phono stage break in?

Does anyone know if breaking in a phono stage is possible by running my tuner to the input of the phono stage? Is this a bad idea?

Simpler and Mo better:
Get a Purist Audio phono stage break-in CD and use your CD player to run 24/7 on repeat to break in the new phono stage. You can get 168 hours of burn-in time per week.
Rolloff, the tuner might work for a MM stage but the best way is to use a CD that has been recorded special for the RIAA circuitry in the phono stages.

Larry, does PA make a disc for phono stage break in? Albert sent me one from Granite Audio (has MM and MC break in track) for phono stage and the PA system enhancer for the rest of the system and cables. I don't know if he just likes the GA cd better or if the Purist doesn't work on phono stages.


I have the Purist disc also, but for phono preamps (and stages) I think the disc made by Granite audio specifically for that purpose is better. It contains the RIAA frequency pre-emphasis that is applied to records and then de-emphasized in the phonostage.

No CD can work on circuitry it doesn't send signal thru. Even the Granite requires that you hook the output of your CD player (with its own volume control) to the inputs of your phono preamp/stage.

Personally I think using the sweep tracks on a record like the Cardas regularly keeps everything (including the cartridge!) in shape.
Thanks for the replies.
I guess I'll order a CD.
If it was me, I will get this instead of a CD. In the long run, this will prove to be a valuable tool. I am using one and it works flawlessly.

Read the description, it is self explanatory. You can use your tuner, cd player, ipod, etc.
The hagtech board was recommended to me as well. I do think that may be the best way to do this. However, as with the CDs and the hagtech circuit board, once your state is broken in these are not going to be used much at all. I suppose one could purchase one of these and then sell it when done with it. The Cardas record that Neil mentions is really worth keeping around because you will use it.
KAB makes a RIAA pre-emphasis box that you can use with any line source. It provides a MM level (which you should also be able to use as an MC input carefully, use the highest possible loading)
FM interstation noise from a tuner with its "white" characteristic (equal, random power distribution across the band) should make for an extremely effective break in tool.
I use it. I am in no way affiliated with KAB
I would echo Nsgarch's post. I also have the Granite break-in CD, but was not aware of the differences between the Granite and the Purist Audio CD's until Neil's post.
I would suggest owning both the Granite CD as well as the Cardas Frequency Sweep LP.
The Cardas LP is a great tool to own for the long run and well worth the $ 25.00 - 30.00.
The Cardas LP has been great to run in my system every 3 - 4 weeks (the frequency sweep side, not the burn in side, the burn in side is fantastic for cartridge break-in). I always notice a significant improvement in the Sonics of my system after playing through the Frequency sweep tracks. The results may vary based on your system and what cartridge you use.
Larry, Granite makes a number of special purpose CDs, so make sure the one you have is either CD-101 or CD 101.1, which are the phono burn-in CDs.

I like the Cardas best, but I sure wish someone would make an LP that had a frequency sweep track(s) that filled the entire side so treating one's system every few weeks wouldn't be so labor intensive ;--) Anybody know of such a product?
The cover on this one saya "Model #CD-101.1 (with Bonus MC tracks)". All of the other tracks have been recorded at 4 mV output. Must be the one to get if you want to cover both MM and MC.

Neil, Larry, I get a bad ground loop when trying to use my BAT CDP connected to the phono inputs. I pulled out an old Marantz CD 63SE since it floats the ground. This fixed the ground loop, but it does seem to have a high noise floor. Sound right or is there possibly still something amiss? I know your not supposed to listen to the Granite CD, but I'm curious if that is also "seen" by the phono stage and if it is hindering the process.

