"Burn in" Are you serious?

Tell me. How are you able to compare the "burned in" state to the original? Or is it simply a matter of acclimation nurtured by wishful thinking?
the next time you buy equipment (particurlarly an amp) from a dealer (which may be a while given the deals floating around here), open up the box, take out your new gear, plug it in and compare it right then and there to the dealer's demo. sometimes the differneces are subtle, other times they are not. it's hard to suggest what to listen for, as different components burn in differently. it's probably a safe bet to suggest that you listen for a less harsh, more fluid sound. do it right then and there (warm your new peice up if you think it necessary). otherwise, that spectre of acclimation may well affect your judgment. cheers.
Dear Waldhorner: you're not serious are you ? / of course not / you're Waldhorner. I'm trying to get my state disability compensation for my hearing loss;but I still have enough left to hear break in.I got a used power cord naturally all broken in.I plugged it into the system.The "ride"-post office cross country-jangles things up.It took about 15/20 min. for the power chord to shine. Just my observation; new speaker cables and ics take about 6 days of 24 hrs before the bass developes .Waiting for the rose bud to open.
Waldhorner's thread is somewhat extreme, but there is a measure of truth within. The ear/brain can deliver the ultimate decision, but it's a system that is easily fooled. My recommendation is accept this as a "fact" and go on about listening to the music. Stop worrying, stop making sense.
Actually, I had a chance to do a side by side comparison a couple of years ago. I had gotten two identical lengths of brand new Kimber 4TC speaker wire. I was going to bi-wire my speakers. I wanted to make sure the wire sounded all the same so I listened to each run in mono, single wired. No differences. Then I listened in stereo, single wired. Again no differnece between pairs. Well, I was going away for vacation for 10 days and decided to put one pair on my old Duo-Tech cable enhancer. The other pair was left connected to the speakers. I came back, listened to the system for a while and then changed out the "green" 4TC for the "aged" 4TC. Oh my...what a difference! Immediate and obvious improvements in smoothness, dynamics and soundstage. I went back and forth several times to make sure and even bi-wired in mono. Yep, the differences were still there and still obvious. This was one of the most dramatic demonstrations of "burn in" I've encountered.
To conduct an experiment with new -vs- broken in on the cheap... Pick up two sets of Radio Shack Gold IC's. They are are sold in sets of two for under $15.00 at my local RS (mine were different primary colors). Break in one set and then compare them to the other. If you have SS equipment I would say that the sound that they have before break in is "tuby" (not good tuby, but tuby nonetheless). I once used then to patch our mini system into the main rig and found that in the beginning they sounded like my old tube equipment (like the equipment used to sound when I had replaced "all" of the tubes at once with new ones). Tubes used to be inexpensive and I used to replace then all at once (did the same with my guitar amps as well). The "tube" sound wears off as they break in (quickly in the first 12 to 20 hours from my experience). I even switched to the unused pair at one point just to hear this sound again (kind of liked the illusion).
Check out the thread...burn in Vs. getting used to a sound.
I once had a 2 meter pair of Nordost SPM interconnects cut in two and reterminated by Nordost into two 1 meter pairs. One pair sounded about the same as before, but the second pair needed almost a month of constant playing before they sounded like the other pair (more harsh at first). I concluded burn-in of cables may be from one end to the other, so one half was still burned in, the other like new.
Well Waldhoerner if you don't have a "broken in" unit to compare to the new and you don't have an A pair and B pair and a cable enhancer like 1953 and you are at the sole discretion of your ears and you have a decent aural memory, assuming you have heard a "broken in" unit it might go something like Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun's decision on pornography back in the early 70's, "I can't describe it I just know it when I see it". Well that could be paraphrased to your question something like "I don't know if it's "burned in" yet but will when I hear it". Most of these things are gradual improvements that just become evident over extended listening. Sometimes not at all. Or maybe they do but you really don't notice the change until you can compare it with a new identical item. I have done that and noticed differences at that point. The wishful thinking comes into play when you hope that the amount you spent on the item was worth purchasing it in the first place!
