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#15975 - 07/22/03 11:35 PM An argument for component break in
cblake Offline
old hand

Registered: 07/21/03
Posts: 80
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
OK I thought we should start a new thread to debate the "break in" phenomenon...

Break in claims
For decades, audiophiles, hi-fi retailers, and reviewers have commented that a lot of audio components seem to change over time in terms of sonic characteristics. The largest differences are reported with loudspeakers. Specifically, changes after break in are typically said to smooth out the treble and extend the bass response. The degree of change can obviously vary from speaker to speaker, as can the break in time period. After 30-50 hours, most would say that the break in period has ended, meaning that the performance characteristics have stabilized and will not change much in the future. Break in changes are virtually always noted as positive in every way.


Skepticism
From what I gather, skeptics believe that there may be a common perception of break in, but that there is never an actual significant change in the performance of speakers over time. This strikes me as a very bold statement, as they take a theoretical standpoint, and make a judgement on all the loudspeakers and listeners in the world. Surely skeptics can concede that in all the world, there's at least one pair of loudspeakers that sounds different after the first 100 hours of use. The skeptics' reasoning? Lack of scientific data proving the phenomenon.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but here is what I see as the skeptics' argument: "break in" is perceived because either

a)Brain break in: listeners first hear the differences compared to their previous speakers, and over time they lose sensitivity to these differences. Thus, after a lot of listening, the new speakers sound like the old speakers, and listeners attribute this to break in.

b)Power of suggestion: listeners have read about break in, and expect to hear it themselves. Though there's no audible change, they hear a change because they believe in it.

Skeptical inference
If a) is true, and listeners are reacting to the differences from their previous speakers, then a purchase of new "warmer" speakers (speakers with less treble) would lead them to perceive a growing brightness to their new speakers after break in. In other words, after acclimating to the new speaker warmth, their brain would compensate over time, until the new speakers sounded almost as bright as the originals.

The only problem is that almost all people claiming to hear break in claim that the treble smooths or mellows, if anything. No one says: "after break in, my speakers got really bright, and the bass disappeared." It's a one-directional change. Additionally, it is absolutely not true that after sensitization, one no longer hears the differences from the previous set of speakers. My Paradigm Mini Monitors always sounded a bit bright, and my M22s will undoubtedly always give me a magnificent midrange, even perceptually.

As for Alan Lofft's comments from the old discussion linked by chessaroo: he noted that listening tests did not substantially change over time with "anchor" speakers. I concur, as long is it's after break in, which typically lasts a modest 25-50 hours. If the first couple weeks of user tests were slightly different in treble balance and bass, who would notice?

Lack of evidence
It's true that you don't see a lot of scientific research being conducted on break in. The reason is that it doesn't matter, as the effect, perceived or real, only lasts for the first few weeks of listening. If you really want evidence, just goto an audio showroom and see if you can compare firsthand, like I did inadvertently. More often than not, it's quite obvious.

-Cooper

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#15976 - 07/23/03 12:47 AM Re: An argument for component break in
HGP Offline
old hand

Registered: 06/04/03
Posts: 70
Loc: Austin, TX
I just posted this in response to a question on another thread but thought it would be useful here to assemble links to Axiom's position on break-in (they recommend two hours for the speakers). Here's another post by Ian on break-in. And one more by Alan Lofft.

FWIW, as part of my speaker auditions I "broke in" three sets of speakers over the last two months (Athena AS-F2, M22ti, and M60ti) because Athena recommended it in their owner's manual. (I ultimately kept the M60s). I did not notice any change in sound quality in any of the speakers following the break-in period. I wish I had because my wife and kids thought I had gone nuts.


Edited by HGP (07/23/03 01:06 AM)

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#15977 - 07/23/03 10:24 AM Re: An argument for component break in
chesseroo Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 05/13/02
Posts: 4788
Loc: western canada
cooper,
I'm out of town for the next 5 days so i cannot reply to all your comments.

