Jun 2, 20168316 views

Audio Myths... A mostly civilized discussion

OK before this even begins.. STOP!
Many myths have existed for many years and while I am sure heated debate will arise I want to ask everyone to respect the rules of these forums. Act civilized. State your point of view, be open to other peoples point of view and hopefully we can at least UNDERSTAND where people are coming from and not just arguing for the sheer joy of it.
I guess I will start.
A topic that comes up for me pretty often and yes.. I do think something happens when you take a BRAND NEW off the assembly line moving driver dynamic speaker with suspensions and surrounds and webbing and run it for X hours. Now I am not saying you have to do this. It may not even benefit you or if there is a change it might be so small it isn't worth even thinking about. But Physics dictates if a precision device has a job of moving hundredths of a millimeter then I expect if it gets used initially then the moving fabric, foam and rubber parts may stretch and wear and perform differently then bone dry stock parts that have never moved before.
So can it be real? I say yes. Can it be measured. It should be possible. Is it worth fighting over? Of course not. Many people attribute the change you "hear" during burn-in to the human ear simply adapting to the sound. Like listening to a tone for long enough that it disappears. But my usual advice is .. "If you like it out of the box, enjoy" I usually just put headphone and speakers I dislike though the hours of hard running, away from my ears and then assess later.

I will let you guys take over the next topic, Tone Arms, Headphone Cables, Interconnects, Cable Risers, Tubes..
Po Po, Ezekiel Lopez, and 55 others

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Don't get me started on tubes god dammit.

More importantly though, just because a computer touched your music, doesn't mean it sounds worse. I have seen more than a few people complaining about "DSP". And I don't think they understand how insanely general a term that is.

Throwing out digital signal processing in a conversation about audio equipment doesn't make you sound cool and knowledgeable unless you actually have an understanding of what specific processing is being done, and how that is effecting your sound. Otherwise you are just repeating dogma that you picked up somewhere else.

The point is, just because digital signal processing is involved (which it is unless you are fully analog) doesn't mean that audible, or even in-audible, quality degradation has occurred.
For instance, WAV to FLAC and back involves no degradation of signal. Provably.
The reason you never show your face in videos is because...
A). You're in the witness protection plan and you life is in constant danger
B). Your ex-wife's lawyer is looking for you and the $42, 317 in back alimony payments you owe
C). You are part-cyborg and the camera you use is actually your left eye
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I’m willing to split the the film rights with you if you can pen the first draft of the screen play! Im thinking Ryan Gosling for the lead, but if Nicholson is available, I’m flexible.
Will get you a rough draft!!
I do know for sure that I bought a set of Customs IEM where the channel imbalance was bad to a point I was gonna try to get refunded. 4 days latter this had corrected itself. Would that be considered a "burn in" process or a real problem? I do know for sure it was not just a psychological thing, in that case one of the driver needed to be excited a little while to work as supposed to. Acoustic is a complex process, if Brand new guitar strings sound different than strings that are old, hy shouldn't it be the case with headphone drivers, to a lesser extent?
The change has to be small If it exists at all, and theoretically it would happen fast. I think it’s mostly pushed by brands that want customers to wait past return dates.

Physically, the rubber/foam/fabric is designed to move so much and for so long that the difference from never moving should be over in the first few seconds or minute. If the material changed a lot then it would fail quickly or keep changing. Like if it changed a lot after 100 hours of use then typically materials will keep up a similar wear trend through their entire lifecycle expectancy and it would never stop changing and then it could mean failure at only a few thousand hours of use. Obviously that doesn’t happen.

As for the copper wires in the woofer “tempering”, that’s complete nonsense. First, tempering refers to a heating and quencing process in some alloys, such as steel. Copper does not do this. Furthermore, tempering would require high heats that are not present in a woofer. However, copper can be hardened by hammering or shot blasting. An ultrasonic process can also be used but the power levels required are enormous and wouldn’t take place in a home speaker system or within the range of human hearing where most break in is recommended. Electrical conductivity of cold worked copper can be 3 % lower compared with the same material in its annealed (softened from heating) state. But speaker impedance has not been shown to change with time and neither annealing nor hardening processes seem to be occurring.

It kind of seems like physics would rule out most break in concepts. I cannot be certain though since many subtle things occur in high end audio. It would be interesting to see some double blind experiments on the subject but I don’t know of any.
I think it exists because something that has never moved should in theory be stiff at first and then after a while of rapid movements loosen up, to what degree i don't know.
I personally don't believe the statement of "it sounded average at first but after x hours burn in it really opened up" and i think that has more to do with getting used to the frequency response and not a dramatic change in the driver.
however if a person listened to a pair of headphones and thought these sound average, making notes of how they sound, then placed them on a block and burned them in for hours then tested them again plotting how they sound (or better yet have 2 one burned in for a long period and one that isn't) and then stated that the burned in pair sounded better, it would be harder to argue that it isn't purely psychological, more so if they did the comparison in a blind test.

