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Some speaker manufacturers* claim that one must "break in" their speakers for a given period of time before they sound optimal. This sounds fishy to me. Is there any reason speakers should need a "break in" period?

Some resources on the web seem to argue both sides of this question convincingly:

* For example: Paradigm recommends "several hours"

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It may be worth cross-posting this at skeptics.stackexchange.com to see what they come up with. –  boehj May 6 '11 at 20:15
    
OK, I've posted this up on skeptics.stackexchange.com. Let's see what they come up with. :) –  boehj May 7 '11 at 4:28
    
Here is a link to it: skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/2934/43 –  JYelton May 10 '11 at 15:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Here is an excerpt from Acme, who make very high quality bass guitar enclosures. as you may know, bass amps put out some monstrous amounts of LF.

Q. What about breaking in my new woofers?

I played my Series I Low B2 with the new speakers I installed from you on a gig last night. Unfortunately the first thing I noticed is that is that the volume is lower and there isn't as much low end as on my Series II Low B2. I believe it could be because the Series I was tampered with by my 2 year old daugther shortly after I received the replacement 10" speaker from you. Long story.

Richard

A. The woofers in our Acme Low B Series II models have a break-in period. The surrounds on these woofers have a higher stiffness new-out-of-the-box than they do after some hours of use. This has two real-world consequences.

The first is that the ability of the systems to reproduce the lowest notes doesn’t reach it’s full capability until the surrounds have been loosened up by being used.

The second, and perhaps more important consequence, is that when driven to their maximum excursion, the woofers are much easier to damage when they are new, than after they’ve been broken in. It is more likely that the cones will be overstressed the when the speakers are brand new, than at any time after they’ve been used.

How much break-in time is necessary? I have broken them in using a sine-wave generator in less than three hours. I believe that whan playing bass, it is very difficult to predict how long it would take for a specific person to do it. It depends on your style, and how loudly you play. My best advice is to start slowly, and work you way into it. Within reason, of course, the longer, and the more gradual the better. But please do your best to loosen up the woofers before you get into any serious slammin.’

The reason I have chosen to point out these concerns about breaking the speakers in, is because just lately, I have had two customers damage their woofers within the two-week trial period. This was unheard of just several years ago. The woofers are the same. But I believe that the availability of incredibly powerful amplifiers, even more than just a few years ago, has sort of changed the landscape.

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+1 Interesting example, sounds very plausible. Thanks! –  JYelton May 11 '11 at 16:47
    
I want to be perfectly clear that these are the words of Andy at Acmebass.com, a speaker design genius, in my estimation. –  Zeronyne May 11 '11 at 19:25

There is an audible difference between my brand-new MDR 7509HD headphones and those my friend used for a longer time. They were made with a same technology, in the same year.

My friend's headphones sound warmer, their mid-frequencies are somewhat more open.

He heard of a need for a "break-in" period, so he left them playing for a couple of days, something about 150 hours.

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There is a widely held belief that the violins from the 1600s that are still being used sound as good as they do not only because of the dense wood, but because they have been played for so long.

In my personal experience with a chepa guitar that has been played everyday for nearly 4 years, it not only sounds better than when it was bought, but better than some guitars costing 10x as much.

The theory goes as such. The resonances from being played (or playing as in a speakers case), will affect the physical makeup of the instrument 1. The wood will be subtly altered until is reaches its ideal makeup. I would compare it to loosely packing a car, and then waiting until the contents have shifted during transport to their ideal location.

With speakers, the wood in the enclosure, the cone materiel, and glues used can all be resonated to their ideal makeup. Or so the theory goes.

I would also add that the break it period is subjective, you will not know a certain time when the instrument or speaker sounds ideal, and it usually takes months in my personal experience.

http://www.guitartips.addr.com/tip127.html http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=119960

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Surely the difference in sound between a year-old and a 400-year-old violin is more due to aging/decomposition of materials than the loosening of movable parts which "breaking in" pertains to. –  JYelton May 16 '11 at 16:07
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The purpose of that example is not so much that it's burnt in, rather that the sound the instrument projects will change over time. –  Owen Kelly May 17 '11 at 13:56

Sounds fishy to me too. If it's only a break-in period of a "few hours" it hardly matters. Your choice of speaker placement and listening position will probably make a greater difference in any case.

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That's not necessarily true. If the mounts need to be flexed to become less brittle, a few hours maybe all it needs. –  Zeronyne May 17 '11 at 21:44
    
I don't deny that there might be some difference between an unbroken in and a broken in speaker, just that I doubt it makes a huge difference to the average home studio user. Obviously live PA or pro studio users might have more strenuous requirements. In any case, I would expect that any pair of speakers I bought would have gone through at least some testing in the factory before they were shipped. –  Mark Heath May 18 '11 at 18:55

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