Speaker break in?

Does anyone know what the break in process is all about? Myth or fact? What is being broken in? Is there an optimum break in time? Low volume or high volume? I would appreciate feedback. My Revels (M20s) did sound better after a period of time. Why? The M20s sounded so much better than my previous speakers; I'm not sure if they were getting better or I'm just hearing more. Anyone with first hand experience? Set me free Audiogoners...
thanks in advance,
I can not explain it, I am not the sort who believes in things that can't be backed by science- but for some reason new gear needs time to break in all of it! I have never heard a new component that with in the first week in my system sounded the same as it did in the begining. The most recent mystery event was a video cable! I went to a component video cable going to my projector and from the start to the end of the film you could see a HUGE improvement in depth and color- it was unusual. The week prior I was blown away on how the new cd player and interconnect went from sounding pretty good to sounding incredible- soundstage was more rounded, everything sounded different(and for the better). New speakers are showing up next week and I am looking forward to hearing the difference there again, even outlets break in! I just don't get it- but I like it!! ~Tim
In my experience speakers undergo some of the biggest changes in break-in of any component, I think largely because they involve not only internal cabling and electronics but also the mechnical movement of the drivers. I'm now breaking in a pair of speakers(notorious for extremely long break-in times) that were all but unlistenable for the first few weeks of playing time, but have recently started to settle in. I broke in another pair from the same manufacturer a few years ago and experienced the same thing, and they continued to change significantly for at least first two to three months of constant playing. The company says it is a combination of the materials such as the thick rubber surrounds and spiders as they gradually loosen up that plays a large part in the drastic change in sound over time, and this time varies quite a bit from maker to maker depending on design and materials used. I was told that if I wanted to expedite the process I could turn up the bass/treble controls to their max settings, but I'd be careful with the volume so as not to do any damage. Although I have also noticed some change in electronic components, break-in has not been nearly as severe as with speakers in my experience, but still significant.

Unlike the other Tim, I hate the break-in process -- although it is interesting to go through, I'd much rather just get right to the good stuff. It's also a shame that many people seem to judge equipment before it's been fully run in, which doesn't help anybody. You should talk to Revel as to their recommendations on break-in time/method if there isn't any info in the manual.

My Thiels were quite harsh when I got them. I let them play at medium volume while I was at work. The recommended break in was 100 hours. They definitely mellowed out over this amount of time. Think about this: The speaker manufacturer are using broken-in components and drivers during their design process. If they make a change to a driver, they will first break the driver in and then analyze the changes that were made. So, your speakers will not sound like the manufacturer intended them to until they are broken in. The highs will probably be harsh and inaccurate because the materials are not pliable enough to move 15,000 times a second when they are stiff and new.

Of course, on the other extreme, after years of use, speakers could wear out. In other words, the materials have lost their elasticity and are slightly deformed which makes them unable to accurately reproduce the audio.

There is definitely no mystery about speaker break-in. It is a real deal. Now, somebody please tell me how a cable breaks in!
Hey Bufus, don't change my thread! Let's stick with speakers.
My experience with a new set of speakers was similar. My VR4 Gen III's were unlistenable when first played. I followed the manufacturer's recommended break-in of 100 hours of LOUD music & now 5 months later they sound fantastic.

Interestingly during this break-in process my amp apparently had never been run very hard & it finished breaking in too. It is 7 years old & I've had it just shy of a year. How do I know the amp wasn't broken in? I could smell an electronic smell coming from it the first two times I ran the VR's hard. My dealer suggested it had been run long & hard enough to finally heat up everything to complete the process. The manufacturer corroborated this.
Its easy to accept that speakers take some time to break in with all the mechanical parts that move and stretch and I have had new speakers that went from horrible to wonderful. It can take over a month.
More suprising is that electronics can change just as dramaticly. My latest amp was purchased new and sounded dreadful next to my other amp (that lists for the same money). It had rolled off highs and could not even track the basslines on some of my CDs. A few weeks of play and it is now at least as good as my other amp in all respects. Top end opened up and the bass is excellent now. Cant begin to tell you why, but there is no question that break-in takes place.
Agree with the above about mechanical break-in for speakers (true of cartridges as well), not just electrical. I have heard this quite clearly when replacing drivers, not only in my hifi speakers, but also in guitar amps. I'm sure the internal cabling and crossover bits break-in too, just like any other electrical component, but the mechanical factor adds yet another dimension that can make the difference even more obvious. New drivers that have not been run in can sound too restricted both dynamically and in power bandwidth, often displaying a spotlit frequency range relative to the whole, and/or excessive texture that smooths out eventually. This usually results in sound that is less transparent, smaller in soundstage, and is edgier and reticent-sounding compared to the fully broken-in version of the same. My assumption has always been that comfortably loud playback levels must speed the break-in process along faster than quiet levels will. BTW, new stringed instruments which produce their sound via a vibrating top soundboard also undergo a lengthy break-in improvement as they are played, following along basically the same lines.
Totem recommends break-in at low to moderate levels. I guess if the surrounds were too stiff you might damage the bond between the surround and woofer frame. Take it easy at first, but it would probably take some real abuse to damage a woofer.
Absolutely! 250-500 hours playing time should do it for virtually any higher-end speaker.

