Jump to content
IGNORED

"Burning in" equipment - just audio mythology?


Norton

Recommended Posts

The idea that a DAC, Amp, even cables physically change and improve in sound due to "burn in" with extended use is a common observation on this site and other audio media. Posts talk of needing to "burn in" DACs for 300 hrs etc; I even understand you can buy devices to "run in" your cables...

 

I strongly suspect this is a complete myth, other than maybe for part mechanical devices such as speakers, cartridges etc and only then for a short period of time from new. I am admittedly no engineer, but note apparently well informed comment to the effect that it is physically impossible for such extended "burn in" to occur in inert solid state devices or cables.

 

I'm fairly sure that what actually "burns in" is the listener's psycho acoustics. In other words new equipment sounds better as we get used to it and the previous standard by which we judged SQ gets forgotten. For example a new DAC appears to change over time from "bright and thin" to "accurate and neutral" not because of physical changes within the DAC, but as we acclimatise to it and lose our sonic memory of previous equipment. To support this, I'm struck by reports of equipment that apparently have to be "burned in" all over again for 000s of hours if they are accidentally switched off, and by my own experience that well used s/h items apparently also improve in sound with extended listening.

 

Recently, I wondered why my long-owned turntable was sounding particularly good. The only thing that had changed in my system was that I had bought and had been listening a lot to a new Esoteric SACD player/ DAC. I concluded that acclimatising to the particular digital virtues of the Esoteric provided a counterpoint, accentuating the turntable's strengths on return to listening, the same being also true in reverse.

 

 

It also made me wonder if really good equipment stands out by needing no "burn in" at all, as its virtues are immediately apparent, rather than a compromise to which we adapt over time.

 

What do you think: is "burn in" a phenomenon of physics, engineering, psychology or mythology?

Link to comment

I am not really sure what difference this thread is going to make, but I do find it interesting that you posit a theory and yet claim to not be qualified. I am unsure as to your intended use of the term "inert", but those devices and cables are anything but nonreactive electrically in situ.

I strongly suspect this is a complete myth, other than maybe for part mechanical devices such as speakers, cartridges etc and only then for a short period of time from new. I am admittedly no engineer, but note apparently well informed comment to the effect that it is physically impossible for such extended "burn in" to occur in inert solid state devices or cables.

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

Link to comment

Hi Norton. I do think there is "burn-in," at least for capacitors in the signal path and thus for equipment containing them. I say this because in the process of building my DAC I had the opportunity to listen to a pair of capacitors that had been broken in for a couple of days on one channel of the DAC, and another pair of the same capacitors brand new on the other channel. It took 24 hours or a little more until the sound coming from each channel started to be similar enough to integrate into a decent stereo image. (I thought it took another few days until all four caps really sounded their best, but there we're into the realm of recollection of subjective impressions.)

 

So no feats of memory involved, just whether one channel sounded enough like the other to give a decent stereo image. And that took a day or more of constant play.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment

I believe in burn in. If not at least some sort of settling in.

 

Capacitors are definitely one candidate for an item that needs burn in. I had my power amp caps upgraded some time back and it took about 200 hrs for them to burn in. They seemed to get better in a few more steps at approx the 300 hrs and finally the 400 hrs mark. The physics behind the behavior of the dielectric materials are well understood within the realms of engineering.

 

Cable burn in is another area I believe in although the extent of burn in required depends on the cable design and materials used. I regularly have cables burnt in on a cable cooker available with one my cable suppliers and the difference is not subtle. Again the physics behind it is in the area of crystal lattice structures of the cable material (i.e. copper or silver). The variations observed in the burn in process is due to variation in the crystal structures for the quality of cable used among other things. At the highest extreme are cables made by the Ohno Continuous Casting Process which are made by growing a single crystal something like a 100m plus.

 

Not sure if this would convince you but there is physics at a fundamental level primarily due to the materials used.

Custom Win10 Transport | Mutec MC-3+ Smart Clock USB | Lampizator Amber | Acoustic Portrait Thiyaga | ATC SCM20 PSL

 

 

Link to comment

I think burn-in is primarily down to how the dielectric changes over time once the conductor starts being used. The lower the interaction between the two the longer it takes to burn in. Really poor equipment with PVC dielectric changes quickly and there may be very little burn-in time required. Really good equipment with Teflon dielectric can take upwards of 500 hours I believe.

 

Audioquest produced their dielectric-bias system to try and circumvent that process and supposedly burn-in time is non-existent for those cables. I've not actually tried any of them, so I can't comment on whether it works, but their standard cables certainly change significantly during the first fortnight. Whether the dielectric-bias system makes any difference when compared to a well used cable I don't know as theoretically the end result is the same; ie is the bias system just for the impatient? :-)

 

I assume dielectric changes would effect circuit boards and capacitors too, but I'm not swapping caps to experiment (because I suck at DIY). All the other stuff such as expectation bias and what-not may well be involved too, but given the amount of equipment and cables I've heard change in weird and wonderful (not) ways it can't all be psycho-acoustic. I mostly buy second hand now anyway as it's cheaper, and there's no need for burn in with that stuff. Double-win!

