What are we listening for during break in?

Is it time for a reality check? A few days ago a post was started which asked a question concerning burn in of interconnect cables. The consensus of answers agreed that this was a necessary function with no opposing view. The recommendation that got me thinking was to install the ICs between cd player and preamp and use a test disc for 250 hours. My immediate reaction to that bit of advice was "give me a break." That is roughly equal to listening to 250 cds. Considering the amount of time I spend listening to music, it would take me six months to break in ICs.
I have experienced a sonic change after new speaker break in period so I'm not argueing break in doesn't occur. Whether a sonic difference occurs after ICs break in is another matter.
My question is, what are we listening for when we run our equipment for 250 hours just to break in an IC or modification? I don't mean why listen to music, I mean what sonic difference are we hearing? Is it better, worse, different, What the?
"... a man goes to the doctor and says doc it hurts when I do that..."
don't listen during break in!
Since I don't believe cables require break in...unless you're using them as a jump rope this is difficult for me. hopefully you're looking for a sound similar to that you heard when you auditioned the cable.

Didn't auditon the cables? You then have to listen to the cable brand new and keep sampling until you get the sound you hoped for.
If it requires 250 hrs. break in, the mfg. should be paying you.
Timrhu, Upon break-in I listen as little as possible, as it is usually a big let down. Most wire or components I have purchased new have sounded harsh, with a disconnected sound stage, micro dynamics are a skew and the sound does not give me that "soulful" connection with the "music" until a good burn-in has been done with a real audio medium. My coincident technologies IC cables were some of the worst in this respect needing a total of two hundred hours break-in, no less. Israel Bloom of Coincident was correct in his assessment that the cables would need this. It was painful and grueling but worth every moment of the electric companies meter spinning like a top. Yet I would buy these cables again in a heartbeat and they happen to be a bargain also. Now I know what solid state and cd players are valuable for... Good luck and Happy Listening!
Now were getting somewhere Timrhu.I wonder the same thing.Must be one of the first steps towards Audiophileia,an apparently innocent disease of the pocketbook and mind[leftside].I kind of agree with Porz,250????OK.....cheers,Bob
Gredadd, I agree; cables don't require break in. That's why I'm asking this question. What sonic changes are people who break in cables listening for?
Wow, how can any audiophile who has gone through much wire say it needs no break in. Come on folks this is audio 101, audio grade school if you will. Of coarse they do. Some more than others. They all react differently. My current set sounded closed in and compressed for 48 hours. After 72 they are great. No big deal, just let if play softly 24/7 until the changes stop.

This is one point that is an absolute fact - cables do require break in. I dont mean to be "emotional" but I have not read statements this much away from he truth. We can all have preferences for one cable vs another etc... But, to say cables dont change with a little burn in time is 100% false. In fact, if you just ship one to a new buyer it takes a couple of hours for the wire to settle into the new system.

Ok, I had to let it out. Sorry if I came accross strong. Well, maybe not :-)
Some have suggested it is the listener who is becoming adjusted to the new sound and not the cable being broken in.

Start listening right away. Then the new sound will replace the old sound as your standard.
Gregadd, no it's not the listener. We are talking about objective not subjective changes that are easily heard. A/B two wires - one new and your current IC that you are familiar with. At first the new wire is not as deep in the bass as your current wire. The new wire is a little bright and the stage is small. Your thinking, hey I wasted my money. Over time the new cable breaks in and you decide to throw the old one back in to do another A/B. It is obvious the new wire has deeper bass and a larger stage etc.... This is not listener break-in.

This was my most current experience as an FYI. If you submit it is my mind playing tricks again, then we should all buy an old JC Penny MCS series stereo and settle into it as it will soon sound like a CJ set-up in my mind. Fact is why waste anytime with any gear as our minds call the shots and we are to fickled to make accurate determinations.

I think most people can detect differences and trust they are not fooling themselves with their own gear, in their own room over a long period of time. This is the way to know.

Over time your mind is not tricked as all of your mood swings, attitudes, stress levels, neighborhood power demands etc have been accounted for and you know the truth.

At least I do :-)
Grannyring, you are passionate in your belief. As I've never experienced it, I have a hard time understanding and therefore believing a wire changes its sonic characteristics with a hundred hours or so of use. If it does change after break in, does it always change for the better or have you ever heard one get worse? If they always improve there must be some reason, why would that be?
As stated in original post, I have experienced sonic changes in new speakers after break in. It wasn't subtle. I also believe not all components sound alike and I have heard a difference between speaker cables. Maybe I don't listen close enough to new cables to notice a change. In fact I know I don't listen close enough as I'm not sure what I'm listening for.
Point one- I have long since abandoned A/B testing thanks to the late great Harvey Rosenberg. I tend to know what I want when I hear it. I keep it till I tire of it,it wears out or becomes obsolete.

