How much does volume matter when breaking in amps and cables?


I'm not here to debate break-in. I generally leave new amps, components, and new cables playing low volume for a for long periods to start the break in process. Just curious how much does volume play a role in breaking in such. I get that speakers probably need pretty good amounts to push drivers, but what about other components?


aberyclark
IMO: Other components don't need much volume at all, just turned on with a signal running through them.
The XLO Test CD with burn in track suggests playing the system loud and continuously for a week or two. Use blankets or jeans over speakers to mute the sound. Otherwise, you know....🤪
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He's asking about electronics and cables not speakers....
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As long as we’re on the subject.... If one is breaking in a power amp, is it necessary to connect it to speakers, or could you get by with just running a signal into it? And if the amp has both XLR and RCA inputs, would it be necessary (or even helpful) to use the same input during the break-in process that one intended to use after break-in? (I ask because it would be convenient to break in my new power amp in a secondary system that doesn’t have balanced connections, while I continue to use my old amp in my main system.)
Tcatch, that’s a good question. I guess one could purchase cheap xlr/rca adaptors for breaking in. 
tcatch, You may want to check your manual before running your amp without it being connected to speakers. Some amps will be damaged by that. 
Zero
What level on the sound system do you chose when you are "breaking in" your new car ?
I don't think the amount of volume is going to make any significant amount of difference.  I have burned in many cables, including speaker, at just low to moderate volumes.  Consider this.  Digital type cables (including spdif and hdmi) will typically only push 0.5 to 0.6 volts on the data conductors.  However, analog audio can be up to 1.4 to 2 volts.  In either case, both cables can be burned in with similar timelines.  Speaker cables will see significantly higher amounts of voltage (such as 5-50 volts or more, depending).  I think it's more important to send an amount of charge/discharge activity down the wire to help break it in.
Volume has no bearing at all. Voltage and current are what matters.
I enjoy few things more than listening to a component as it burns in. The changes are just fascinating, especially the first few minutes to hours. Speakers, amps, cables, even fuses. Just one of the most amazing things, and I listen closely every time. In 20+ years I have heard no evidence volume matters at all. 
Geoffkait -  "Use blankets or jeans over speakers to mute the sound"

Good grief are you fat or what?
Buy a  good breakin cd that uses a lot of sweep signals like the purist audio, or anther we’ll know CDs just play. On repeat or burn to your hard drive I have done this many times cut runin time 
by at least a 1/3 rd also shut off for a 1/2  at least 1-2 x a day 
for it discharges the. Capacitors  then you reenergige them 
it help with cap breakin . Being around audio almost 40 years 
have got a lot of good tips through electronic tech friends.
They’re not fat! They’re chunky. 

Volume is required to obtain sufficiently high voltage and current. Otherwise cables never break in. Duh!
I would have figured since cables need breaking in (plus, I've heard the rca/xlr connectors on the cables needs to break in as well), that one should "break-in" each input/output that will be used on a pre amp. 
Why would you need to “break in” electronics?  There are no moving parts.  Speakers, yes:  electronics?  I never heard of that!  This is not something you can actually hear---or even measure.

If I hooked up an amp that was broken in to an identical set of speakers and one thst was broken in,  you couldn’t tell the difference.  Heck, at the same volume levels, no one can tell the difference between amps at all.  
Attention! The Fasten Seat Belts sign just came on. 🔛
Again, ZARATHU, if you read my original post, I do not want to debate "break-in".

Here is my experience: If a component does not sound good "out of the box" I do not believe any amount of break in will change my mind. However, I notice components open up a bit more after some hours of playback. Now, I'm not into the 500-800 (or whatever) hour deal, but I think things slightly improve with a few hours of playback. The rough edges (floabt) smooth out. 

In my original post I was wondering if volume has an effect on break in or is turning on the component with low volume sound enough. 
I think it needs some time with some volume but not through the entire break in period 
Here is my experience: If a component does not sound good "out of the box" I do not believe any amount of break in will change my mind. However, I notice components open up a bit more after some hours of playback. Now, I'm not into the 500-800 (or whatever) hour deal, but I think things slightly improve with a few hours of playback. The rough edges (floabt) smooth out.

