Sound of cables breaking in?


When I try cables, of various types, I find that when I first put them in, they give me a little taste of what they will sound like after they are broken in. Then, things get strange, and the sound can vary all over the place, until they finally settle in.

Who else has similar experience? I'm thinking people sometimes give up on a particular cable during this volatile period, and never get to what it really sounds like.
tommylion
Exactly!  New cables take patience. When researching cables I'm careful to consider the listening observations of those who make note of giving the cables an appropriate time to break in.  My experience is that the last quality to be revealed is dynamic ebb and flow, the quality that gives music its naturalness.
Tommy many of us wants instant gratification, when we read a good reviews on cables we jump and buy , then we don’t hear what is written, then sell, and criticize the product, problem every cables should settle first in your system, they are system dependent, True many used cable for sale they are not fully broken in. I have the same experience as yours...This hobby need time and patience and good ears...
File this one under too many variables. With so many variables like other system changes, addition of tweaks, weather, time of day, day of week, and many other things it’s not terribly surprising folks report hearing changes in the sound over a period of time with anything.
New cables can sound grainy, with a weaker midrange/bass fullness.
IMO cables should sound OK when new, and get better as they break in.
A cable which sounds like crap may or may not ever sound good.
I had a 7 meter long Hero XLR which sounded like crap day one. So bad I almost took it back. It turned into a decent cable. Later I had a Cardas Parsec 7m XLR and that POS never got right. (always lean sound) After a month I sent it back. However I like a one meter Parsec XLR I still have.
Correct all IMHO.  In my case cables may never get the necessary hours because I am mostly analog and tubes and not willing to put dead hours on them burning in wire.

Elizabeth is right, if it sounds like crap out of the box do not look for a monumental change.


@tommylion - as others have posted what you have experienced is quite normal.

I've had cables that required over 120 hours to start sounding good again and after that they got better, but sounded their best at around the 350 hour mark.

It depends on many factors including metallurgy of the conductors, insulation used and the cable geometry - i.e. how the conductors are aligned within the sleeve.

I tend to install them on a system and then stream music from the internet for about a week before listening seriously.

I've also experienced it with connectors and plugs, so it applies to most things in the audio chain.

Hope that helps - Steve


Cables take at least 100 to 300 hrs to break in this depends on the thickness and the design.When cables are shipped i just had my cables (Purist) re terminated to balanced from rca they will take 20 to 50 hours to settle back in the system.When they are settled in the sound will get smoother with better depth and bass.I can say this balanced cables between the amp and preamp are much more dynamic with more powerful bass as well.Thanks hope this helps. Enjoy!!
These days one can use a USB stick with some tunes on it, even on an old DVD player (with USB input)..and burn that cable in, via playing music signals from the USB/DVD player, into a unused input on your given rig. Let that sit for days at a time, and then the burn in in is done..

So one does not have to waste precious hours on cartridges, or tubes or whatnot. One does not even have to hear it break in. Let the USB/DVD 'burn in rig' play 24/7 for 3-4-5 days..and then you are done.

One can also use specific burn in signals, like pink noise, left running on repeat, off that USB stick.

So, equipment required: One of the ubiquitous USB sticks, an old DVD player with USB input, an input L-R pair on your rig, and the mental wherewithal to get the tunes or burn in signals on the USB stick and make it (the DVD player) run on repeat.
yep, I have experienced all of the above.  Good out of the box, then they got shouty, loud, hard, grainy, or unbalanced, then good again.  I have had bad sounding out of the box, then they got progressively better. 
Another technique that can accelerate break-in is using a Purist Audio Design Ultimate System Enhancer disc.  They claim that for every hour played you achieve 5 hours of music play break-in.  I use that disc to help with burn-in  anything new in my system, including tubes.
Right-O! Not only that but these burn-in CDs like XLO and Purist demonstrate that cables never actually burn in completely without using the burn-in discs, you know, since using the burn-in discs on what are assumed to be very well burned in cables, even ones in everyday use for years, improves them significantly. Sha-zam!! So, how much do cables burn in listening to music? Well, you tell me. My guess is 75% max.
I will limit my comments to quality build cables, because cheap budget cables that I personally experienced max out very early in the process and don’t follow the same observations following

I disagree that any proper or definitive audio performance evaluation can be gleaned from any fast first plug -in /swap-in bake off . It won’t give you any proper gauge of ultimate performance.

