Electronics burn in - Can we finally put the myth to rest?? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 06:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Discussing electronics burn in on another forum has led me to try to disprove someone's claims of burning in electronics (cables, DACs, etc). In doing so I have found NO absolute proof one way or another. I am a disbeliever in burn in of components, but not for speakers, specifically drivers. I believe the surround can loosen up and change the sound.


Can one of the audio gurus around here put this myth to a rest with some actual measurements. I know you guys love measuring things. This would be a first of its kind and could potentially change the way manufacturers market items. Potential game changer. Anyone? Anyone? If I had the equipment to do the test believe me, I would.

Edit: I know this would probably better classified and placed in the audio theory section, but most of the people there don't have the equipment to do said tests, where I know a lot here do.
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post #2 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 08:54 AM
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Surrounds change properties at least slightly when used. Most of the change happens within seconds or minutes. Maybe longer for some materials. It's measurable. Just displace a woofer cone a specific distance that's been idle for days using a spring scale. Run it loud for a few minutes, then do the same. I'd put money on there being a measurable difference at 1/2 xmax on a long-throw driver. I've felt this with fingertips, but never measured it.

This would show up in Q and Fs.

Here's the rub. the changes happen every time you go from long term idle to in use...
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post #3 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 08:56 AM
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It's fairly easy do a blind test. Just get someone to put in new wire in a system and see if you can hear the difference. (you won't)
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post #4 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonnash View Post

Can one of the audio gurus around here put this myth to a rest with some actual measurements.
No, because even when faced with incontrovertible facts people will believe what they want to believe. All you can do is provide the facts to those who want to learn, and ignore those who don't.

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post #5 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:15 AM
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It depends on what the purpose of the burn-in.

Are you talking about changes in the audio signal path related to burn-in of components or quality based testing that manufacturers do?


For audio signal path issues you cannot lump all items together. You would need to break down the items into individual designs.


If the product contains a component that effected by heat and therefore has a heatsink, then there is most likely some form of heatsink compound used. SOME heatsink compounds require many hours before they reach their full potential.
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post #6 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cptomes View Post

Surrounds change properties at least slightly when used. Most of the change happens within seconds or minutes. Maybe longer for some materials. It's measurable. Just displace a woofer cone a specific distance that's been idle for days using a spring scale. Run it loud for a few minutes, then do the same. I'd put money on there being a measurable difference at 1/2 xmax on a long-throw driver. I've felt this with fingertips, but never measured it.
This would show up in Q and Fs.
Here's the rub. the changes happen every time you go from long term idle to in use...


I don't doubt that speaker burn in occurs. Not only the surround, but also the spider can become more flexible.
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Originally Posted by WagBoss View Post

It's fairly easy do a blind test. Just get someone to put in new wire in a system and see if you can hear the difference. (you won't)

While blind testing is a scientific method, I'm looking more for something that can be looked at and studied and say without doubt that there is no difference. Plus you would need a huge core sample to make anyone believe it.
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No, because even when faced with incontrovertible facts people will believe what they want to believe. All you can do is provide the facts to those who want to learn, and ignore those who don't.

I'm with you Bill. All I'm wanting to do is try to provide facts. Right now there aren't any out there. If you know of any good links let me know because I didn't find anything.
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post #7 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by MoFinWiley View Post

It depends on what the purpose of the burn-in.
Are you talking about changes in the audio signal path related to burn-in of components or quality based testing that manufacturers do?
For audio signal path issues you cannot lump all items together. You would need to break down the items into individual designs.
If the product contains a component that effected by heat and therefore has a heatsink, then there is most likely some form of heatsink compound used. SOME heatsink compounds require many hours before they reach their full potential.

Its more of a general topic I'd like to look into, but specific for the thread I'm involved in its for a sound card.
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post #8 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by brandonnash View Post

I don't doubt that speaker burn in occurs. Not only the surround, but also the spider can become more flexible.
While blind testing is a scientific method, I'm looking more for something that can be looked at and studied and say without doubt that there is no difference. Plus you would need a huge core sample to make anyone believe it.
I'm with you Bill. All I'm wanting to do is try to provide facts. Right now there aren't any out there. If you know of any good links let me know because I didn't find anything.