In my original post I was wondering if volume has an effect on break in or is turning on the component with low volume sound enough.


Correct. As I have noted many times- if its good then its good right out of the box. Everything will of course change and improve over time. But the essential character heard from zero will always be there. If not, if you don't like it right away, don't waste your time.

There really is no debate about break-in. There are only people who have never bothered to either develop the listening skills to hear it, or even taken the time to try. (You can for that matter replace "break-in" with power cord, interconnect, any number of things, and then write the exact same sentence.) The debate is settled as far as "does it happen" and only "can you hear it" remains.

The biggest challenge for most is just learning to listen and hear it. For those who wonder, here's what happens: the first few minutes running the essential character is there but grainy and harsh and lacking fine harmonic structure, subtle nuance or detail. Within minutes this etched skeletal quality begins transforming becoming much more smooth and filled out and liquid. Dynamic shadings nowhere to be found in the beginning become plainly evident later on. Eventually if the component is good enough it gets to palpable presence, that eerie feeling where there are so many subtle details coming through so effortlessly its like you are feeling it more than just hearing it.

For people like zarathu who find this impossible, well isn't it odd that I am able to explain so clearly and in such detail what you think I am not even able to hear? The simplest explanation is I know what I'm talking about, however hard that may be to believe.

But hey, another thing I'm constantly saying: DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT! Go hear for yourself.

Take whatever fuse you have that is easily replaced and swap out it out for one that is brand new. The brand new fuse will have zero hours on it. First make sure everything in your whole system is on and thoroughly warmed up. The same crappy sound you are going to hear from the new fuse is the same crappy sound you are going to hear from cold anything. So warm it up. Sit back and listen. Then swap the fuse and listen again.

Then when you get to where you can easily hear such things, repeatedly and reliably, then you will be in a position to say that no, the volume level does not matter. What matters more than anything else is time. The vast majority of burn-in improvement occurs in the first few minutes to hours. Beyond that many components continue to improve some of them yes for a hundred hours or more. But the vast majority occurs right away, and so fast you will if you are a good listener be able to hear it on the fly as it happens. 

Then once you get past the first few dozen hours or so, somewhere in there, the warm-up factor starts to come into play. You can think of this as whenever anything is turned off more than a short time, overnight say, it is almost as if it goes back to being like new again. That is to say, when you first turn it on it is not going to sound very good. But then within a fairly short time, could be 10 minutes, could be an hour, its going to stabilize and sound great again. Instead of burned-in we say warmed-up but it is the same only different, as they say.


 

It looks like I have to be the one to say it. Nothing sounds good out of the box. That’s why when you go to the audio shows the first day everything sounds dreadful. Really bad. That’s because everything is brand new out of the box. Hel-loo! If I can be so bold most every system I done hear’d sounds pretty bad and generic to me, some worse than others. Could it be they never broke in completely? Who knows?
Fabulous question! 

I have been in the Consumer Electronics Industry since 1992 and have owned a high end retail store, worked as a rep, and now for a wonderful Amplifier and Speaker Manufacturer.  Having dealt with engineers and industry insiders directly for that amount of time, I feel I more than qualified to be an authority in answering this.

Just like a car, without question, there is a "Break-in" period on everything and if you are a denier of cars actually having a "breaking-in" period, then there is probably no way to have a rational conversation about any of this...

Different things have different break-in periods and no two things are alike.  However, just like with cars, you reach a point where you get what you get in relation to gas mileage and how the car reacts and works.  Electronics, Speakers, Cables, all of it, have that point. 

So the quick answer to the question is; how much volume you put through the system does NOT matter at all!  What matters is putting a signal through everything and simply playing it with no need to overthink this here.  If you can hear sound coming from your speakers, everything is breaking in. 

