Proper speaker break in?

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by DaveD', Jan 18, 2004.

  1. DaveD'

    DaveD' Stunt Coordinator

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    I've rummaged through some threads and I've heard of you guys putting certain tracks on repeat. I'm guessing you choose a track with a full range of sound? Any suggestions? Also, how long does it usually take to break them in, and how loud do you play them during this time? Low? Low to high? Low, high, low, high, etc.? Thanks guys, so close to having my dream theater. [​IMG]
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    They break in almost instantaneously, so pick something you like and crank it up. When it's over they're physically broken in. After that listen to them for a while to see if what you selected in a store sounds the way you think they ought to at home. But don't listen so long that you can't return them if you're not satisfied.
     
  3. Chuck Schilling

    Chuck Schilling Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree. I don't think most hifi loudspeakers need much break-in at all since none of them use paper surrounds that need to "stretch". As far as I know, only guitar loudspeakers and the like that use paper cones and surrounds really need a breakin period.
     
  4. Travis R.

    Travis R. Agent

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    When I bought my LINN NINKA's the break in period was approximately 150-300 hours. There are some cd's that will run the speaker through diferent frequency ranges to slowly work in the material of the woofer. I was strongly urged not to crank my speakers for at least 150 hrs. What I did is just left the tuner on for about a week at low to moderate volumes but I don't think it makes a diference if you listen to music from the advice I received from my dealer. I know this is diferent then the advice given to you in the above but that was my experience. I did notice a sound improvement over time as my speakers became "broken" in.
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    That's generally called listener adaptation.
     
  6. Travis R.

    Travis R. Agent

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    Chu I was wondering why then my dealer would tell me to go through a break in period if the material in the woofer is ready to go at soon as I got them home. I can appreciate what you say as listener adaptation but I've read other reviews of these speakers and they had to break in their speaker so I'm just curious why a dealer would go through the effort to tell me how to break them in. Is it just a pure marketing thing to make you believe that your speakers are superior to a lesser valued speaker and does this also apply to subwoofers when purchasing a high end sub?
     
  7. Chuck Schilling

    Chuck Schilling Stunt Coordinator

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    Travis, there is one spectacularly good reason for that. The longer you "break them in", the less likely you are to return them.
     
  8. TimMc

    TimMc Stunt Coordinator

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    Travis - I'm not any sort of expert (heck, I'm usually the village idiot) but even a VI gets lucky and finds something like this link for an article by Tom Nousaine (http://bruce.coppola.name/audio/BurnInLegend.pdf).

    Most people I've dealt with consider Mr. Nousaine a reasonable approximation of an objective expert, and I have to admit that I also do like his writings on stuff like expensive cables vs. good old wire & stuff like that. There's a whole lot more at that site - look around on your own (so I don't get too flamed for questioning >$1000 wire ;-).

    Chuck S. hit it right on the head - no dealer wants buyer's remorse bringing those speakers back through the door the next day and "break-in" helps keep them in your house.
     
  9. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Chuck is quite right. Without getting into whether Linn's are good or not, the fact remains that they're made with conventional type drivers of one sort or another. I've got a link if you're interested, where the idea of speaker break-in was discussed at great length. All the available information I've come across suggests that it's over momentarily after playing them. Further, Richard Pierce, a noted speaker designer, researcher, on the peer review board for the AES publication, and who, FWIW, was commissioned to design the crossovers for the Rockets, has measured many thousands of drivers and has concluded much the same.

    Linn's I'd suspect have a more substantial profit to the dealer and it's in his best interest to give you every opportunity to become acclimated to their sound and also for you to get used to paying whatever it is you paid for them. Further, if he accepts them back, they're now no longer new, but open box or used. Hence they'll need to be sold at a more substantial discount. In general it seems that salespeople and the public is misinformed a bit. In a way it's more comforting as humans to think that our hearing is constant and that our auditory memory allows for comparison with supreme accuracy. If anything, it's quite the opposite.
    I think your dealer is mistaken with the material in the woofer needing to break in. That would be profoundly disturbing if that was the case. The spider sure, the surrounds sure, but the parameters that characterize the driver return to their orignal conditions after rest.
     
  10. Iver

    Iver Second Unit

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    After carefully studying the issue of Break-In Period (BIP), I have reached the following formula for accurately calculating BIP.

