What is "break in" and what difference does it make? In amps? Preamps? Speakers? More?


Hi folks,

Newbie question. I read often about a break-in period for speakers, amps. Can someone explain what this means, technically and to the listener's ears?

Is there a difference in what one hears when it comes to speaker break-in vs. component break-in?

Are there levels (quality) where break-in makes no difference?

Thanks.
8700e65e 845e 4b1b 91cc df27687f9454hilde45
this is a hugely contentious topic. it has been discussed exhaustively in this forum and many others.
There is no short answer here, as I have heard varying amounts of difference depending the the product and even the application. As mentioned above, there is an endless amount of opinion about this topic in many other threads. Good reading.
Just about everything breaks or runs in. Cars clothes shoes and yes even electronics. Speakers like shoes are stiff when new and soften up with use and become more flexible and thus sound smoother etc. When designers are voicing speakers they usually do so with fully broken in drivers so they sound as intended when broken in not when new and stiff. Electronics have there own version of this.
This question has been asked and answered 71 times already.
Sorry to ask a question that’s been asked so many times. If it were possible, I’d just delete this question and try to come up with something more novel. But I suppose people can just skip answering it. Or give 
You’ll get as many opinions as comments on this, my personal experience is most break in is between the ears, you get accustomed to the sound. President and designer of a speaker company told me that would be the case with his speakers as they are played for a couple of hours before shipping so I wouldn’t notice any mechanical changes. My opinion is it might take a few seconds to perhaps an hour for all the electronics in a component to " break in" of course it takes tubes a while to heat up but other than that I never think of or worry about break in but some say they can hear a fuse or a mains cable break in, I never have.
Have you tried candling your ears recently? 🕯
Is there a difference in what one hears when it comes to speaker break-in vs. component break-in?

Not really. All start out with whatever fundamental character they have, but thin and etched or grainy, and then over time fill in and round out becoming more palpably real. To whatever extent they are capable of doing this. The differences are only in the details. The over-arching fact of improving with use is the same regardless of whether we are talking about a speaker or cable or component, or even a part like a fuse, cap, diode, or transformer. They are all the same.

Are there levels (quality) where break-in makes no difference?

No.

There are levels where some are run in before shipping. But no one is going to run anything 24/7 for 30 days- and even if they did it would still go through a mini break-in when first hooked up after being banged around in a cold shipping container for who knows how long. Just like every night the gear you had turned off during the day takes a while to warm up and sound its best, so everything brand new goes through the same process, only more so.

Hard to believe after all these years there are still people questioning this. I’m not talking about the OP, who we can excuse for being new. I’m talking about these others still pretending what is staring them right in the face is not really there. What is wrong with audiophiles???

Thanks for your answer. My general comment about what folks have said so far is that I understand (of course) the concept of what "breaking in" means -- and the phenomenological characteristics associated with shoes, shirts, even the way a lawn mower starts right up (or a key fits a lock) are all familiar. What is helpful in these posts (and in the many other posts which I will go check out), is when some specifics about what-one-would-experience with a broken-in-preamp vs. a broken-in-amp vs. a broken-in-speaker, etc.

Your answer, Millercarbon, makes sense to me -- "All start out with whatever fundamental character they have, but thin and etched or grainy, and then over time fill in and round out becoming more palpably real." That is a recipe for simply looking for what's dominant in the character of the thing and then watching as it deepens/enhances. Beyond that, what I wonder about is whether or not, for example, one can count on certain *missing* or *faint* characteristics (e.g. "lack of defined midrange detail in a speaker") to emerge or grow after "break in." That such a think could happen (and when, where, how) could conceivably help someone decide to wait on a speaker, amp, etc. before trading it in, prematurely. 
@ebm...………………………………………...

"This question has been asked and answered 71 times already."

Hmm, I counted 78 times.
Its the period of time that the dealer does not want to see you and hopes you dont bring the item back within 30 days. 
I’ve posted these before but give these two links from GR Research a read.
Myths Busted!
http://gr-research.com/myths.htm
http://gr-research.com/burnin.htm
I had the same question as you hilde45 since I put in all new components this past Spring. For instance Magico told me it would take 400 or so hours to break in their speakers.

I have noticed with my Magico A3 speakers lately the bass content has become noticeably tighter and well focused. Any improvement seems to creep up on you gradually though, so it's hard to notice improvement on a day to day basis. I don't know if it's only the speakers breaking in or a combination of all the new components at the same time that caused this improvement in bass response, but there's no mistaking it.

The sound stage on the other hand has remained fairly constant from about Day Two on when it suddenly and oddly popped into focus that day when I was playing a Grateful Dead album and wondering about how this system was supposed to sound after breaking in, or if it would actually break in at all.