Get an oscilloscope and just measure sin waves at different frequencies through the components you want to test and graph it. But then you will just get people arguing that a single frequency sin wave is different than a song bla bla. People will always argue with measured results especially when there are so many random variables.
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post #9 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by brandonnash View Post


I'm with you Bill. All I'm wanting to do is try to provide facts. Right now there aren't any out there. If you know of any good links let me know because I didn't find anything.
The onus is on those who claim that break-in of non-moving parts exists. With speakers it's easily seen in the changes in measured driver specs and speaker response. With electronics and wire if present it would be just as easily measured. AFAIK no proponent has ever produced verifiable repeatable measurements, so it's no more the stuff of reality than Cold Fusion. That won't deter the believers. They always say 'prove that it doesn't work', rather than themselves proving that it does. And since they take their position with the same fervor as that of a religious zealot trying to reason with them is a waste of time.

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post #10 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 12:26 PM
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i generally agree with bfm above. that said, there is this nasty little thing called the placebo effect.

if you believe that you will be hearing a difference, you may actually be hearing a difference.

the placebo effect is more than just a mental mistake though, it causes actual physical differences in the mind and the body.

i've read reports where a person thought that they were getting burned by a hot object, even though the object was at room temperature, and their skin turned red.

so, to the extent that somebody truly believes that a sound card will sound different after being powered for a while, it actually will...to them.

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post #11 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

No, because even when faced with incontrovertible facts people will believe what they want to believe. All you can do is provide the facts to those who want to learn, and ignore those who don't.

I'm just going to ignore that...tongue.gif
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i generally agree with bfm above. that said, there is this nasty little thing called the placebo effect.
if you believe that you will be hearing a difference, you may actually be hearing a difference.
the placebo effect is more than just a mental mistake though, it causes actual physical differences in the mind and the body.
i've read reports where a person thought that they were getting burned by a hot object, even though the object was at room temperature, and their skin turned red.
so, to the extent that somebody truly believes that a sound card will sound different after being powered for a while, it actually will...to them.

Isn't this phenomenon better known as the 'bose effect'?
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post #12 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 01:45 PM
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We deal with the molecular and quantum level of performance with components at work all the time (ya, audio is that quiet) - there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the performance can change audibly with any number of external influences.

That said, I'm adamantly opposed to much of the snake oil garbage that floats around the audio community. There is a difference between good (overkill) science and "marketing fanciful words" (to put it politely).

If you want measurements, you'll have to get a bit specific about the myths you want to test, and then you gotta get the snake oil people to agree on the aspect of performance that most readily reveals the claimed performance difference.

Btw, oscilloscopes usually don't have the resolution to reveal low level but still audible artifacts. You gotta get a bit more creative in the test setups.

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post #13 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by LTD02 View Post

i generally agree with bfm above. that said, there is this nasty little thing called the placebo effect.

if you believe that you will be hearing a difference, you may actually be hearing a difference.

the placebo effect is more than just a mental mistake though, it causes actual physical differences in the mind and the body.

i've read reports where a person thought that they were getting burned by a hot object, even though the object was at room temperature, and their skin turned red.

so, to the extent that somebody truly believes that a sound card will sound different after being powered for a while, it actually will...to them.

In these cases, it is the belief that is producing the difference in experience, rather than the equipment (assuming it was 100% placebo, with no objectively-detectable audible differences). It is clear that these effects can produce big differences in experience.

But it is still quite valid to test for "real" (non-psychologically-based) differences in equipment. This is really the only way to make progress. Testing how effective placebo effects are is just testing the marketing, and doesn't really give us better audio. smile.gif
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post #14 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 04:20 PM
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My opinion, nothing else...

Woofers need the most break-in, the larger and stiffer, the more it needs. The rest of the entire world of audio components does not need break-in. I would draw a parallel to clothing. Subwoofers... are shoes, and more specifically large subwoofers are leather boots. After a break-in period, performance improves and you enjoy a long period of peak performance before the inevitable decline. The rest of the whole world of audio components... solid state stuff is like jewelry, good to go from the start, and likely to remain the same for a long time, save for needing the occasional cleaning. The rest of the components are like ready-to-wear clothes, eventually they will go out of style, probably before they wear out... but definitely no break-in required.