I have taken some flack for my view on burn in, but here is MHO. I do believe in burn in... I do I do I do. I agree with most of what has been said above, which is in line with my experiences. I do not believe that something which sounds absolutely dreadful out of the box will be "transformed" into something wonderful by something like 100 hours of use. You may go from dreadful to marginally acceptable, and someone may have experienced something different, but I do not believe this would be the average, everyday experience.
Hi Waldhorner; When I get a new IC, cables, component etc., I make notes about the music quality/character of my system with the new piece right away. Then a few days to a couple of weeks later I critically listen and make notes again, and of course compare the two. I suppose you could argue that you've just gotten used to the new sound in two weeks, but the questions to ask are: (1) is there any difference?, (2) do I like it? (3) is it fatiguing? etc. If you use music that you're intimately framiliar with you'll know. Cheers. Craig
Whether or not "burn in" is subjectively valid is for the individual to decide for him/her-self. I've never seen any objective proof for this claim and I would find it difficult (but not impossible) to believe that any respondent here has done sufficiently rigorous testing to validate such a claim. And I believe that anyone who could reliably distinguish between virgin wire and "burned-in" wire (e.g.), and prove it, could make a small fortune with such wagers. I know that I'd place a bet. And while they're establishing that they could also demonstrate that wire has unique electron flow characteristics for each direction. This type of thinking reminds me of how I felt about my first car when it was just washed and waxed. It always seemed to run better when it looked better. Of course, this remains, like so many things audio, a matter of opinion for many. When in fact, the truthfulness of the matter can be tested to satisfaction for anyone willing to accept the results. But, I also realize that words on a screen represent no proof what-so-ever. So, when applicable, for the purposes of civility. We can agree to disagree regarding this. I have to exclude tubes which have been "burned in" so long as to be considered well aged. Their properties may have changed enough to be audible.
Waldhorner, if you have ever bought anything new and not heard it change over time then you and I will agree on at least one thing - we live in different worlds.
I got a pair of cherry silver cables (0.5m), and there was downright _sibilance_ when I first listened to them. After burning them in, the sibilance went away, and the cables overall became smoother, although still missing a little bottom end. That's when I stopped being a skeptic.
Waldhorner - what are you, some sort of objectivist :)? Having never done a controlled test to see if I could hear the effects of burn-in, I cannot comment on the objective nature (but since I have occasion to buy new interconnects soon, perhaps I'll post a follow-up then). I will say that subjective evidence does seem to point to an (almost) universal acceptance of a change in perception which is undergone in the first few weeks of owning equipment. I will offer to you the idea that decoding the musical text is inherently a subjective experience and so even purely subjective factors are 'real'. If it is indeed the listener being 'burned in' and not the equpment, does it matter? Separately, I would note that structural properties of various materials (notably metal) do change as you apply electrical current through the material, but I concede that it's difficult (for me) to believe that these most changes would not be heard within a few minutes of applying current.
No Redkiwi, we actually do live in the same world. Perhaps that's the fundamental issue. We don't see reality in the same way. But that's ok. And why would only "new" equipment change over time. Robba used a turn of phrase which, I think, hits the mark. I.e., the listener is being burned in. And Robba, for the purposes of this discussion, it makes all the difference. I could easily be converted by evidence more substantive than anecdotal. Also, Redkiwi; have you never listened to the identical source and setup and heard it differently? Isn't that a common experience for you? And if it is, do you attribute it to never ending change in you hardware, or perhaps to the highly variable nature of your natural apparatus? (Of course, we're not talking about tubes or electro-mechanical devices.)
Waldhorner, your existentialism does not make an argument - it could be applied to argue all stereos sound the same and we are just deluded in believing otherwise. I just figure if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck - then I am happy to figure it must be a duck and move on.