It took 350+ hours for my high-end model NORDOST cables loom to break in substantially (90-odd %) of peak performance , and it was not any linear pathway to OZ.

Rather it was an ad-hoc series of incremental steps . There were numerous flat plateau periods, and then I would be pleasantly surprised with another "new" improvement that made it all sound better.
This phenomenon isn't restricted to just cables, new phono cartridges, tube amps, digital equipment, headphones and I can go on and on. 
If you do this long enough, you can tell if a cable will sound good in your system upon a first listen. A more complicated cable design will take longer to settle in than simple one (think multi strand cables of various gauges, some plated, some not, and a single, solid core wire in a loose jacket with air as the primary dielectric). 

Recently, I added some short jumpers to my new speakers dual binding posts and the speed of their breaking in is noticeable, compared to my speaker cables journey. It's all fun.

All the best,
Nonoise
I've never believed in break-in until now. I'm currently going through cable break-in with my Clarus Crimson speaker cables, so this thread is perfect timing. I've had the Crimson cables for a couple of weeks. A couple of days ago my highs(cymbals) had a very subdued sound to them. As a matter of fact, details seemed to have disappeared to the point where I panicked and put the Crimsons for sale. Today everything returned to normal and I realize I need to be patient. I've never had cables that has put me on a roller coaster like Clarus has. The good news is I don't feel the need to sell them and take a big loss anymore.
I think I am asking this again.  Are there any measurable properties and/or qualities of cables (speakers, interconnects, etc) to identify good ones from the bad ones?
pc997,

Assuming the cables don't have any obvious problems with the quality of construction or materials used,

If you’re talking about properties that are measurable with test equipment, I am not aware of any that are really useful for this purpose, but they may exist.

If you are talking about measurable with your ears, then there are many. The most important one, in my opinion, is; how much are you enjoying the music?
My experience with Purist cables is very similar to the OP's.
But my experience with Tchernov cables is different. They kept improving more or less in a linear fashion and never sounded bad. Both Purist Neptune and Tchernov Reference MK II RCAs required about 275 hours to fully open up.
Often, the better the cables the longer burn-in period. More complex dialectric needs more time.
This thread reads like an RSD support group! I am currently breaking in a pair of Gabriel Gold ICs and it is a miserable process.  All of the things noted above, but it is about 2 months now and I am hearing some very good things.  
Same here.  I have 2 pair of tara labs the one speaker cables (I bi amp) and they sounded 'okay' from the start (just ok should not cut it for $5k cables, each) BUT after a few hundred hours, they really started standing out to where, after 500-600 hours, they shaped my soundstage into an incredible display.  
I don't disagree with the posts above, most of us have been there, other than the naysayers.
My point is that's why I invested (several years ago) in the Audiodharma Cable Cooker Anniversary Edition 33.5 CCGR. Power cords, Interconnects, Digital cables, Speaker cables, AC outlets, etc all that gets cooked first which has saved me a ton of time. Not for everyone but it works for me.
lak,

the Cable Cooker is definitely on my list of things to get. Do you have the adapter to do grounds? That's reported to make a difference, as well.
tommylion, I think you will really enjoy it ;-)...
Note: Do not use a cable cooker on Teo Audio cables. Music signal break in only.

New technology, new medium for conducting electricity = new rules, new norms -new ways of doing things.
teo_audio, that makes sence. I'd also add don't use a cable cooker on HFC either.
That’s a modification of standard conductivity.

The liquid metal is truly a new method. The math and the theory of liquid metal conductivity is so complex and involves so many phenomena that it is unsolved by science. Science is still defining and finding the parameters of the question. It will probably remain unsolved for quite some time. :)

Ken I used the xlo cd burn in for my Teo GC it works...I did bought this ic from my friend, that time my cc would not go thru outside US...
What I found is that from the first 1/2 hr or so, the cables have a particular sound.   The cables then get worse for a while and then return to the original sound.
jayctoy
Ken I used the xlo cd burn in for my Teo GC it works...I did bought this ic from my friend, that time my cc would not go thru outside US...