How does this sound for a process. I'm going to let this CD run the MC track continuously when I'm not listening for the rest of the week. That should be me over the 200 hour point. Then play the Cardas a couple of times at the start of a session. I'm afraid to run the other 32 tracks through the MC input because of circuit overload.
KAB makes a RIAA pre-emphasis box that you can use with any line source. It provides a MM level (which you should also be able to use as an MC input carefully, use the highest possible loading)
FM interstation noise from a tuner with its "white" characteristic (equal, random power distribution across the band) should make for an extremely effective break in tool.
I use it. I am in no way affiliated with KAB

I agree with Nick! Why is it that I am seeing the importance of the pre-emphasis/de-emphasis feature as well as proper attenuation not to overload the phono preamp in using this devices plus a wider selection of source that can be use instead of a cd? Maybe because it mimicks a real TT cartridge signal? Maybe.....
Why can't you just record some broadband noise, reduce the level by some arbitrary amount, say 60dB, burn a CD of the now low level noise and then plug your phono preamp into the CD player. I've not tried this, but it should work.
As near as I can tell, both the CDs and circuit boards do the job and cost about the same. In my case, it's not costing me anything.

Ofcourse, one could always keep the money and just play records for a month or so. The phono stage is going to break in one way or the other.
This one is not a rebutal by any way, just a question:
Well...what about NOT using anything and just keeping the phono preamp on for a while. Does someone have any evidence that this by any means yields inferior results than buying a $20 CD ?
Noams, it's not about just leaving the equipment on, it's about running a signal thru it (and the interconnects too).

Phono preamps/stages include a Recording Institute of America (RIAA) de-emphasis section (a little like Dolby noise reduction.) So any "break-in" signal has to be "pre-emphasized" just like the signal on an LP. That's the reason for the "special" phono break-in CD, or the Hagermann device with the "reverse" RIAA circuit.
Just a quick question regarding using the Cardas Sweep record, which I just acquired last week. "Instructions" are kind of sketchy-I looked at the Cardas website and from what I can see using track 2 (a,b & c) on the sweep side should just about do it for regular maintenance. Do I have that right? Assuming I play one of those (or do I play all of them) every couple of weeks, am I getting the job done or do I need to be playing much more of the sweep side of the record? Thanks.
Hdm, yeah, a little sketchy. Anyway, you can do many things w/ the Cardas record. Two of them are:

1.) Cartridge break in -- to "ease up" a new suspension. You use track 2,3,4 on side 2. They are continuous grooves, so the stylus will stay in the groove until you lift it out. (Read the "Note" section for Side two just before the Track 2 description.) You could literally leave the TT running 24/7 with the cartridge in the groove until you have accumulated the required break-in time, usually at least 100 hours. I also run in new cartridges a couple tenths of a gram over their max. recommended VTF to speed up the break-in process -- then you back it off. Cartridge suspensions are a bit like the springs on a car -- a little stiff at first, and until they loosen up, the coils will not, at the recommended VTF, be properly positioned in the magnetic force field. Use all three bands (2,3,4) since they modulate (wiggle) the suspension in different directions.

2.) Another thing you can do with the Cardas record is degauss (de-magnetize) a cartridge as part of regular maintenance. This is just as effective as, and IMO much safer than, using a cartridge demagnetizer -- which I stopped using after reading A. J. van den Hul's explanation of the damage that can be done to the magnets and pole pieces in the cartridge. For this procedure, you need to use the full frequency sweep tracks 2a,b,c on Side one. Let your cartridge play all three tracs in succession and repeat two more times. Every 20 hours of playing time should be more than enough even if you're extremely anal. There's no need to turn up the volume control as this is mostly for the cartridge, however, if you're working ouside, or in the garage, crank it up a little, as it's good for the whole system.
Why does a phono break-in signal have to have the RIAA equalization curve? The equalization is intended to improved high frequency S/N and increased per side playing time. Neither consideration is an issue with a break-in signal.
Onhwy61 -- I realize this answer isn't very scientific, but since all phono preamps (or stages) have built-in RIAA de-emphasis circuitry, it stands to (my) reason that they should be "conditioned" by feeding them the frequency/amplitude distribution curve for which they are designed.

