Jun 2, 20168393 views

Audio Myths... A mostly civilized discussion

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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.
HEADPHONE and SPEAKER BURN-IN
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..
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p0ngj0nes, 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.
RayF
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."
HqlSF
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 :).
gluon
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.
Megazine
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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnbBSiXyFHw
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:
search
http://digitalcommons.ohsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1339&context=etd
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.
Headphones and speakers are mechanical assemblies. Like any mechanical assembly that moves there is some wear created by friction as the moving parts rub against each other causing a wear or polishing effect. It's going to happen just like in a new car engine. I'm sure this is measurable but to what effect this early break in period has on audible performance I'll leave for someone else to chime in on. I personally believe all speakers and headphone will have some audible difference after the moving parts finish wearing in, just can't say if it's always notiicable in a frequency the human ear can decipher
Yea just like a pair of jeans or sneakers. When new, and nothing has "loosened up", you end up with a cone moving unevenly. Once loosened up after some use, the movement is more uniform. Screws might come loose and hot-glue blobs might pop off, part of the fun. The vast majority of pro audio or consumer hi-fi (I'd assume it's the same ballpark) is tested for many hours. I can almost guarantee they are not measuring out of the box performance, they would probably measure after a couple hundred hours of use. Because it works better (and is more indicative of ownership).
The only way to break-in Skullcandy headphones is with a plasma torch. Believe me, it really makes them sound better.
Alexdre119
Will they sound... LIT???
The reason burn in works is because the glues some places use are flexible or not flexible depending on the sound quality they need. The slightly flexible glues that hold drivers and such in place usually have A sound difference when they are "burned in" but it's reallu just the drivers and other parts settling into the glue. So yes burn in is a real thing and some headphones do and some done. Some benefit and some don't.
lshriver
Some speakers use some really stiff rubber. Check Out the Dayton 1200 12 inch sub that rubber on that sub is so thick it wont move it takes a long time for that crap to loosen up the sub barley moves at first and the bass is very low until it loosens up. Then its too damn loud and pisses my Neighbors off big time.
Burn-in most definitely works for at least some headphones. I was a real skeptic but my Takstar Pro 80's were initially too harsh for me at the high end. A few songs were near impossible for me to listen to with any enjoyment so would not make it through a single full play. I have real sensitivity to the highs (not just fatiguing to me but uncomfortable to painful). I was told to burn them in which I did and they kept improving over a few months. Now I can listen to anything through them. It is definitely not my ears adjusting. I found the same discomfort from sibilant (newer) Moxpad x3's and x6'sin ears but have not had the same improvement. I think driver size/type may have something to do with whether it can make a difference. My 2 cents.
zlaggy
I too find certain high frequencies and sibilance painful. Experienced this with Aeon Flow for a good 100 hours or so over a month of office use. I could not stand some recordings, but can now play them without issue. I have owned a dozen + HPs and was not a believer until this happened.
Number one myth to me is that analog equals or betters Hi-Res digital, especially vinyl. A pristine quality analog master tape would roughly equal to 15 bits of digital "resolution" . Of course they can be digitized at much higher rate, but their actual properties based on their SNR and dynamic capabilities will never equal a good old fashioned CD.s specs. Naturally I'm not talking about their perceived subjective sound quality here, analog recording can and do sound superb as thousands of records out there testify to that. No I'm talking about simply as technological benchmark here.
TheHun
Until you introduce physical wear onto the substrate due to multiple playings. Entropy is a valid concept, and it is in play on a surface that will degrade over time and useage (needle quality and age also factors). Just mr .03 worth
Davoc1
I think the arguement falls to the ideal of analog in, analog out. Why convert something to digital and back to analog?? Plenty of reasons. However, like any other digital file, every time you make a conversion you lose... something. I'm not sure what that is though.
of myths., how about that MQAs Talk about snake oil.
Big-Al
What's the myth about MQA? I'm genuinely interested in knowing.
I don't really believe into burn in. Ears and mind adjusting to the sound - yes. Burn in - no. DAC burn in I think is just lunacy! 100 hours speakers and headphones burn in... I doubt it. Also drivers in speakers and headphones get tested at the factory to some extend. High end brand must test them to a good extend... Would that be a burn in process? I just don't see high end equipment change sound after first 100 hours significantly. My opinion...
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Are you saying better brands test headphones for hours or even days? Don't see that...
ld100
I didn't say days, however in the following link they say 2 days manufacturing, 2 days testing, by 15 different people (2 days seems excessive, I know haha). This is part of the reason high quality headphones are so damn expensive. It's not all smoke and mirrors. http://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2015/07/17/spc-traders-audeze.cnn I'm sure there are plenty of examples like this but I'm too lazy to hunt for more evidence. Edit: woops not 15 people, I misinterpreted that.
Z you want to see a bad case of burn in needed. Get a pair of old new stock Bic DV 64's I gave away a pair to my father and when i visited him 3 weeks later i was pissed how good they sounded out of his old stereo record/tape player he had from the 80's. Their was really no real volume or bass from them at my house they sounded low and you can barley even hear the voices they sounded to bad so i gave my father for free towers i paid 150 each for. So i had to spend another 150 each for a pair for me and i let them break in next time and i been happy since then that was like 6 years ago.
Automatic watches keep better time after a while too. Try that one.
