What is ‘burn in’?
When speaking of headphones, ‘burn in’ is the term used for the settling oft he design parameters of the diaphragms into their intended state. The physical process is that the diaphragms loosen up through use and eventually reach a point that could be considered final. A similar situation is breaking in a new pair of shoes.
Why do people choose to burn in a new pair of headphones shortly after getting them?
Fresh out of the box, a pair of headphones may not sound as good as a well used pair, as the designers have intended. Often, people want their headphones to sound the way that they are intended as soon as possible. Most people don’t want to wait for weeks or months of regular use, so the choice is to expedite burn in by getting the process over with in the first week of ownership. Others choose to listen to their headphones as they change over the burn in period.
How do I burn in my new pair of headphones?
You can simply play music through them continuously. Some prefer using pure tones, sine wave sweeps, pink noise, or AM/FM static for burn in. Some recommend using bass heavy music. The method of burning in a headphone does not change depending on model or manufacturer.
Which burn in method is most efficient?
There is no scientific evidence proving that one is better than the other. Choose the method that you prefer.
What do I do with my headphones while they are burning in?
You can set them on a table, put them in a sock drawer, put them under some pillows, or put them on your head. It’s up to you.
Do I have to burn in my new pair before I listen to them?
No. You can listen to your new pair of headphones straight from the box. Whether or not to burn in your headphones is your choice. As you listen, you may hear gradual changes in the sound through use. Some people choose to listen periodically during the process, while some hold out until the process is complete. While still others listen for the burn in throughout the entire process listening from day one and enjoying the evolution in sound.
How much does burn in effect the sound of the headphones?
Some say burn in has a drastic effect, some say there is little effect, and some say that there is no effect. The amount of change resulting from burn in will be different for each model of headphones.
How long should I burn in my new pair?
Many recommend approximately 100 hours for most headphones. Some recommend as many as 200 hours or more. Different headphones may take longer than others for a so-called ‘complete’ burn in, and there is no exact or set length of time for burn in. It is best to use your ears to listen for changes to decide when you should stop the burn in process.
When is burn in complete? Can I burn in too much?
The idea behind initial burn in is to reach the point at which audible changes stop occurring and you are left with drivers than have settled into the sound that they will have forever after, the sound that it was designed to have. After that point, regular use of the driver won’t cause significant change in the sound, until perhaps years and years later when thousands upon thousands of hours have passed and the life of the driver is at its end. However, some say that burn in is never complete. The argument is that regular, long-term use constantly wears on the drivers and that wear always has an affect on the sound. Still, it is safe to say that, after a driver has reached its designed parameters through burn in, regular use won’t cause significant audible changes.
Is there a wrong way to burn in my headphones?
You risk damaging your headphones at any time by using extremely high volumes. Some recommend setting the volume to a comfortable listening level during burn in, while others recommend a volume slightly higher than your normal listening level. If you hear distortion, pops, or cracks due to high volume, you are likely doing damage to the drivers. Also, using very low volumes will not be very effective in burning in your headphones.
Is burn in actually real?
The idea of burn in has always been controversial. Some people say that there is evidence that proves it while others say that there is evidence to disprove it. Some consider the phenomenon to be purely psychological conditioning while others insist upon physical changes to the drivers, and some agree upon a combination of the two. You are free to be a believer, and you are free to be a skeptic. Whether or not you believe in it and the position you take on the subject is a choice that you should make for yourself.
Is there anything else that I should know?
Burn in has been discussed at length over the years of Head-Fi. Any question you have concerning burn in has likely been asked numerous times, and by using the search function and reading through previous threads, you will almost surely find answers and opinions. This FAQ has been created to limit the number of redundant threads posted by newcomers or especially curious existing members of the Head-Fi community asking the same questions that have been asked in the past. The subject of burn in is not especially complicated or involved, nor is it something to have great concern about, nor is it an exact science. Opinions, methods, and results vary from person to person, headphone to headphone, system to system.