Speaker Break In...? Or listener “Break In”?

Im interested in opinions regarding which has more impact; a speaker changing sound over the first 100-200 hours or a listener becoming more in tune with a certain speakers qualities and characteristics.



Remember: audiophiles think EVERYTHING "burns in."

The audiophile assumption of burn in is a convenient shibboleth for manufacturers to say "you need to keep our speakers for 200 to 500 hours and THEN you’ll know what they really sound like." Foot-in-the-door psychology and all that.

From what I’ve read driver burn in has been measured, but mostly occurs very quickly, as in not long after you play music through them.I’ve seen other measured burn in for some drivers that take longer, but again it seems the implications for audibility seem very minor.
I've visited fellow audiophiles who just got new speakers and put them through the ringer with my own music.  A week or more later they say "I think these things have burned in - the seem to have settled down and seem more mellow."  I drop over:  nope.  Sounds exactly as I remembered them.  My inference is my friend's ears have simply adjusted over time to the sound.

Both, actually. And, it can take quite a number of hours dialing in the " sweet spot " in the room: speakers relative to the walls / corners, and the location of the speakers, relative to the listening chair. Not to mention, the acoustics of the room.
It’s not multiple choice, dudes. This is just one more example of non audiophiles thinking there are two sides to some issue or another. 
This is a very interesting topic...
Prof, very good point!
I think our listening "burns-in" probably more-so than the speakers. 
Just my opinion; but audio equipment "burns-in" quite a bit quicker than we think and/or led to believe.

In my opinion, break in is real, with speakers more than electronics. Having said that, I also believe that if you don’t like the sound of a piece of equipment out of the box, no amount of break in is going to change that. The change is small, not substantial. If it were, what manufacturer would send it out just hoping for the best?
I've heard some dramatic changes in speakers for sure - got a pair of Harbeth 40.2 a few weeks ago and although the designer claims that break in is all in your head, my experience with their 12" bass driver suggests otherwise.

Fresh out of the box the bottom end sounded really quick and had some really nice impact that I really liked.  A week and about a hundred hours later I was freaking out that they sounded thumpy and lacked definition on the bottom end.  I'm 300 hours in and the bass is tuneful and they are not thumpy or wooly at all, they follow the kick drum and bass guitar really nicely - I'm absolutely loving it.  The mids and top end sound more coherent and there is a greater overall ease to the sound there but nothing as obvious.

Just like the cable debate there are lots of differing opinions - trust your ears and if you don't enjoy the sound after you buy something and use it after a month then it's time to try something else...
And you have to burn the cables in just right. Quantum right.


I can't decide of the right word for that is "shameful" or "shameless."

If I got this correct, this is a 70 Watt amplifier that produces frequencies up to 125 Hz only and costs $20 000. At the same time there are some 50KHz channels.

Above link is in the running for the longest description on the shopping website. If you want to confuse your enemy, talk to him until she/he surrenders. All $20 000, that is.
When it comes to cheaper modes of burn-in, I think it exists to some extent. I had speakers that did change over a week or two and I still believe it was real change. Speakers I got after them did not change at all. Maybe it depends on the actual product. I am on no side and cannot care less if burn-in exists or not, but those are my observations. Earphones definitely did change.
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How about the fact that there are a plethora of designs, incorporated in speaker systems(ie: domes, cones, ribbons, Mylar diaphragms, horns, two spiders, one spider, horn loaded, bass reflex, acoustic suspension, cloth or rubber surround, etc), each of which will make a difference in how long the suspension will take to loosen up. Then there’s the wide disparity in SPL levels, between different listeners. Less excursion has to result in longer break-in(or whatever your term). That’s just simple mechanics. Got a crossover? Anyone that’s been around electronics, should recognize how long capacitors take to form. The better the dielectric, the longer they take. And yeah; psycho-acoustic studies do indicate our brains compensate, over time, for what seems wrong.
Here’s one I’m going to throw out, because Audiogon is just not contentious enough tonight.

Anyone who doesn’t believe capacitors break in, substitute tweeter caps for Mundorf MKPs.

This isn’t a point I’m really willing to argue. Believe what you will. If you want to experiment, try that swap and listen for yourself.

The MKP’s are really cheap ($7-12 each) and really have the most difference between fresh and broken in, especially with imaging.

They’re also not the very best either!! I’m just saying, if you can’t hear them break in, you can rest assured you won’t hear anything else break in either. Not only do they sound different, they sound weird while breaking in.


As fate would have it all capacitors are directional since all wire is directional. So, simply reversing the direction of a capacitor should be obvious to the astute listener. But reversing the direction of all capacitors at the same time might not be audible since about 50% are in the wrong direction to begin with by chance, so you would wind up in the same 50-50 situation. Same thing goes for fuses.

