of their lifetime, reaching a plateau of stable operation over what's normally/hopefully a long time prior to entering their phase of age or environmental related degradation

2) A definitive objectivist, Bud Fried, who normally spent about a third of the year in Europe, and influenced a fair amount of the work at companies like Audax, Dynaudio, Focal, Kef, and ScanSpeak from the 1960s through 1990s often recounted the research and development that went on. Practical use of a new driver would produce measurable and sometimes significant change in characteristics such as Cms, Qms/Qts, and xMax

3) A friend of mine whose business is rebuilding loudspeaker drivers often tells me about how the suspension (both surround and spider) changes. He's more of the type who would never measure this sort of thing empirically, but the spider in particular offers a visual and tactile contrast one can discern

4) Some time ago, I found a coupling capacitor shootout on the web. While there are more than enough of these out there, what made this one interesting was something due to the same sort of break in argument among the folks contributing there. Perhaps to satisfy his own curiosity, the gentleman conducting the test decided to run a PC based plotting measurement on one of the caps before (new) and after some run in to see if anything along the lines of "break in" could be detected. He wound up more than surprised at the obvious degree of difference

5) To your specific challenge, I have built several DynaKit ST70 amplifiers. After completing the new unit and confirming the typical measurements, I'll replace one I've been using for a while in that system with the new amp. Though the parts are normally (though sometimes, they're not) exactly the same, the sonic differences are always both obvious and predictable. It takes a good three to four weeks of playing most days for at least a few hours for the new amplifier to catch up to an older one. The same is true, though to a lesser extent both in terms of time and sonics when I go about evaluating parts like resistors and coupling capacitors in an already established unit.

The subject of break in tracks much like cabling. Even today I meet so many audiophiles who maintain that "wire's just wire." I begrudge them not. Likewise, should you continue to go forth feeling that same way about break-in, I understand.
No doubt real for transducers.

Less certain about the rest but not impossible.

I have the same observations with my Stax headphones.
Cable break in is non existant. Other parts do break in but cable do not.
Sorry Donjr, but I'll be happy to demonstrate cable break-in with my Audiodharma Cable Cooker any time you'd like. The difference isn't subtle.
I'm not a cable skeptic, but I trend, with Doug and Al, to being a break in skeptic (with the already noted exception of transducers).

The reason is that the experience of components improving with time is predicted by several well known psychological effects, which collectively suggest that much of the "break in effect" is mostly what people here have been calling "psychological accomodation."

1. The "mere exposure effect": people tend to prefer familiar stimuli. Thus, the more you hang around your component, the more you can, all else equal, be expected to like it.

2. The "mere ownership effect." People tend to prefer things that belong to them, even over *identical* items that do not belong to them. Thus, you can be expected to like what you own.

3. "Self-enhancement." People tend to find ways to view themselves in the most favorable light. You're not the kind of bozo who would drop a ton of coin on a marginal improvement (or step backward) for your system, are you?

4. Self interest. No fancy name needed here. Dealers and manufacturers have a strong interest in promoting the "break in effect"; it makes a good answer for the disappointed customer who might otherwise want a return, and buys time for the psychological processes noted in 1-3 to do their work. Try calling a dealer and saying the item you just bought underwhelms you, and then ask about break in. Do you think the dealer is likely to say "break in is a myth"?

This is not to say that break in is never a factor, and still less to say that people cannot properly appreciate big, and even small, differences in gear. (Bring those big Rockports or Wilsons over, and I'll likely prefer them to my more modest speakers, ownership be damned.)

It is to say that the psychological evidence suggests people would experience the "break in effect" *even if there were no objective improvements in gear over time*. So I would like to see very compelling evidence before attributing the experienced improvement to the gear rather than the listener. (Note that the experience itself cannot be such evidence; it's not the experience that is at issue, but its source.)

John
Trelja,
Nice post! I agree with your observatons/conclusions.I believe there is some level of psychological accomodation but if something sounds truly poor time won`t change that perception. Break in is real based on my experiences. Sound quality can and has evolved and changed over time towards improvement.There does seem to be a maturing/curing aspect to materials and various parts to reach an optimal performance level.
Regards,
i guess the proof would entail a simple experiment. the design would have to be rigorous.

here it is:

take two identical components. pass a signal or use a break-device, for a certain number of hours.

compare component a (unbroken-in) with component b (broken-in).

the problem is how to do it, to avoid the pitfalls of most blind tests ?=
My feeling is that there is a combination of equipment break-in, human factors and other things as well at play when changes are noticed over time.