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post #15 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by MBentz View Post

.....there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the performance can change audibly with any number of external influences.......



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post #16 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 06:16 PM
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haha love the clothes analogy
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post #17 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 06:37 PM
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... solid state stuff is like jewelry, good to go from the start, and likely to remain the same for a long time . . .
. . . and some of the jewelry is expensive, but serves no purpose except to look good. And the time that you get from your Rolex may be no better than the time you get from your Timex.
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post #18 of 138 Old 08-16-2012, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

No, because even when faced with incontrovertible facts people will believe what they want to believe. All you can do is provide the facts to those who want to learn, and ignore those who don't.

I just completed a set of DIY monoblock tube amps, and from personal experience, I can state that burn very much exists. At first, my amps sounded pretty good, but I dismissed that as being the joy of finishing a two year long project. After about a week of listening on a DAILY BASIS for several hours a day, they began to sound like absolute crap. They were sounding so bad that I was embarrassed to have my best friend even hear them, and I was certain that I had wasted almost 4k of my money in the process.

Then I swapped out a single tube in each amp. There was minimal improvement, so I kept listening, and they kept getting better. The amps have been run daily now for a month and have perhaps a hundred hours on them they continue to open up and sound better and better every time I listen. They are powering a set of Magnepan MG-20's and they reveal everything. You can believe that burn-in exists or not, that's on you. I am far less inclined to believe in such things for cables, but components is another story. And yes... cables do make a difference, provided you have gear able to utilize the benefits.

When the wife or significant other is not around, try this little experiment. Take out your favorite recording and listen to your favorite song at your reference volume. Close your eyes and really immerse yourself in the moment and the music. Then replay the same track with your hands gently cupping your ears. Notice the tremendous difference in what you are hearing! Details that are in the recording but are hidden from your ears come to life. It will be like you have never heard that recording before.

The point is that this last little bit of information is what is missing in most systems that I listen to... stuff that is there and needs to be heard to complete the experience, and this is what the right speaker(most important) amplifier(second) source(tied for second) and cables(third) are supposed to dig out. Being a vinyl guy, I can honestly say that I don't get much difference out of CD players, whether SACD or not and FLAC files, but my cartridge is as important to sound as the source, and it too sounds better after it has danced across more than a few LP's...
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post #19 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 05:38 AM - Thread Starter
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So you've never listened to a song on the radio the first time they played it and thought it was horrible then after they play it a few times and you start to change your mind? You begin to accept things and your mind decides its getting better. Case in point...2 words. Matchbox 20. They would still be broke playing bars if some record exec didn't decide to pour tons of money in airplay for them.

I'm trying to find someone that has the means to actually test it. I think it says something that in a lot of audio circles its simply accepted and no one has said "why?".
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post #20 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 05:48 AM
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Originally Posted by nooshinjohn View Post

I just completed a set of DIY monoblock tube amps, and from personal experience, I can state that burn very much exists. At first, my amps sounded pretty good, but I dismissed that as being the joy of finishing a two year long project. After about a week of listening on a DAILY BASIS for several hours a day, they began to sound like absolute crap. They were sounding so bad that I was embarrassed to have my best friend even hear them, and I was certain that I had wasted almost 4k of my money in the process.
Then I swapped out a single tube in each amp. There was minimal improvement, so I kept listening, and they kept getting better. The amps have been run daily now for a month and have perhaps a hundred hours on them they continue to open up and sound better and better every time I listen..
Show us the measured results. If there are none then your conclusions are purely subjective. Not that there's anything wrong with pure subjectivity, but IMO that should be left to fields like art, philosophy and theology. I'm an engineer, so I deal only with objective fact.
As to your conclusions, tubes do change in use, do to the nature of how they work. So does one's perception of what they're hearing. While the break-in process for even speakers takes no more than 40 hours or so of normal listening the break-in period for your ear/brain continues far longer. 400 hours until you get used to what you're hearing as 'normal' isn't unusual, and not the least bit coincidentally is the same figure often quoted by snake-oil merchants as the minimum 'break-in' period for their wares.
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And yes... cables do make a difference, provided you have gear able to utilize the benefits.
That's another snake-oil pitch that you may have bought into. Cable mountebanks, when confronted with the fact that their high prices don't give better results, counter "you can't hear the difference if the rest of your system isn't of as high a quality as our cables". When confronted with the fact that no DBT of cables has ever found any direct correlation between sound quality and price, irrespective of the system employed, the cable shysters scurry faster than cockroaches when a light is turned on.
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post #21 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 06:04 AM
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like bill said, the onus is on the claimant to provide the measurements.