I assume everyone has a reference that is the sound of thier own system. Some claim thier reference is live music but they are usually deluding themselves. When you install a new component you have to form a new standard.

I have yet to hear any credible explanation of what part of the cable is being burned in. This differs from moving parts, tube or caps,etc. Maybe a power cord generates enough power to burn in. Not interconnects or phono cables. Monster amps get hot but that heat never seems to make it to the speaker cable.

I have no way of disputing what you heard. It certainly differs from my experience. No harm comes from burning in a wire unless you purchase a burn in cd. In case you will be out whatever you paid. Everyone should have some type of frequency spectrum cd or lp to assist you in spea ker placement. That will do just fine.

You may have deduced I am a cable skeptic. I'm definitely fro
I'm a "no cable break in" kind of guy too.

I understand speakers (there are physical changes in the cones & surrounds).

Perhaps, I can understand electronics (manufacturing aids flashing off, cap's fully charging, operating temperature changes...).

Don't understand cable break-in...
although a cable's sonic character may change a little over time, the basic 'sound' or 'signature' remains.
There are two issues here, and they are being conflated.

1. Do cables require break-in?
This is unlikely to be resolved for more than a few who have not yet formed an opinion. Lots of sincerity, mixed with disbelief, bombast and outright belligerence on both sides usually emerge on this. Strength of opinion does not equal truth. This, though, does not seem to be what the initial poster is asking.

2. What "sonic differences" are heard? "Better, worse, different?"
These were the questions here. The answer seems conmplicated and simple.

The complicated part: For those who believe (the operative assumption here) that different cables have distinct sonic signatures that justify auditioning, switching, system matching, and the sometimes surreal cost of some cables compared to standard cheapo rca's, it seems quite likely that different cables will sound one way or another initially. How can you say what you're listening for generically, without reference to a particular cable in a particular set-up (including room)? Do all cables have the same sonic limitations when new? Do they all change at the same rate and in the same way? I don't see how any empirical "proof" could be generated with the extraordinary number of variables that would be present, and this is without the input of cable and break in doubters who will surely step up to the plate.

The easy part: Set it and forget it until some break in mile marker is reached. Establish some sort of input to output set up that can be run non-stop and check it at some time interval that seems acceptable to you. Check it periodically to see how it sounds to you. Ignore it most of the time until it goes into its place in the system or is returned.

I described making a break-in thingy for a phono cable that had a right angle din plug using a tuner and pre-amp in another post on Audiogon. I made this because a protracted break in was claimed for the cable, and I didn't want to go through several hundred album sides deciding if I wanted to keep the cable. Perhaps it made a difference; perhaps I might have heard it and noted it at LP side 1 vs. side 50 vs. side 143, but listening for such nuance in break in just wasn't a worthwhile activity for me.

What listening for in break in over various time intervals might be worth to the original poster or anyone else is up to them. You might or might not be able to hear a difference. If it is of interest to you, fine. I certainly know that it's not worth anything to some.
Rouvin, thank you for the thoughtful answer. Honestly, I don't think cable burn in is anything other than each listener's own perception. If someone hears a change in their cables after their hard fought burn in, that's fine with me. If another calls it bunk, that's fine with me also. It would take a lot more time and effort than I'm willing to put into it to find out for myself. My system sounds fine to me. There's no inclination for me to listen critically enough to hear the "sonic signature" of my interconnects.
Timrhu said it all. If you take the time and it is of interest to you one will conclude that cables do change with burn in. If it seems like a waste of time and you dont care, then that is fine and I completely understand why one thinks cable burn is all in the mind.

I would not say every cable sounded better in my system after burn in. It depends on the system and your sound preference. Some cables may change to the point they upset the balance one likes in a system. System is now to bright, not enough bass etc... My only point is they change and give a new cable a little time before deciding it's not for you.

I have heard some engineers or technicians say that wire is actually a capacitor so that in itself would cause some change. Now whether the wire (tail) is wagging the component (dog) or vice versa, I don't know? So in effect evertime you change out a wire you are changing the capacitance between two components? Even if a component is warmed up say after 2 hrs. and then you switch wire you are supposed to give it a few minutes to settle in. Some wire has better immunity to RF and therefore has a blacker backround right out of the box.

I must admit I am at a loss on how all of us cant agree on this one. Every cable I have owned changed over some burn in time with a system. I have owned many, many cables over the years.
this is a copy of an e-mail from kimber cable that should settle this dispute, it is a fact that cables do break in period!

----- Original Message -----
From: hemidakota@sbcglobal.net
To: support@kimber.com
Sent: Monday, September 05, 2005 2:45 AM
Subject: ** Kimber Kable TECHNICAL SUPPORT Request **

The following person has made a request for TECHNICAL SUPPORT:


Model: kcag
Length: 1/2 meeter and 1 meter meters
Termination: rca
Problem/Concern Description: do cables actually break in/burn in and actually sound better over time? is this possible or am i crazy in stating that my system sounded better after being broke in/burned in for a week solid while i was out of town? if its possible, what exactly happened? thanks for your input.

