Headphone Burn in Myth or Not
In the pursuit of love for the Audio you certainly came across the Term “headphone burn-in”. At first glance, it might feel upside down! Why would one burn his headphone! For decades the “Headphone burn-in” terms are a strong content of discord. On the other hand, a group suggests and gives logic as if it’s a myth. Another group backs its opinion of belief.
Before jumping into the main conversation, I need to add a few lines here. Let me quote an idol of mine. Tyll Hertsens, a headphone geek and audio enthusiast expressed after his extensive testing.
“I’m absolutely convinced that, while break-in effects do exist, most people’s expressions of headphones “changing dramatically” as a result is mostly their head adjusting and getting used to the sound”
I will explain this quote in my article for sure. And please rest assured that My words are not the end of the world. These are my personal opinions. I have tested numerous Headphones, earphones and sound systems in the last 5 years. Your mileage may vary. But stick to me, where I will explain this topic step by step. I hope this will clear your concept a little.
Headphone burn in, is it actually burning your headphones?
Let’s make it straight. Firstly, It’s not magic that will change your headphones. It’s not backed up by science properly yet. So, what is it? Will you stick your headphones inside an oven? Burn it over 100 degrees? Jokes apart, our hearing system is a surprising gift. Above all, every person hears differently. However, there are other aspects of having different sounds too. Your hearing can be affected if you catch a cold. You will hear differently in indoor or outdoor situations. There is a placebo effect too. Plus, fit plays the most essential part. Therefore, it plays the most vital element in terms of sounding an audio gear perfectly. The same thing goes for a big speaker system. Placement is the key there.
Let’s make a different example. I have bought a new strap for my Seiko skx007. The Strap was stiff at the first trial. It took 1-2 days to settle down. Then I felt comfortable in my hand. Same things go for a new pair of shoes. The fabric and leather need to stretch. Later it turns into its optimal state to use.
In simple terms “Headphone burn in”
“Break-in” might seem to change over time. For the audio gears, the drivers are the moving parts. Burning is more prominent in headphones than earphones. The new drivers need to vibrate. The exercise set those to settle into their optimal condition. The diaphragms loosen through extended use.
There is a catch. You won’t get it at first glance. Like it won’t be a day and night difference. Because there is an involvement of time and attentive AB listening sessions. Despite everything, you will barely listen to the minimal to zero change before and after Headphone burn-in. But the change is there.
I am dividing my argument into two different team
- Believers (Not the imagine dragon Believer)
Team Believers (this group thinks burning is vital)
This group is strongly into HIFI audio. The belief goes the following.
Burning is essential to make an audio gear sound right. To clarify, it takes 20-200 hours to settle down a diaphragm. The difference after Headphone burn-in is noticeable with eyes closed. Certainly, there is a precise number of burning in hours. There is a precise method of burning in. It has a strong impact on how audio gears would sound.
Team Skeptics (who believe it’s a myth, a total BS)
A different group strongly disagrees with this context. They seek scientific evidence, measurement, etc. To them this topic is pseudoscientific. I don’t blame them. Certainly, to some extent they are right.
What do the manufacturers say?
Manufacturers are also divided into the above teams. Some recommend burning their products inside their catalog. Some say “Just Enjoy”. But it’s a fact that high-end audio stuff is handmade and assembled. Most of the TOTL audio gears are thoroughly tested. They play those, make acute measurement and Quality control. In short, a lot of gear comes to consumers after a certain degree of playtime. They calibrate mostly everything beforehand.
I can recall Audioquest Nighthawk and Shozy zero came in hand with a recommendation to burn-in for 150-200 hours (just examples). However, a lot of headphones debunk this formula too.
Let’s draw my conclusion here
I am on the neutral ground of burning in or not. Above all, I believe it changes the aspect. Yet I don’t think any night and day change will arrive. Plus, it’s not utterly necessary to burn everything. Let me add a few lines here supporting my opinion.
First of all, it’s not a fault of guilt to spend time burning if one wants. But One should not expect the sound would change dramatically.
Secondly, it would not change the aspects of your first impression toward any audio gear. Likewise, if you think “X earphone” isn’t your cuppa tea, it won’t be your cuppa tea after burning in. No matter how much time you give to your process. If you give yourself enough time, your brain will train to listen to that earphone/headphone. Mainly it is training your brain, your listening habit.
Lastly, Burning is not that difficult. It’s your freedom to do at your will. Besides, you will hamper nothing if you do so. So, don’t be afraid to burn your audio gear. Throw it inside your oven. Burn it to the ashes. Just kidding 😀
What would be the process of Headphone burn in?
I admit, I usually burn every headphone and earphone before expressing my thoughts. As I review, I don’t want anything to hold me back. My process is simple. It’s not scientific. It won’t hurt sharing mine.
I use my RME ADI 2 DAC amp in that process. There is a custom sound frequency track of one hour that I use. It contains white noise, frequency sweep and 10 min silence. It’s in repeat mode for 10-12 times in a day. Usually, it takes 2-4 days to fill my quest. Sometimes it’s longer if the community or manufacturers recommend otherwise. My gain remains 50-65% of the audio gears’ capacity. You can use any kind of random song playlist too. In conclusion, I would pick pink noise, white noise, frequency sweep. Please be aware of three things during this period.
- Your neighbors
- Your ears
What do we get at the end of “Headphone burn in”?
In conclusion, burn-in is real. It is mostly in our heads. It’s neither a myth nor a fact. Most importantly it’s a personal choice. Just like if I like red as a color, who would blame me.
Headphone burn-in isn’t the end of the world. If you dig it, keep doing it. Burning won’t ruin them. Therefore they may indeed sound ever-so-subtly better in the end.
If you are just a plug and play person. Be in that line. Don’t bother.
Smell the new gear
Don’t hesitate to tear
Play, You have nothing to fear.
Lastly, the gears are for your enjoyment. I hope you are enjoying them in their full content. Stay safe. Above all, keep listening to good music.
Finally, you can also check our post about, Earbuds Vs IEM’s