Too complex and variable to determine anything for certain in lieu of a major research project.

My advice is to give any change some time to assess and avoid jumping to conclusions. Then things will work out over the long term regardless of what factors might be at play at any particular time.
Trelja, some interesting insights/arguments but I would not accept hand-wired/made units made over time with possible variances in wiring, solder, caps, tubes, etc. to be close to two mass-produced units. They may be made on the same template, but that hardly makes them identical. A variance in sound, nuanced but there, would be expected.

Perhaps a clarification is in order; I'm not saying that things such as wire, caps, etc. cannot change over time. I am saying that IF they change at all the human typically cannot hear it - it is beneath the human hearing threshold. IOW, it doesn't matter experientially if it is changing or not, to the ear it won't be detected. Hence, my casual comment that it is "not changing." A pair of jeans would obviously be above such a threshold.

I believe I made it clear in my article that transducers were excepted; when a physical motion of a driver is involved there obviously is a break in period.

Regarding coupling capacitors, I have not read the article/test you refer to. Are you saying, then, that the PC test of the changed cap was demonstrated to have made an audible change in the sound of a component. Or, is this an extension logically. IOW, I don't care if capactitor looks different electronically when used/broken in. I care about if the component will sound different.

In my instance of use of two different sets of cdp and integrated amp I had one set which was not burned in and one which was. I would assume the caps in the well used set would perhaps measure differently according to your illustration. However, there was no sonic change in hearing the two side by side. In the end I don't care if you show me a chart of ten things which supposedly measure differently when new vs. used; I care if the sound is changed over time/use. I have not found that to be the case.

I don't think you've made your case convincingly.

Don't lump me in with cable skeptics! I'll quote your last comment, "The subject of break in tracks much like cabling. Even today I meet so many audiophiles who maintain that "wire's just wire." I begrudge them not. Likewise, should you continue to go forth feeling that same way about break-in, I understand"

I would assert that the issue of Break In does not track much like cabling. Cabling is easily demonstrable in a good rig over a very short period of time, even a couple minutes. Break in is not. The one is a matter of swapping out parts, the other a perception based on purported changes over days/weeks/months to the same parts. That is a world of difference.

I do not see any absolute correlation between a person's acceptance/denial of cable efficacy and their perspective on Burn In. I would assume that there might be a mix of audiophiles, some who accept/reject both, and others who hold to one or the other only. In fact, the primary determinant of whether an audiophile accepts or rejects them both likely would be their hearing acuity! :)

Mrtennis, practical answers are usually straightforward. You don't need a complex test to ascertain whether you hear a difference. If the difference between used/new identical components is not discernible then you are wasting your time with Burn In. If the difference is so vanishingly small that you can't be certain it's in effect, then you are wasting your time with it.

Only if the difference would be "wow!" like a different component had been used would it be worth paying attention to. As it is, I get noticeable changes when I replace one or two power cords, or a single digital cable, or a set of ICs. When my friend and I heard the new/used comparison there was nothing different sonically. Ergo, waste of time fretting about Burn in.

The test is simple, and more people should simply do it if they are serious about getting down to the bottom of the issue. :)
I manufacture speaker cables and IC's. I cryogenicly treat them and I have to burn them in to sell them. It would be unlistenable if I didn't.
With that said, if I put a new power cord or IC etc. in my system and its bright or edgy, it's not my ears getting used to it if they break in over time and is not bright or edgy. Edgy is edgy, and there's no getting used to that.
I'm a firm believer in break in for cables, speakers and many other components that go into a system.
I know someone with a "Cable Burner" and I may borrow it and rerun the test. That would be interesting. Thanks for the idea. :)
BTW, my argument is in regards to simple utilization of a product, not use of tweaks or gagdets to enhance them; that is another can of worms. However, they could be tested quite simply as well.