Redkiwi: We're not talking complete systems here. But rather the supposedly perceived subtle manipulations of individual pieces.// Yes, but a video of a duck meets all of those criteria and yet is not a duck. As to denying "burn in",as implied before; It's not good science and it is not supported by many other's experiences(including mine). So, when science and experience agree, it is reasonable to me to accept. This is not a matter of taste.I am, however, open to change if it can be so demonstrated. I do agree that it is time to move on. Pax
Glad this is still going,and nobody has hired a hitman,(or have they?).On the subject of the frog turning into a prince:When I got my Aerial cc3; new, 'twas un listenable.Actually, HORIBLE !I pieced an old cd player/receiver/wires; stuck it all in the closet;threw some blankets over it;cranked it;left it on repeat.After 5 days, the volume was considerably louder.(Never touched the setting.)3 more days;the prince emerged. On burning in most all equipment,the bass is the easy "identifiable". You ( I ) can tell,just walking in the room,don't have to sit down and strain.While different pieces vary;some actually do the frog/prince thing.
Burn-in is not a case of beating your ears into submission. Of course many horrible things can at first be tolerated and eventually even liked (smoking, drinking), but most people who participate at Audiogon have the sense to leave plenty of time between critical listening to allow for a change to be accurately heard. Some items don't require as much burn-in as others. My Harmonic Technology cables had me worried for a while, but changed dramatically at the 85 hour point. Why not trust your ears instead of denying the reality of burn in? As a writer/producer for 28 years I have had to use my ears in critical applications hundreds of times requiring much more sensitivity than merely hearing a difference in a cable after 100 hours use. I think the "wishful thinking" might possibly be on your part Waldhorner. Life would be that much simpler for Audiophiles if burn in was not a factor in evaluations. You can try comparing two of the same cables at first and breaking in only one, then comparing them again. Even if the difference after break in in is difficult to articulate, I suggest you "trust your feelings" Waldhorner. Good listening and Happy Holidays to all.
I wasn't aware that your experience has been a refudation of burn-in. On the other hand, we could take a symetrical argument and explain your perception. Perhaps your aural memory is such that the gradual changees introduced in the burn in period escape its notice. Perhaps your perception changs along with the piece. I've made up my mind that I want to do a double blind on this (knowing in advance the arguments against that methodology). I was wondering if you have? In regards to: I could easily be converted by converted by evidence more substantive than anecdotal; I think it's important to remember that science begins with the observation, the anecdotal evidence. Reality (if such a thing exists) determines the collection of imperfect models that we call science, not vice-versa. But then again I suppose mathmaticians are always a little skeptical of something so temporary as physics (grin).
Disclosure: being new to this hobby, I don't have a lot of experience either way with this. My dealer told me to burn my stereo in and not to listen too critically at first, and I followed his advise. As a result, I have no idea whether or not my system 'burned in'. Furthermore, I hope no one construes my last post to mean that I disavow science. I am much more likely to believe an explanation grounded in science than one based in faith (especially if that faith is based on frail human perception).
Robba; respectfully; listening to/enjoying music is somewhere beyond science, at least at our present state of knowledge. Music, IMO, is an art form. When you look at two paintings and like one but not the other can that be explained scientifically? But as your appreciation grows, maybe you'd like the 2nd painting? This has happened to me many times with music-- sometimes it grows on me-- as I grow personally. Except to say it's psychologic, I can't expalin this phenomena "scientifically", and it can't be "tested". Craig.
.......yes, I realize that my above post argues for both sides of this issue. That's part of my point. Craig
Do I change or does the system? Maybe its a little of both.
Bmpnyc:What I trust is my hearing and my mind. Feelings can undermine the evaluative process considerably. I've done the cable comparison many times with variously priced wire. New on trial and well-aged loans from curious and cooperative friends. I also have a significant part of a twelve guage roll which has never to my knowledge had a single electron flow through it. Equal unused lengths compared to identical original cut lengths (aged about 3to4 hrs. daily for 7 or 8 years) sound identical to my well seasoned ears and measure the same also. I do admit that I've not personally done this experiment with hyper expensive wire(over about $300 a meter(that's hyper expensive to me)). Perhaps physics and the "burn in" effect are cost sensitive. As I've said, I'm open to convincing proof otherwise. If the test is not truly blind to the listener, then it cannot be considered objective. Let me finish with two simple questions. Would you say that you honestly would not have ANY expectations when doing (e.g.) a sighted comparison between a Krell and a 1978 Pioneer receiver?...or between multistranded solid silver cable and a straightened-out coat hanger? ( if doable,try the coat hanger.You might be surprised) Best to all for the Holidays.