With electronics, particularly DAC's and Preamps, each input has it's own break-in time and you need to have a signal running through all of it.  The only time you need to physically hear something from the speakers is if you're breaking in speakers and amps.  Or, you can put a resistor on the output of the amps to break those in if needed, but you have to have a signal going in and physically going out for full "break-in".    

These are all good things to know when visiting dealers, because in today's world, where foot traffic isn't what it used to be, there is a lot of equipment on dealer's showroom floors that may have been setting there for a year and still haven't been played enough to where the equipment is fully broken in. 

So, what's the magic number for length of time?  Like I said, everything in the chain is different, but I know with our products that number is 300 hours.  That's twelve and half days of solid play 24/7 because we can physically hear it and as a team, we have all collectively come to that consensus.   I can walk into one of our dealers and play our equipment and know right away the moment I play something when that the equipment has not had a significant amount of time on it.  That just comes from experience of doing this ALL THE TIME! 

Other manufacturers may require more or less time and people who work for those companies or sell those products should know what that amount is.  In the case with Audio Research, some of their amps, they are actually recommending 600 hours of break-in.  Who cares what the amount of time is, just play the stuff and I guarantee you'll hear it change. 

The last thing is, some products are good out of the box and can actually get worse as you play them, only to come out of the hole and get better after a certain period of time.  We have amps that do that and I will also point to older 300 Series amps from Mark Levinson (No.331, 332, 333, 33H's, and 33's) were all like that back in the day when they were new.  They were pretty decent out of the box and got so bad at about 100-150 hours that we thought they were broke, and then they climbed out of the cellar and got great. 

So in conclusion, I hope this answers and clears up most of this for some or all of you?  I realize that there will always be skeptics out there, but until you work in this industry and are around equipment as much as we are, along with getting insight from the people who are involved in building it, you'll just continue to believe what you want - and that's ok!  I've said what I believe to be true and have no problem sleeping at night over what I've shared here. 

Thank you all for your time in reading this.
Chris 
In response to geoffkait's reply above; Some manufacturers, like me, actually do send "broken-in" product to our shows.  Sometimes if you hear something that isn't good at the beginning of the show and doesn't get better, then that's just a result of poor setup and not spending enough time evaluating the room.  

However, there are caveats to that as well;  Sometimes as a manufacturer, when you're trying to fill as many seats as you can, in the room you could afford to be in, you might sacrifice the better sounding wall in order to get more people in your room.  It's a trade off we all have to decide on as we're setting up, particularly in smaller rooms where we don't have much space.  We have to make the choice, do we sacrifice sound at the expense of making it more comfortable for the attendees, or do we go for the better sound and have people complain that they couldn't get a good seat or get into the room to really audition the system or people were always walking in front of them? 

Also, we can end up short on cables or there wasn't an outlet where we were told or thought it would be and can end up arranging everything based on those limitations.  We have to take a lot into consideration at shows like Rocky Mountain Audio Fest...just FYI...

Absolutely none at all. Zarathu is right. There may be some speakers that loosen up in the bass after a few hours but that is about it. This myth got started by dealers telling their customer who were not sure that they liked a new piece of equipment, "you just have to let it break in." In a few weeks they get used to the sound and everyone is happy but in reality nothing changed. This break-in myth is the ultimate BS of all BS. The manufacturers do not want to say anything against it because the they do not want to alienate potential customers plus they can always use the break-in excuse. In reality it is not your equipment breaking in, it is your brain breaking in.
Oh, which means in geoffkait's case I have no explanation.
Did you perform surgery on your own brain, Doc?
It doesn’t matter at all, as breaking in cables and amplifiers is a myth invented to reduce returns  
Cable break-in is primarily about the dielectric and you need to run a significant fraction of the insulation’s breakdown voltage to do a "true" burn-in.

So yes, running higher volume through your speaker cables will accelerate your break-in ... domestic issues notwithstanding ;-)

This is one sad reality of tonearm cables - that you’re running a fraction of a microvolt through them. For this reason, we burn-in the arm cables of tonearms before delivering them to our customers.

