Burn-in and Equipmemt Value

A lot of people strongly believe that burn-in results in better sound quality and some will even pay more for cables that have the burn-in done by the manufacturer. If burn-in is real, then why isn't used equipment worth more than it is? At a minimum, shouldn't the demo equipment from a respected retailer be worth more when manufacturer warranties are still in play and the equipment is essentially new?

As a side question, why is it that any perceived change in a system where burn-in is credited it is assumed that the burn-in was on the newest piece of equipment? Some users report changes from burn-in hundreds and thousands of hours down the road.

I understand break-in on speakers and tube amplifiers, but struggle greatly with things like cables and digital sources.
Mceljo, I for one have zero issue with buying used gear -- period!!! In fact, I prefer it for the reasons you just mentioned.

Case in point: ARC says that most of its gear requires 600 hours of burn in. Who the heck wants to wait 600 hours!!! So when I bought my Ref 5 with 1000+ hours on it, I was quite happy. Ditto with my PH-8 (ARC refurb with 750+ hours) Ref 150 (pre-owned with 1050+ hours) and my Ref CD-8 (??).

I mentioned in another post that my CD-8 is about 5 years old now. ARC says that it's pretty maintenance free. Just use a camel hair photo lens brush to kick the dust off the lens in the transport.

I think a fair point is that good quality equipment like ARC (and many other fine brands) just doesn't age like cars did in the 50s and 60s -- 60,000 miles and you had one old car. :)

Hey, who ever heard that an I/C or speaker cable ever wore out???? ;-')
Audiophiles have more myths pertaining to audio. Then Greek mythology has legends and hero's.
That's interesting. Why do you believe that it is a factor with tube amplifiers and speakers, but not cables and digital sources?
Hi Mceljo

IMO when something is burned in it is being used and like cars as soon as a piece of audio equipment is used it goes down in price dramatically. That and you never know truly how babied or abused the gear was by the previous owner. I guess I never questioned it because it seemed like the law of the land.

You do pose some interesting questions though with your post.
THe premise of the op has a flaw. The problem is the fact only a small percentage of people care about burn-in as a major issue.
Even though a lot more folks think burn-in exists, they are not very concerned about it.
So it never makes it as a big deal in buying considerations... (except for perhaps a very few people.)
So the numbers of individuals are just not big enough in the overall scheme of things to make 'used' a better proposition.
Most of the time the main consideration in buying 'used' is just to get something cheaper. And 'cheaper' is the operative word. The general attitude is half price is the point for most used stuff. Only particular 'famous' equipment can get more.. And plenty of older used is well below half price.
Some of my 'happiest' used purchases were around 25%/30% of list. And I would never have bought them at 60%.. So....

But then for a few items I really wanted, and were rare I did pay over 60% of new.. So it all depends on the market, what one wants, availability...
Burn-in is free. It doesn't cost anything. Why would anyone pay more for something they can do for free?

If the "only" way to break-in a component was to pay to have it done, then maybe it's worth more, but it isn't.

Some buyers might even look at it as being more used and want to pay less for it...
Burn-in is free, bit does take time. A long burn-in takes some effort.

Speakers are mechanical with physical movement so it makes perfect sense that things can change with use. I am not sure how much of what I hear with my tube amp is just warm up vs. actual break-in, but it seems that something has changed. I don't believe that solid state really benefits from warm up or break-in and this goes for cables as well.

People pay for cable burn-in so it seems that those same people might pay more for a demo amplifier or speaker. The used market come with more risk of abuse so I can understand paying less.

Why is it that burn-in is generally assumed to always result in a positive change? Why can't speaker cables wear out?
Mceljo .... You write, "I am not sure how much of what I hear with my tube amp is just warm up vs. actual break-in, but it seems that something has changed. I don't believe that solid state really benefits from warm up or break-in and this goes for cables as well."

As far as tube amps are concerned, I can speak with some experience. ARC states that its gear requires "break-in" to sound its best. IME, that is a fair statement. It is also my experience that "warm-up" is also real, between 30 and 60 mins for my rig to loosen up.

I surmise that many transistor heads would maintain that most SS amps need time to break-in and time to loosen up too. At least I recall the same being posted elsewhere on the Forum.

You ask "[w]hy is it that burn-in is generally assumed to always result in positive change?" We are fortunate to have many technical A'gon members who contribute to the Forum. I'll let them provide the technical reasons why burn-in is a fact of life for most brand-new equipment.

From a non-technical perspective, I recall that certain electrical components, like power supply caps, electrolytic caps and so forth, do take time to settle in. Why?? I don't really know. It may have something to do with molecular/chemical changes that occur with the di-electric used in the caps. Kijanki and Gary (Hifigeek).... heeelllp!

Finally, you ask why can't speaker cables wear out?? Haven't a clue. Never heard anyone complain that their speaker cables wore out. Same with power cords. I've been using the same cables and cords for years. I guess if I constantly stepped on the wires, something could give. But so far, so good.

Hey ... you and I own tube amps. Do I have to tell you what does wear-out?? Friggin' power tubes. Da*n expensive.

Cheers. ;-')
I've yet to see evidence on just how electricity "moves' across any surface be it a circuit trace or cable so in my mind to think that it's a given and always follows the same path unless channeled or directed, doesn't make sense (this is not to say that the Mceljo suggested that).

Having said that, this energy is burning a path down that circuit trace, capacitor or wire and it takes time to do it so that it can be done as efficiently as possible since that is the nature of energy: it waits for no one but it can be directed.

Having said that, burn in should be viewed as a normal event and not given much consideration. Now onto my second glass of Pinot.