Link to comment
What do you think: is "burn in" a phenomenon of physics, engineering, psychology or mythology?

I've never noticed a significant change after equipment infancy ends, although I've had a few that entered the "terrible twos" early and had to be put up for adoption. But there's a strong parallel here with guitar lore. The strong prevailing belief is that playing a guitar improves its sound dramatically, and that one left under a bed for 30 years will not sound & play as great as one that's been well played.

 

Steven Stone was able to find two 1942 Martin D28s with consecutive serial numbers, one of which was played regularly & one of which was never played. Both were in excellent original condition. This led to a comparison between them with the same player, and no one among the skilled listener/testers/players could tell them apart. Here's the summary from the original article in Vintage Guitar magazine:

 

"These guitars sounded identical though one was played regularly while the other was not. Perhaps the common lore that a guitar must be 'played in' over time to sound its best is just so much malarkey. And while going so far to say a guitar’s environment has no effect on its state, these two make a strong case that a guitar’s sonic quality and structural stability are functions of its birthright, not its individual history".

 

A hand built solid wood (I.e. not laminated) guitar is clearly not an inert object. Food for thought.......

Link to comment
I think you are spot on myself. Obviously, other's will disagree. :)

 

Paul

 

That's fine Paul, but how then do you explain the initial lack of an integrated stereo image with the "aged" capacitors on one channel of my DAC and the brand new ones on the other channel, as I related above? Stereo imaging is something your brain does automatically. You can't "unhear" it if it's there, nor of course can you hear it if it's not. No memory or judgment involved.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
That's fine Paul, but how then do you explain the initial lack of an integrated stereo image with the "aged" capacitors on one channel of my DAC and the brand new ones on the other channel, as I related above? Stereo imaging is something your brain does automatically. You can't "unhear" it if it's there, nor of course can you hear it if it's not. No memory or judgment involved.

 

May be it was just time to change the "aged" one:)

 


Link to comment
That's fine Paul, but how then do you explain the initial lack of an integrated stereo image with the "aged" capacitors on one channel of my DAC and the brand new ones on the other channel, as I related above? Stereo imaging is something your brain does automatically. You can't "unhear" it if it's there, nor of course can you hear it if it's not. No memory or judgment involved.

 

I believe it is more likely that one learns to hear the stereo image Jud, it isn't just "there."

 

Learning of course involves both memory and judgement. The stereo image is actually created in your brain, much like the images hidden in those 3D images one finds at every craft/art fair/carnaval these days.

 

It takes time for your brain to learn the trick of how to interpret the stereo image in what it hears, but once learned, that becomes a rather effortless skill.

 

Change a component, change the sound, takes a bit of time to relearn.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
I believe it is more likely that one learns to hear the stereo image Jud, it isn't just "there."

 

Learning of course involves both memory and judgement. The stereo image is actually created in your brain, much like the images hidden in those 3D images one finds at every craft/art fair/carnaval these days.

 

It takes time for your brain to learn the trick of how to interpret the stereo image in what it hears, but once learned, that becomes a rather effortless skill.

 

Change a component, change the sound, takes a bit of time to relearn.

 

The sound changes with every recording you ever listen to, doesn't it? (Unless they all sound the same, which is pretty much the definition of distortion.) Have you experienced difficulty in constructing a stereo image for every new recording you listen to?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
May be it was just time to change the "aged" one:)

 

I hope not, alfe, they were only a couple of days old. :)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
The sound changes with every recording you ever listen to, doesn't it? (Unless they all sound the same, which is pretty much the definition of distortion.) Have you experienced difficulty in constructing a stereo image for every new recording you listen to?

 

A very good point. :) How much of the presentation that the electronics are responsible for changed with each new album? If not much, then there lies the answer. If "a whole lot" then there is another answer, though one I don't even pretend to personally understand at this time.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment

Here's something from those raving subjectivists Mouser:

 

During burn-in, resistance values can shift by up to 100 ppm or 200 ppm. Metal film resistors may need 4000 to 5000 operational hours for full stabilization, especially if deprived of a burn-in period.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment

1. Anyone that uses their audio system enough is listening to burned in equipment. Why the debate?

 

2. I have a methodology:

 

I'll take 4 Belden RCA cables.

 

Two cables will be pink noised for 120 hours straight. Two cables won't. They will be randomly labeled. You get two weeks for ears only testing in whatever interval you wish.