“Psycho-acoustic studies indicate...” Sorry, not interested.
Crossover parts need time to break in. Caps and resistors can take up to 300-400 hours to settle in. This is particularly true of the large value paper in oil/wax types that change sonically quite severely. Break in can also be like a roller coaster ride with things improving at first, going south for a time and then finally entering that final linear stage of constant improvement. 
There are painfully few audio components, devices, wires etc that improve performance with use. A single wire is not directional in any way.
Electrostatic speaker diaphragms are heated to shrink them tight and they do loosen up a little with use improving the bass. Magnetic planars might do the same but I have not measured them so I could not say. Regular dynamic speakers do not require any "break in" The single most unpredictable and unmeasurable variable in the process is the human brain. A device which is more variable in operation than the weather and whose explanations of natural phenomena are frequently comically ornate. The real process is not break in it is accommodation.
In the mean while you guys are wasting perfectly good electrons discussing fiction. 
There’s one in every crowd. We call that an outlier. 😬
@mijostyn- You began your post, mentioning pain and ended with, "fiction". Those two words bracket, what they so aptly describe.
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this should not be a question for anyone who has ever purchased new speakers and paid attention to them.  
Magnepan recognizes, that it’s speakers have a, "break-in period’(second page of their 20.7 manual, last paragraph): https://www.magnepan.com/pdfs/manual/MG-20.7.pdf One would think, a major manufacturer like Classe’ would know better: https://manualsdump.com/en/manuals/classe_audio-ca-m400/10994/8 Or Wells(under, Proper Care): http://www.wellsaudio.com/akasha-manual Hell, even Bass players are aware of the reality(under, "WE USED TO HAVE SOME SOUND FILES (HERE)" : https://barefacedbass.com/technical-information.htm Of course; your ears and opinions may vary, but- who cares?   If ignorance is bliss; some here must be experiencing Nirvana.
Take a poll of manufacturers. Yeah, like that’s a way to get to the bottom of this. 😬 
TBC: There are a number of times when speaker makers have measured the break in of a woofer.

The annoyance for us is that driver manufacturers (not speaker makers) specify the drivers after being broken in, but we get them without, so when we measure them they don’t necessarily match up for a while.

YMMV, different drivers, suspensions, etc. will behave differently. Usually this has to do with the resonant frequency dropping after use. That’s a key component of cabinet design, which is why it can be really annoying.

Conventional drivers have components made of materials that move, bend, and flex.  I can't see how anyone would not think that those materials would have a break-in period.  How long that period is, and how big an impact that makes in the grand scheme of things, is much more problematic.  But I tend to agree with the poster who said that if you don't like it when hearing it new, the chances are you won't love it once it's broken in.
This, of course, is a varient to the power cord threads, where many people cannot hear differences. And if you read very carefully, the same " few " continue to show up, and imo, show ignorance in listening ability, and making claims, again, that for the rest of us, the majority, it is " all in our heads ". I simply ignore these folks now.
prof   I agree.  It's like a car salesman.  If they can get you inside the car and take it for a test drive, or let you take it home and drive it for a couple days, a sale is more probable.
I do think there may be a slight break in for speakers, but I also wonder how much we adapt to the new sound.  It would be interesting to compare a used pair of speakers with a brand new pair on the same system and see if you could tell the difference.
when I got my von Schweikerts, speaker break-in was real for me. When I first played them "out of the boxes" I was disappointed but expected them to need to be played a while. Took about 400 hours to really come into their own. lots of congestion and lack of detail originally, nothing like what I heard at the dealers
No man left behind. Apparently there are some left behind. Oh, well, that’s kind of how it goes some time. Live and let die.
b_limo brings up a subject worthy of discussion
 a listener becoming more in tune with a certain speakers qualities and characteristics.

Only to have the conversation immediately trashed beyond recognition by the usual suspects.

I would say for shame but you have none.
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millercarbon, I’m happy b_limo has a fanboy. You will probably find this other subject started by the OP worthy of discussion,

“Can you smell your speakers when youre (sic) rockin out?”

And this one (no offense to you personally),

Fake Audiophiles

-In your opinion, what makes an Audiophile a true Audiophile?

-In your opinion, what do fake Audiophiles do that makes them fake?

And this one,

Do cables settle in?

I’m not quite sure what the term is, but if rearrange your rig and you bend your cables in different directions than they were in before, does it take awhile for them to relax and settle back in?
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-As far as smelling speakers, I still experience it.  Not sure if its the voice coils heating up or what.  Maybe just the speaker blowing air past glue, wood, damping material inside the speaker through the port... 

