Electronics Gurus...answer me this? Breaking in Amps?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by StevenK, Sep 16, 2002.

  1. StevenK

    StevenK Second Unit

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    I'm reading my new issue of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater and there's a Ayre amp review. The reviewer talks about having to break in the amp for 100 - 500 hours. Now breaking in SPEAKERS...I'm a strong believer of and totally understand why as the cones and drivers are mechanical devices that "softens" after a number of hours. Kinda like how the pistons in a new car need a few thousand miles to operate a peak capacity. But amps? Why the need to break in a completely electronic device. I don't get the science behind breaking in electronic pathways? Do the transformers and capacitors and resistors actually change in value after some amount of usage? That is, do mechanical factor influence their change, or is it pure an electrical change (and if so, how is that possible)?
     
  2. Camp

    Camp Cinematographer

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    I'm in the minority here but I think a large percentage of any "breaking-in" period is the user's ears being "broken-in" (i.e. getting used to) the sound of his new equipment.
    I think breaking in of electronics is BS...and breaking in of speakers is strongly over emphasized. It's just a psycho-acoustical effect of getting familiar with new gear.
    And no, I have no data to support my OPINION. [​IMG]
     
  3. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    I'm not an EE, and have tin-ears to boot, so take this with a pnich of salt, but I remember reading somewhere once that they compared brand-new capacitors with ones that had been used. when slicing them open, the metal foil in the new ones were uniformly rolled and evenly spaced, whereas the used ones had waves in the foil. perhaps that affects the "efficiency", if that's the word, of the capacitor in charging and discharging, which might make some difference in smoothness of current, and consequently the sound?

    make of that what you will.
     
  4. James Q Jenkins

    James Q Jenkins Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm with Camp 100%.
     
  5. Nicholas Renter

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    I wasn't a believer that speaker cables made that significant of a sonic difference until I did some testing and proved it to myself.

    But then again, I once couldn't tune my guitar by ear either.

    Your mileage may vary.
     
  6. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    It must be very difficult when one has a piece of electronic equipment that requires so many hours of break-in to sound optimum and then takes it to some of those shows where they've got only about 100 hours to display it. Perhaps that's why they don't sell as many. Or maybe the amps are always on and are wheeled into the display booth looking like someone from ER on life support.
     
  7. ChrisHeflen

    ChrisHeflen Supporting Actor

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    When I purchased my amp, (ATI 1505), I called ATI directly (about a hum I picked up) and they said breaking in a solid state amp is a bunch of malarky. He even suggested that I plug it straight into the wall (instead of my panamax) because he said it had enough protection circuitry to handle pretty much anything.
    Now I don't know if all that applies to the other amps out there but I tend to agree with him on the first part. I know my stove is electric and it doesn't cook any better now that I've had it for 3 years. [​IMG]
     
  8. Tim_S

    Tim_S Stunt Coordinator

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    I fail to understand the problem people have with the notion of the break-in period of electronics. If it sounds as good to you with 1 hour as 100, great. Others notice a difference. If you want to really laugh at me, I recently had a DAC modded and the guy told be 150-200 hours before it was burned in and would sound right (it was an Art DIO modded by Wayne Waananen at Bolder Cables, highly recommended BTW). He was almost spot on. Right out of the box, I thought it sounded slightly inferior to the unmodded but by about the 125 mark, it changed significantly and now sounds fantastic.
    Why does it happen? I don't know. Would be nice to, but really so long as it sounds good, I'm happy. If it makes someone feel superior to me because they like to think I got "duped" into thinking it makes a difference, well, glad I could give you something to smile about. [​IMG]
    Tim
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    well if the modding had as its net result, an intentional alteration of the frequency response characteristics of sufficient magnitude that they were audible, it might well take some time to get used to the sound in much the same way as getting used to a new speaker. out of curiousity, does whatever it was that was modded now sound less harsh, richer? maybe he's also intentionally introduced some even order harmonic distortion of sufficient magnitude to make it audible. often that's characterized as being more musical.
    glad you like your mod though.

    Chris, does that mean if you get a surge someday down the line and it fries your ATI, that they'll either repair or replace it?
     