As a matter of fact, the supposed advantage of using the Granite Audio CD or the Hagermann unit (instead of the Cardas record,) would be that you could run a higher level signal through the phonostage than it would normally "see" from a (weak) cartridge signal -- sort of like cable cooking.
Nsgarch- thanks for your response. However, I am not sure that I agree with it, and I think that by just turning the unit on for as long as needed (without even an input cable plugged in), you are basically achieving the same goal...and, based on your rationale, you are actually "feeding" the preamp the weakest signal possible...allowing you to use higher gain.
I must say that these CDs always struck me as one of the most unessecery add ons that are out there.
Nsgarch, thanks for the explanation. I don't agree, but I see your logic. IMO any broadband signal feed into a phono stage at an appropriate level should work as a break-in device. Just my opinion and it's not like I've run comparative listening test on phono break-in signals.
Here we go time to enjoy the journey, just that aching need to get there here and now this microsecond and to hell with and damn the torpedos how we got there.

One word: MUSIC

Components are DESIGNED to be listened to with real music, in real time, under real-use situations, not facsimile thereof or some contrived and imagined scheme designed to shortcut the process. If it's a good piece of gear, just use it properly and enjoy it. It will eventually "break in" whatever the heck that actually means. It already has most of the qualities inherent in its design, and chances are if it was manufactured by a quality operation, it was thoroughly tested and found to be well within its operating specifications.

There is no guarantee that whatever method is used will reveal the final outcome in the proper system context and listening environment, EXCEPT actual use as intended. This false break-in stuff is for the birds, distracts us from the music, remember that?, and just puts money into low value junk like break-in "burners," CDs and records.

Just play music through the component and enjoy the ride.

Now let me tell you what I really think. ;-)

Noams, the devices do break in much differently with a signal going through them, and not just a static signal. It needs to vary in amplitude and frequency just as the signal from the record will. Just turning on the unit with no signal does nothing except warm up the power supplies.

Steve, I agree with you for the most part. However, when it comes to breaking in tonearm wire I'm all for any method that will speed up the process. But this doesn't take anything special. All you need is a cheap cable that you can attach to the cartridge leads. Plug that cable into a CDP and the other end of the tonearm wire into the preamp and let it play for a few days. (Thanks Albert!)
Noams, to be perfectly frank, I'm not sure I agree with any of this, as I already said:

"Personally I think using the sweep tracks on a record like the Cardas regularly keeps everything (including the cartridge!) in shape."

HOWEVER, one does need to run a signal thru the equipment and cables to "break them in" if indeed "break-in" is even a real world phenomenon. That's because at "idle" (no signal) there is no current through most parts of the circuits, so all the little internal components and wiring are under zero stress.

I have kept an eye (ear?) out for "break in" changes in all parts of my systems for over 40 years, and have used all manner of break in accessories and devices (except for an AudioDharma Cable Cooker.) Personally, the only "break in" changes I've experienced over all that time fall into a few specific categories:

1.) Cartridges: ALL new cartridges ALWAYS go through a break-in period. Well Duh! If you flex a new piece of rubber long enough, it's going to relax a little bit! And of course there's those tiny little coil wires with their enameled insulation that will be altered at a molecular level after carrying all that electromagnetically induced current ;--)

2.) Cables: Well, first of all, the last time I bought any kind of new cable was around 1990 when I was rich and bought some Straightwire Maestro spkr and IC, and 3 pair of Magnan Type Vi. Some stock PCs had IEC connectors back then, but nobody made aftermarket PCs, so that issue was moot. A set of vdHul tonearm cables came w/ my SME V and I used those until three years ago (for 13 years!) until someone at Sumiko (SME US rep) told me in language I won't repeat here, that they sucked and I should consider Cardas Golden Reference; right after that I fell into a pair of Purist Venustas which blew my mind -- but I digress....... Back then, the only "break in" anybody discussed was their automobile engines and their shoes! Since then, I've bought almost all my cables used, so when "break in" became a hot topic, I had no way to tell if my cables were changing or not because all mine were presumably already broken in!

3.) Equipment/components: What I said about cables somewhat applies here also in my case (used purchases) however, SS equipment has not appeared to change much from its out-of-the-box sound. Tube equipment does change -- a lot! But that's due to the tubes having to burn in, not the equipment itself. And once burned in, tubes, like cartridges remain the same until shortly before death!