    Where Y = minimum necessary BIP in days and

    X = dealer's money-back return period in days

    Y = X + 1
     
  11. Travis R.

    Travis R. Agent

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    Tim and Chu I read the link provided above and I appreciate you responding to my inquiry. So it seems alot of smoke and mirrors are thrown out to the unsuspecting purchaser.
    Assuming the link above and the research you have read is accurate which it seems to be, I feel enlightened by this information.

    Now are the dealers of audio equipment aware of this factor or is it Manufacturer of the Speakers to the audio store that set these perverbeal break in periods?

    Another question I have is Due to the Sensory Adaptation that all human's have how is it functionable to make a educated decision on a speaker purchase. I know that may be a loaded question because I guess it is based on subjectiveness and the thickness of your wallet but with so many manufacturers and the human ear able to hear from 20 to 20000hz it seems quite the hmmmmm conundrum. Anyway I digress.
    Thank you again for the link and your information on speaker break in MYTH.

    Travis
     
  12. Iver

    Iver Second Unit

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    TimMc:



    That's an interesting story you have linked. It pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject:

    "So do speakers break in once we get them home? Hell, no. And we should be thankful for this. I'd worry about a manufacturer who'd let a product leave his factory before he'd verified its final performance. If breaking in is truly needed, it should be done at the factory."

    Nousaine also gives some advice which should be required reading for folks who think breaking in mandates long periods of dynamic music at high volume levels as a way to welcome new speakers into one's home (though I must admit to occasional sessions of dynamic music at high volume levels) :

    "...if you insist on breaking in your speakers, do it carefully. Letting the speaker play overnight with a low-level test signal or music is prudent. Do not play a noise, sine wave, or other continuous signals through your speakers at high levels for an extended time."


    Have you heard about this run-in between Nousaine and the president of a cable manufacturer? When the two broke into a heated debate at a Boston AES meeting, the cable guy ended up inviting Nousaine (along with, in writing, the whole Boston AES membership) to come to company HQ in Maine to "hear the difference." After Nousaine journeyed from Chicago, IL to Hollis, ME, along with a group of associates, the cable guy ended up saying "What cable comparison?"

    http://www.vxm.com/21R.64.html


    You may have this already, but here's a link to Audio Myths.

    http://2eyespy.tripod.com/myaudioand...epage/id3.html


    And one of the sites linked to is Rod Elliott's excellent online resource, a cornucopia of awesome information and links to great electronics sites.

    http://sound.westhost.com/cables-p3.htm#interconnects
     
  13. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Eyespy's no fool.

    Well that's a great question and I don't think it's an easy answer. After all, it's not like we can get 2 sets of speakers in at one time to audition and even if we could, we might not have them set up properly to give them a fair shake. I've got a lot of thoughts on this that for some reason I'm having a problem formulating in some sort of coherent way. Probably because it'd take pages upon pages to do so, so I'll let it out as a kind of stream of conciousness, some of it opinion, some of it fact. Maybe you can wrap it all up in some way that makes sense to you.

    1) There's a fair amount of good speakers out there and if you spend more and deal with reputable companies who know a thing or two about proper testing you get a better performing speaker.

    2) It's important to my mind to develop a short list of speakers that meets our criteria. Each of us conciously or subconciously weight that criteria differently and we should. We are after all individuals.

    3)The majority of people choose speakers based on how they look or some other aspect that relates to the coolness factor. The manufacturers know that and if you listen to enough people and read enough forums you'll see things like "I really dig the way the drivers look...that rosewood finish can't be beat...did you know those are ceramic/diamond tweeters...and so on" Now none of this relates to sound reproduction. So is that bad? Objectively yes but let's face facts here. Unless these are smallish speakers whose purpose is to blend in with the surroundings we're going to have to look at them. Therefore I think it's important for people to give some careful thought here. Is a wood finish important? Does it matter whether it's real veneer or fake? You get the picture...we're looking at weeding out speakers, many of which will might not be all that different sounding. Even if they are slightly different it might not matter after a period of time.

    4) Find out if you're a person who prefers smaller bookshelf speakers or floor standing towers.

    5) Try and find out about how the company tests their speakers before bringing them into production. A speaker is a system composed of drivers+cabinet+crossovers. Manufacturers (or resellers) should be inimately familiar with modern acoustic theory and have access to and use sophisticated instrumentation so that their speakers are designed without anomalies.

