Jun 2, 2016

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..

Add a comment...
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 :).
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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The differences in electrical properties of all headphone cables will be inaudible. All cables will have negligible resistance, capacitance and inductance, and will measure much flatter than anything else in the audio chain. For speaker cables, we would be most concerned about resistance, since speakers have relatively low impedance and cable runs are relatively long. Generally speaking, 12G lamp cord is more than acceptable.

The problem with comparing cables is that not only is it nearly impossible to do blind comparisons, but the act of swapping cables itself takes way too long to be able to even do sighted comparisons. Auditory memory lasts for only a few (3-4) seconds, so any swap that takes longer is not going to be valid.

That said, if you hear a subjective difference in cables, it doesn't really matter whether it's placebo or not. If it makes you happy and you think it's worth the cost, then (duh) it's worth the cost. Doesn't matter if it's a $10000 cable or $0.10 one.
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
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 migration, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
What's the myth about MQA? I'm genuinely interested in knowing.