" HEADPHONE and SPEAKER BURN-IN " I have a pair of ATH-M20X headphones that sounded like dog doodoo out of the box. I was thinking of sending them back, but decided to try burning them in with white noise. So I downloaded a white noise generator for my music player, and burned them in for 10 hours. The sound difference from new to now is phenomenal. I love those headphones, and they are my primary traveling pair now.
TMBackstrom
You just need a few minutes to break them in at most. After that you need to break in your ears to adapt to your new cans. Put them on and dive into your precious music library, voila!
It's been proven many times that physical parameters of speakers change over time. Google it. There are people who measured those parameters and compared them in regards to how long the speaker has been used. It's a process that's faster in the first dozens of hours and slows down later, but of course never fully stops. At some point those changes are so small they are negligible. But the first couple of dozen hours - some parameters change pretty significantly, to the point that it does produce a distinguishably different playback.
Going into more subjective territory, I sure did notice the massive difference in my HD595 I bought 11 years ago, and with HD650 I bought a few months ago. At first they both sounded pretty bad. I gave them 100+ hours of normal music playback, at around 80 decibels of volume. During that time I didn't wear those headphones at all. I did sessions of 4-8 hours a day. After the first 20 or so hours the sound didn't improve noticably. But after 100+ hours the headphones spread their wings to me. It's not a matter of ears getting used to the sound. It really does change physically over time.
If I had money I could buy a completely new pair of HD650 and do blind test comparisons... But of course it would only give believable results to the person who is testing it. It would never satisfy those who deny the idea of burn-in, so I don't see myself shelling out money just to confirm to myself and myself only what I already know from listening experience.
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This is also a marketing tactic, especially the ones claiming ludicrous number of hours. The ones focused on marketing are typically 150+ hours as that is 30 days x 5 hours/day and is well past the return period for most retailers... :)
Fully agree. I use TOA, Bose, Beyer mostly at work, they all have burn in periods the manufacturers aren't afraid to tell you about. If it has a cone, it burns in. There's a flexy foam rubber bit suspending the cone. Pretty simple. Planars and electro's might be different but I'm not sure; since they don't rely on a flexible membrane.
Has 'burn in' ever produced a negative effect? e.g. a headphone sounding worse after 'burn in'. This hobby sometimes frustrating for me because it seems like I am chasing ghosts. Just too many myths. Maybe I have bad ears
Bvopfo
Nah I don't think so, if you get a bad result, it's probably broken and not burned in. Eventually your culprit will be things drying out like foam rubber, but I wouldn't call that burn in.
I was reading an article about whether or not headphone burn-in was really necessary and it referenced Pascal’s Wager. "Indeed, what keeps this debate going is really the lack of quantifiable evidence debunking the advantages of burn-in. Well, no one has disproven it, say audiophiles. Who are we to say what’s going on between people’s ears, say manufacturers. It’s kind of a Pascal’s Wager for audiophiles: It costs them nothing, it does no harm to the headphones, and you potentially have more to lose not believing in burn-in than you do believing in it." https://www.wired.com/2013/11/tnhyui-earphone-burn-in/
ScottSmith
That's the thing. It's a silly argument. Yea parts are moving, with plenty of vibration, and things will slowly shift and find the path of least resistance. We know that. Why argue that? It will produce a quantifiable change in the audio spectrum. But, good or bad? Totally subjective. Warmer, dryer? Also subjective if you are not testing it yourself. We can also look at a frequency chart or an oscilloscope and argue over it based on what little understanding we have of it. It doesn't end. It grinds my gears how people take a small bit of information and over apply it. They think they learned something, and due to hubris, refuse to keep an open mind and keep learning! I'd rather look like a dumb shit and keep absorbing all of the information around me that I can.
ScottSmith
Couldn't this be tested relatively easily with an ABX test?
So do burn in "believers" not believe in quality control? You think they rip off the drivers and shove them right into the housing?
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Oh you notice in tower speakers when you first turn some of them on there isnt any volume at all when i got my tower speakers they where really low and wouldnt get loud until the speakers loosened up and that took a few days of them playing.
awi5951
I've never experienced that, but it definitely makes sense if they haven't experienced some of that burn in before you got them. Most of what I've dealt with speaker-wise would have gone through some testing before I ever touched it. Headphones would be a lot less noticeable. Not just because lots of them are tested too, but because they are a single small driver on each side; so a lot less movement / travel is happening with the cones / drivers when they are firing, and less flexible material is used that will soften up. Planars in theory should have little to no burn in period since they don't use a foam-rubber suspended cone.
Ah "Burn-in" always a wonderful downward spiral.... : ) I regularly switch pairs, sometimes up to 5 times a day so the whole "your brain is used to it thing" doesn't necessarily apply in my personal experience.
Everything has burn in. My jeans, car, BBQ grill, everything. How long that period lasts is variable. It could be 5 minutes or 5 days, it simply exists. And as far as music quality goes yea there is an audible difference. All neysayers go take the Phillips golden ear test. If you fail, go HAM on compression. If you get at least silver you could be enjoying your music more with Lossless. I think people will notice more of a difference once MQA files are commonplace.
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It was on phillips' website but it seems no longer. You can search audiophile hearing tests but none I've seen are as comprehensive.
Kelephant
Heh, BBQ grill. Baddum, Tsss What's HAM compression? A new lossless format or some such?