otherwise, the placebo effect may be creating, very real, perceived differences and there is no way to argue against a placebo effect because it is in the head of the claimant.

this is very easy to kill by first doing a sighted test and noting the results, then performing a blind test and noting the results.

every blind test of electronics that i have seen shows that there is no audible difference between simple electronics wired to speakers with zip cord and crazy expensive setups with all kinds of contraptions. those systems have much more variation than a sound card out of the box vs. one with some time on it.

"400 hours until you get used to what you're hearing as 'normal' isn't unusual, and not the least bit coincidentally is the same figure often quoted by snake-oil merchants as the minimum 'break-in' period for their wares."

that is a very good point. there was actually a crazy experiment where a person wore glasses that turned the light coming into the eye upside down. at first, the world was all out of wack and the person could not function, but after a while, the brain adopted and the person could function normally even though technically he was seeing the world upside down. at the end of the experiment, when the glasses were removed, the person was all messed up again and could not function until the brain had relearned which way was in fact up.

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post #22 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by brandonnash View Post

I'm trying to find someone that has the means to actually test it. I think it says something that in a lot of audio circles its simply accepted and no one has said "why?".

I don't think it was obvious in my last post, but I've got some sick measuring equipment at work, and I'm willing to quantify anything that might have technical merit (that way I can justify it). There's actually plenty of weird stuff that I haven't had the chance to explore fully, and I try to keep open-minded about stuff like that. Although I usually end up finding published research on most of these topics after taking the time to measure for myself.

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post #23 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

Show us the measured results. If there are none then your conclusions are purely subjective. Not that there's anything wrong with pure subjectivity, but IMO that should be left to fields like art, philosophy and theology. I'm an engineer, so I deal only with objective fact. .

No offence, but I will take the lessons learned from a physicist with 50 years of audio experience over that of anything else. You ask for measured results, then say this..
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As to your conclusions, tubes do change in use, do to the nature of how they work..

Someone said above that there is no burn-in for components. Tube amps do have a burn-in, and also a warm up period to sound their best. a non-tubed cd player... not so much.
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While the break-in process for even speakers takes no more than 40 hours or so of normal listening the break-in period for your ear/brain continues far longer. 400 hours until you get used to what you're hearing as 'normal' isn't unusual, and not the least bit coincidentally is the same figure often quoted by snake-oil merchants as the minimum 'break-in' period for their wares. .

I know of at tleast one subwoofer out there than takes at least 250 hours to start coming into it's own, those being the Sunfire's..[/quote]
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That's another snake-oil pitch that you may have bought into. Cable mountebanks, when confronted with the fact that their high prices don't give better results, counter "you can't hear the difference if the rest of your system isn't of as high a quality as our cables". When confronted with the fact that no DBT of cables has ever found any direct correlation between sound quality and price, irrespective of the system employed, the cable shysters scurry faster than cockroaches when a light is turned on.

