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Headphone Burn-In: Myth or Reality Studio Headphones
Old 13th September 2011
  #1
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Lrmusic's Avatar
 

Headphone Burn-In: Myth or Reality

Just a quick check-up.

(My particular model: ATH-M50; although I'm looking for answers regarding mid-end and high-end headphones in general.)
Old 13th September 2011
  #2
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nomoreflakes's Avatar
 

Reality
Old 13th September 2011
  #3
I think you might need to refine your question a bit in order to get a more informative or well-rounded answer.

Headphones are electromechanical devices and like any device with mechanical components there will be continual changes to the mechanism with use and wear. It's likely those changes would be quite small at first but certainly the would accumulate over time.

So, it's certain that -- at some level -- there will be change resulting from wear and to varying extent environmental factors (leave your cans in a hot car in the sunshine for a few days and the change might actually become quite noticeable; I have no data or experience on that but it makes intuitive sense to me).

Whether that change will be rapid enough that there would be any audible change in performance after some sort of break-in period is open to reasonable question, I should think.


Burn in actually more typically refers to the changes that heat tends to produce in components in electronic device chassis. I worked for a communications electronics maker (I was actually a suit, not a technical worker) and it was always the preferred course of action to burn in devices for 24-48 hours after their completion in order to test for any degradation in basic performance or outright failure resulting from failed components. The thinking was that many defective components are most likely to fail when they are subjected to sustained heat. So the burn in period had to be sufficient to produce such a sustained heat build up.

Heat build up in the voice coils of headphones is probably a fairly minor factor (unless one subjects the 'phones to sustatined square waves) but it may factor in with wear/mechanical break-in as well.
Old 13th September 2011
  #4
Gear Head
 

Reality - No doubt !

My AKG K701's sounded like when I first got them...
After about 150 hours run-in they became all I had hoped they would be - Plus a bit more actually heh
Old 13th September 2011
  #5
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MikeRL's Avatar
 

Anything with a speaker will benefit by a little "break in"

Just like a pair of shoes, where you have to loosen up all the glue n **** in between the mid-sole and out-sole.
Old 13th September 2011
  #6
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edva's Avatar
IME it always helps, some models more than others, some tremendously, e.g. Ultrasones.
Old 13th September 2011
  #7
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Headphones like the AKG K701 need about 500 hours burn in, I am told.

The designer of the Sennheiser HD 800 recommended 48 hours with pink noise.

The Product Manager of the Neumann KH (K+H) loudspeaker range recommends nothing at all.

It's a moveable feast and varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Old 13th September 2011
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lrmusic View Post
Just a quick check-up.

(My particular model: ATH-M50; although I'm looking for answers regarding mid-end and high-end headphones in general.)
I have the ATH-M50s. When I first got them they were too harsh to me, but now I think they are pretty great. Use'm all the time to reference.
Old 13th September 2011
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by J-Bus View Post
My AKG K701's sounded like when I first got them...
After about 150 hours run-in they became all I had hoped they would be - Plus a bit more actually heh
Same experience here, although I wouldn't say they sounded that bad out of the box. After a few months of solid use (and leaving them running whenever I'm not using them) I LOVE these things. If only they didn't look so goofy...
Old 13th September 2011
  #10
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Good common-sense-rule-of-thumb:

Yes, if it says so on the manual. If not, the manufacturer doesn't consider it / the lack of it affecting the performance in any significant way. It would be against the logic of business to not advice doing it if it indeed would make a difference in the product's performance. In fact, quite the opposite. It would be a good practice to advice doing it even if it doesn't affect the performance.

For me this whole speaker / headphone burn-in thing is mostly just another audio myth. If it would be essential, why wouldn't they do it in the factory to ensure it's been done properly?
Old 13th September 2011
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximo View Post
Same experience here, although I wouldn't say they sounded that bad out of the box. After a few months of solid use (and leaving them running whenever I'm not using them) I LOVE these things. If only they didn't look so goofy...
And that's coming from a guy whose avatar is a pug in a Darth Vader doggie Hallowe'en costume.
Old 13th September 2011
  #12
I use the K702's and noticed a vast improvement (more definition/bass/presence) over 150 hours and a subtler improvement especially in low/sub bass over the next few hundred hours (also removed a slight fog from the soundstage).
Old 13th September 2011
  #13
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Regardless if they say to or not you'll end up doing it over time. I usually do burn them in with music for 4-5 days.
Old 13th September 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoaT View Post
For me this whole speaker / headphone burn-in thing is mostly just another audio myth. If it would be essential, why wouldn't they do it in the factory to ensure it's been done properly?
Essential or not, it's real and a fact. A fact that the transducer undergo changes during its lifetime that is.

Running in at factory would increase the price considerably.


/Peter
Old 13th September 2011
  #15
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JoaT's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiop View Post
Essential or not, it's real and a fact. A fact that the transducer undergo changes during its lifetime that is.

Running in at factory would increase the price considerably.


/Peter
Not going to argue on the first point. The changes are really slow, and the whole idea of designing transducers is to come up with one that resists the changes as long as possible and changes as little as possible.

As for the second point.. I think the increase in price would be insignificant with high end monitoring equipment. If the burn in would be mandatory, I think there would be a lot of studio owners who'd rather pay to have the two week white noise burn in done for their new mains somewhere else than in their facility.