4.) Speakers: a qualified "always" as in: "it's ALWAYS something!" But is it the crossover and wiring, the electrostatic membrane, the woofer surround, the voice coil? All of the above? Probably, but will you hear changes? That would be a definite "maybe" depending on the individual product. Stats definitely smooth out, but is it the membrane or the electronics? And do speakers benefit from occasional conditioning with frequency sweep CDs? And if I could hear a difference, how would I know if it was the speaker that had improved, or something else further upstream -- after all, the CD affects everything from the transport on out.

Bottom line? Well two things:

The biggest break-in changes I've heard over and over again are with cartridges and tubes.

The biggest maintenance improvements I've heard over and over again are, first and foremost, cleaning plugs and connectors. And a less obvious second, using the Cardas record (for cartridge de-gaussing) or the Purist CD (for system conditioning.)
Dear Rolloff: +++++ " phono stage break in? " +++++

This is the title of your thread.

We have to ask what parts in a phono stage ( btw: electronic devices ) needs break-in: Fets, transistors, resistors, diodes, capacitors, switchs, connectors, transformers, tubes, DACs, solder, boards, etc, etc ?

For many years I was crazy about break-in in any audio device and those experiences told me that in electronic audio devices only three audio parts needs some break-in to achieve its optimal level: DACs, capacitors and tubes, and from these ones only the caps where the signal pass through ( especially the teflon caps ).

Now, how to break-in: I agree with Steve, playing music: nothing more.

My Essential 3150 sounds very good out of the box, 50 hours latter you are near heaven and 100 hours you are on heaven!!! and you enjoy every single minute those " break-inn " hours ( two weeks ) with the music you are hearing.

Now, there are differences between what we want to hear with the break-in and what really happen. Many of us really want to hear differences through the break-in when in reality maybe there are no differences at all.

Like Steve and Noams posted: " and just puts money into low value junk like break-in "burners," CDs and records. "

" I must say that these CDs always struck me as one of the most unessecery add ons that are out there. "

At least for audio electronic audio devices.

Play music and enjoy it!!!!!!!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
I agree with Raul about caps needing break in time. That seems, based on my experiences, to be the component that does benefit from prolonged exposure to the signals of music reproduction. To take this one step further, it seems to me that any component with a measurable capacitance gains from this break in as well. DACs, and all chips, are composed of tiny capacitors. I've found that most tubes that I've used settle in within 50 hours or so.

I've not used CD's before this to break in a phono stage specifically. I'm sure many of us have left a CDP on repeat for several days to burn in other components. It does seem to have sped things up a bit, but I suppose it would take the break in of many phono stages to say for sure that this really does speed things up.
If my stereo is playing I have to listen. I don't care how it sounds. A full orchestra usually has full spectrum of music. Use real music for breakin.
Every component(cables are not a component) I ever had not only requires breakin but except for speakers require warm up. Out of the box they are simply unlistenable.
The more expensive the more breakin time. I have also come to the suspicion that the reason so many great products sound awful at the store is inadequate breakin. Cheap products are playing all the time. Expensive products are turned on only for "special customers." Electrostatic speakers need to have thier transformers breakin and warm up.

Dan_ed, Nsgarch, Rauliruegas
I really do appreciate the time your took to explain it to me.

I used to be a firm non-believer in break in phenomena, until I recapped my preamp (ns-10). When I first got it it sounded awful, dry with decreased dynamic range. Over the next two weeks, it changed, but I was actually absent most of time and it was fed just statics from the cartridge...
Same thing goes for my new phono preamp.
Would an RIAA cd make it faster/better? maybe. however, The results that I got using the above methods were more than satisfactory to me.
As for the CARDAS sweep record, I am seriously considering buying it, so thanks for the warm recomendation!!
Noams, it sounds to me like you should get even more improvement as you continue to play through your preamp. What you describe is very much what I also hear as caps break in.

Think about this. Caps are voltage and time devices. This circuit is also affected by resistance, but I'll keep this simple for the sake of clarity. The time component means they are affected by signal frequency. If the signal is somewhat static as you describe then the range that the cap is operating in is limited to the frequency and amplitude of that static signal. Since this is probably nowhere near the range of frequencies produced by music playback, it is reasonable to assume that there are parts of the capacitor's capabilities that are not being exercised. This implies that the best way to break in compnents is to use a truly random sigal. That is random in both frequency and amplitude. This is why the test CDs and sweep records use tones that tend to sweep across frequencies.