I think it's time to get my hands on that Cable Burner.
FWIW I just arranged for Audiodharma Cable Cooking service for my new interconnects and digital cable. I won't have a chance to listen to the new cables before I get them back from the cable cooker and thus won't be able to compare A and B. Is that wrong? ;-)
If you have a cable or IC that has many hours on them and have been in the system for a while, for a quick test, just turn them around and see if you can hear a difference.
It might not be that big a difference on some cables. But if it's a cryoed cable or IC, there will be a difference.
One of my customers took my speaker cables out for some reason and when he put them back in his system he called me up worried he had done something wrong. One channel was quite different. I asked him if he put them back in the same way they cam out. Sure enough, the cable on the channel that was not sounding right had the cable on backwards.
My JPS-Superconductor Q provided a "rollercoaster" type of break in. Decent within the first few hours, then they became harsh, etched and nearly unlistenable for the next 20 hours. At times I thought my tweeters might be damaged. After about 25 hours everything slowly started to improve, realizing I had weathered the storm!
While we’re at it and FWIW, I may as well bring up yet one more variable to consider. And another admittedly intractable one, at that. This one often either goes unnoticed or un-discussed. But, let me start by saying I, too, believe in break in and acclimatization as well, but I most certainly welcome any attempts to experiment objectively, or even subjectively for that matter. Doug, you describe in your very commendable article that you and David were “…listening critically, focused on the songs in a hyper-attentive way”. While I do find nothing particularly wrong with this per se, it did strike me as conceivably inconclusive. Like we all have, I’m sure, I have certainly had innumerous listening sessions in just this state of mind, naturally, and, as well, a wide range of other states including those on the opposite side of the spectrum, where I may be only unconcernedly paying attention, if at all, or otherwise engaged in the music, but just plain relaxed, emotionally off guard and letting myself hear it all without any notable expectations. And I reckon, as audiophiles, we all almost certainly have done that too. But, over the years I have noticed again and again, that I tend to catch various, subtle essences of sound that had escaped my earlier attentions, perhaps many times, or even in fact for a long time, more often when my guard was down and my relative level of anticipatory anxiety seemed at or near its lowest ebb. Maybe that’s a case of the perception coming to me, rather than I trying to go to it, but in practice I find the event cannot be forced, only arrived at. But, it goes without saying that all of us live with our systems over the long term, and, I think that’s how we in turn get to know how we ourselves respond and react to them under various emotional states or moods.

But, remembering my college anatomy and physiology classes, I’m convinced the above actually has a basis in (among other things) physiology and that it can sometimes (and more often than one might think) relate in particular to the scientifically well-understood “fight-or-flight” response. That is said to happen when anticipatory feelings of uncertainty, excitement, or anxiety trigger the release of adrenaline. We usually only think of it in terms of being conscious of feeling its effects, but in truth this “feedback” system, between the brain (the feedback monitor and regulator), the endocrine system, as well as a few other bodily systems, is in truth always “on” – just perpetually in a varying degree of regulation. The adrenaline is controlled and released in our waking state literally on a moment-by-moment basis, all day, every day.

But, here’s the thing, if I understand it right and if I can manage to do the concept any justice: what I also believe is happening in this response is that the brain is also playing some additional roles in this in that, in effect and to a degree, it begins subtly suppressing, or filtering out, sensory perception in our consciousness. Mainly this is a survival mechanism, which in effect may be an evolutionary advantage to help keep us from losing the initiative (both in terms of instinctual decision making and in terms of the differing brain functions that facilitate it) of our brains being able to suddenly process a dramatically swift and near-global shift in our state of consciousness from, say (among perhaps many other examples), the state of our deep and extended (read: relaxed and open) involvement with our connection to our immediate environment or surroundings to that of the brain actively controlling and preparing virtually our entire body for possible, all-out ‘war’ – the moment of the impending “fight-or-flight” decision. One reason for the brain shifting our consciousness away from our senses somewhat is the same for that of shifting away from other bodily functions or processes, like digestion, sleep initiation or cell repair. At a time like this, these functions (and how readily you can closely examine that pretty rose blossom up close and ad mire it for its pleasing qualities) are no longer exactly a high priority. Much better for the brain to focus on things like heart- and breathing-rates, adrenaline levels and constricting the diameter of blood vessels that lie close to the surface of the skin, particularly in the extremities (“vasoconstriction”), etc.

