Conditioning/Burn-In Method

Potentially controversial subject matter ahead. Thus post is recommended for mature audiences only. If you're in the school of thought that cables are voodoo, this post is not for you, please move among.

Now, to business.

I'm in the process of working in a set of Signal Cable Silver Resolution XLR interconnects between my DAC, Preamp and Amplifier. So far, I probably have only 20 hours or so of play, and if memory serves, Frank recommends 60 hours or more. Given the difference in amplitude from DAC to Preamp, and from Preamp to Amplifier, do you guys think it might be worth swapping them out (rotating them) to help balance and perhaps accelerate the process?

Thanks in advance!

No. But your cables will never be completely broken in until you put more current through them. They need to be fully conditioned by an Audio Dharma cable cooker. Second and a distant best is to use one of the break in CD's you can buy.

David Pritchard
Regretfully, I don't happen to have another $700 change to throw away on an item that will (theoretically) be a one-time use.

I take it then, that you advocate for a fairly high playback volume to get the process done as well as it can be without the Dharma burner?
In fact most of us don't own or use a cable cooker, neither is one necessary. ".. will never be completely broken in..." is a pretty subjective statement, wonder how the poster quantifies this.

Just play music or a break-in CD, probably 10s of hours, maybe a hundred or two.
Just stream what ever to DAC and play 24/7 and you can leave the power amp off. Pre need to be ON tho.
Ah, well I could do that but I'm burning in the speaker cables, too, though they have a hundred or so hours head start - got 'em before I bought the ICs.
Yes, swap the cables around.
The DAC or CD player to preamp has the most signal.
So that is the place to burn in the cables.
I would suggest just one swap. As moving the cables around (IE bending them ) also takes away from break in some.
(The longer cables do not move the better off they are, but swapping them once might be worth it IMO)
Elizabeth is correct that in the great majority of systems the DAC-to-preamp connection conducts a larger signal (i.e., a greater voltage) than the preamp-to-power amp connection. On the other hand, though, what is relevant to your question is the amount of current each cable is conducting, which in addition to depending on the signal voltage also depends on the input impedance of the component the signal is being provided to.

So for example if the input impedance of your power amp is considerably less than the input impedance of your preamp, it may be that the current being conducted by the two cables won’t be all that much different. But on the other hand if the input impedance of the power amp is higher than the input impedance of the preamp, and perhaps even if the two impedances are approximately equal, interchanging the cables between the two locations when you believe the DAC-to-preamp cable is reasonably broken in could very well be worthwhile.

-- Al

So, paraphrased: Swapping cables won't hurt, but might help.  Check.
And, as others have said, get something like Ayre's Irrational but  Efficacious! CD burn in disc, along with swapping out the ICs. 

All the best,
Perhaps I should add a disclaimer, but...

Why is it so odious to just let thing break in, in their own time.
Is 60, 200, 500 hours so long?
I have found that just listening and hearing small differences, sometimes big differences, to be very satisfying.
@gdnrbob   They say patience is a virtue.  You, sir, are more virtuous than most audiophiles I suspect.😇
I use an old iPod Nano (remember those?) as my break in source, playing a mixture of music, signal sweeps and white noise MP3s (XLO has one available for free download) on auto repeat for a week. If you have a FM tuner laying around that works too but I like being able to make a playlist of things. 

If you are reasonably handy you can terminate the cables with a load resistor around 100 ohms to get a lot more current through the cable. You don't even need to solder or use jacks, test leads with alligator clips will do. If I need more power I use a Dayton T-amp and a 4 ohm load resistor. This stuff is not that complicated and you do not need to buy any fancy discs or equipment...
Fair questions and points.

@gdnrbob, because I'm also breaking in the speaker cables, running at higher volumes for 10 or more hours a day just isn't possible, especially since I work from home.

@taww, I did set a play list of about 10 hours worth, and going with Elizabeth's suggestion, I'm running in the ICs, but I do need to also work on the speaker cables. Is the 100ohm resistor something I could pick up locally? Someone also suggested a 200watt light bulb... would that work?
I would not recommend using a 200 watt light bulb, and in general I would not recommend other light bulbs rated to operate at 120 volts.

Their resistance will vary extremely widely depending on how much voltage is applied to them. For example, a 120 volt bulb whose power consumption under normal operating conditions is 200 watts will have a resistance following its very brief initial warmup of about 72 ohms. However, extrapolating from resistance measurements I’ve performed in the past on various other light bulbs its resistance when cold will be in the rough vicinity of only 5 ohms. So depending on how much signal is applied to it by a power amp its resistance may be at any point in between, and its effectiveness may vary unpredictably.