 

They will be mailed out in anti-static bags (just like JPS Labs does with their pre-burned in cables). I'll make a password protected/encrypted zip file available via ftp prior to shipping out.

 

At the end of two weeks:

 

Sort the cables into their like pairs and then let us know which is the burned in set. Post the results and I will post the password to the answer key.

 

You have a 12.5% chance of just guessing it. This is open to all established forum members of at least 200 posts.

 

Since burn in is a physics thing talk about the cables to be used won't be entertained.

Link to comment
1. Anyone that uses their audio system enough is listening to burned in equipment. Why the debate?

 

2. I have a methodology:

 

I'll take 4 Belden RCA cables.

 

Two cables will be pink noised for 120 hours straight. Two cables won't. They will be randomly labeled. You get two weeks for ears only testing in whatever interval you wish.

 

They will be mailed out in anti-static bags (just like JPS Labs does with their pre-burned in cables). I'll make a password protected/encrypted zip file available via ftp prior to shipping out.

 

At the end of two weeks:

 

Sort the cables into their like pairs and then let us know which is the burned in set. Post the results and I will post the password to the answer key.

 

You have a 12.5% chance of just guessing it. This is open to all established forum members of at least 200 posts.

 

Since burn in is a physics thing talk about the cables to be used won't be entertained.

 

LOL! - Make those Nordost speaker cables and I would be tempted to take you up on that one. No matter what I think. :)

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
A very good point. :) How much of the presentation that the electronics are responsible for changed with each new album? If not much, then there lies the answer. If "a whole lot" then there is another answer, though one I don't even pretend to personally understand at this time.

 

-Paul

 

In my case there was no "new album." While I had my music collection on shuffle play running through my DAC with the amp off during times I was not listening, I only ever played one album when I was listening - the Steve Hoffman remaster of the mono recording of Pet Sounds. Thus there would be no question of anything but the equipment (in my case the DAC, which was the only piece of equipment in which changes had been made, specifically the capacitors) affecting the ability to present a coherent centered "stereo" image.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
I am not really sure what difference this thread is going to make, but I do find it interesting that you posit a theory and yet claim to not be qualified. I am unsure as to your intended use of the term "inert", but those devices and cables are anything but nonreactive electrically in situ.

 

Well, he didn't claim to be presenting a "scientific" theory. The OP simply asked a question, disclosed his level of expertise and shared his opinion which he is entitled to do.

 

I haven't heard any change in how equipment sounds after extended play, but maybe I have a tin ear. Anyway, if I don't like the sound of equipment when I introduce it into my system, I take it back as soon as possible.

That I ask questions? I am more concerned about being stupid than looking like I might be.

Link to comment
1. Anyone that uses their audio system enough is listening to burned in equipment. Why the debate?

 

2. I have a methodology:

 

I'll take 4 Belden RCA cables.

 

Two cables will be pink noised for 120 hours straight. Two cables won't. They will be randomly labeled. You get two weeks for ears only testing in whatever interval you wish.

 

They will be mailed out in anti-static bags (just like JPS Labs does with their pre-burned in cables). I'll make a password protected/encrypted zip file available via ftp prior to shipping out.

 

At the end of two weeks:

 

Sort the cables into their like pairs and then let us know which is the burned in set. Post the results and I will post the password to the answer key.

 

You have a 12.5% chance of just guessing it. This is open to all established forum members of at least 200 posts.

 

Since burn in is a physics thing talk about the cables to be used won't be entertained.

 

I have a different idea: (1) Don't use pink noise, use music (low volume to prevent any habituation effect). (2) At the end of ~100 hours of "burn-in" of one pair, have a friend take one cable each from the "burned in" and new pairs and put them in your system. (3) Without your friend in the house, listen to your choice of well recorded mono material (Pet Sounds, Beatles, Buddy Holly, or whatever you like). (4) Let us know whether you get a nice coherent centered "stereo" image, and if you don't, (a) which channel you preferred, and (b) whether it was the channel with the burned in or new cable.

 

Edit: By the way -

 

Since burn in is a physics thing talk about the cables to be used won't be entertained.

 

So different construction of cables (conductor material, treatment of conductor material, dielectric material) couldn't possibly affect their physical behavior?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment
In my case there was no "new album." While I had my music collection on shuffle play running through my DAC with the amp off during times I was not listening, I only ever played one album when I was listening - the Steve Hoffman remaster of the mono recording of Pet Sounds. Thus there would be no question of anything but the equipment (in my case the DAC, which was the only piece of equipment in which changes had been made, specifically the capacitors) affecting the ability to present a coherent centered "stereo" image.

 

That is pretty good evidence my opinion may be wrong, at least in some aspect. :)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
So why is demo merchandise sold at a discount rather than at a premium for pre-burn-in?

 

Audio retailers are not as smart as you? :)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...