Is Break-In essential and potentially dangerous for the Audiophile?


Recently, I started a blog on my website (amorsound.com).  Following is the first blog post...made a couple of month ago....

Let's begin with a basic definition. Break-In is the manufacturer's suggested (or required) usage time for the component to achieve FULL performance. I've seen a few recommended break-in periods as high as 400hrs. Ugh! Also, some manufacturers suggest (or require) a specific METHOD of usage to achieve full performance.

Break-In is often necessary, but also a potentially dangerous part of the Audiophile journey. Why? Three reasons...

Delayed gratification: We want our sound, and we want it now. ☺ Waiting up to 400hrs of PLAYTIME (i.e., almost 17 days) to hear your purchase is beyond unwelcome…., it's painful. We're audiophiles because we LOVE the sound. As modern consumers, we're not accustomed to (nor do we appreciate) delayed gratification.

Impaired selection: Audiophiles are EXTREMELY interested in achieving maximum performance of our systems and ANY components we select for audition or inclusion. We spend significant time and energy selecting SUSPECTS, then PROSPECTS and finally consummating PURCHASES of components to audition. After expending this effort, we shouldn't want to make selection mistakes. The following are a few common selection mistakes.

  • False-positive #1 (can't wait): Audition the component at the BEGINNING of the Break-In period, love it, and keep it. Later, as component elements complete break-in, the performance devolves so significantly that it's NO LONGER a good selection. Stuck!
  • False-positive #2 (self-fulfilling prophecy): Dedicate significant resources (i.e., time, energy, money, etc.) toward selecting a component. Once selected...
    • You want this component to deliver the anticipated joy and sound.
    • You want to hear improvement during the break-in period.
    • You want to believe this component is a winner.

During break-in, you become ACCUSTOMED to this component in your system (warts and all)…so you keep it. Once the new component EXCITEMENT wears off, you realize you made a selection mistake. Stuck!

  • False-negative (can't wait): This is the exact opposite of False-positive #1. Listen at the beginning of the break-in period, hate it, and move on. You're blessed in this case because "you don't know what you don't know." Admittedly, I've been the lucky benefactor of SEVERAL components that weren't fully broken in, did the required break-in, and found "manna from heaven." Good for me, but bad for the original owner.

Diminished performance: With some components, the break-in method isn't just crucial to achieving the full performance of the component…it's required. If a proper method of break-in isn't utilized, some components can be IRREPARABLY damaged…that is, they'll NEVER achieve full performance. I've not knowingly suffered this fate, but I'd be PISSED if I did. ☹

Since Break-In can ONLY introduce delayed gratification, impaired selection decisions, and/or poor performance, Audiophiles should try to avoid it. (Some of you masochists may actually love the break-in process. Not me.)

By design, ALL CH Acoustic products deliver 100% of their designed performance at first use. There's no delayed gratification, no impairment of your selection decision, and no performance risk from Break-In. You connect the CH Acoustic cables and cords, press play, and listen.

  • Your smile should show up in the first ten (10) seconds.
  • Your audiophile enjoyment will last LONG past the first 400hrs of playtime.
  • You can spend your time and energy ridding yourself (and your system) of the former cable loom, maybe even putting some money back in your pocket. ☺

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Do you actually believe all that malarkey? Or this is your idea of an effective infomercial for CH Acoustics?

Millercarbon - For giggles, I’m going to pretend your response isn’t a statement of condemnation, LIGHTLY shaded as a couple of questions. :)

 

I do believe what I’ve written about break-in. In addition, I’ve benefited by putting my beliefs into practice.

 

As for the infomercial question…

ANY manufacturer could CHOOSE to sell their product to clients at full performance out of the box. Or ANY manufacturer could CHOOSE to sell their product at a discount, knowing the client will need to “cook” the item to achieve full performance.

Example: Pizza – Papa Murphy’s allows clients to select an uncooked pizza at a relative discount to ready-to-eat pizzas of similar quality. As such, the customer receives this discount as an incentive toward accepting the burden of cooking @ 400 degrees for 40 minutes. :)

For some reason (???) many manufacturers of high end audio components CHOOSE to do neither (i.e. impaired performance without a discount). These manufacturers sell their products at luxury prices KNOWING the performance is 75%-80% out of the box, knowing the component requires 400 hours of burn-in, effectively passing off this performance risk to their clients.

 

So CH Acoustic CHOOSES to sell products at full operating performance. As this CHOICE is EASILY replicated by any manufacturer, I don't believe it is an “effective infomercial”. However, I do believe this represents a client friendly business CHOICE.


Okay, well then its all malarkey. Break-in isn't even break in its burn-in. Manufacturers don't recommend it, its just something they know about, and use to their advantage in different ways. There's absolutely no way of harming anything by how its burned in- at least not so long as its being used properly. Any and all normal use will result in burn-in, which really is nothing more than a state of equilibrium.  