Thank you for your inquiry. Kimber Kable products generally sound great right out of the package. However, Kimber Kable speaker cables do take approximately 50 hours to begin sounding more like their original design objectives, after which continued improvement is realized over the next several hundred hours. Kimber Kable interconnect cables begin to sound more like we intended after about 100 hours of significant signal flow. They continue to improve over the next 500 hours or more of use. Burn-in time varies due to the design and the materials used as well as the location within your system and the signal strength involved. The higher the systems overall quality, the more the effects of a longer burn- in period will be realized.

With our considerably equipped test facility we have been able to measure the effects of burn-in. Our research has led us to believe that burn-in is an altering of the dielectric as well as the possibility of the metal having an altered state. The voltage present in a signal has the ability to slightly alter the dielectric properties of the insulation.One analogy that has been used to describe burn-in is that of water flowing down a river. As the water flows down the river, the small stones that line the bed of the river are smoothed over in the direction of the water flow. The water finding the path of least resistance. Many books have been written on dielectrics and conductive materials without a definitive theory on burn-in having been established. Measurements and microscopic analysis have brought us closer to truly understanding this very real phenomenon, however making definitive statements on this topic may still be a bit misguided at this point in time.


Todd Walldorf
Product Support & Sales
Only problem with Kimbers 'explanation' and river water analogy is that electrical current in wire DOES NOT flow in only one direction as a water current. So whatever 'change' brought to the wire due to one way current flow will be 'reversed' when the current reverses, won't it?. This especially true with PC where the 'current' reverses 60 times a second.
Curious, what cable company claims to not need break in?
Bob P.
Cable manufacturers will basically say whatever is needed to not alienate their clientele, dealers, and distributors. There are very fragile egos involved in this triumverate.
Ask an electrical engineer about wires "breaking in" and he will laugh hysterically. The only break in is your ears acclimating to the new sound. Audiophiles over analyze everything and the cable break in thing is just another ego stroker plain and simple.
Do electrons cause friction as they flow through cable? Even with "skin effect" they flow close to surface not on it.
This brings me to the next cable myth- "directionality."
Charlie, your over analzing audiophiles you dont even know. Sorry, I am not hearing things and wire sounds different after break in. I have heard this on dozens of occasions. No, I am sane and well aware of things that look, taste, feel and smell different. Stop insulting folks you dont even know.
Charlie101, your disdain for the members of the audiophile community, and your disgust at the products they buy, make you seem sorely out of place on this audiophile discussion board, and I can only believe you'd be happier elsewhere.
I recently bought MIT cables NEW and the box came with instructions and stating 2/2 rule: Which means 75% performance in 2 days and 100% in 2 weeks. I am currently going thru break-in at present. I have had new cables in my exsiting system and they sound completly different than when installed them new few years ago.

Certain signature sounds of newer cable IMHO are unfocussed images, perticularly center, both in terms of depth, L to R and height. Bass very weak in the beginning. Some ringinging at upper mids low highs. Highs also a little weak in first few days. BTW I am in my second week of burn in.
Charlie101, stay right here. Opposing views are necessary if learning is going to take place. I take no offense from your statement. And you comment about electrical engineers is probably true.
Rouvin, I forgot to ask, if you were using an lp 143 times to decide whether or not you hear a change in cables, wouldn't you think the sound of the lp would change more than the cable?
Charlie101's comments are as welcome as anyone else's. It just seems to me he'd be happier elsewhere, since he doesn't appear to be very happy in the high end audio world.
The # of LP sides, like 143, was a hypothetical, not the # of times I repeatedly played one side of an LP, which would, as you imply wear it (and me) out. One point I was making had to do with the utter futility of trying to listen for changes in a cable during break in, especially a phono cable. Is the 20th side sounding better than the 2nd? How do I really know with 2 different LP sides at least 18 Lp sides apart in time? I haven't enough time or interest to listen to how much or how a cable's sonics may (or may not) differ at various points before "fully" broken in. Still, I will go to the trouble of setting things up so there can be a "set and forget" break in. For the life of me, I can't imagine how manufacturers believing in cable break in, particularly extended ones, can justify marketing phono cables that aren't broken in before sale -- even more so with things like directionality warnings and rt angle DIN connnetors on one end. (Try to find an appropriate break in connector for this that allows RCA to RCA hookup. They don't exist, so you'll have to make one or have one made.) As much as I think the sound of reasonably well made LP's through a good system surpasses well made CD's on excellent CD players, LP's are a pain compared to CD's, even for someone who has collected and maintained them for over 40 years.
Okay so we have two manufacturers claiming breakin is necessary because they say so and some anecdotal evidence.