More significantly, if you happen to be using a tube amp resistances in the higher end of that range may be too high to be safe. As you may be aware, tube amps which have output transformers should not be operated unloaded, at least when they are processing a signal, and 40 or 50 ohms or more may be high enough to be an inadequate load, that may result in serious damage.

And of course the 200 watt bulb would be totally unsuitable and quite possibly harmful if used as a load for a DAC or preamp, which would not be able to supply enough current or voltage to raise its resistance above the vicinity of 5 ohms or so. For that matter, operating DACs or preamps into a 100 ohm resistor for a considerable amount of time could conceivably not be healthy in some cases either, in addition to being extremely non-optimal sonically if the system is listened to while the resistor is in place.

-- Al

@almarg thanks for that thorough explanation.

I wasn’t planning on a resistive load at the DAC but at the speaker wires, so that I can run the entire system in for the couple hundred hours necessary while also ensuring a good night’s sleep and productive day at work, since I operate out of a home office.

Is there something I could buy at a local Lowes or Home Depot that would serve the purpose?
I'm sorry, but I think that cable break-in is the most egregious example of snake oil salemanship in audio.  I can't believe otherwise rational people would consider spending $1000 or more on a device that does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!! 
That said,  the one cable related factor that can benefit from burn-in is the actual physical connection of the cable jack to its plug or speaker wire to connector.  Sometimes it may take a while for the connection to settle into its lowest impedance.
Is there something I could buy at a local Lowes or Home Depot that would serve the purpose?
Radio Shack sells the resistor shown at the following link, which would be suitable as long as you are careful to not apply so much power to it that it gets hot. It is rated to handle up to 20 watts:

-- Al

@almarg if I’m going to order something online, I might as well get the exact thing I need. Would one of these work better? Remember, I’d be attaching on the speaker cables, and I’m running a Bryston 4BST (250W@8ohms).

@jnorris, apparenty you didn't read the disclaimer in the first post.
Yes, those would be suitable. Although as you may have noticed the 8 ohm version is listed as "currently unavailable."

-- Al

I’m guessing this one would do the trick? If not,

Or does it have to be 4ohm?

I'm guessing that any load that matches the range of my amp output would do the job, yes?
Either one would be fine, but again, just make sure that with the 4 ohm 100 watt resistor you don’t turn the volume control up so high that it gets hot.

For that matter, though, using the 4 ohm 100 watt resistor might be preferable to using the 300 watt 8 ohm resistor because if the lower powered resistor is not getting hot it would provide you with assurance that you are not overdriving and clipping the amp.

-- Al
I'm running a pair of Martin Logan reQuests which are 4ohms, so I figure  one of the loads that's 300W at 4Ohm should do nicely to mimic the speakers.  Thanks!
If you don't have a cable cooker, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the music as others have suggested.
@lak I think you missed the part where I wrote a couple times that I WORK FROM HOME and can't run speakers at volume for 200 hours.
@parabolic, if you are just breaking in interconnects and speaker cables you don't need any volume, just the signal. Are you trying to break in new speakers also?
I apologize if I missed something here?
Best regards...
Perhaps this is an Almarg question:
Does the cable need to be run at a high volume?
I mean that music is dynamic, having loud and soft passages.
Wouldn't running the system on a low volume when you need to work still accomplish the goal?
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Perhaps this is an Almarg question:
Does the cable need to be run at a high volume?
Hi Bob,

All I can offer about that is the common sense notion that whatever breakin effects might occur at high volume would presumably take longer to occur at low volume, and perhaps much longer. But I doubt that anyone is in a position to provide a quantitative perspective on that, especially in a way that would be useful across a wide variety of cable designs, load impedances, power levels, etc.

Best regards,
-- Al

I also wondered if any cable break-in takes place just leaving all the components turned on...especially with a tube CD player it seems there is always some current running through the cables...
There are tube CD players?
Thanks Al. As always, good info.

Do cable cookers provide a varying output signal that mimics music or just a fixed signal?

No one has provided any proof of low or high signal strength is better. The 'more is always better' notion clearly would hand the win to more. But plenty of things only need a small amount to do well. Particularly boundary effects.
So I say no one knows, aside from hearsay whether a cable breaks in faster or slower depending on signal strength.
Since no one has proven WHAT changes in break in. (Plenty of theories.. no proof)

And in my experience just leaving the power on does have a positive effect on break in.
thanks elizabeth, that been my experience, especially if I'm also playing a lot of CD's...I thought there were only tube  CD Players gdnrbob...