peter jasz.
Warrenh, I was just kidding about the cable break-in. I don't really think anyone could explain it to my satisfaction anyway.
Brand new speakers can change a little over time, but at least the measurable differences between a brand new and broken-in speaker have been found to be smaller than the typical variation between any two of the same model. At the same time, it's well known that people become accustomed to a certain sound as they listen to it, so it's quite likely that you're really just getting used to your new Revels. My advice, Warren, is to not sweat the details of breakin, and just enjoy your new speakers!
Thanks for the feedback guys. Whether it be interconncects, cables, power cords, speakers and all the other stuff: obviously, there does not appear to be any scientific explanation as to why this breakin process seems to work. Whether it's a placebic effect or not; there seems to be a postive correlation to "breakin." (placebo effect, by the way, in the pharmaceutical/scientific field, is very real and valid/justified) To this day, scientists are not quite sure why aspirin, and other drugs exactly work. But, when I have a headache I take two and I would tell you to do the same. If breakin works for you, it might work for me, and vicer/versa.
happy listening you audiophools.
I have a hard time believing that the measurable differences between a brand new and broken-in speaker have been found to be smaller than the typical variation between any two of the same model. However, I'm not doubting that you know what you're talking about. In my thinking, even if this is true, I believe that the "perceived" difference between a new and broken-in speaker would be larger than the "perceived" difference between two broken in speakers.
Some may say that break-in is a placebo effect but it is not. I am not one to believe every tweek that comes along is for real, especially high dollar cable hype. But I would not have kept my Totem Ones if they had sounded the same after break-in. I had other speakers to compare them to. The last amp I sold sounded so much better than my new amp that I would never had sold it if the new one had not changed so much. It may not have been so apparent if I had not had an other amp to compare it to, but it was quite obvious to me and my wife. And my wife can be painfully honest. My last four amps have all sounded different and if change was not for the better you can be asured she let me know!
"Supposedly" - notice the quotes - it is a placebo affect. There have been discussions on other forums about this and the debate is still going. I am not sure, myself.

I do notice, if I switch between my speakers (Royd Doublets to OLD Bose 6.2 (yech!!) and a pair of Polk Audio Monitor 4A's that the speaker each speaker is grating on the nerves, initially. Then over time you don't notice it anymore. Placebo affect.
I would like to mention again that I don't think there is ANY mystery to speaker break in. Do yourself an experiment: Go to Best Buy, Circuit City, or Tweeter (they all have 30 day money back guarantees) and buy a pair of decent speakers. If you don't have the money, just apply for a store credit card. This will only take about 10 minutes and you can get the speakers on credit. Now take them home and hook up one speaker. Let it break in for a good 100 hours. Now hook up both speakers and, with a mono source, swap the balance back and forth between the two speakers. This should tell if there has been any change. Don't forget to take the speakers back before the 30 days is up. You might want to break the other speaker in before you take them back or you could leave them like they are and tell the salesman you're returning them because the two speakers don't sound alike. ???? Anybody up for this experiment?
I believe the rubber surround loosens up,its very stiff when new I had Polks that sounded very thumpy at first. In time the base smoothed out and got warmer sounding. Also the magnet assembly moving on the pole piece wears in , like a door hinge gets smoother with use.
Bufus, you do that 29-day test with a pair of speakers. Let me know the store location so I can then go in and buy them as "open-box"! :^0
I own German Audioplay five-way speakers. When I received them 8 years ago, they sounded just awful for several weeks: Bass was slummy, middles and highs shrill. All that went away with break-in, and they turned out to be execellent speakers with every kind of music. A year ago I put them away when I bought my first Shahinian speakers (Obelisk) - and later settled for the Shahinian Diapason. As the Diapason subwoofer is away with a restaurator to refurbish the wood, I plugged in the Audioplay speakers a month ago. Again, having had a good year's rest, they sounded awful. And sure enough, after two weeks of playing, they start to sound musically again as I write this.
4yanx, I would like to try that experiment but I can't bring myself to do it. You do it.
Oh, you sounded like you were speaking with the voice of experience there, Bufus. Actually, my post was left in jest. I could never do such to even the surliest of audio salesmen.