The less dielectric, the easier/quicker the burn-in, to the point where I’ve observed a total burn-in time of about 30 minutes for our litz interconnects with their cotton jackets.

On the other hand, a thick Teflon jacketed cable could take 400-500 hours.

Interestingly, I’ve found that there’s no relationship between the capacitance of the cable and break-in time.

Teflon for example, has lower capacitance than PVC, and yet PVC reaches its "final" state much more quickly.

Which cable/material you’ll prefer is up to you and your system as I’m just talking about burn-in time.

Thom @ Galibier Design
Thus spoke Zarathu.
Break-in! If it ain't mechanical, it don't need no freakin' break-in!
Since there is SO MUCH misinformation in this thread, I am going to add to what I’ve said above:

First, I have to ask where did "reducing the amount of returns" come into play with "break-in"?

What kind of garage made stuff and low tier dealers are you people buying from and dealing with to think that break-in has to do with returns? Real manufacturers stand behind their products! As I stated earlier, if you run our equipment for 12.5 days straight and can’t tell if you like it by then, we give our dealers 30 days to return it.

So for those of you thinking it has to do with returns, you’re just simply wrong and my suggestion is to purchase things from dealers who stand behind what they sell as they should be selling brands that stand behind what they build.

Good dealers who sell good brands will tell you about the break-in period because good manufacturers know how much time that takes and are telling them so they can set that level of expectation for you.  
Uh, nobody said it’s not mechanical. Hel-loo! Wake up and smell the Java! ☕️
Many good and valid points have been noted on this thread.

I would like to add that with speakers / components it is the drivers and the capacitors that take the longest time to break in. Some of the more exotic caps take a very long time!
Cabling/wire breakin, as baffling as it may seem does take about 200 hours, although as previously noted the initial sound when new doesn’t change significantly after that time. However, I have had a few exceptions...
To me, speaker cabling should have some power driving through them. With interconnects, just a signal is enough.

Of course this is my opinion from experience.
ozzy
Ozzy, Purely anecdotal. cbrents, I worked in three dealers selling very high end stuff and for the most part we treated our customers like children. Which does not mean we didn't bend over backwards for them just that our explanations to smooth over issues was anything but scientific. So in part we were probably responsible for several popular myths. My favorite was telling new Acoustat owners that you had to keep them plugged in for two weeks to let the charges settle down on the diaphragm any time they were discharged. How fast do electrons travel?
geoffkait, my wife does all that. She gets me to cook for her that way. She has not managed to get me to vacuum yet.
Near as I can tell the whole break-in thing goes back to horses. Wild horses do not particularly care to be ridden. We say they are spirited. You have to break their will. You have to break them. If anyone knows about anything further back than that let me know.

Then you think there's a debate with amps? Try Porsches! The factory has a recommendation, and for many the factory is sacrosanct. Even when they learn the factory says different things in different countries about the exact same car! 

The truth turns out to be the one thing that really needs it is piston rings. Only full throttle loads very early on (from the first few miles) are capable of properly seating the rings. Which knowing that isn't it interesting Synergistic Research gets big improvement using a Tesla coil to zap a million volts through their brand new cables?

But do you think any manufacturer is gonna tell their customers to do that? Warm it up, run it to redline, as hard and as often as you can. Run a million volts through it. Yeah. Right.

No. They are gonna say baby it. They are gonna say it takes hundreds of hours. Because by then, in both cases, you are gonna get used to it. Whatever "it" is. 

No. They are gonna say baby it. They are gonna say it takes hundreds of hours. Because by then, in both cases, you are gonna get used to it. Whatever "it" is.
This is why break-in of audio gear is about returns. 

mijostyn,

Doesn’t sound like you were a very good salesman to treat people with such disrespect.

ozzy
My Class D amps take about 48-72 hours to warm up. I don't know why.


All that needs to happen is for them to be off overnight, and I have to wait for them to sound their best, so I leave them on, but not playing.