Also If a headphone sounds bad or you really hate its sound signature out of the box i highly doubt that burn in or just listening to them for long periods is going to change that, unless of course you are going from closed to open headphones or from very poor sounding to extremely revealing headphones, a dramatic change in the way your music sounds may at first seem odd or displeasing not because its worse but because you got used to a different presentation, in those cases prolonged listening may change your opinion of your headphones.

Side note. Another thing to keep in mind with burn in and the such is the distance your ears are to the driver will make a dramatic change to how they sound, so if you have a brand new pair of headphones and an old pair of the same headphones and believe the old pair sound better, it could simply be a case of the ear pads being worn down and reducing the distance your ears are to the driver.

End rant.
I do believe in break in for some headphones. It's not getting used to the sound because when I do burn in, I don't listen to the headphones for anything more to them for maybe a couple hours at the beginning. Then they just run off my head for 24-48 hours and then I try them again, and some pairs do sound different.
I find burn-in an unproductive topic because like the weather there's nothing you can do about it. If it exists, you're going to use your component and over time its sound will change. If it doesn't exist, you're going to use your component and over time its sound won't change.

But the biggest logical flaw in the burn-in discussion is that no one ever argues that burn-in makes a component sound *worse*. Why are the changes that occur always euphonic?

I like to imagine an audio review that says, "Out of the box, this sounds great! But after 100 hours of burn-in it sounds like crap! My advice is buy this incredible piece of gear, use it for awhile until the burn-in wrecks the sound, and then throw it away and get a nice new fresh one."

because when dealing with mechanical devices, its the general consensus that movement loosens it up causing it to perform better, its kind of hard for burn in to make something sound worse, because if a driver is moving to make certain frequencies a brand new driver may be a bit stiff reducing its transient response. this is all speculation of course and i've seen no way to prove this to be true or false.
Breaking in exists, othetwise we wouldn't talk about it. It's more noticeable on some headphones than others, depending on the materials that they are made of. Cables just need no burn in lol..they are either good or bad. What matters on a cable is to not be twisted inside, to have good non magnetic metal in it and to be screened. If it's twisted, it can induce noise due to electromagnetic induction, if it has magnetic metal it will do that more as it's field will increase with impedance, if it's not screened you guessed, it can be easier influenced by external fields and basically act like an antennae. Now all of those above are influenced by length and of course environment. A good cable at home can be a bad one in the car, where interferences are stronger..you got generators and motors at less than 2 m away. Also temperature influences all materials electrical properties but you have to set them on fire to feel a difference. Make sure you test that otside and in the middle of nowhere though. Those cryo cables are a hoax. Tubes make their magic through that heat/impedance process...as the tube heats, it's electric resistence increases and so the circuit will change specs appearing "better" compared to few minutes ago. It's just a trick :).
Not necessarily, humans are anecdotal creatures, so we tend to “believe“, before using reason and logic. People believe in God, although it can not be proven, we can not say it's true because we talk about it.
Might be true but then you can say as well that speaking about something, it exists all of a sudden. God included, Santa Clause also, though not exactly how we picture it :). Burn in may exist or not, depending on listener, gear and the rotation of the Sun around the center of Milky Way with us and our music included. Who knows...is true people need to believe in things and i gues that's exactly what brought us all here, speaking about this instead of hunting around bushes :)
When I sell customers Monster cables, I make sure I break them in for 100 hrs which I charge an additional $50 for
Short version of the break-in story: "I got used to the sound".

Short version of the cable story: "I'd better say they sound better, even though they don't. Otherwise I'll feel like a fool for buying these cables".

Break-in period is right up there with the psycho-induced phenomenon of improved sound by changing cables. It's these same psycho-induced phenomena that have people believing that headphones that have low transparency along with high distortion and excessive driver coloration, such as the Sennheiser HD6XX series, are good headphones. What these headphones provide is "safety". Then, being human, "safety" gets translated to "good". But from the purely auditory sense their ability to accurately reproduce the recorded sounds in a clean, precise, and transparent way is in realty quite awful.

Here's a review (not mine) pulled from Amazon that helps explain further:

Break-in Period. Engineers can't risk designing product that depends on a break-in period. Too much uncertainty. When listening to headphones that have audible coloration the listener over time will minimize their perception to it. They will also adjust their perception to compensate for spectral imbalance. Some audiophiles are not aware that they are mistaking mental adaptation for a nonexistent brake-in period. In my evaluations I will temporarily adapt to the sound of a particular headphone model to determine how similar it is to or dissimilar it is from other headphone models in order to place it and others in the proper category.