Waldhorner, I hesitate to make this seem even more wacky to you, but if you take a "burnt-in" cable out of a system and coil it up for a period and then put it back in the system it will go through the burn-in process again, albeit more mildly. I presume this has something to do with physical compression/decompression of the dialectric - whatever. You may doubt this effect, but you should take it into account when doing your tests between new and burnt-in cables. Personally I have not found a huge difference between new and burnt-in versions of cables like say DHLabs, but the differences seem to be more noticeable with more expensive cables. Perhaps the difference is quite subtle and only stands out against an otherwise pristine performance. The differences can sometimes be very unsubtle in the bass, but the nauture of the change is not usually a gross frequency response issue, but a change in grain structure or a change from seeming mechanical/electronic, to becoming more natural musically. The process is so repeated and unwelcome with any new product that it is hard to ascribe it to anything other than a "real" source. I know the following experience does not meet your objective test criteria, but in repeated visits to a friend's house I have heard how his system has burnt in. You may scoff at the aural memory required to support this claim - but I can recall how much more I was able to enjoy the music at each visit. How come my burn-in, if that was what it was, had the same gestation period as my friend's when he had an order of magnitude (or two) more exposure to his system? It is not this one experience that convinces me, but the many times I have observed the burn-in process.
Recently replaced my preamp/amp with an integrated unit (a demo, presumably already broken in) and my first impression was that the integrated had slower, more rounded bass and slightly elevated extreme high frequencies than the units it replaced. As the weeks have passed the amp no longer sounds this way. Is it burn-in, or have I acclimated myself to the sound of the amp? I can't really say it's one or the other. Probably a little of both.
If burn-in exists, I have no proof or indication. My psychological state seems to have more of an effect on how my system sounds than any burn-in. After the second beer my system sounds much better. If burn in exists, it is likely to be very subtle and gradual. With all due respect I am not convinced by any of those above who argue that there is a huge burn-in effect. Opening or closing a cabinet door neer my room reflection points, changing the position of the blinds, etc. has a much bigger effect on the sound than burn-in could possibly have. Do you have an anechoic chamber ? Then I may be convinced that you can detect burn-in.
I suspect your hearing is not sensitive to it Joe. This is not implying you don't hear well, because the effect is not gross, is not like the difference between having the blinds shut or open, or like the difference between two components. It is a quality that flattens images, takes a feeling of weight out of bass, adds a mechanical/electronic quality. And I don't care if you are convinced or not. I don't visit this forum to win arguments (which is not to say I don't fall into the trap of becoming embroiled in them from time to time) - just to share experiences with others - and your experience (and that of others) of not hearing components burn in is interesting and perplexing. But I feel no need to require you to prove that burn in does not exist. I cannot quite understand your concern about proof.
We KNOW our system's sound: We KNOW how does the system sound compare with live sound, we KNOW where the shortcomings are and we also KNOW burn-in is for real.( Inside that is. Outside we might brag whatever)
I agree that not everyone is equally influenced by the effects of burn it. I unfortunately, am one of the more sensitive to this problem, and really have to exercise caution when testing. This is not a new or revolutionary thought within the audio industry. Even in the early 1980's, people such as Steve McCormack, Bill Lowe (Audioquest), Jim Aud (Purist) and Richard Vandersteen, among others, advised us about the existence of break in. These manufacturers have more recently been followed by a majority of the high end community, in recognizing the fact that this is a real part of the evolution of the sound.