    6) Look for speakers with a substantially flat midrange. Our hearing is most sensitive in that area and a lot of sound reproduction takes place there so it makes sense that better manufacturers take extra pains to get that area right.

    7) Try not to get hung up with old perceptions of what was good or what was bad. For example, JBL's have a checkered past if you go back far enough. Today's JBL's are most certainly not your father's JBL's.

    8) Determine to the best of your ability where you'll do the vast majority of your listening. In conjunction with that try to figure out if you're a person who prefers a more focussed (limited horizonal dispersion) or a more diffuse soundstage. What's right for you is right for you, plain and simple.

    9) Search out reviews of speakers by people who have the same tastes (look at 8) above) to form some tentative opinions. Realize that those whose tastes differ will generally downrate one or the other.

    10) Spend more heavily on speakers than your electronics. We all have fixed budgets and there's more hay to be made in choosing speakers.

    11) Do not, do not, do not audition speakers using rock music. Or techno. Why? What's distortion supposed to sound like? I don't know. I happen to like Pink Floyd. I'm old enough to have seen them in college auditioriums, Carnegie Hall, Roosevelt Stadium, Giant's Stadium, Nassau Colliseum. Much as I've enjoyed each of those experiences, they specialize in distortion. Distortion, the intentional bending of sound is entirely subjective and with regards to speakers, serves to mask deficiencies. Salesman love it when someone brings that sort of music in. It's quite reasonable to choose lesser performing speakers when listening to rock. Instead, try and find some jazz or classical recordings that you like and bring those. Burn a CD with what you like if you have to. Get out to a jazz club or see a good classical performance to get familiar with what musical instruments sound like when they're not going through electronic processing. Take your wife or girlfriend. They'll think you're a pretty cool, cerebral, and sensitive fellow especially if you don't take them to Burger King afterwards. Better recordings are capable of revealing subtle nuances that poor recordings don't. Take advantage of that. Learn what a piano sounds like, a violin. Listen to how a cello decays into silence. You can f*ck with the sound of rock and anything that's gone through electronic processing at home using anything from expanders to various other enhancements usually with some degree of personal success. Try doing that to a good classical recording and you'll know right away you've messed things up. I'm not saying this is perfect but it moves you in a better direction.

    12) Realize that your speakers are going into a room. Perhaps due to things like radiation patterns speakers that might've sounded good in one room don't sound so good in another. This points to the importance of trying your damndest to get them into your own room for a critical listen. Along those lines, think about how to make that room more speaker friendly.

    13) Realize that one of the reasons some speakers sound bright has to do that they lack much of a bottom end. A sub, even a modest one, does much to put things in proper balance.

    14) When faced with two speakers, separated by let's say a couple of hundred dollars, the one you really want is the more expensive one. Save your money and buy it this way you won't have to keep justifying to yourself why this one was just as good.

    15) When faced with two speakers and you've got a girlfriend (wives are a special category) and she likes A and you like B, buy B. You'll have the speakers longer than the girlfriend.

    16) When listening at a store, leave your credit cards home. Don't be afraid to come back a dozen times and listen. And tell that salesman to shut up and leave you alone.

    17) Realize that websites that allow for testimonials rarely let dissenting opinions in.

    18) Find out about service and how warranty issues are resolved.

    19) Try and rank how well speakers image. See if it's fairly easy for you to localize in your head where the instruments are coming from or whether they wander.

    20) Don't get caught up in the hype of the "New Speaker in Town". Was a time Norh's were the rage, then Divas, then Rockets, then this, then that. Time puts it into perspective.

    21) I believe when starting anew, that speakers should always be selected first. However, if you've got your electronics down and you're not about to take a financial beating by selling them and buying new stuff, realize that the electronics need to be able to drive the speakers to sufficienly loud volumes. What's the point of buying 86 dB efficient, 4 ohm speakers when you've got a receiver or amp that can't drive that impedance. Be prepared to spend money then for amps that can.

    22) Don't take what some manufacturers say too literally on their websites.

    Anyways, that's my general take on things. Like Dennis Miller say, 'but I could be wrong'.
     
  14. Dean Wette

    Dean Wette Stunt Coordinator

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    My $0.02

    I have a set of Dynaudio Audience speakers.

    When I first got them home they sounded really good. After I ran them for several weeks they started to sound terrific. I mentioned that to my dealer and he said that my observation was correct becuase they need about 100 hours run-in before they really start to shine.