But, perhaps another reason for the brain to curtail our sensory perception, as well as raise the adrenaline, heart-rate, breathing and all the rest, is, in fact, just what all that does to our conscious thinking, of course. All that may actually be the last thing that we wanted at the moment, most likely, but it is there to pull the rug out from under us - literally provoke us into action and jolt us out of our complacency, not necessarily into making the decision of whether or not to fight or flee, but simply into investigating for ourselves whether or not either would be warranted. You see, in all of this the brain itself is simply blind. Its role is just that of a sensor and a simple, ‘stoopid’, if you will, alarm bell that is going off all the time and we are continually placed in the position of determining whether the warning it’s giving us warranted or not. Whenever we are involved with the act of that determination we are literally satisfying our instinct for survival. It does indeed alert us to real dangers, we just have to possibly put up with a lot of false alarms. And it’s hardwired into us. It will work even when we’ve just woken up, or have just eaten a big meal, or are getting ready for bed or are having a bad day…or are at the supermarket, or our children’s little league…or, even when evaluating a hifi. Or, anymore, it would seem. What happened to all our ancestors who weren’t there the day they handed out physiological feedback systems like this one, or those that would rather have gone on smelling the roses despite the rising internal chaos?? They must have made for fatter Saber Tooth Tigers. It’s just something that we simply picked up early and often in our evolutionary history and, in fact, have never lost.

Such a phenomenon can be said to influence auditory perception. Sometimes this discussion falls under the realm of psychoacoustics, but I myself understand that angle less well. The effects of the fight-or-flight response may actually conspire to hit audiophiles at precisely the wrong moment – at the very moment we may feel we have indeed reached “the moment of truth” following some manner of endeavor or preparation. Ironically it’s our own level of passion that we bring with us into the equation (and our perceived struggles, labor and frustrations toward an anticipated goal) that can end up betraying us – raising our excitement level and anticipatory anxiety at just the moment in which, likely as not, more passive, unconcerned attention might have served us better. The result?? We can, and sometimes do, miss things – sometimes even what we might, upon perceiving it subsequently after something closer to homeostasis has returned, regard as more or less of a ‘revelation’. The fight or flight response can even be triggered to a degree by a memory. And then there is genetics. Through variation, we don’t all have the same hair color and we don’t all have exactly the same level of susceptibility to this response to a given stimulus. We may *think* we have an idea of how susceptible we are, but we cannot know. But, we are all human and we all have this trait to one degree or another. No shame in it, of course. It appears to simply be how evolution has wired us. I do not see in it necessarily any sort of ‘psychological failing’ on the part of an observer. I suppose, somebody somewhere could wish to attempt to explain it in those terms, but not me.

So, to me it’s not so much a ‘rush to judgment’ on the part of you and David that you didn’t hear a difference (even if you might have expected to hear one), so much as I think it may just be a matter of recognizing the necessity of giving mother-nature her due in this. But, overall, I expect this is how most audiophiles come to terms with break in (if real) – intermittently, over the long haul and under a variety of different moods or states. I will say, that what has been somewhat helpful for me is to take the occasion now and again to try to take a few moments and attempt to relax first somewhat, before listening, rather than as a result of listening. That and to give myself an adequate block of time to allow for as much of an unhurried listening stint as can be managed – and the deliberate decision to not draw any hard and fast conclusions about my perceptions until I’ve logged a few sessions, not back to back, but separated by at least a few days. But, if, or how, you may end up wanting to consider any of this (if at all) for factoring into any future experiments you may be considering, I will willingly concede those designs to you. I, too, applaud your efforts and wish you continued success. Sorry for the stoopid-long post, everybody. Cheers!

John
Ivan, nice post on a useful subject. People may often fail to consider how the most important component of all, themselves, works when assessing cause and effect of things.

The snake oil industry understands this well. Knowing one's self first is paramount to most everything.
John, we were listening to a stereo attentively, not getting chased by a Rhino. I think you are more than a bit off with your analysis. :(

The systems I build are capable of revealing instantly changes such as one digital cable being replaced, or one pair of interconnects, or a set of Opamps being rotated in or out of the DAC. Proponents of Burn In suggest it is a huge, profound, etc. difference. Perhaps equatable to a cable change? Hmmm? Or far more, according to them.

So, exactly where did that supposedly huge change go? Was my heart palpitating, my blood pressure sky high such that my senses failed me? How ridiculous! IF there was a difference it would have been easily heard. The fact that it wasn't means one thing obviously - playing gear hour after hour in the hopes of improvement does nothing special to advance a system.
Mapman - Is it just me or did you just completely misconstrue Ivan's
comments to fit your "placebo effect explains it all away"
agenda. :-)

"Because it's what I choose to believe." - Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in
the movie, Prometheus
When I've heard a change due to break in, not swapping, it wasn't subtle and it wasn't huge. This was not black and white, big or small, dramatic or ordinary.