Simply put, believe the science and trust the numbers in regards to this technical aspect of 'break in'.
Our ears are untrustworthy except when used in double blind tests in a CONTROLLED experiment.
UNCONTROLLED settings as you suggest are virtually useless in using your ears to discern the truth. The brain has a phenomenal way of creating bias whether you know it or not.\

Skeptics are not those who hold the science as fact. Skeptics are those who do not believe the facts and instead, follow the crowd to derive their own beliefs (the religion concept).
As i said previously, money, adverstising and tons of other reasons feed this myth. If they make money from it, they will keep selling the idea.
THAT is why these phenonmena are not more researched.
_________________________
"Those who preach the myths of audio are ignorant of truth."

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#15978 - 07/23/03 12:11 PM Re: An argument for component break in
Zarak Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 03/09/03
Posts: 1849
Loc: PA
I would think it would be simple thing for a double blind test to occur with two sets of the same speaker....one that was broken in for x hours, months, or whatever breakin period is deemed acceptable, and one that hasn't been used. Listen to both and see if they are different or not. Just need someone that has the capabilites to easily setup a double blind test, which tends to be the hard part.

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#15979 - 07/23/03 12:21 PM Re: An argument for component break in
DanTana Offline
veteran

Registered: 01/06/03
Posts: 162
Loc: Chicago, Illinois
I have seen for the first time valid evidence of component change before/after break in. Mostly these seem to effect free air resonance {Fs} and Vas but show change nonetheless. http://kaiaudio.com/diy2001/kaiopen.html

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#15980 - 07/23/03 03:32 PM Re: An argument for component break in
Semi_On Offline
aficionado

Registered: 09/18/02
Posts: 737
Loc: Scottsdale, Arizona
cblake,

You forgot one other problem "skeptics" have with the idea of break-in:

Speakers vibrate, tens of thousands of times a second, in the case of tweeters. They have only a couple of moving parts and they're made from materials with properties of deformation that are very well known. To that last point, do a bit of research into how much titanium, a common material in tweeters, has to be displaced before it assumes a new structural form. There isn't a speaker on the planet that distors the tweeter to that degree (I've posted it before on Axiom).

But more importantly, it is fallacy to believe something simply because people say so. Were I to base my world view on the same rationality common among audiophiles, I'd still be a religious man. You must provide me with evidence before I accept something to be true, especially something that is counter-intuitive.

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#15981 - 07/23/03 03:34 PM Re: An argument for component break in
Semi_On Offline
aficionado

Registered: 09/18/02
Posts: 737
Loc: Scottsdale, Arizona
Zarak,

Read the post linked above by Alan Lofft. The Canoodians did just that and found no such phenomenon.

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#15982 - 07/23/03 03:38 PM Re: An argument for component break in
Zarak Offline
connoisseur

Registered: 03/09/03
Posts: 1849
Loc: PA
That answers that then. I'm in the ear break in camp anyway, especially after all I've read on here in the past.

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#15983 - 07/23/03 04:46 PM Re: An argument for component break in
JohnK Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/11/02
Posts: 10360
Cooper, I have little to add to my point(or those of Alan and Paul Barton) made in the earlier thread which chess linked(so of course, I'll add it). I don't know how this relatively recent "break-in" phenomenon got started. It's been said, perhaps not entirely tongue-in-cheek,that "Break-in was invented so that we couldn't return anything". As an illustration of the depths of absurdity to which this can descend note the "Magic CD" scam on this site .
_________________________
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Enjoy the music, not the equipment.



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#15984 - 07/23/03 05:36 PM Re: An argument for component break in
cblake Offline
old hand

Registered: 07/21/03
Posts: 80
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
So up to this point, responses could be summed up as: "there's no proof." I respect that. However, everyone here has at least acknowledged that there is a common perception of break in.

I am a little surprised by Chess' words: "Our ears are untrustworthy except when used in double blind tests in a CONTROLLED experiment." I find this argument ironic, because the only reason we are on this discussion board is that we have subjectively identified many pleasing characteristics of Axiom speakers, many of which are not directly measurable. I've learned to trust my ears in the audio world, otherwise I'd be listening to an Aiwa mini system.

I will reiterate: if perceived break-in is because of sonic differences from previous speakers, then why don't people ever report their speakers getting brighter or losing bass over time?

-Cooper

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