  10. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Electrical characteristics of some electronic devices change over time, that is a fact. An electrolytic capacitor dries up with time, the current transfer ration of an optocoupler can vary wildly, etc...
    TIME is the issue here. These changes happen over many years of continuing use, not days or weeks.
    Heck, the effects of temperature on components are much more dramatic than any kind of burn-in, yet do you hear a difference when your amp has been up 60 seconds versus 60 minutes when it has heated up? The counter argument would be that a good design would be temperature compensated I guess... but no design is perfect, and I surmise that the simple of effect of temperature rise on our toys are more dramatic than that of semiconductor burn-in. Yet again, AFAIK, no claims of difference in sound after and hour of listening. What gives?
    That someone would notice a difference in the sound of their receiver/pre-pro/amp after 2 weeks sounds very iffy to me, but eh... who am I to argue against what someone claims to be hearing?
    --
    Holadem
     
  11. BenK

    BenK Stunt Coordinator

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    What gets me is that people ALWAYS say their (insert component) sounded better when it was broken in. I have yet to read someone saying it sounded worse. Which tends to reinforces my opinion that your ears get used to the sound as Camp stated.
     
  12. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  13. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Saurav,

    Tubes, of course are a whole other story.

    --
    Holadem
     
  14. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Agreed. A lot of concept which were true with tube amps don't really hold true any more with modern SS amps.
    In fact, taking this idea to the extreme: tube gear needs to warm up for about a minute before it'll play any music, so yeah, the sound definitely changes [​IMG]
     
  15. John Beavers

    John Beavers Second Unit

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    My recent experience with Amp break-in was the Plinius 8300P. I've got about 150 hours of use on it, and I have noticed a change in it's output since I first hooked it up. The change was in bass response. At first the bass sounded slightly bloated, or at least overexaggerated. Which was fun on some recordings but on others it just didn't sound right. After about 40 hours of play with the new amp this hyper-bass settled in to what I felt was a more natural state. I also heard improvements, or more "naturalness", in the midrange, and a smoother top end.
     
  16. StevenK

    StevenK Second Unit

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    Well, no offense intended to anyone (HONESTLY!), I still haven't seen any possible scientific (or reasonable) explainable as to why electronics alter acoustic values after a mere 100-500 hours of use. Holadem and Yee-Ming make great points about the capacitors physically changing over time...but that's more in terms of years rather than hours.
    In any event...I haven't noticed any difference in sound quality of my Newcastle amp from the day I unpacked it til now. I guess my amp's not expensive enough to be affected by a break-in period (okay...now that was uncalled for...I apologize [​IMG] ).
     
  17. Stephen Houdek

    Stephen Houdek Second Unit

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    Its simply a vintage thing. Old Fenders sound better than new fenders.......Old Marshalls as well! If break in were required you'd never have to re-tube an amp. Just as some of those above I don't buy it.

    You can't possibly tell me the manufacturers design their equipment to sound best once all of the capacitors have dried up and the tubes are worn out. They don't. Saurav is probably correct in that any change will occur in the first 1/2 hour and that is probably getting the traces used to carrying electrons. Unless we're talking point to point wired tube guitar amps, then that obviously wouldn't apply.
     
  18. Daniel Lindgren

    Daniel Lindgren Stunt Coordinator

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    The thing that makes me wonder about break-in is that it seems that you actually need to listen to the product during break in ... that leads me to believe that (as stated earlier) you are actually breaking in your own ears/perceptions to the new sound.
    Breaking in an amp would be so very easy to test, just compare two identical amps, one new and one with 500 hrs on the clock. Do a double blind test and you have the answer.
    But then there wouldn't be anything to argue about ... [​IMG]
     
  19. Bill Turetsky

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    I believe there is a rather clear way to look at this 'burn-in' question:

    Please take the perspective of the amplifier designer. I have never heard of any designer worth their salt who would use components that they didn't know EXACTLY what properties they have and WILL have. They also know EXACTLY what interactions exist with other components and how the various parameters affect performance.

    They surely use 'listening' but they base that listening on designs that have first been designed 'scientifically' and 'measured' - and yes, there MUST be measurements because it is the only way to make 2 pieces (or more) of equipment the same way!

    And there is no way a manufacturer of an amp they think is well-performing is going to give you a 'DIY kit' to play for X number of hours and hope the sound is going to improve.

    If you get into the 'kitchen' of amp companies you will find this to be all confirmed - and if there happens to be a factory 'burn'in' it is for weeding out components that actually end up failing in their first 25-50-100 hours - it surely is not a process of components ageing to better performance characteristics.
     
  20. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Now did you ever think that maybe that Plinius needed breaking in because it originally came from NZ and the components needed to get used to being north of the equator [​IMG] ?
     

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