To me, this would suggest it isn't a matter of break-in as much as warm up.


My current warm-running linear integrated on the other hand sounds great as soon as the music starts.
I’m not buying the everything sounds bad on audio show day 1. Most manufacturers bring demos that have been used in other shows, etc. previously. Many are in fact the first run components from the first batch of manufacturing and ran thru various testing procedures. Now, a “melding” with the other components at that show may happen over time... but majority of components have been played quite a bit. Wilson and Bryson are not grabbing newly boxed items from the warehouse for each show or demo. 
Isn’t it pretty to think so? Look, even IF one manufacturer comes to the show with a completely broken-in component, a speaker or amp or whatever, which they actually don’t because they want to show their latest model, and one that’s not all banged up, they cannot necessarily control who else they exhibit with, you know, the guy who provides cables, the guy who brings the Turntable, the guy who brings the CD player, power cord, etc. They aren’t that coordinated, trust me. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. 🐀
True. What you are hearing is not break in. Maybe tweaking as the show goes on, crowds, changing speaker positioning, your ears adjusting to the environment etc. 
Only if you say so. 😛
Geoffkait you should not treat aberyclark with such distain for telling you the truth. Your ears are indeed having trouble adjusting to the environment.
Try this. Wear earplugs for about 3-4 hours straight. Pull the plugs out and listen to your system. With your ears halfway rested, your system waill sound much different than you are use to. Same if you wore no earlugs cutting the grass for two hours. Chances are, one is attending an audio show out of town. Maybe travel was noisy, airplane cabin pressure or city altitude. Hotels are generally busy and noisy. Most likely one’s ears have to adjust for something different. 
Hey, Doc, is this the guy you’re backing? You sure about that, Doc? Well, I hate to judge before all the facts are in but I wouldn’t get behind him 100%, if ya know what I mean.
Maybe the wires were all connected in the wrong direction on the first day of the show Lol- i crack myself up
@ geoffkait15 said:

Isn’t it pretty to think so? Look, even IF one manufacturer comes to the show with a completely broken-in component, a speaker or amp or whatever, which they actually don’t because they want to show their latest model, and one that’s not all banged up, they cannot necessarily control who else they exhibit with, you know, the guy who provides cables, the guy who brings the Turntable, the guy who brings the CD player, power cord, etc. They aren’t that coordinated, trust me. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

@aberyclark replied:

True. What you are hearing is not break in. Maybe tweaking as the show goes on, crowds, changing speaker positioning, your ears adjusting to the environment etc.

I can’t begin to tell you the coordination problems I’ve had with gear coming in from all sections of the country - mating up for the first time during setup day at a show. This doesn’t even take into account the lack of preparedness of some partnering exhibitors.

Sure, minor to major tweaking occurs during the course of a three day show, but at shows where we "nailed" it from the onset (with only minor tweaking throughout), things got better and better - right up until we were ready for teardown on Sunday afternoon.

I advise show goers to visit their "shortlist rooms" on Sunday mornings for this reason. It tends to be quiet and the gear has had some 72 hours to settle in.

Audio gear takes a terrible beating when being transported to a show, and for vacuum tube gear which doesn’t require 4 days’ warm-up (this has been my experience with some s-s amps as well), multiple power cycles over a few days help to relieve the mechanical stress that have built up over the course of the gear’s journey to a show.

Yes to earplugs during plane travel ;-)

... Thom @ Galibier Design
Phomchick: You obviously didn’t read my first post in this thread - equipment “break-in” has nothing to do with returns.

geoffkait: What kind of rooms are you visiting at these shows?  Manufacturers absolutely have control over who they partner with - excuse me, REAL manufacturers!  Maybe the hobby guys struggle with who to work with?  

aberyclark is correct: Models of equipment brought to the shows to play are current production pieces.  

And geoffkait, we are coordinated enough to contact other companies we like to partner with to get equipment we need for the shows, unless we already own it.  

So with that, I also have to ask - how are you drawing these conclusions and where are you getting your info from?