Overall I think everything sounds much better now, but maybe I'm just more acclimated to what I'm hearing. It's hard to say. I couldn't recognize all that much difference between my old system and the new at first, but after eight months or so my new system sounds so much better than the old, perhaps due to all the components breaking in or who knows what other factors like familiarity. Anyway, it's a good question you posed for us newbies even if some of the regulars have heard it before. Good to see another newbie aboard. Welcome.

Mike
I've been through my share of gear over the years and yes, for whatever reason, I've found that the majority of components do sound better after they've been played for a while. Agreed, some of it might just be your ears coming to terms with what the new components are feeding you but that's only a part of things.  I've always found that edginess trims downward, bass becomes more integrated with the rest of the sound, and timbres of instruments become easier to distinguish.  Phono cartridges get more limber. My only components that did not suffer/benefit through break-in time were my long-departed Celestion SL600's and my even longer-departed Quicksilver Mono Amps.  On the other hand, my new Mytek Brooklyn Bridge has improved markedly in the few months I've had it.  As for my now ancient, much repaired/upgraded SOTA turntable & Alphason arm, who the heck knows?
I'd just say don't be too fast judge your new component. You might like it better after a while. Preferences change.
Thanks, all. That definitely helps.
I purchased a pair of REL S3 SHO subwoofers and followed their break in instructions.  During the first hour I thought I had made a huge mistake, as they sounded really boomy.  That was something I did not want.  However, after following all of their break in steps they sounded incredible.  It took me awhile to dial them in and now my towers sound less harsh and I have better sounding vocals.
*L* ....and "what's wrong with audiophiles?" has been beaten into a coma already...and what's left is developing an 'aroma'.....

Perhaps the best advice I can offer the OP comes from M. Python's 'Holy Grail' epic:

"RUN AWAY!" *L*   

(Give thanks and depart...lesser forums, started innocently enough, have become black pixel holes, inhaling all, resolving none...  I leave now, casting your fate to the winds of woe....*melodramatically speaking*....) 
  You drive into a new town, stop and ask for directions, and a small crowd gathers, each with their fingers pointing in a different direction. 
@asvjerry I'm getting good answers here and realizing a thick skin may be necessary. I'm a college professor, of philosophy. I am not at a highly selective school and many are first generation college students. Every semester faculty at my school are asked very similar questions by new students. We find that even answering questions we've had before teaches us something, so long as we try to appreciate the perspective and practical motivations of the student. It is professional suicide to blame the learner. 
the mention of how this has been discussed many many times is not a criticism of you, but letting you know if you look through the threads there are already thousands of responses...my experience is that most of my equipment and cables have improved with a few hundred hours of playing time...and all bought with return privileges extending way past the break in period...
I hear you. Thanks! I guess I was also wanting to try a little engagement with folks in the group. There are very few people I know who are into audio, it's good to try a few interactions.
This horse has been flogged to death many times but I'm still going to put in my $.02.

The only relevant point is that you shouldn't make a judgement on sound quality when you first hook up a new piece of gear whether it's a piece of electronics or speakers. If it's the gear changing sound or your brain adjusting to the sound of the new gear - it doesn't matter. Just hook up the damn thing and run it for a few weeks before making a final judgement.

I'm a pretty strong skeptic about things like break-in but I have absolutely heard the effect myself. I'm perfectly willing to admit that my brain is actually what "broke-in" but whatever. Something happened to change what I heard (or think I heard) - that's all I know.
I am always wondering if anyone ever made the following test: take two identical units of cable, subject one to the alleged burn-in, then do blind testing on both attempting to tell the difference.
As if the blind don't have enough problems without you pestering them to listen to your alleged cables.
Speaker break in I think is most important, them amplifier and preamp warm up.

 My speakers took about 100 hours to open up.

now a days, I tested it big time.

 If I cold start my system, and play some music, it sounds “sucked in” or just odd.

when I want to listen, I will turn on my system the,night before and leave in the on position, and that night, usually weekends, the sound is more relaxed, airy, comfortable to the ears.
 
Its part of having better gear, and letting the capacitors and the internals get to a constant temp.
 It is true, I can tell a fairly big difference from a cold play (turn on and play a cd straight away)........VS- my 24 hour “ON” warm up.
thre definitely IS a pretty big difference.

even my wife commented, said it sounded more stadium like and th3 vocals were just more open sounding.

when I listen to my stereo, I will turn on the night before and leave on til the following night, there is a difference.

if it is NEW gear, it may take a couple months for u to hear the difference.

 I’m not a believer of power cables, or (depends on cables) the benefit of rca cables, only u can make the decision.
i did hear a difference between some cheap rca cables vs some audioquest rcas’ a while back.