Its impossible for anything to be completely perfect and the same right out of the box, for the same reason nothing sounds completely perfect and the same from one night to the next. Every day, every night, every time a component is used after not being used for a while it needs a little warm-up time to re-attain equilibrium. This includes being turned off overnight, and so for sure it includes being shipped to you in a box. If you're not hearing it, work on that, because trust me its there. 


Whether we like it or not, components with a physical suspension like speakers and styli simply need playing time to loosen up and perform optimally as expected. I’ve witnessed it repeatedly with new woofers. Many electronic components benefit from burn it time...especially caps and tubes.

I’ve never witnessed an audio component that got permanently worse from burn in/break in, though some go through an awkward stage before they settle in.
" . If a proper method of break-in isn't utilized, some components can be IRREPARABLY damaged… "
What are some actual examples of  "improper methods and the resulting specific "irreparable damage"  that you have encountered?
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@rodman99999

You misunderstood the "nature" of my post, I'm not buying anything he's selling - the sales job or the product - wanted to see what he was going to come up with as examples
There is a very real difference between break in and burn in.

Burn in is specific after construction to let components settle in and to allow for early failure of components.  So, there is a specific burn in period where equipment is turned on and operating.  This is true for just about any equipment.  Cars, airplane components, electronics, etc.

Break in is different.  For new audio equipment, manufacturers don't have the time and or space to perform sufficient break in for equipment.  So, they recommend a break in period at home before serious listening.  This is another reason why demonstration equipment is better.  They have already been through the break in period.

For high end equipment, I have heard significant differences in sound of new equipment going through the break in process.  After a certain amount of break in time, the equipment settles into to its real sound.

This is normal.  This is also not the same as the warm up period for equipment.

Some equipment take hours to reach optimal sound after being turned on.

In my experience, my equipment reaches optimal sound after about 30-45 minutes of warm up.

So, you go to a dealer and listen to a system and it sounds wonderful.  You take a pre-amplifier or amp or source home that is brand new and it sounds off.  Well, it could very well be that it hasn't been through the break in period and all that is needed is time and operating.

In my opinion, it should sound pretty good out of the box, but it will sound better over time and use.  Read the manufacturer's break in recommendation.  It's there for a reason

It's a thing.

enjoy
So, you can bake your cables along with your pizza......
Hey, there's this thing called a wheel that makes things easier to move than using  a sled.

Yeah, we know that.
"What are some examples of improper break-in"? I've heard warnings against breaking-in speakers with, let's say, 400  hours of straight Yoko Ono. I can't say if they'd be irreparably damaged ....... although your PSYCHE may be at risk!
Though some have chosen to malign my character and my intentions, following are two examples to forward a discussion of the subject.

A cable manufacturer (not CH Acoustic), utilizes cryo treatment to perfect the capability of their directional cables.  This manufacture recommends playing music with the cables in the client system.  This manufacturer believes use of aftermarket "break in" machinery and discs IRREPARABLY diminishes the capability of their cables.

A manufacturer of tube amplifiers believes their amps sweeten with time, while playing music (though no specific break-in period is recommended).  However, this manufacturer also believes the use of aftermarket "break in" machinery and discs IRREPARABLY diminishes the capability of their amps.

As referenced in my initial post..."I have not knowingly suffered this fate"...described by the examples above. However, I chose to include this in order to describe the potential severity of the related performance risk.
Post the links to the websites' pages that state this
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"A manufacturer of tube amplifiers believes their amps sweeten with time, while playing music (though no specific break-in period is recommended). However, this manufacturer also believes the use of aftermarket "break in" machinery and discs IRREPARABLY diminishes the capability of their amps."        That manufacturer would, undoubtedly, have mentioned such in their amp’s Owner’s Manual, or- at least, online.                      How about a link?
For those truly interested in learning more, I offer the following.

The examples I listed yesterday are from PRIVATE conversations with company representatives.  Also, it is not my intent to malign another industry participant to prove a point.

However, I did check the related websites for PUBLIC information to further the discussion. I did not find anything specific enough to warrant sharing.

Finally, do you own research.  I've found the gross majority of industry participants VERY willing to discuss break-in (among other issues) that could affect the use of their equipment.
You forgot to say, "TRUST ME!"
I think that you need to differentiate between damaging a component and being ineffective. From my perspective, I cant think of any burn or break-in procedure that could do actual damage. I have had superb results with my Audiodharma device and am a believer in this process. After using this conditioner on my Inakustik speaker cables I heard a great improvement and this manufacturer doesnt believe in this process. But they plate their terminals with Rhodium which I think is a serious mistake.
Once again, for the community’s benefit:
"Audiophile Law: Thou Shalt Not Overemphasize Burn In" at Dagogo.com

The hubris, and time wasting of audiophiles never ends, including threads such as this.

CH Precision has precisely zero advantage over any other gear, even OPPO, in this regard. Far too much nonsense around here. :(

BTW, one of the conclusions of the OP is correct; "Burn in" is a disadvantage to the audiophile. It prevents advancement while waiting for magical things, purportedly "scientific" things, to happen. It stonewalls decision making and increases the odds that a mediocre piece will end up being kept. However, the OP reaches those decisions through incorrect assumption, it seems, rather than through actual comparison, which is why he fumbles when it comes to thinking it's due to the CH Precision gear. So, a half-correct assessment. That's closer to reality than most here. 