Hi Waldhorner, Yes I think I would expect a difference between an old receiver and a new high end piece. Would you expect a different ride from a new Mercedes when compared to a 78 Chevy? Of course. But that would not prevent me from acknowledging any aspect that might turn out to be superior in the Chevy. Over time and thanks to a few unusual experiences of mine I have learned to trust my ears before trusting my eyes. I know this is hard to do. One example: 28 years ago my band was making our first album in the studio at the top of Radio City Music Hall (same one where Toscanini conducted the NBC Orchestra). I had a "name" producer and one of the most experienced and sought after engineers at the time. The pressure of performing and of being surrounded by "more experienced" ears than mine did not stop me from complaining constantly about something being wrong with the sound. I did not have the tools to describe it but I insisted that they pay attention to my feelings. After a few hours of recording the engineers reluctantly checked into it and found that a 5 hertz tone was being put on tape unbeknownst to them. This discovery prevented problems later on down the reproduction chain, and saved us from losing many takes... I began to trust my ears and my hunches after that and hundreds of similar experiences. It was also a lot of fun watching the Rockettes run around the changing room next door! I would be interested in a clear scientific explanation of break in, but I would not deny its existence in light of my personal experience and the thousands of testimonials here and elsewhere. Objective testing has as many flaws as subjective listening.
Redkiwi and the rest, I will postpone my veredict on burn-in until I have a better room. All I am saying is that at least some of those who are hearing burn-in effects can't possibly because they do not have a revealing enough system-room combination.
By the way, I am not referring to speaker break-in, which is obvious. I am referring to solid state and cable "burn-in" which I cannot really detect.
Joe: The room would explain it if many people did not listen in the near field. I don't ordinarily, but do when I am testing new stuff to buy at home. On the otherside of the coin I have also experienced "burn out" on older tube stuff that I have kept for over ten years. It was, I thought, well maintained. I don't know how revealing the systems were on a whole, but they weren't a match for my ears, that's for sure. If you still have the Silverline's that you mentioned in another thread, I am suprised that you do not hear a difference in new cables. Try reversing a pair of IC's sometime when it's quiet and you have the time to listen. I did this by accident once with a pair of silver IC's and was very upset with the results until I figured out what happened, which only took a few mintes of backtracking.
Joe C.: It has nothing to do with your room. Burn-in is popular with dealers (and some manfuacturers, though certainly not all) because it gives them a way to talk customers out of returning things. It's popular with many audiophiles because it feeds their "everything sounds different and my ears are good enough to hear it" egos. In truth, their ears are probably worse--since they've spent their lives imagining nonexistent differences, they wouldn't know a real difference if it jumped up and bit them on the earlobe. Mechanical systems, like speakers, do change over time--gradualy and perpetually, not suddenly reaching perfection after 100 hours. But it is incontrovertible that people do grow accustomed to a certain sound over time, which is what makes any and all testimonials to these remarkable changes suspect.
A bold claim Jostler3 (see your statement re: incontrovertible). Incontrovertible means: indisputable, factual, and accepted without contoversary. If your statement were true, this thread wouldn't exist? I suggest that this issue (burn in)is very controversial, eg see all the above posts. Craig
Craig: In my dictionary, a statement is incontrovertible if its truth cannot be disproven. Just because some people deny a truth doesn't make it untrue. You are welcome to prove me wrong. But note that I while I think burn-in is a myth, that's not what I said was incontrovertible.
Just wanted to see if you were awake Jostler. Actually, your assertion could be proven with a carefully controlled study (maybe it has been been?), but not likely by you or me, IMO. It would cost a lot in terms of time, money, effort, committment etc. So, that leaves us with those that can tell the diference between new and burned in "stuff", and those that can't-- therefore the "issue" exists. Cheers. Craig.
Jostler, It is true that people will grow accustomed to certain types of sound over time, but that does not mean that they cannot tell the difference in sound quality before and after a break in in period. Also we are not really talking about the same "people" here. We are mostly talking about a group of somewhat experienced audiophiles, as it would not even be an issue with the majority of consumers. But even an "average Joe or Jane" listening to a component or a cable before, in between and after a break in period would probably notice a difference if asked to pay attention to the quality of sound for a few minutes. I have occasionally asked my wife to compare sound, and for a non- audiophile with little patience for my my audiophile leanings, her observations are keen and are almost always similar to mine. Also, the components I have bought (DVD player, Mini Disc recorder, Reciever) showed no change at all after 10, 100 or 300 hours, but the cables I have bought did show a definite change after a while.