My system can easily discern a cable change, a CD mat insertion, a change of footers, IC or SP or PC swap, a tube swap (when I used tubes). Some of those changes were big, some small, but they all had one thing in common. One area in particular stood out at first, only to reveal more once the initial impact wore off.

It took different manner of music to bring out the more subtle improvements as one type of music, let alone one song, or one part played over and over, can, in no way, help to ascertain the benefits. Obviously, one song or a part of it, can not convey the magnitude of improvement since that particular piece only covers a mere, few facets of the overall performance that can manifest itself on ones system. It will hit big time at first, then slowly reveal more of itself over time and with different music.

The changes I've heard during break in usually take me by surprise. I'm not expecting it, it just happens. My brain is in its usual auto mode when I hear the difference. It's when I'm listening for listenings sake. Nothing scientific here. This is with recordings I'm very familiar with. It's like I'm being tapped on the shoulder (ear). Subtle, yes, but noticeable.

That's when I focus my attention. That's when I break out other familiar recordings to see what else parallels what I'm hearing, or compliments with other areas of improvement. This is usually followed by one or two more levels of improvement, over time, and then no more.

It's something I've come to expect but not anticipate. One allows the natural event, the other forces an outcome that can delude. I think that is why double blind tests aren't valid due to the very nature of their being: they force anticipation, instead of allowing something natural, which can seriously skewer a test subjects ability to judge. With their sanity, prestige, and reputation on line, all manner of perception can be tainted.

The same can be said for the well intentioned performing their own DB tests. Being of same mind, or at the very least, friendly and of a peer, they can negatively affect the results due to the very nature of their clique.

All the best,
Nonoise
"Mapman - Is it just me or did you just completely misconstrue Ivan's
comments to fit your "placebo effect explains it all away"
agenda. :-)"

Read what I said. I did not say any single thing explains anything away. I said that there can be many factors including an individuals variable perceptions, which is one often overlooked.

Geof, I am not a vendor. You are. I have no vested interest in influencing people one way or another. Most vendors do and I would not exclude you.
Recently read this as it applies to speaker drivers.

http://www.gr-research.com/myths.htm

Seems to make sense for moving parts. Certainly heard dramatic effects after just transporting speakers and letting them settle for just an hour.

Can't confirm anything but also read several claims that some capacitors can take 100 hours to "burn in" while others may take just a few minutes.
Mapman wrote,

""Mapman - Is it just me or did you just completely misconstrue Ivan's
comments to fit your "placebo effect explains it all away" comment?"" (Geoff's comment)

"Read what I said. I did not say any single thing explains anything away. I said that there can be many factors including an individuals variable perceptions, which is one often overlooked."

Geez, sorry, I must have been reacting to your snake oil industry comment. :-)

"geoff, I am not a vendor. You are. I have no vested interest in influencing people one way or another. Most vendors do and I would not exclude you."

I suspect everyone here on this forum wishes to influence people, why else would we take part in these discussions, and sometimes argue so strenuously? So, of course you have a vested interest in influencing people. And that is why you post so frequently on controversial topics, one assumes.
09-06-12: Nonoise
The changes I've heard during break in usually take me by surprise. I'm not expecting it, it just happens. My brain is in its usual auto mode when I hear the difference. It's when I'm listening for listenings sake. Nothing scientific here. This is with recordings I'm very familiar with. It's like I'm being tapped on the shoulder (ear). Subtle, yes, but noticeable.

That's when I focus my attention. That's when I break out other familiar recordings to see what else parallels what I'm hearing, or compliments with other areas of improvement. This is usually followed by one or two more levels of improvement, over time, and then no more.

It's something I've come to expect but not anticipate.
But how do you know that you are not, on a significant fraction of those occasions, attributing the change to the wrong variable? And that the change is not actually due to one of the several different kinds of extraneous variables I listed in my earlier post in this thread, or to tube aging, or to the kinds of variables you and others have been discussing in this thread, such as changes in humidity, differences in the power levels of AM radio transmissions during the day vs. the evening, changes in power quality, etc.