All that being said, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that these test recordings do any better job at breaking in components than just listening to music. They're mostly a convenience, in my opinion, and probably do help speed up the break in by allow one to get those 200+ hours in just a few days of continuous CP play rather than spinning records for a month or two. I believe this is especially true for very low signal levels like one would see from many LO MC cars.

On the other hand, several folks that I trust have told me that they use the Cardas record on a regular basis, say once a month, and that they do notice an improvement in doing so. I'm just starting to do this so I can't say if I hear the same benefit or not.
Another advantage of the Cardas record (over, for instance, the Purist CD) is you don't have to get out of the house when playing it!
To avoid adding much to the length of this thead, I'll say that I agree with almost everybody!

Do we hear various components break in? Absolutely. Some more than others, as has been noted. Cartridges, speakers, tubes, capacitors, interconnects and cables (even if cables aren't "components"!).

Do we spend time spinning burn-in CD's to annoy the cats and drive us out into the rain (as Neil noted)? Very rarely.

Unless something sounds really bad, I'll listen to music and enjoy whatever comes out of the speakers. The only time we've used a burn-in CD in recent memory was to try and bring life to some dead sounding connectors lent to us by D**_**. Six hours of horrible noise later and they were no better, and we'd lost six hours of sanity.

Breaking in by playing music is not only more enjoyable, it's educational. As you hear and think about what's changing and why - you learn. This is a good thing, and not to be short-changed by cheating. Instant gratification is what Ipods are for.


P.S. I am on the Cardas LP monthly maintenance plan. That's not break in, at least in the normal sense. It's bringing the system back to performance levels we've previously heard.
Heehee! Doug, I don't think any amount of burn in would help those POS adapters! I don't think any amount of anything would help them!

I have to say that when it comes to playing burn in CDs that I have a distinct advantage. My system is downstairs and I can lower the volume and close the door.
I've found that the best burn-in CD is the Ayre CD using the brown-noise track. Since the brown-noise mimics the frequency distribution mimics actual music. I also use the Cardas record montly and for cartridge break-in. Both, in my opinion, are indispensible.
What's a "POS" adapter?
In this case, Neil, it is a mediocre SE/XLR adapter. P.O.S, as in piece of shite.
Okey Dokey ;--)
"Do we hear various components break in? Absolutely. Some more than others, as has been noted. Cartridges, speakers, tubes, capacitors, interconnects and cables (even if cables aren't "components"!)."
We already had the do cables breakin debate on another thread. Judge for yourself.
Thanks for the heads up on the Ayre burn in CD. Have you tried and compared it with either the Granite or Purist Aduio burn in CDs ?

I have only had the chance to compare the Ayre to the two Granite CDs. The PAD one is a bit pricey for me, and I cannot find anywhere even a "track listing" or rationale/marketing on why I should buy the PAD CD. The Ayre CD was made by George Cardas and works very well for burning equipment in. I actually have a new headphone amplifier on the way here and plan to use it again, so perhaps I can use this opportunity to revaluate the Ayre CD ;) Like many people, I use the Ayre and Cardas record weekly for general maintence as well as break-in with noticeable differences.

Thanks for the follow up. I will give the Ayre a try. Where is a good place to pick it up (Acoustic Sounds) ?
Just FYI: The PAD CD is $150 list but only $99 at Music Direct. It is burned in real time, not stamped. It is a full 72 min of computer generated sequences (not exactly "tracks") which "target" different types of electronic "parts" in the system (resistors, capacitors, IC chips, voice coils, etc.) -- at least that's the description ;--)

You are supposed to (initially) run it continuously through five cycles, and then after that two cycles for maintenance.

I does make a difference, but I have to leave while it's playing. Even at what would be "normal" listening levels, it makes me nuts. It would make a great weapon, or maybe to clear out a bar at closing time ;--)
Ok. I tried the Cardas sweep again today. First time since all the new gear went in. It does seem that there was a lot of grundge before. Now the voices and instruments are just that much more defined. The notes at both extremes are also cleaner.