Sorry, guys, but the laws of nature apply to "somewhat experienced audiophiles" just as much as they do to everyone else. It is quite common to hear changes in the sound of an audio system over time. But there is no way for you to know whether that perceived change is the result of a change in the sound of the system or a change in your perception of the system. (Unless you simply assume, contrary to all scientific evidence, that your memory for sound is perfect--but that's not knowing, that's believing.)
I had the oppertunity to compare a brand new pre amp with the stores demo pre amp in my home. Although both were the same brand and make preamp there was a huge difference. The one that was broken in was more open and a lot smoother.
I think perfectimage just answered the question quite perfectly.
Hi Jostler; It took me several years to acquire "critical listening skills", and using these skills is quite a bit different than listening for pleasure IMO. Perhaps you haven't expended the time and effort necessary to learn these, but many audiophiles have. If you are going to quote scientific evidence to support your position, then please do so. So far you've just stated opinions (even about the "scientific evidence")-- like the rest of us. I would think that someone reading/participating on this site would either have a different opinion on this issue, or more specific evidence for their "contrarian" view. No? Cheers. Craig.
Relativism: a theory that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing and hence not true to the nature of independent reality and that holds that absolutely true knowledge is impossible because of the limitations and variability of sense perceptions or that reality as it is in itself can not be known by minds whose modes of thinking and perceptions are essentially subjective or that thinking and perceptions sees relations of one thing to another only and not the intrinsic nature of an object and hence are merely symbolic.
Charlie.... that's heavy! Have you been nipping on the "cooking sherry"?...Hitting the egg nog a little early?.... listening to too much "Joshua Judges Ruth"? Forgot to turn the hounds out tonight? or what? I'll be ashamed to come back to "the Forum" until I understand it... I'm too long removed from academia. I hope it means that in some cases, burn-in differences are real-- in your opinion of course. Cheers :>) Craig.
Boy do I get tired of these endless and pointless debates on whether or not someone's opinion about their own experience is deluded or real. What do you hope to gain - petty points scoring? Certainly noone is winning any of these debates. Some believe they have heard the sound change during burn-in, or when comparing new equipment to burnt-in equipment. Some believe this cannot be so, either because they have never heard it themselves, or because it takes them out of their comfort zone where they thought everything was explainable. This thread looks like the Monty Python skit where the chap pays for an argument and just gets meaningless contradiction. We have posts from people who seem to me to be simply trying to be right, and not listening to the posts of others at all. Is that what you are here for?
Bravo, Redkiwi. Jostler, If a stereo system sounds fuller (more bass) after breaking in a cable you say I have no way of knowing if there truly is more bass or if I am imagining it, I don't think so. I will not debate the obvious. If my toe hurts more today than yesterday, I know I am not imagining it, and if my stereo system has a different sound with the same source at the same volume, I am not imagining that either. I am not talking about subleties that only a seasoned pro can discern, I am talking about obvious differences that can be percieved by almost any person.
Redkiwi, I feel your pain, and hope I have not contributed to it. As to the relative nature of my perceptions of my equipment when new as compared to a period following electron streaming, I can forcefully and authoritatively enjoin the "burn in" camp, I think. Of course, since the entire universe is simply a concept within the confines of my own consciousness, and you all are but figments of my imagination, I can only say "bravo" to myself for creating such interesting characters to entertain and cajole. Hurry, before I wake up, and send me to Circuit City.
Craig, et al.: Anyone who's convinced that he has developed his hearing beyond that of mere mortals is not going to be convinced by an appeal to scientific evidence. But anyone who maintains an open mind on the subject should get himself down to his local college library, find an introductory text in psychoacoustics, and start reading. You'll soon understand why some of us treat claims of burn-in with such skepticism.