Not to mention, as indicated by me and others above, some degree of change in the breakin status of transducers that can occur and re-occur periodically, depending on how frequently they are used and also perhaps on what they are used to play.

And doesn't it also stand to reason that once your attention has focused on a perceived change, and you then "break out other familiar recordings to see what else parallels what I'm hearing, or compliments with other areas of improvement," that in doing so there is an increased likelihood that you will perceive things that may have been present in those recordings all along, but you were not previously as conscious of?

I'm certainly not saying that ALL perceptions of breakin-related changes of cables or electronic components are being attributed to the wrong thing. But my point is that without a methodology that includes the kind of disciplined comparison Doug has described, it is all too easy for that to happen. Ultimately resulting in belief systems evolving that are self-reinforcing as well as misleading.

Best regards,
-- Al
Ivan wrote,

"But, here’s the thing, if I understand it right and if I can manage to do
the concept any justice: what I also believe is happening in this response is
that the brain is also playing some additional roles in this in that, in effect
and to a degree, it begins subtly suppressing, or filtering out, sensory
perception in our consciousness. Mainly this is a survival mechanism,
which in effect may be an evolutionary advantage to help keep us from
losing the initiative (both in terms of instinctual decision making and in
terms of the differing brain functions that facilitate it) of our brains being
able to suddenly process a dramatically swift and near-global shift in our
state of consciousness from, say (among perhaps many other examples),
the state of our deep and extended (read: relaxed and open) involvement
with our connection to our immediate environment or surroundings to that
of the brain actively controlling and preparing virtually our entire body for
possible, all-out ‘war’ – the moment of the impending “fight-or-flight”
decision."

Exactly! And because the phenomenon - the mind picking up on external
stimulii like a radio receiver - is largely subconscious and automatic we
cannot control it consciously.
"So, of course you have a vested interest in influencing people."

Geoff, you as a vendor make money when you influence people regarding audio. I am not a vendor and do not. That is the difference. Pretty cut and dry. No mysticism there!

Some might argue the human factor is the only one that can account for results perceived that others would attribute to snake oil.

BTW I am an active practitioner of tai chi and other martial arts as well as yoga, meditation, and other rituals and practices that are not well understood by many but have proven effective over the years. Some might consider these, whether quantum in nature or not, snake oil as well. Some perhaps even placebos. I understand enough about them and see enough results to believe these things in particular work.
Mapman wrote,

"BTW I am an active practitioner of tai chi and other martial arts as well as yoga, meditation, and other rituals and practices that are not well understood by many but have proven effective over the years. Some might consider these, whether quantum in nature or not, snake oil as well. Some perhaps even placebos. I understand enough about them and see enough results to believe these things in particular work."

Ah, so you reserve your snake oil and placebo admonitions for things that you haven't any experience with, like fancy fuses and controversial or implausible tweaks. :-)

"Other rituals and practices"? Hmmmm, sounds interesting. Care to elucidate? Share, share.

GK
Thank you for your input, Charles1dad, Ivan_Nosnibor, and Nonoise. Obviously, we're of the same mind.

Mapman, I hope you'd be willing to share a soft drink at my expense at a high-end audio show in either NYC or DC next year.

Douglas_schroeder, "I would not accept hand-wired/made units made over time with possible variances in wiring, solder, caps, tubes, etc. to be close to two mass-produced units."

Douglas_schroeder, "IOW, I don't care if capactitor looks different electronically when used/broken in. I care about if the component will sound different."

Beyond overlooking my point that given the same parts, two DynaKits always converge sonically after break-in, those statements appear contradictory.

At any rate, the implication that a component employing capacitors that measure differently will not sound different flies in the face of the experience of many an audiophile, regardless of whether they believe in break-in. Even cable skeptics I talk with will often concede that if electrical properties of two cables can be differentiated, potential sonic differences could exist, even if put forth with the caveat, "the design one of the cables must be fundamentally flawed."

Regarding your question, my recollection is that the capacitor was not listened to prior to run-in, and the author's opinions on the sonics of the caps in the test followed whatever routine he used. That would fall in line with most of the capacitor write-ups I've found over the years.

Douglas_schroeder, "Don't lump me in with cable skeptics!"

Douglas_schroeder, "I'm not saying that things such as wire, caps, etc. cannot change over time. I am saying that IF they change at all the human typically cannot hear it - it is beneath the human hearing threshold."