Upgrade Cables. Upgrade cables do not improve sound quality. Not to the slightest degree. When I purchased a new Onkyo A-9050 integrated amplifier I needed to check it out after receiving it. However, I was currently enjoying my JR Transrotor headphone amplifier and was not in the mood to do so. When I did make the switch the Onkyo unit sounded lousy. I went back to the JR Transrotor unit and it also sounded lousy. So, what happened? My depth of perception dropped along with my mood. If one is excited about checking out a new product the opposite effect can happen. One's depth of perception is greatly affected by mood. I chose European karaoke music to do my evaluations for bass and overall sound because it was the music that I was interested in at the time. Therefore, I was able to up my perceptive depth and get into a zone for doing those evaluations. During my evaluations I had to be aware of my mood and degree of perceptive depth all the time. I repeated many evaluations on different days.
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Oh man if audible memory ONLY last 3-4 seconds I guess all Headphone reviews are bogus! I guess you've finally exposed us @shimage, the cat's totally out of the bag. Time to pack it up I suppose, it takes me at least 5 seconds to swap from one headphone to another and I can't be alone. Guess it's time to quit reviewing as a hobby forever... bummer ...

hopefully obvious sarcasm aside, I appreciate your respecting our difference in opinion and choosing not to validate your self at the expense of invalidating my thoughts on the matter, if for you all cables truly sound the same then do enjoy the extra funds at the end of the day ^^

Truthfully I started upgrading cables purely for functional gains back when I first got my HE 4. I went Modular for convince, this was before "removable" cables on full sized headphones became a more normal thing. The improvements I heard came about 1-2 years ago... and honestly it wasn't that one of my cables sounded Better but that one of them sounded obviously worse! Literally everything attached to it sounded thin and... harsh ugh! Trying to define what about the "bad" cable sounded BAD more or less lead me to starting to hear the good in comparison to the bad
I wanted to stop reading at "engineers...". Almost every product that includes mechanical movement of any kind requires a break in period and performs better after that. Tons of examples, cars are the first that come to mind.
Last thing is, cables are not necessarily upgrade products. Many people buy cables because of ergonomics, different connectors, different length etc.
Oh and it is probably a psycho induced phenomemon that an amplifier sounds better than another. They just make the signal louder after all.
Z You should buy a pair of BIC America DV64's they sound like crap until they break in they wont even get loud until they break in those speakers are tight as crap out of the box try it. I gave a pair of towers to my father because i didnt let them break in for 30 to 100 hours i was mad when i went to his house a month or two later because they sounded so good after they broke in so i bought another pair for me. I have a sound test up on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmQeNQMdnlU
Electron Winds

Aging happens at the atomic level, as well as the big stuff like moving coils and diaphragms, so I though I'd chime in here.

Before this gets worrisome, think of it as settling into a big comfy chair, that has been properly broken-in... it will be comfortable for many years,, if it is a well made chair... and then the springs pop and the stuffing comes out...

Electromigration is happening within all of your audio hardware; wherever electrons flow...

When I first dealt with electromigration, I was amazed, electron flow drags shit?... yes, like a lot sometimes... Solder joints are a mess, transistors you don't want to hear me talk (diffusion another subject), resistors - the noisy ones - we can make them better too, tubes are... just cool devices true "free electrons'' , caps are their own world in addition - with dendrites... Most talk about electromigration deals with failure, but a lot changes before that point is reached.

We all like videos, this is accelerated electromigration, but real:


I was skeptical about this some time ago too, then I came to understand and think of it as an electron wind. So this made me find a reference (folks like groups of people agreeing) to help here using words I like and resonate well; this should bring better conceptualization into part of this "myth" discussion:


Single crystal
wires are a good thing. Skin effect is real i.e. silver plating works. Crappy boards with thin copper traces suck. Good caps, are really good (and expensive). You get the drift...

My job is basically painting with atoms... or Atomic Legos...
I have never noticed a pronounced difference in the speakers or headphones I have owned after burn in. I think the argument made for ears adjusting is poorly appreciated though, as are a number of other psychoacoustic effects. Things like haptic bass and room virtualization can significantly change your listening experience, but are often written off as gimmicks because they are often poorly implemented. An IEM can't possibly have the Soundstage of an excellent pair of floor standing loudspeakers, but with good virtualization, you can perceive sound filling a room. Headphones rarely can achieve deep powerful bass without mudding up the mix, but with haptics, you can feel & perceive more bass with an otherwise flat response. Ear burn in is real and shouldn't be written off just because it doesn't conform to the stick measuring that goes hand in hand with the audiophile world.