The Audition Corner
By Ric Mancuso
Burn-In, Break-In and Patience . . .
Does it make a Difference?
When you buy a brand-new pair of Blue Jeans, they are either offered as prewashed or not. We all know it takes a while for the denim fabric to relax and stretch.
Not very comfortable before Break-In!
Another settling condition applies to breaking in a new car engine, generally for the first one-thousand miles. Driving at various speeds will allow the engine to be “Broken-In” to perform its best over a wide range of speeds for the long term. Car dealers will tell you to do so.
New car Zoom-Zoom, Broken-In!
Ok, so we all know that jeans and engines need some time to break in to feel and perform at their best. So, do components and loudspeakers need to be broken and burned in? Lets take a look at this article using; empirical data (listening), analyzing materials properties, psycho acoustic science and brain patterning.
Loudspeaker & Component Burn-In & Break-In
Ok, so we have various types of speakers that are made of many different types of materials. Materials have various properties such as, stretch, elasticity, stiffness and flexibility. There are countless material conditions that would be exhaustive to list here. Having worked with speaker and electronic manufacturing companies over the years, I’ve had the experience of performing listening tests before, during and after break-in and burn-in conditions.
The end results are quite demonstrative to my ears. Many audio manufacturer’s specify recommended times for their components to settle and stabilize. Be wary of any manufacturer telling you that break-in is longer than the warranty of the unit!
Electronic components, such as capacitors, take time to form, based on their internal materials. Polypropylene and oil types are the ones that like stasis conditions to operate at their best. Thermal dynamics plays into this scenario. Many DAC’s sound best left on all the time, as well as amplifiers. Some amplifiers have an idle position switch, that allows the amplifier to be in a ready position. Warmed up!
The science of hearing is a called psychoacoustics. Our brains are the DAC hooked up to our ears (the source component) that interprets sound waves called music, speech, survival audible cues and everything else. How we hear is based on many factors in our auditory processing center.
‘You see what you want to see, and hear what you want to hear.” Observations from the Pointless Forest. Our moods and feelings will influence our olfactory senses. Our brains are wired to enjoy 2nd order harmonics, pleasant sounds. Our brains will even dither and rearrange dissonant sounds to make them more pleasing! I suggest reading a book called, This Is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin. The book illustrates many features of the brain and how it processes music and sounds. I attended a lecture with him and audiologists from the Oregon Health & Sciences University here in Portland in 2013.
Getting used to sounds.
Our brains will adapt to accepting repetitive sounds over time. Example, young people today have a hard time listening to records with the clicks and pops. They have listened to digital all of their lives and that is the norm for them. Vinyl for most of them is irritating. Us mature folks, who grew up with vinyl, our brains accepted and filtered out the clicks and pops, which became our norm. A lot older audiophiles have gotten into digital, to only hunt for the elusive sound of vinyl! Behavioral science suggests, that one feels the best when comfortable with habits formed from an early age.
OK, so back to break-in & burn-in. It is also possible “to get used to a sound” of a component and have the brain pattern the sonic signature of it, allowing to become acceptable. Kind of a self-brain-washing technique. The brain now accepts the sound in order to move on with auditory demands of everyday life. I usually nail down the potential sound quality of a component quickly and have expectations of some subtle improvements. If the cat’s ears are pinned back while listening in the beginning, forget about that component or speaker!
Like to hear about your experiences and/or thoughts about Burn-IN & Break-In.
The Audiophile Audition,