There are other problems with burn in, but I'm not going to take the time to elucidate them here. 
Break in, not Burn in.

Two entirely different things.

go to any factory. After construction is complete they activate the device for a time period.  Days, weeks, etc.  For a Burn in period. To see if there are any issues.  If it is going to fail, it typically does it during the burn in period.  

A friend of mine is the manager of the last jukebox company in America.  They make some outstanding equipment, with their own high level wood working/cabinet making facility.  They complete construction and plug the units in and let them burn in (operate) for days.  An entire assembly line doing this.

As an Engineer that designed and built Military grade electronics, this is exactly what we did also.  this is called burn-in

Every example I've seen from an audiophile perspective, when you take the device home, they recommend a break-in period.

just want to clarify.

enjoy
Look at engine/automotive/mechanical definitions and the phrase "break in" or "run in" is used of the initial use. 

For the audiophile in the home this is a distinction without meaning. The problem is not terminology, it is the expectation of significant change related to usage.
So Doug you dont hear a difference in gear after a few hundred hours of use? Or is the difference overstated? 
What if one prefers the sound of the not yet broken-in, or burned-in, or burned-out state of a component or wire? After 47 hours of breaking in my cable sounded less important. Somehow demure and borderline flatulent. Cryo me a river.
audition_audio, did you bother to read the article? I believe I explain that the phenomenon is perceptual over time as one acclimates to the system. 

This is the silliest thread I have ever seen. The human imagination is a fabulous thing.
What if one prefers the sound of the not yet broken-in, or burned-in, or burned-out state of a component or wire?

I don't prefer it, but usually do enjoy listening to the many different changes as time goes by. Especially early on when things change the most and fastest. My Herron phono stage did not sound near the same at the end of the first song as it had at the beginning, was even better by the end of the first side, and this went on all through the first few hours. Everything does this, always, just not always to the same extent. Something similar happens again every night as the system warms up and changes a lot over the first side, and continues to improve for quite some time thereafter. Good listeners will notice. Chris Brady did, and said so without being asked.  

Its obvious, consistent, and happens across a wide range of components. Its been a thing for like 30 years at least. I've brought stuff home for audition that sounded horrible until left on overnight. Next day, much better. Even though daytime AC is nowhere as good as night time AC.  

This is all so obvious its hard to know what to make of people who joke about it. Like its not for real. Are they really that hard of hearing? Are their systems so out of whack? I was hearing this stuff with a vintage Kenwood and JBL. Hard to think of a more low to mid-fi rig. So either they are near stone deaf, or never really tried. Although to be honest I wasn't really trying, and first noticed this stuff by accident. So back to stone deaf. 

That's it then. Stone deaf. And into audio. Dang. Oh well. Takes all kinds.

I agree with millercarbon on this one. Not only do I hear differences in components as they burn in but I also hear differences on burned in devices as they are played over several hours. 
I am not saying that "differences" are not happening.  I am saying they are subjective,  not actual,  as demonstrated by my testing. It takes an overconfident person to not accept that possibility. I was such an overconfident person on this and other topics in audiophilia many years ago, but humbled myself to do informal testing,  which changed my opinions. 

I encourage those who think they are absolutely sure of this to check their pride by doing as I did in the article.  It will be a wake up call. 

BTW, I plan on revisiting such testing in the future with different gear, which if the results are similar,  would reinforce my conclusions. 
Anyone ever heard of VAC Audio?     From their 70/70 manual (copy/paste/verbatim): "Any time that the VAC Power Amplifier has not been used for a few weeks the sound may be different.   This is also normal for high resolution audio equipment.   Optimum sound should return after a few hours of operation, preferably with an audio signal.   Refer to the discussion of break in contained in the INTRODUCTION section of this manual for further information.   Please note that although your VAC System has been run for 48 hours at the factory, they will continue to "break in" for approximately 150 hours.   Also be aware that many components display the need for a new break in period after being transported in unheated cargo aircraft."       How about Cary?    From their SLM-100 manual: "The tubes, capacitors and output transformers take approximately 100 hours of music playing to fully settle in for peak performance.   The SLM-100 may seem sterile or thin sounding right out of the box.   After the first couple hours you will notice increased depth and tighter bass.   This break in period defies all engineering theory, but is true with most audio amplifiers."       I’m rather disposed to accept their version of things, based on my own experience.    Deny, or call it whatever you like.      "Hubris", indeed!
It will be observed that those are typically tubed components, and I am not saying that tubed electronics cannot change sound in warm up. However, it would be interesting to do my testing with more tube gear. If I recall correctly, one of the components in my comparison was the Peachtree Nova, which has tube, and there was no difference.

BTW, the only thing being challenged by me is the pride of audiophiles thinking their ears/perception is more stable than electronics.
Yeah: tubed components that take a couple hundred hours to, "warm up"  (snort of derision).