Cables IMHO are only about 5% of the equation. In order to get where you want to go sound-wise, the speaker, and the amplifier selected to drive them come first. I use a 10% rule for cables. I have 3k in cash invested in my amps, and spent 300.00 on power cords to plug them into the wall. I don't believe there is much of a burn-in for them at all, and if there is, it would all be done on seconds.
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post #24 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 07:16 AM
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I usually end up finding published research on most of these topics after taking the time to measure for myself.
If it exists and is worthy it's been published in the Journal of the AES. If it hasn't been published there it either didn't pass muster with the Board (which consists of those 'no-nothing geeks' who actually were responsible for inventing the technology that feeds our habit) or it wasn't submitted, as the authors knew it would not survive the litmus test.
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I use a 10% rule for cables
I use a dollar a foot and five bucks each for connectors. Nothing is worth a penny more in terms of what it actually can deliver.
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I know of at least one subwoofer out there than takes at least 250 hours to start coming into it's own, those being the Sunfire's.
Hogwash. I'd use Paul Klipsch's favorite expletive, but the mods may object.

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post #25 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 07:35 AM
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Btw, oscilloscopes usually don't have the resolution to reveal low level but still audible artifacts.

lol
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Someone said above that there is no burn-in for components. Tube amps do have a burn-in, and also a warm up period to sound their best.

...for solid state components....are tubes 'solid state'?
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post #26 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 07:41 AM
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Tubes are specifically expensive denim jeans.
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lol
...for solid state components....are tubes 'solid state'?

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post #27 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by brandonnash View Post

So you've never listened to a song on the radio the first time they played it and thought it was horrible then after they play it a few times and you start to change your mind? You begin to accept things and your mind decides its getting better. Case in point...2 words. Matchbox 20. They would still be broke playing bars if some record exec didn't decide to pour tons of money in airplay for them.
I'm trying to find someone that has the means to actually test it. I think it says something that in a lot of audio circles its simply accepted and no one has said "why?".

So you are saying matchbox 20 is bad?
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post #28 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

Hogwash. I'd use Paul Klipsch's favorite expletive, but the mods may object.

The sub's designer would disagree with you. Even out of the enclosure, the amount of force needed to get movement from the driver by applying hand pressure is immense. I am suprised they work at all honestly. Forgive me for taking him at his word.
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post #29 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by nooshinjohn View Post

Forgive me for taking him at his word.
Words are cheap, published measurable repeatable data is what counts. IMO the Sunfire is an OK sub, but nothing special, and if they claim it takes 250 hours to break it in that's a prime example of a manufacturer not wanting you to send it back immediately when it doesn't live up to the advertising hype.

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post #30 of 138 Old 08-17-2012, 11:48 AM
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I have to agree with you there. Something is fishy about 250 hours of break-in time. Although it does seem like that particular subwoofer design might be best suited for very stiff drivers, I had a Sony sub that was very similar, the SAW-X700. To this day the drivers are improbably stiff... essentially they will never break in. I found it necessary to drive that sub with a Crown amp. In order to give it enough power to move the cones and perform to its potential. I don't see how that isn't also the case with those Sunfire subs. In the end the amp is where most of the skimping occurs, which is why owning a great external amp(s) and then buying/building passive subs is the way to go IMHO. My experience with breaking in sub drivers is that there is a slight performance increase that manifests within 20 hours & that's it. Most subs are good to go right away & the stiff ones will be 90% broken in within 4 hours, 100% by 20 hours... and that break-in is strictly the suspension and has nothing to do with the electronics.

My one experience with a 250 (or so) hour break in on a 'premium' product was with a couple pairs of AKG K-701 headphones. Everyone complains about the lack of bass, AKG suggests something like 250 hours as a break in. I set my two pairs constantly running for two weeks, but without listening to them except for the occasional check. After two weeks, there might have been a tiny improvement vs. day one. I got rid of them instead of falling victim to psychoacoustics and their marketing hype about the 'varimotion' driver. Rarely have I felt so 'burned' by break-in claims, that that was a premium, reputable product.

Sometimes I wonder if people mistake their amp warming up for the first time for a 'burn-in' period, plus most people end up tweaking stuff which naturally results in improvements that have zilch to do with any hypothetical burn-in.
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Originally Posted by Bill Fitzmaurice View Post

Words are cheap, published measurable repeatable data is what counts. IMO the Sunfire is an OK sub, but nothing special, and if they claim it takes 250 hours to break it in that's a prime example of a manufacturer not wanting you to send it back immediately when it doesn't live up to the advertising hype.

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