    I had a similar experience with both of my current cars (BMW 3 and 5 series). The break-in period is 1000 miles, but I really noticed a bigger difference (i.e. improvement) in engine performance and response at about 5000 miles. When I asked my dealer about it he said that was his experience as well.

    Dean
     
  15. Cooper_B

    Cooper_B Agent

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    This is a contentious issue, but here's my answer: break-in does exist in most speakers, to varying degrees. There's no particular need to use a special break-in track unless you feel that you need the best sound right away.

    If you like your speakers out of the box, then great. But don't be too surprised if they start to sound even better over the first month of usage.

    -Cooper
     
  16. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    A motor has a much different application than a speaker. A car's motor requires a "settling" period, during which adjacent moving parts form wear patterns with eachother as well as heat cycling. The break-in period is generally no more than 500mi, and should include some trips to redline after the first few hundred mi. The motor will smooth out a bit as it breaks in, but there will be little or no difference in performance. Similar to speakers, I think the dealer tells you this more in case there are any serious manufacturing defects in the car, than if there is some kind of magic to it. My '01 3 series had multiple part defect problems within the first 2K mi., and a previous GM car had a leaking oil pan at just 800mi. Normal driving, without remaining at a constant RPM for long periods, will break the engine in just fine.

    When I got my new bookshelf speakers for the bedroom, I ran them for about 48hrs straight with whatever CDs were in my changer. I noticed essentially no difference.
     
  17. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Chu, you made some really good points there... I have to disagree about auditioning with rock music though. Distortion in music masks some distortions in equipment, but some speakers (and, I'm afraid to say, electronics) can aggravate the distortion. I have some recordings that I couldn't stand, I thought were just bad sounding recordings, but now with a better setup they don't bother me so much. Also rock music, however distorted, could be a good way to test the dynamics of a system... crank it up and measure the size of the smile on your face. [​IMG]

    As strange as this may be, my speakers were performing at less than their potential for *months*. I had never stressed the woofer suspensions to near their limits. I wired the speakers out of phase and played some low bass tone pretty loudly for a few hours, and bingo, the sound was much improved. I'd also noticed the sound generally getting better in the first few days of use. But after a few hours I think I made a bigger difference by moving the speakers around.
     
  18. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Could be Mike, it's just that I've got a better idea of what a piano or violin or cello is supposed to sound like as opposed to say ELP playing Lucky Man. Doesn't mean I wouldn't bring it, but it'd be way down there on my list of things to play.
     
  19. Dean Wette

    Dean Wette Stunt Coordinator

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    I would never audition an audio system using rock. I use classical (e.g. solo piano & violin, chamber music, orchestra, vocal) and acoustic jazz. These kinds of music are very revealing of system flaws where rock would still sound OK. If something sounds right with classical/jazz it'll sound right with rock.

    Furthermore, I don't think in terms of, "gee, the midranges sound flat, or the tweeters sound harsh, etc." I think in terms of "I can feel the timpani and they sound in tune, the violins sound sweet and together, the vocal solists intonation are right on, the saxophone really sounds like it's crying, and so on." I listen in musical terms, not technological ones: does it sound natural and close to something I'd hear in a real concert hall? Nothing more.

    It's also why I ignore glossy spec sheets. They're not meaningful enough to say how capable something is of reproducing something as complex as sound.

    There are plenty of people who will disagree with me, but my response is they should consider trusting their own ears rather than engineering theory and hoopla.

    Dean
     
  20. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    Chu, you are absolutely right that rock music is not good if you're evaluating a speaker's "realism"... or maybe the accuracy of its tone, which (I'm still not sure what to think about this) might be the most important thing. Still neat for other reasons, though.

    Dean,
    "I ignore glossy spec sheets. They're not meaningful enough to say how capable something is of reproducing something as complex as sound... consider trusting their own ears rather than engineering theory and hoopla."

    I wouldn't go that far. [​IMG]
    If that glossy spec sheet tells me the unsmoothed frequency response of a speaker on-axis and at multiple off-axis angles, the impedance/phase curve and distortion vs. frequency measurements at different power levels, I'm happy - that goes a long way to describing the performance of a speaker with music or any other sounds. The problem is we don't see that much, even in reviews.

    Most of the things I hear in my system, I think I can correlate to some kind of measurable phenomena. That includes the "musical" aspects of it, though I can't technically prove much of it.
     

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