-as far as fake audiophiles, their are plenty of people in this world who think they are an audiophiles running a $500 multi channel a/v receiver through a crappy pair of speakers

-and that stupid thread about rearranging / bending cables, i.e. 7 gauge power cords, does that change the sound at all, that thread should be right up your alley Geoff since you seem to be the yoda of audio gear

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Will you be at rmaf this year geoff?  I’d love to meet up in person :-)
There’s one in every crowd. We call b_limo an outlier in this case.
Sounds like fun! 🕺🏻🙄
Speaker drivers never change over time.  That's why they never need refoaming.
If speaker break-in isn’t real then Pierre of Mapleshade berated the Gallo dude for nothing when he sent new Gallo Reference speakers to CES without breaking them in first like he promised. It was not a pretty sight, newbies. 🤭
I'm not sure which is more important but I attend a lot of live music events and have always found that the music quality as well as even speech intelligibility from sound systems, especially in many reverberant venues, improves in, say, the first 20 minutes of a concert.  I've attributed it to my "learning" the acoustics so that I can process the sound better.  A similar process may well happen with loudspeakers in a reverberant domestic room - after all most domestic listening rooms are quite reverberant unless heavily treated with sound absorption.  In fact, professional acousticians (like me) often refer to them as semi-reverberant rooms.  Most laymen are unaware of just how reverberant their and other's listening rooms are because they are so used to experiencing the reverberation, but it has to have an important effect on sound quality, if in  different ways and degree than that compared to a concert hall or auditorium.
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I don't hear a difference.  
It's listener break-in. I've done A/B comparisons on identical speaker models before, with one pair being new, out-of-the-box and the other pair being 1, 2 or more years old, with no discernible difference in sound. 

I dont think I've ever heard someone say that the speakers they bought used, do the same thing. In other words, their new-to-them used speakers sound quite different than the speakers they have been using, but they just get used to the sound after a few days/weeks. The speakers were used, so if there was "break-in" associated with them, it would have happened long ago. 
The only difference I can hear consistently, every time, is how my system sounds immediately after start-up and during the first twenty minutes or so. Definitely improves during that time. Have never been able to positively, consistently hear any improvement over hours of use with any gear except my cables and ICs. I also note the system sounds different at various times of the day or night and seems to sound its best on Saturday mornings before 10 AM. 
Not taking sides in this thread, just stating what I've heard over time.
As always, YMMV.
Remember, it's just a hobby, not brain surgery.
Keep it light, keep it fun, have fun, happy listening :)
About decade ago I acquired a thirty year old set of Klipschhorns from a good friend of mine.  Previously I'd been listening to a small set of Dynaudios, which I liked very much.  Upon first listening to the Khorns they sounded harsh to the point that my ears would cringe at certain passages of some of my favorite recordings.  However over time the harshness disappeared and I was able to appreciate the dynamics they were capable of.  Since the speakers were already well broken in, I attributed the change to my ears.  One day I decided to fire up the Dynaudios again, and now they sounded muffled compared to the Klipschs.  Same amp, wires, and music.  This doesn't mean  I don't believe that  some physical break in occurs, just that our minds can play tricks.  Many years ago a piano tuner advised me, "If you keep playing on an out of tuned piano, over time your ears will adjust to that out of tuneness so that when you play on a properly tuned piano, it will not sound right".

Why do some driver manufacturers recommend a "burn in" period. Say, 20 hours continuous music a low level?  Varnish on the cone? 
My own experience in 30 years of working on professional broadcasting equipment, is that the ear adapts to accommodate different loudspeakers. 
Somenone says the sound improved after two hours I might believe. Someone says the sound improved after 400 hours I wouldn't. That's just sales talk.
So annoying to hear categorical claims such as 'all do' or 'all don't.'  Does it not occur to the people making such claims that 'some may' and  'some may not?'  Like many claims of physical characteristics in audio, these should be amenable to physical measurements. I spent 5 years as the "human factors" postdoc in a department of electrical engineering and saw this being done all the time. Are there no real engineers in audio?

Notice I don't say measurements that people can detect any difference.  That type of measurement is much more difficult to carry out given the inherently noisy nature of human testing. 
I agree with everything prof1 said. These things have been physically measured. The changes that occur are quick and inaudible. It's listener break-in.
Gosh, do you think maybe the changes are inaudible because the people listening are hearing challenged? Or because they’re so busy making changes any changes that do occur are hidden in the noise? Hel-loo! Physically measured? By who? Nobody ever measures break in. You don’t even know what to measure. Give me a break!