Jul 31, 2019164 views

Headphone and Audio Equipment Burn In

I've been wondering lately, if anyone has experienced positive improvements after using their headphones or DACs/AMPs and cables over long periods after buying them (thinking months to years here). I personally find myself enjoying using and listening to my Sennheiser HD 598 Cs headphones and dac / amp (which I use everyday, all day in the office) more than I did when I first got them. The sound and fit is so great now, the music natural, strong and clear, so much so that I don't even want to upgrade them (even though I could at any time). I've had the whole setup for about 6 months now, and I started getting this feeling of how much more I've been enjoying it recently. Has anyone else experienced this? I know that there is the objective side to the argument (which needs to be discussed) but I'm looking at it more from a subjective, everyday use and experience perspective. I'd love to hear what other peoples' thoughts are on the topic.

I think burn-in is a necessity for speakers and usually needed for other stereo components and dynamic type headphones and IEMs, BAs not so much (but some do benefit). Cardas actually recommends in their manual to burn-in 50 hrs. this way, to cancel each other.
Back when I was in home hi-fi I always found amplifiers and speakers to benefit from burning in, especially speakers. My technique, where possible by speaker driver placement, would be to wire them out of phase and place the drivers as close as possible so they cancel each other out and play music at a reasonable volume for 24 hours. I think because speakers are mechanical burning in works. And I had a proper room dedicated to music. My music shop pals also burned-in their equipment before allowing customers to hear them. Tubes are of course a different principle, needing not so much burn-in but warming up. Now I burn-in my iems and headphones and do find a difference. My most recent DMG/BMG(?) and AE-10 purchases sounded tinny before burn-in. I do it because I know it works so I don't really care what others say. Even car hi-fi benefits from burn-in. I had a sub that I had to re-tune after a week because the sound had changed.
yes....Fostex T-line headphones and Argons benefit greatly...and I mean GREATLY from burn in over many, many hours.
I've been using Cambridge Audio Aero2 speakers for a few years and they were getting better and better , in fact they sounded to me so good that I thought that that's all I really want and will use them forever. Until I got bought Monitore Audio Bronze2. After a few weeks of using the new speakers and getting used to the new sound signature of M.A. I went back to the Cambridge speakers and what do you know, I didn't think I wanted to use them as much. Also If I use one of the pairs for a while I start loving them again. I thing it's both, yes brake in is real and the way your brain processes sound is also real. A combination of two.
My HD58X Jubilees improved after about 20 hours of use. The high end became more refined, less brittle, and the bass settled into a more defined and extended thump. The mids have gotten just the slightest bit more smooth and seamless which is noticeable when compared to other headphones I own. Also, my 25 year old Infinity Kappa 5.1 monitor speakers have gotten more refined and musical over the years, especially since I redid the surrounds. In short, yes, burn in is a real thing the degree of which is dependent upon the materials of the components.
For me there's burn in (in terms of sound reproduction) and wear in, where the headphones form to fit your unique head and facial profile. I find this kind of wear in particularly good, because it make the headphones feel more comfortable over time.
Jaydundiddit said it best. Also so if you’re solely asking for the subjective experience, if you ask 1,000 people on their break in experience, you’ll literally get 1,000 unique answers. As subjectivity is always a personalized experience, and impossible to have fully replicated from one person to another as no two people loved the same exact life, nor do they have the same exact hearing capabilities at every single second of the day. Which is is why the whole topic is irrelevant from the subjective point of view aside from monitoring a possible phenomena. Especially of no use is talking about how sound has changed for people over years. We are totally incapable of auditory memory being retained on that long period of time vs something like a cable that could last multiple lifetimes. There is no way our hearing capability remains in the same state long enough to ever have valid thoughts on devices changing over a long time, especially devices that no one has ever proved are changing over time at least not with the hearing capability we have.
Here is my dividing line on this highly controversial topic... tubes do burn-in, everything else "breaks-in". Subwoofers are where I've noticed the most change over time and after about two weeks of normal use I don't detect any change. These have very high excursion drivers with often very thick surrounds. Headphones with high excursion drivers (particularly bio-cellulose IMO) tend to change over the first 10 hours or so. I've not noticed any major differences beyond that and have gone through this process on 33 pairs of various designs and forms. If you like a headphone off the bat it may improve a tiny bit. Those that say "needs burn-in" when someone really doesn't like the headphone at all on initial impression are crazy.
Personally, I do believe in burn-in but only in context of your brain and ears adjusting over time to a sound signature. I do believe that most, if not all, equipment and components do change after breaking them in but I think the difference is so neglible that it's inaudible. I'm talking a difference of 1-2 dB in spots. Something no one can discernably tell a difference in hearing. But, just because we can't hear it doesn't negate that the equipment itself did change after X hours. I feel the same about cables but to a much lesser degree. The only difference amongst cables is impedance and shielding. Since most people don't volume match, they could easily perceive an increase or decrease in volume to be attributed to cable quality when in effect they altered the impedance which could positively or negatively affect their gear depending on how reactive it is. Especially considering that's a very easy thing to measure and if it was as positive as manufacturers say, they would be blasting charts and graphs showing what their cables actually do. Same sort of issue of SE vs Balanced I\O and people not volume matching especially due to the voltage increase for balanced (4V vs 2V). Louder music tends to sound more dynamic so folks can easily perceive balanced to be "better" subjectively due to a volume difference. Same with cables the impact impedance. In short for me, volume matching and brain burn-in are more important than anything else. Whenever I'm reviewing gear, I don't listen to any other set and use the same tracks to ensure my ears and mind are as in-tune with just this particular piece of gear. So, when I do switch or change it up, the difference initially is pretty huge and I get to really enjoy the various different sound signatures of everything. It also makes comparisons much much easier as you will naturally compare the new sound to the old as that's just what your brain has fully adjusted to. Just my . 02 cents.
Personally I don't know if it's anything to do with burn in or just getting my ears used to the sound of whatever I'm currently using. When I get new headphones or amps they sound different once I get used to them I love them.