All the best,
A cable can have oxidation/tarnishing issues and mechanical joints can weaken from repeated handling, but what exactly in a cable can wear out?
Audiophiles Have more myths then Greek Mythology has hero's & Gods.
"Why is it that burn-in is generally assumed to always result in a positive change?"

The designer will judge the finished, or pre production product, only after its broken in. So if you want to get best results, at least from the maker's perspective, you need to listen to a unit that is broken in because that's how they listen to gear during the design process.
IIRC, a leading cartridge guru says that a few hours is sufficient for mechanical "break-in" of a cartridge. The next 50 -100 hours is necessary for the cartridge's guts to be bent into the shape required by poor installation, which accounts for the evolution in sound.
there are three ways to "break-n" a component. One way is a cd, like the PAD burn-in disc, which emits random frequencies in a background of white noise.

Another is a burn in devise, like the audio harma, or the hegeman.

the last approach is to play a cd for hundreds of hours.

i believe that an experienced listener can hear the difference between one method an another.

it is therefor important to specify the manner of break-in.
MrTennis has opened a big can of worms here. If one can hear a difference in how stuff is broken in.. then some good used equipment may sound terrible due to the previous owners type of music they play.
Say you buy a pair of speakers to play Jazz on.. and all the prior owner played was opera. maybe they will have the wrong break in for YOUR kind of music. Are they then ruined.
Curious minds want to know?
(tongue in cheek)
I have NEVER, EVER heard any hifi product which I initially hated morph into something I like. I do not drink the "burn-in" kool-aid.
I have to agree with Elizabeth. I can't imagine how you can change the sound of a component by what you play through it when breaking it in. I'll keep an open mind, but someone is going to have to do a really good job explaining why that would be, and I would have to hear it for myself. I think its more likely that you can break a component in faster with something like white noise, as opposed to just music. Faster break in may give the illusion of "better or different" break in.

"11-23-13: Lindisfarne
I have NEVER, EVER heard any hifi product which I initially hated morph into something I like. I do not drink the "burn-in" kool-aid."

I believe you, but I think you may be missing the point. I think a lot of people have issues with topics like break in because they don't put things into perspective. Generally speaking, the changes resulting from break in can vary on a case by case basis, but are typically not huge. I don't believe anyone is suggesting that a component is going to morph into anything. But in most cases, small to moderate changes can be heard. There's no guarantee or formula to be applied.

Another factor to consider is how much experience you have. I asked the same questions about break in myself. I wasn't at all sure if I could hear any difference. Then one time I clearly heard it. After that, it was easy. The first time you hear it, I think, is when you have the break through. It was the same with cables. If you hear the difference once, it becomes much easier.
Also, the worst evil downside of 'breakin' is getting shafted by a dealer or someone, claiming you have to wait and break it in more.. Like way past the point you can return it..
Seems like trickery. Using an excuse to avoid a return.
On the first hand though.. I did have a seven meter Kimber Hero interconnect (From preamp to amp) which sounded like crap when first plugged in. I was ready to return it. But, after a day it was way better. Sooo... Some stuff does change from my experience.
Then My Sennheiser HD800 sounded fine. But with a used Rudistor RPX33mk2 headamp it was not great.(too much treble) So I shelved the Rudistor as not good.(blaming the Rudistor) But a year later I took out the Rudistor and the HD800 with it sounded wonderful. So the Sennheiser HD800s took a LONG TIME to really settle down.
Now, the HD800 and Rudistor make a really good combination.

And so it goes.
I cannot say about cables, but when my Qol was "breaking in", there was a single moment when the sound changed and improved. It was subtile, but very real. I also noted improvements in my system when I added Vibrapods under the components, and I added them one component at a time. The point is to try to make everything perform at its best in your environment and system, and the fun is in trying to do the free or cheap things to get better sound.
I think what Mrtennis was saying is that an experienced listener can tell the difference between a cd playing music and one playing white noise!

I would also love to know more about being able to tell a difference in how equipment was broken in...

My personal opinion is that any change from break-in on the vast majority of equipment is more about getting used to a change in the way something sounds than it getting better with time. When I got my tube amplifier, some music was immediately superior and others didn't sound right because I was so used to hearing it a certain way previously and simply sounding different was enough to get a negative response. Now I am enjoying pretty much everything.
"Burns In" Time is the Time Frame from the owner to align his ears to his latest Investment. To be more precise, the time he needs to deny that he does not like it...
How can a component have an "optimum operating temperature" and be rated at that temperature and not experience a "burn in" of sorts? No one here doubts the notion about "warm up" and when a system sounds its best.

The signal is energy that passes along or through a wire or component and it's in the nature of the beast that it warms up accordingly, albeit incrementally (unless it's a tube), but the effect is there.

So the wire or component does wear in due to the constant off/on nature. It would follow that warm up time would decrease a bit and the wire or components' properties would change ever so slightly. Is it that far fetched to say that with a highly resolving system one can hear it? I think it's totally normal and expected and this debate is nothing more than another exercise.

All the best,
We need more tales of folks having TWO of something. So they can break in one. and save the other to compare first play vs broken in play.
Though this could easliy be tested with sets of cables..
If someone bought two identical sets.. Break in one. then have a gang over to compare broke in vs new.
But as long as the peanut gallery has an expected outcome placebo is nearly impossible to separate. I would prefer to swap them out without the owner knowing and then see if there was any notice or reaction.
Take speaker cables for example. One would say the current flowing in them does something to them that is attributed to "break-in" so it seems reasonable that this same effect would continue to have the effect and at some point become a degradation of the materials involved.

How long do vibration isolation devices take to break in?