 When I went to the Groneberg rcas’ I did hear more bass extension, and crisper highs, and a,slightly smoother midrange.
 No joke, I was on the side of snake oil for a long time, til those Groneberg rcas’ we’re hooked up and broken in.

some is snake oil, some is truth, you decide.
When my Energy RC-70s’ wee first played, they sounded cold, no bass, midrange was ........I don’t know, justmnot right, I listen to a lot of metal and blues, and it took a while, as recommended by Energy, about 100 hours for them to open up, and I can tell you what a huge difference the breaking in made.
 The treble, bass, midrange, everything just became more clear, more bass, and the treble really became to my liking, as the Energy’s are an extreme warm speaker (depending on the disc, or recording)
 The midrange is some of the most warmest, and clearest I’ve ever heard in a speaker.

 Not talking about etreme volume, or blaring them, they said louder will result in faster break in, to move the woofers more, etc etc....
.
i just played them moderately until , I could hear an audible difference at mnay intervals ,
so ed has, it was glorious, so Ed has they just sounded like crapper.

 It was fun to hear the many different variations in sound, until they became my most perfect sounding speaker!

im so happy with these,!

now, I have a brand new pair of Odyssey kismet+ monos.
still waiting to be picked up, I’ll be going through another 6-10 months of break in with these amazing Odyssey amps.

 I love hearing electronics change, and become what they are eventually!
 This is why we do it, isn’t it?

enjoy the ride.
I am pretty sure everyone agrees speakers need some kind of break in. They are mechanical devices and it takes a while for the cone / surround to become pliable. Next on my list is anything with capacitors. The new dielectric undergoes some changes with use. This phenomenon has been known for over 100 years and is not snake oil. This break in can easily be shown scientifically and some capacitor data sheets even have recommended break in procedures. I don’t have a firm opinion on transistors or IC’s. So lets say maybe (or it won’t hurt).

But when it comes to breaking in a wires, interconnects or speaker cables I don’t buy it. Some people even claim if you unplug, move or even touch a wire it will take some time for it to settle back in.

Others will strongly disagree with what I just said though. And that is why this thread will eventually melt down and turn to......

delkal
I am pretty sure everyone agrees speakers need some kind of break in. They are mechanical devices and it takes a while for the cone / surround to become pliable. Next on my list is anything with capacitors. The new dielectric undergoes some changes with use. This phenomenon has been known for over 100 years and is not snake oil. This break in can easily be shown scientifically and some capacitor data sheets even have recommended break in procedures. I don’t have a firm opinion on transistors or IC’s. So lets say maybe (or it won’t hurt).

But when it comes to breaking in a wires, interconnects or speaker cables I don’t buy it. Some people even claim if you unplug, move or even touch a wire it will take some time for it to settle back in. Besides, speakers are more than simply mechanical devices, you know, what with the internal wiring and electronic crossovers, including capacitors. Not to mention not everyone agrees speakers require break in. 

>>>>You just said it yourself. The dielectric material needs to break in. That itself explains why interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, HDMI cables, digital cables, etc. require break in. Hel-loo!
You just said it yourself. The dielectric material needs to break in. That itself explains why interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, HDMI cables, digital cables, etc. require break in. Hel-loo!


Just because there is the same dielectric word describing both don’t let that confuse you. They play different roles. A capacitor stores a relatively large amount of energy between the plates and having the right dielectric configuration is very important for optimum efficiency. And although I didn’t mention it there is also capacitor break in of the conductive plate surfaces that is equally important.

For wires a dielectric is just a fancy term for an insulator. There should be minimized interactions between the wires and that is what insulators do. I have never heard of an insulator that doesn’t work that good at first but gets better at insulating after use.
Yes, I know you never heard of it, sweet pea. That’s OK. Well, now you have. It’s all good. 🤗
Filter capacitors in amps and preamps have something called 'forming up' where they adjust to the operating voltages to which they are subjected, being electro-chemical devices. This takes some time and until that occurs the power supply will not be acting correctly. Not sure how long it takes, 50-250 hours? but its not that hard to measure that they do change- the power supply voltage itself goes slightly higher and there is less noise on the supply rails.

So that explains part of break-in. But coupling caps appear to have a break-in property as well and to me this isn't as well explained, but plenty of people report changes in coupling caps as they apparently break in.

We hear break-in artifacts in our own gear and for that reason (and to prove reliability) we play the gear in our shop before shipping. The first ten hours or so see the most dramatic changes and this period of break-in isn't experienced by most people as most manufacturers don't ship as soon as the bench tests are passed. We have noticed however that somewhere in the last 20 years that phenomena is vastly reduced over what we used to experience so we suspect that some part we are using is a bit better at its job now than 20 years ago. Generally speaking though its unimportant as we put at least three days of operation on something before shipment. Often we'll run it longer than that- up to a week. But customers consistently report break-in improvements and have been doing so as long as we've been in business, and having experienced it myself many times I just accept that its a thing. I think power supply filtration is most of it.



