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Burn-in, Break-in

bobfa

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I am sure that many of you have been told to be careful with your car or your new lawnmower to break-in the engine properly.  You manage speed, vary the load, etc.  until there are a certain number of miles or hours.  The oil is changed early, etc..  Many mechanical devices need this period to run properly over the long term.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Break-in_(mechanical_run-in)

 

Electronic and electromechanical equipment has some of the same needs.  The mechanism is different but the need is there.  Capacitors have to form up, and more.  Some equipment has this done at the factory.  The equipment is put in a chamber that is hot and the gear is operated. This burn-in period can vary a lot depending upon the gear.  One example I have heard more than once is a new phono cartridge.  After it has been installed and you play the first couple of records the sound can be thin.  You can hear it open up over 20 to 30 minutes.  It is wonderful. 

 

Here are a couple of links about burn-in that may be helpful to you:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burn-in

 

https://www.tested.com/tech/accessories/459117-science-and-myth-burning-headphones/

 

Bob



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Whenever I read about an audio product that “needs” burn-in, I always wonder why the alleged change in SQ is invariably assumed to be, and experienced as, an *improvement*. 

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4 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

It is due to neural adaptation.

I do not like absolutes. I would beg to be a bit more open to something more.  

 

 

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It's a generic behaviour of audio sound that it varies over time - there are a myriad number of factors all contributing to the audible distortion, and these factors alter over periods of time for a multitude of reasons. My earliest good rig, once fully warmed up and conditioned, had a severe problem in that the SQ degraded from a standing start of sounding good - the only solution I had at the time was to switch off, allow the power supplies to discharge, and switch on again - this always restored peak sound quality.

 

It's not so much dealing with break-in, but trying to make the overall setup so robust that the SQ is 'guaranteed' to maintain at an adequate level, no matter what. From experience, this is quite a severe hurdle ...

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I am trying to stick with the technology and the terminology here.  I am not sure I want to branch out into other areas.  I guess I am taking a personal bias for now to not take on human factors yet.  I do not even know I am going to simply address some of the more complex technical subjects.  Thank you all for your comments.

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8 hours ago, HalSF said:

Whenever I read about an audio product that “needs” burn-in, I always wonder why the alleged change in SQ is invariably assumed to be, and experienced as, an *improvement*. 

 

Only if it turns out to be an audio product I enjoy hearing my music through and intend to keep. If burn-in makes the sound worse said product goes back and my money is refunded.

 

Thus it is not always an improvement, it can go either way.

 

Also I don't know if its the product being burned-in or me getting use to its sonic qualities. I don't care because either way my action is the same. I have to listen to a wide variety of music I love to decide if I like or dislike an audio product. In other words the issue of burn-in is a non issue IMHO.

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You neglected to mention the most important flavor of shall we say maturing a product and that's mechanical settling-in. 

 

So we have electrical burn-in, mechanical break-in, and mechanical settling-in where mechanical break-in is as you imply for moving mechanical objects such as motors, speaker drivers, etc. and mechanical settling-in which is for stationary mechanical objects e.g. a speaker, a rack, a component, a house, a foundation, etc. 

 

All objects that make up a playback system in one form or another go thru a mechanical settling-in process while many-to-most objects in the vineyard go thru an electrical burn-in process.  Whereas only some objects go thru a mechanical break-in process.

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2 hours ago, bobfa said:

You are correct.  One of the most fascinating ones is a new phono cartridge.  You can hear the changes during playback of the first couple of album sides!

 

Actually your example should fall under the mechanical break-in category because of the moving parts between the stylus and the vinyl spinning by the friction induced there.  Hence, any noticeable improvements (or changes) here should be the result of the stylus and/or the grooves of the vinyl "maturing". 

 

Besides, mechanical settling-in is most always a rather lengthy process and where the process does not even become audibly noticeable for an initial period of time, hence there ought not be any noticeable gains (changes) after just a couple of playbacks resulting from its settling-in.  In fact, mechanical settling-in has nothing to do with playback time, rather just time and lots of it.  Which again, should confirm that the changes you hear in your example of just a couple of playbacks falls into the mechanical break-in category and not the settling-in category.  But of course other parts of the cartridge e.g. connectors, mounting fasteners, conductors, etc, would all be simultaneously beginning their settling-in and/or burning-in process.

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You neglected to mention the most important factor which is similar to neural accommodation,  and that is how your perceptions change as you listen to something over time.

 

It is difficult to distinguish that from any changes in transducers, tubes, other active devices, caps, etc.

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Anyone skeptical of break-in should buy one of those Border Patrol Dacs.  Mine had the treble rolled off terribly straight out of the box and took over a week to have any.  I even measured the in-room response w/ a Umik-1 to make sure I wasn't going crazy because I'd never had a piece of gear do that before to verify.

 

After much fuss, I returned it w/in 14 days anyway.

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5 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

You neglected to mention the most important factor which is similar to neural accommodation,  and that is how your perceptions change as you listen to something over time.

 

You're right.  We must always be mindful of this neural accommodation that you speak of, which is quite important and should never be discounted.  So much so that it permeates every industry and every aspects of life and is so prevalent that it should go without saying.

 

But as usual I appreciate your dilemma as it seems you would much prefer to state the mindless obvious so as to give yourself the perception that your many contributions add value to a given discussion.  When in truth, I've yet to observe any of your lowest common denominator contributions add any value.  

 

But there's always tomorrow. 

 

5 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

It is difficult to distinguish that from any changes in transducers, tubes, other active devices, caps, etc.

 

For you I presume the proper word is not difficult but impossible.   But again, thank you for sharing the seemingly obvious about matters that on their face should go without saying.  Your admission here gives clear indication to me just how much thought you put into your posts, which doesn't appear to be much if any.

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5 hours ago, emcdade said:

Anyone skeptical of break-in should buy one of those Border Patrol Dacs.  Mine had the treble rolled off terribly straight out of the box and took over a week to have any.  I even measured the in-room response w/ a Umik-1 to make sure I wasn't going crazy because I'd never had a piece of gear do that before to verify.

 

After much fuss, I returned it w/in 14 days anyway.

 

Any component with a DAC area will usually require very extended conditioning to get the best presentation - the Yamaha CDP I started with took 2, yes, 2 weeks to reach top form - any lengthy powering down meant I had to repeat this exercise, all over again.

 

Sound from cold was smooth, but there was no bite in sounds where there should have been such - this was probably a tube lover's delight, 😛 . The multi week warmup slowly built up the impact of transients; convincing gutsiness was now present, when it was part of the recording.

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