I only discovered that there are tube CD today, though they seem to be older models. Learned something new.
@gdnrbob, I had a Carver CDP back in the 80s. Had a couple small tubes. I thought it sounded very nice.
Currently looking at Modwright modded Oppos...

No. But your cables will never be completely broken in until you put more current through them. They need to be fully conditioned by an Audio Dharma cable cooker. Second and a distant best is to use one of the break in CD’s you can buy.

David Pritchard
Never use a cable cooker on a Teo Audio liquid metal cable. Just so folks know.

They come with an initial burn in and all burn in after that is to be via music level signals, from a CD player, FM tuner, USB stick with music, on a server or dac, and so on. Never use a cable cooker.
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Do you have a Nordost dealer with a Vidar close by? If so maybe for a small fee they will burn them in for you. Besides pushing current through them it also varies a bunch of different frequencies too. I've had my dealer burn in new cables and it may take 2 - 4 days running 24/7.
gdnrbob...there are also current model tube CD players...Aesthetix, PrimaLuna and others,  though certainly not a lot...
@parabolic, I’ll burn-in your speaker cables for you on my Audiodharma Cable Cooker which I’m currently using and will be in the future. It’s not like it’s going to cost me more for electricity to add your speaker cables LOL.
All I’d ask is that you pick up the cost of shipping both ways.
I would be more than happy to throw a hundred at the purchase of one. We all have feedback and take great care of our equipment. Let's get a few members together. I sure could use it now as I am breaking in a Audience Au24SX cable loom
I had the impression that wire cables are conditioned only once (and permanently) when they undergo conventional break in with musical signals.

So exactly what does an Audiodharma Cable Cooker do to effect wire cable conditioning and “break in?” And is the effect permanent?

From info on their website, Audiodharma seems to suggest the conditioning effects are temporary in nature, like re-organizing a solid state lattice of conductive materials in an optimal configuration(s) that decay(s) eventually into non-optimal configuration(s) (or, in the case of so-called “over-cooking,” non-optimal configuration(s) relaxing into optimal configuration(s)).

This is why Audiodharma appears to justify its claim as being a long-term investment. One is always re-conditioning their wire cables on a periodic basis.

So I’m confused as to how this device works to condition wire conductors.
I would say from my experience cables do lose some of the ’magic’ of being conditioned if they are not in use for a long time. And moving cables (IE bending them a lot) also reduces the effects of breaking in and they may need time to get fully broken in again.
So the ’break in' effect is not really fully permanent. But it certainly lasts if the cable is used on a regular basis.

(Personally I think the Cable Cooker ’recooking’ is a marketing ploy, that may also have a small measure of truth, but over stated.)
Yup. What she said. 
Yeah, as if anyone can keep track of how cables are sounding over long periods of time. Heck, the sound changes every day for a boatload of perfectly valid reasons. What are you going to do, blame it all on the cables? Maybe the fuses? Wire directionality? The weather? Give me a break!
agree that break-in is both electrical and physical
@elizabeth, how do you break in your cables? What would you consider a long non-use time (and circumstances, i.e., cables being unplugged from components or simply not sending an active signal through the cables?) and cable movement that brings about a need to recondition the cables?
Whoa.... I think cables matter but this is serpent petroleum. Somebody up there said "proof" like there's any of it in this realm. If there is, lemme see. 
if it's free, I don't think it can be snake oil...either you hear a difference or you don't...and you are going to be listening to hundreds hours of music regardless...
Well something is happening during run in of some new cables at least this is my own listening perception and how can anyone measure perception. . ? ridiculous though deniers will go out of thier minds demanding measured scientific evidence as the only proof acceptable to them , like most I have my own listening biases and perception which to judge ,....Currently I’m running in a pair of TEO Audios GC 2 interconnects using a DVD player . Manufacturers suggested run in time is about 150 hours 
Great stuff gentlemen, my experience was this . I purchased 2 pr. of Morrow MA5 RCA’s recently. Due to being on vacation at time of shipping , Mike just left my cables on the break in station longer . They received 11 days straight . So using my fingers and toes , 264 hours on his MACHINE. So I’m thinking plug and play . Well it took about 300 hours more of use time before they really smoothed out . His cables have a reputation for needing a long burn in . As far as your speaker cables , I’d run your resistor substitute by Bryston via email . I’d be interested to hear their reply . Thanks for the post . Mike B.