You can philosophize all you want, it just comes down to what you hear. I recently bought a tube headphone amp. It sounded nice, but a bit shrill. I started burning it in. Just 10 hours later, it sounded MARKEDLY better. Not subtle.

YMMV with other equipment, but I would ALWAYS break things in, just in case they need it. Some things definitely do!
Regardless of what we say, what we believe, or what we consider to be proven by the science of the day, does not change the truth. Believing by whatever basis however is real for us. In these small cases of what makes this or that sound better to us, is an important human reality. 
I suppose ignorance regarding the fact that interconnects ALL comprise an, "RLC" network, to some degee, is fairly widespread.      The, "C" is for, "CAPACITANCE" and- like any capacitor; the dielectric will take time to stabilize.      The higher the quality of dielectric, the longer the stabilization period.      I’ve always personally held that Dielectric Absorption has much to do with the way capacitors and cables sound.      Especially, given that the better the dielectric (ie: Teflon/Polypropylene/Polyethylene/etc), the lower the absorption figures will be.      https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/dielectric-absorption      Of course, there are those that deny that science, with regards to the sound of a system.      https://www.elandcables.com/the-cable-lab/faqs/faq-what-is-capacitance
I suppose ignorance regarding the fact that interconnects ALL comprise an, "RLC" network, to some degee, is fairly widespread.

Dielectric absorption can be real and can also be completely unproven to make any difference at all in a given system, or the effects could be relegated to nano and pico volts of difference. Proving something has a mathematical difference is very very far from calling it perceptible.

Like vibration isolation devices, would be super easy to measure differences in actual reproduced sound, but strangely enough no one ever has.


In the end, if you personally can't hear it, it's worth ZERO dollars. If you can hear it, is it worth any dollars? That's still up to the buyer.


Best,

E
instead of calling it "break in" we should really call it "interval of stability". 
from the time an electronic component is made until the time it eventually goes out of service every single part in that component is undergoing physical and chemical changes.   
"interval of stability" is the time it takes for a newly made electronic component to reach a point in its life where it has reached a relative stability, that is where the rate of change has slowed to the point where it has become relatively stable.  
It should be mentioned that cables and electronics never completely break in as much as we would like to think so. The reason I say that is even when heroic means such as the expensive Cable Cooker are employed to break in cables the process should be repeated every year or whatever as the cables tend to revert back 🔙 to their former state over time. The music signal itself is not sufficient to do the job completely or to maintain that level of performance. By deduction, the lower signal cables and wires in the components behave similarly, and are probably even more resistant to complete and thorough break in.
Read my "Audiophile Law: Thou Shalt Not Overemphasize Burn In" at Dagogo.com

I am not interested in debating my findings. 

Why not a mixed of the two? In real life all objective perceived changes are evaluated by a subjectivity...Why it must be objective pure changes or subjective pure changes? Why one must negate the other?

Reality is complex precisely because it is something encompassing what we name objective or subjective....An electronic complex materials can look for his relatively stable working platform in time, (break-in) and we all biologically and psychically adapt ourselves to a new phenomenon and integrate it by transforming it ( another break-in)...Just the words of an ignorant poet tough... :)
Right. Evidence suggests the universe itself is like this right down to the smallest details. Even when we say be objective, the root word object is a thing. But then we look closer, there are no things*. There are only processes. We think the things are matter. Solid. Objects. But the supposedly solid objects are all made of electrons whizzing around. Then it turns out not even the electrons are things, they are not objects, that is just how we think of them. Quantum physics however proves the electron is not a thing in one place moving around it is instead a cloud of probabilities. The objective literally is subjective. And, since the cloud nevertheless makes the object, vice versa.

* The actual quote is There are no such things as things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGhDkh972Zg
Pop quiz! 🤗 If electrons are not “things” how come they have mass? And how come they have charge? Things are sometimes said to be mostly empty space because of the relatively large distances between atoms, and the relatively large distances between the nucleus of the atom and the surrounding electrons. Everything is relative. 😛 If mass and space disappeared there would be no time. 😛
There is no time except for the sake of our body apparatus that act like my "golden" plates, filtering all the frequencies there are for the calm of our terrestrial mind... I tease you... :)


 I think about some symmetry breaking... Like some metaphor begins to be word of prose, after forgetting his origin...Like matter forgetting light...Like a living organism being now a fossil...
Pop quiz 2 - How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all? 😳