One thing that may happen is the connection may "seat" over time.
So you have an expensive or "new to you" cable added to your system. You have the option to return it within a given time period. Do you just put it in, give an immediate listen or so and decide? Or, might you defer the listening briefly to follow the recommendation of the manufacturer and/or various critics, "authorities," and geeks, and burn it in to see what you think after break in before deciding?

For me, the issue with my phono cable was to give the cable the best shot by burning it in first. My interest was in the effect in the system after what seemed like a reasonable break in. If there were to be any nuance of change at various points at time, I really didn’t care. What difference would a transient state make to me in the long run?

I also think that it’s a bit unfair to reatilers and others offering auditions not to give a cable a reasonably fair audition hta culd include burnb in before returning it. I have tried various cables in my system and felt a bit bad when returning one because there is a cost to the seller (and to me when mail order) for this service.

If I had my druthers, there would have been auditions of multiple phono cables but there were no dealers nearby that had all four of those I might have wanted to try, so I did my research (flawed as it was) and tried one that seemed like it might fill the bill fianancially and sonically.

Phono cables, particularly those with rca’a on only one end are pretty much a special order item. An rca to rca phono cable setup might have made my situation a bit easier, but many high end dealers don’t have any or many turntables set up anymore, much less a decent selection of phono cables to a-b.

Back to the issue that started this thread, I’m unconvinced that any arguments that are made on one side or the other of the break in issue will do much more than prove that there is no shortage of gas.

And, Gregadd, if you haven’t tried a different cable on your SME IV, you should. It made a substantial difference with mine.
Rouvin I'm a cable skeptic not an agnostic.
the reason why it is suggested to install the ICs that need break in between cd player and the pre-amp is that you can have your cd player spinning 24/7 and nothing else needs to be on in your system. that's all. you don't have to be listenning for 250 hours. I noticed cables go through various stages during the break in, at times sounding harsh, at times lacking detail and sounding dull. It doesn't always take 250 hours for a cables to start sounding the way they should. different cables, different break in time. I observed it while breaking in ICs and speaker cables in my system. I beleive in both cable and component break in.
I usually play a good recording of Mahler's 5th and Metallica's "black album" to break in cables with pretty good results.
Audphile1, I've noticed all of those charactistics you mentioned in my system at various times. I thought it was just the mood I was in. So maybe it was the mood my cables were in?
Timrhu, it depends... :)
But seriously, I think when you insert brand new cables or components into your system, letting it play without actually listenning to it for a first 75 hours or so may be a good idea. Otherwise, you may jump to conclusions too early. Furthermore, some cables require warm up time after the break in. I auditioned AQ Jaguar interconnects once and found the needed about 45 minutes to open up every time I started playing my system. May be it's the DBS system that's causing it, but whatever it was, that was the case. Also, changing caps in the components, when the caps are brand new they have this plastic sound to them. 100 hours or so cures the problem.
Audphile1, I checked your system and don't doubt your hearing abilities. How can you not listen to our system for three full days while waiting for the cables to burn in? I can't remember the last time I went more than two days without listening to at least a half a cd.
I have come to the conclusion, after this thread and many others like it, I simply don't listen as critically as some who post here. When I read threads by listners who change power cables to their cd player and the system opens up with more defined bass, better imaging and/or more detailed highs I honestly wonder what they are hearing. That's where the question for this post came from. I do appreciate your thoughtful answer and the fact that you hear these sonic phenomenon.

thank you Tim. In regards to power cords. I found some power cords work better with digital and some work better with pre-amps and amps, but I can't say the difference between power cords was as big as changing Monster M550i interconnects to Acoustic Zen Silver and Matrix refernce. One story comes to mind(about component break in). A buddy of mine had his McCormack DNA-125 amplifier revised by Steve McCormack(Silver revision plus Plitron transformer). It is a very good amp in its stock form(I have one and enjoy it a lot). So, he recieved his amp after the revision has been completed, I come over, the amp sounds like a $200 Sony receiver. My friend's pissed, we're both wondering what the hell's going on. We decide that he'll leave the amp on, playing softly for 3 days. He and I haven't been listenning to this amp for three days. I come back in three days and holy smokes!!!! This amplifier sounds amazing!!! Did my ears get used to the sound? No way. I haven't been listenning to it for three days. What happened was the caps and wiring and all the other magic stuff that Steve did had finally settled and the amp is now sounding amazing. Just an example of electrical component break in. It's certainly not BS.

You ought to hear the other SMC mods... and as much as I don't believe in cable break-in, it did take a while for my SMC mods to show their stuff.
Bgrazman, I can imagine. I plan on sending my DNA-125 to Steve for some upgrades soon. With my speakers, the Plitron transformer, I think, is a must.