Hopefully, you do realize that over the past three decades, the cable skeptics have parroted those very same words.
Geof,

Nothing all that unique or out there really.

Enduring, no doubt:

Judaism

I am a big believer in spirituality and how that affects how one interacts with the world.

Music and how it affects me is just one form of that interaction.

Maybe there is a quantum temple bell in my future.....
BTW, I'm sitting watching the Orioles pound the Yankees.

Can anybody explain that one to me?
I'm sure I'm wrong. I realize now that my feelings towards cable break in stem from my unresolving systems. Ive never enjoyed revealing gear because I don't like to fiddle around that much with gear. I'm more into enjoying music than constantly reworking my system. I'm sure I would notice break in of cables in some circumstances but not with Harbeths and a Rogue Cronus Magnum. I'm looking into solid state and if I go that route maybe I can realize what you're all referring to.
Trelja, nice conversation/argumentation; this is the way it can be on audio forums. :)

You seemed to be indicating there may be variances between hand built units. If there was zero variance, i.e. all two units were built at the same time with doubles of parts, then my point falls to the ground. It seemed, however, that you were referring to units built over a period of time, so I made my point.

I have been consistent all along, and I believe my comments about whether a cap shows signal change is also consistent. My point is that even if it does cause sonic change, 1. Does it pass the threshold of hearing, and 2. Does it show noticeably different sound when compared side by side to a new unit?

My points are quite straightforward, and I believe the only way to resolve the issue is not through logic and argumentation, but by simple comparison of units - which is why I did so. I wanted the answer, not opinion. :)

Regarding your last comment on cabling; Well, there you go. You think I sound like a skeptic, and I think you sound like a subjectivist. :)

The cable skeptic says, "There is no difference between the sound of an assortment of cables." Well, I say there is, and I am not depending upon data to know it.

I'm saying, "There is no demonstrable difference (i.e. audible) between IDENTICAL UNITS over time. You say the data exists, but I have conducted the test and didn't hear it.

The two propositions are not even remotely close. And you will note that the prototypical cable skepetic will not conduct even the most simple listening test. Why? Because they know! I think it's obvious I am willing to conduct the actual listening test.

I actually think people - and now I'm not directing this to you Trelja, but the community - are afraid to suggest that their perceptions can be unreliable over time. It's absurd to think that we have such perfect sonic recall that we can declare definitively that something we heard five weeks ago is changed from what we heard today, even though heard with the same set of gear, as if our perceptions are impervious to change! :(

It was earlier suggested by John that perhaps I was being influenced by anxiety or another psychological effect. Well,what about all those who are hopping in and out of the listening seat? Maybe their blood pressure is lower any given day? Maybe they didn't fight with the spouse and feel less tension, etc. Maybe they are less tired... You want to talk about ANXIETY - how about the guy who really isn't super excited about the sound of his new $XXXX toy, but is desperately hoping 300 hours of Burn In transform it! Can you say heart palpatation as he settles into the chair? Tee hee hee, man, I could run with this argument, but I think I've made my point.

Sorry, it's too simplistic to declare that Burn In is 'real' when it comes to temporally stretched out casual observations. :)
I would love to have someone do a a/b test between factory cables and burned in cables with me. I'm dying to hear this change in the presence of someone who's experienced it. I will not deny it but I'm sure its system dependant.
Mapman, I couldn't stop laughing at that one.
Aren't the Yankees damned anyway?
Thanks.

Al, I understand the other variables you mention but if the ones you list were the ones responsible, then the improvement wouldn't stick around as long as it has. The improvement would come and go depending on time, weather and what have you. What I hear is constant. Consistent.

As for my anticipating in other recordings what I hear in the first one that I hear an improvement in, it has never been of the same amount or degree due to the different quality levels of the recording and pressing. I'll even go to the trouble of bearing through some mediocre recordings to see if they benefit from the burn in improvement and most of the time, they don't. They're still bad.

It takes a really good recording that I'm familiar with and others of that ilk when it comes to evaluating and appreciating the improvements.

For the life of me, in all the years I've been listening, I can't understand why some people can't hear what I hear while others do. I'm glad I do and feel sorry for those who don't (please understand that I'm not condescending).