I'm just a hobbyist and even for me the two week white noise burn in period sounds like a route I'm not willing to take.
Old 13th September 2011
  #16
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doug hazelrigg's Avatar
I wonder how much of the anecdotal assertions are a matter of acclimation?


Personally, I've never noticed it over the years... which proves nothing

However, I've read an article or two that showed actual measurements, in speaker amplitude and frequency reproduction over time, that strongly suggest burn-in is not myth but reality
Old 13th September 2011
  #17
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Piedpiper's Avatar
I recently talked to a speaker driver designer about burn in/break in and he said that the differences are real but that it will generally not show up much in frequency response tests but will show up measurably in attack and decay characteristics. He also adheres to the idea that burning in electrical components including caps and wire will make audible changes due to dielectric properties.

Most manufacturers I've talked to about break in do not consider it their responsibility, beyond flushing out premature component failure, which they do take seriously, of course. It's hard enough for them to make a buck as it is. And just because a certain brand of typical electrical engineer/designer types often can't be bothered with this level of minutiae, doesn't mean that it isn't real. They are not necessarily to be trusted as the final word on such things, despite what you'd think. Their heads are in it on a different level.
Old 13th September 2011
  #18
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My arguments in this are against the notion this burn in period needs to be done with continuous white noise or anything along these lines.

I believe the sound of the speakers or headphones change some during the first weeks of their use. That would be logical and make sense.

But that is something that will happen regardless of the material used to play the things, and regardless of if it's continuous or not.

Unless you buy a second consecutive set of speakers / headphones, it will take longer for you to learn the qualities of the particular model in your environment than it takes the units to reach stable state.

And that could well be the reason why there is no instructions considering the "burn in" procedure on most of the speakers / headphones.
Old 13th September 2011
  #19
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ximo View Post
Same experience here, although I wouldn't say they sounded that bad out of the box.
Didn't you know that means a slight peak @ 2,27khz ?

I thought that was common knowledge
Old 20th May 2012
  #20
Here for the gear
 

greetingz, is it normal to a headphone release a smell from its drives?

like a smoth rubber burnt?

i try to tell you my history with mine (ATH M50) i have this pair for a long time now...
i adquire tem in 2009 if i am not mistaken, i never did such burning process, never used noise tricks during hours or anything, basicly during this almost 3 years the headphones were conected to my studio output device and they came with me to travell sometimes when i got gig´s...

the thing is, yesterday i was experimenting to produce an acid techno track, with have naturaly tube distortion and slight saturation on kicks, i had many carefull to control volume and produce something balanced without peaks, but when after a couple hours i started to smell this kind of rubber burnt, i dont feel that the headphones are losing quality, quite contrary they sound amazing as allways, but my question is, have anyone experience such thing with you headphones? a suden smell coming from the drives? this was only for a while...

anyone experienced something similar? like i said there was no peak clips, i was only experimenting produce something very raw and crunchy wich naturaly is not my thing, i did it for a couple hours (maybe 6 or 7) and my ears were not even tired...
Old 25th May 2012
  #21
Wildfunk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Headphones like the AKG K701 need about 500 hours burn in, I am told.
So i have to play 500 hours non-stop loud music into them?
Old 25th May 2012
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildfunk View Post
So i have to play 500 hours non-stop loud music into them?
yes, plus you are not allowed to listen to them during the burn-in

you must put them in a closet and close the door
Old 25th May 2012
  #23
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And if the process is interrupted in any way, you must start over.
Old 25th May 2012
  #24
Wildfunk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
you must put them in a closet and close the door
Got no closet, got no door!
Old 25th May 2012
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiop View Post
Essential or not, it's real and a fact. A fact that the transducer undergo changes during its lifetime that is.

Running in at factory would increase the price considerably.


/Peter
So in theory, dynamic microphones change over time as well?
Old 25th May 2012
  #26
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If it is made out of atoms, and moves mechanically in any way, it will indeed eventually "wear-out" and will change over time.
Old 26th May 2012
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TRJanuary View Post
If it is made out of atoms, and moves mechanically in any way, it will indeed eventually "wear-out" and will change over time.
I know, but I've never heard of anyone "burning in dynamic microphones"...
Old 26th May 2012
  #28
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loopy's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shock Value View Post
I know, but I've never heard of anyone "burning in dynamic microphones"...
That's an interesting point.
Old 26th May 2012
  #29
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildfunk View Post
Got no closet, got no door!
Then you will have to leave the house. The entire concept of "burning in" is predicated on the idea that you can not be actually USING the headphones during this critical period or something bad will happen, I am not sure exactly what.

Otherwise people would just say "use your headphones - and as they get used they will change somewhat". But they never say "use them for 500 hours before you trust them", they say this change must be accomplished before you use them: "Burn them in".

And since those lazy factory types won't do it, it's up to us to DIY these improvements to our gear.

I suggest booking two ten-day cruises back to back - 20 days is about 500 hours. You will come back really tanned and doubly rested, and your headphones will be ready to actually listen to.
Old 26th May 2012
  #30
Gear Addict
 

While I'm quite convinced of the reality of speaker break-in, I've been satisfied with the simple expedient of actually playing music through the things.

Well, mostly; once, I did set a 4x12 guitar cabinet facing down on the basement floor while I left a guitar plugged into a cranked-up 50w Marshall feeding back on a stand. But I was younger and stupider then.

My Adam monitors made a damn fine stereo when I first got them.
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