>>>>uh, oh! Level 4 Alert! Damage Control! Damage Control! ⛑
+1 Stringreen.  That is how it happens for me.
OP, that is also what I tend to find, although it seems to vary for each product, and sometimes the break-in can be quite long, even really long, and occasionally shortish.
There is a scientific reason for cables sound better after a while that has nothing to do with "burning in" electrically but is more of a mechanical nature. When you move or coil-uncoil them the strands are moving with respect to each other and the metal in the conductors is being "stressed". It takes a while for them to "fuse together" again in their new position. This is especially true for silver-plated conductors. 

It is more "settling down" than "burning in" and you are recommended not to move your cables once they are installed. Unless it is absolutely necessary you are best off with  leaving them alone for this reason.

I'm not claiming that electrical "burn-in" and directionality of cables don't play a part as well. Only that the mechanical "leave them alone and allow them to settle in their new position for a few weeks" is more important than electrical "burning in".
Movement has a slight effect but a cable sounds different as an electrical signal passes through it.  The beginning of the signal will actually 'sound' different than the end of it. 
The insulator is my interest in cable sounds and break in.
I have noticed (and so have others) that Teflon insulation takes longer to break in. And the more Teflon (with smaller gauge wire) takes even longer than large gauge conductor with a Teflon shield.
Then the Kimber bass enhancing insulation in Hero and the KS series. Yeah, those IC really do have better bass response than average, and it is the insulation! Even Kimber says so.

So the sound is more than just the metal of the wire and the way the wires lay next to each other.., it also includes the insulation type and relative thickness
Elizabeth,

Totally agree.  I would think the items you mentioned would effect the capacitance value.  Hope you are well! 
Without any objective measurement, how can we differentiate conductive qualities between a $5/ft copper cable and $500/ft copper cable?  Purely subjective??  Maybe that is why some of these cable manufacturers are coming up with materials which only exist within their own realm (advertisement, sales, customers, etc.)!
@pc997 - You make a good point...
Without any objective measurement, how can we differentiate conductive qualities between a $5/ft copper cable and $500/ft copper cable? Purely subjective??
You should be able to see/measure the leading/trailing edge of a square wave using a very good oscilloscope. This would assist identifying the "conductive" nature (e.g. the dynamic performance) of the metallic component, e.g. silver generally has faster dynamics than copper.

But an oscilloscope is not something most people have in their back pocket. :-)

The most reliable tool we all have available is our ears - which can easily detect the dynamic nature, tone and clarity aspects of a cable’s performance.

My own personal experiences and observations are...

I spent a few years years delving into different metals, insulation and geometries, I’ve found that "Generally" (i.e. in my own "laymen’s" terms)
- the metallic component of a cable impacts the dynamic performance, e.g. silver is faster than copper
- insulation can impact the tone (e.g. brightness) of a cable due to the effect of internal capacitance.
- geometry tends to effect the overall clarity of the cable, e.g. its ability to minimize internal noise issues
- and connectors have a significant impact on dynamics and clarity

And I say "Generally" because it is far a more complex process than just those three things, to produce cables capable of extremely good qualities. e.g.
- the insulation in combination with the geometry is directly related to the capacitance of a cable
- The gauge of the neutral in relation to the gauge of signal conductor has an impact on the dynamics and clarity.
- each cable has its own effect on the performance of components it is connecting.

But for anyone wanting to delve into the science of cables - those three aspects are a very good place to start their investigations.

And these are just my observations based solely on using my ears.

What astounded me was just how good my ears actually are and their ability to discern the subtle differences as each one on the above had changes applied.

Agreed - being able to "measure" the individual improvements introduced by each of these three things would be to everyone’s advantage.

But we all have a very good detection device built in - we just have to take the time to train our ears in what to listen for. This took me around four years and I am still learning, so it is NOT a trivial task.

Scientific? - No
Subjective? very much so
Enlightening? - oh yes
Effective - definitely

I definitely trust my ears - Steve :-)



williewonka,

Nice post, well done 😀