As for a methodology that would, or could, ascertain break in or burn in of a cap, wire, chip, etc. I don't see how it could be reliably done. Everyone would have to be present when it happens. And when would it happen? And would everyone have the hearing acuity to discern it? Would the system be of a revealing enough nature to demonstrate it? It wouldn't be repeatable as once it's burnt in, it wouldn't happen again. Everyone would have to be imminently familiar with all the recordings as one would not suffice. It would be too onerous a task.

I feel it would have to be in a relaxed setting that one is intimately familiar with, with recordings that one is intimately familiar with, with no time constraints, and no anticipation involved. The very nature of burn in would dictate this approach.

As for validity, I hate to sound like a politician, but trust me.

As for veracity, see above :-)

All the best,
Nonoise
Geoff, nope, not the "radio receiver" that you say is out of your control, but that last nth degree of soundstage dimensionality on a revealing system??...just possibly might be missed the first time around...who knows.

Doug, my point, and it's really more of a question for me than anything else, was: what if this phenomenon influences us at indeed a very low level and exists as a sort of 'noise floor' for our conscious state...something we are all so familiar with in our lives that we no longer notice its functioning yet, just possibly on occasion, we have been influenced by it even without any direct awareness that we were...no rhinos involved at this level, of course. I may indeed be off base, though, at best it's no more than my own supposition, really. No attempt to impune your results or efforts, btw. By that I mean that I was directing my comments at you, but not directing them at you, *personally*, (there is a difference).

All that aside and for the record, I DO find the results of your experiment intriguing exactly because they do strike me as counterintuitive. Even more so because so many different components were under test at once - I would've guessed an additive effect, if anything. Both the results and your conclusions do seem to go against my own experience (as I currently accept it, anyway). Either something is inconclusive or wrongly done with the test, or a huge (well, basic, maybe) tenant of audio should be, if not overturned, then completely re-examined(!). Have you done any sort of follow up experiment at all? I'd be curious.

Nonoise, your post perfectly sums it up for me and my own subjective experience with it all has so far mirrored every word of it!
Douglas_schroeder, I also appreciate the discussion, thank you. I believe in such a small world, this represents the route toward best sharing the hobby.

Though I may reference your comments directly (and to others in other threads), my true intent speaks to a much wider audience. For one whose minds have already decided, I do not hold on to false hope. However, I understand that many read the forums. The aim is to not only ensure that the other side's opinions do not solely exist so that they see no counterpoint, but to spur their own curiosity and potential toward experimentation and keeping an open enough mind to try new things.

Douglas_schroder, "I believe the only way to resolve the issue is not through logic and argumentation, but by simple comparison of units."

We agree completely on that point. In fact, that's EXACTLY where I'm coming from.

The DynaKits I've built are sometimes at the same time, from the same parts bins. My experience is that one obviously will get broken in first, sound the way it should, and the sound of the second will eventually catch up once it goes through the same process.

Just a quick diversion back to objectivism. The trend through my lifetime in the realm of high-end audio has moved away from science and engineering, and toward black magic. Because of the way this business works, there's no longer enough money from sales to attract research dollars from the big companies as in the past. Over time, those who remain to manufacture this gear have less of a scientific / engineering / mathematical background than at any point in the past century, it increasingly became a cottage industry. Not to go too far down this road, but we live in a field populated by folks who have gone as far as algebra yet we require calculus in order to move to the next level. By that, I mean improvements on the level such as SACD over CD.

Douglas_schroeder, "You think I sound like a skeptic, and I think you sound like a subjectivist. :)"

Absolutely! I do admit to that willingly. My past twenty five years lie in science and engineering, so you would think I must be an objectivist, and to a large measure I am. I live in the world of mathematics, and seek out the explanation for things we hear. I don't listen to square waves, but I do know that music is a far more (orders of magnitude, actually) complex phenomena than a sine or square wave, and so the static algebraic devices that simply measure those artifacts are incapable of painting the truer picture our ears provide us with. The Scientific Method revolves around observing what makes a difference in the truest sense of the word, and right now, regardless of whether one thinks my statement sounds silly, our ears, hearts, and minds remain the best measurement devices available. As my good friend, The Doctor (Mechans) likes to say, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating." In other words, the sole aim of all of this is enjoyment of the music.

Finally, for those who need to see an example of capacitor break-in, please take a look at http://sozoamplification.com/break_in.html The article I've previously mentioned showed a much more involved and surprising trace than this via whatever computer program the author employed, but I hope that some will consider that this whole break-in thing might just involve something more than pixie dust.