Speaker Break In - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Since I saw a reply about speaker break-in in a previous thread (doubting its validity) and it had been many years since I had a brand new pair of speakers, I wondered...

Well, this week I got a brand new pair of AR 215PSb's (O.K., so their not very good. I won't even explain my reasons for the purchase). I decided to see if "break-in" was real or just an auditory illusion. I couldn't have picked a better pair of speakers for the test.

Day 1
When I first hooked these up to an HK 875 pre/870 amp, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The tweeter and woofer didn't sound as if they were "integrated". The tweeter was so harsh that I checked my ears for hemorrhage. Additionally, there was a passage on an SACD that caused the woofer to emit a sound that caused me to wonder if it had imploded. I literally could not stand to be in the room with these speakers. I turned on the tuner, left them running and went to bed. My intention was to return them and didn't expect them to improve.

Morning of Day 2
I noticed that the woofer and tweeter had disappeared and I was listening to 2 speakers - a right and a left channel. The tweeter was still harsh and the woofer was somewhat recessed, but they were definitely working together. There was a bit of detail and separation of instruments. The passage on the SACD was still very disturbing, but just sounded like a weak connection or bad wiring. I couldn't be in the room for very long, especially if the volume was not set low. I turned down the volume, left the tuner on again and found another place to be. I still intended to return them if things didn't get better than this.

Afternoon of Day 2
If I didn't increase the volume much, I could actually enjoy some things about these speakers. There seemed to be alot more detail than I'd heard in my Boston Acoustic HD5's and there was much more bass extension. And what was this? A sound-stage? Out of these little $60 boxes? But, the harshness of the tweeter...only slightly better than in the morning...but the woofer was much less recessed. I put the SACD back on and the woofer was attempting to make something musical out of that troubled passage. The speakers could be driven at enough volume to fill the room and I was certain my ears were beginning to scab over. I decided to put the CD on repeat, turned the volume to medium well, turned treble and bass up as far as they go and left. I still intended to return them if they didn't get better... Well, if I couldn't get all my shipping back or go through a big hassle.

Evening of Day 2
That SACD passage was still troublesome, but not frightening. I still wondered if there there was cheap wiring in there. The tweeter was still blaring, but not so much that it couldn't be tolerated for reasonable lengths of time. Actually, a few feet back it didn't seem so bad and was noticeably improved from the first day. Loud volume actually seemed to blend the tweeter and woofer a bit. Things were definitely looking up and I still couldn't believe the sound-stage and detail, and these seemed to be improving. But...that tweeter. It was just too bright. I returned bass and treble to the all out position and left the tuner running at low volume. I still intended to do something with these speakers. Maybe I could adjust the treble and tame them a bit. Maybe I should send them back. Maybe I'd give them to the person who was supposed to be getting the HD5's. He would probably really like them.

Just before bed Day 2
They seem just slightly smoother all the way around. The SACD at first seemed a little better, but probably not. The tweeter seemed better, but still brighter than I liked. I turned the bass and treble all the way up and left the tuner running.

(This morning) Day 3
They really do seem better as time goes on. I don't think the SACD passage will ever be right, but I can identify individual sounds now. The tweeter... Well it is just too bright for my taste and I don't like it, but it has softened alot. The sound-stage and detail continue to impress me and make the tweeter more bearable. I will end up keeping these speakers (I think) and definitely will not returned them. The person who is on my list for "free" HD5's likes bright equipment and would be thrilled with these. Maybe he'll get them. They are better than they were and in many ways an improvement over the HD5's. They might replace my Klipsch kg1's in my home theater. They have some "horn-like" qualities. On top of all that the boxes are solid and attractive. It's a tough choice. I'll give them more time and see how they do. The treble and bass are going back to full and the volume will be back at medium - just enough to fill the room but not enough to leave the room.

Now the real question:
Are they getting better or am I getting used to them? I will try to answer it this way:
I can hear some very real differences between day 1 and late day 2. I'm also confident in differences between afternoon of day 2 and this morning. I'm not positive that the tweeter has improved since last night.

I spend alot of time NOT listening to them as a (maybe feeble) attempt to remain objective. I am convinced there is a difference, but the critics would point out how unscientific this is. I have no doubt whatsoever that there is a measurable difference between when I first hooked them up and what I'm hearing now. Anything in-between I will concede as arguable, but my convictions about those differences are not as weak as I've stated. I'm just trying to remain open to correction.

My conclusion is that there definitely is a break-in period for speakers and I hope that it remains active for these speakers.

Doug

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post #2 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 10:48 AM
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Break In is REAL - The drivers & you both go through an ajustment period.
Wheather you like the adjustments is another story.
E
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post #3 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 10:55 AM
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Break-in theory is based on material property changes with time of use. If the materials in your speaker change that fast (in less than 3 days), they should have used VERY lousy materials:rolleyes:

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post #4 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 10:58 AM
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I never really bought into break-in. I did not personally hear a difference when my speakers were new but I was not trying to.

I think that there are some properties of the speakers that change within the first n hours of use but the question might be just whether any change is audible or not.

Surprisingly though, my speaker manual says that the speakers do have a break in period.
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post #5 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 11:06 AM
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I had a break-in period with my wife:) I finally did get used to her (30 years later). I am not convinced that break-in is any more than getting used to the sound and noting different aspects of the sound at different times-----but then again I could be wrong.
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post #6 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 11:06 AM
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Everybody has different beliefs on this just like cables and other things. There are study's done that say it doesn't exist and some that say it does exist.

I believe that both break-in. You and the speaker. Now that makes sense doesn't it? ;)

A man cannot make him laugh - but that's no marvel; he drinks no wine.
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post #7 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 12:40 PM
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Funny thing I never recall break in on speakers or amps 20 some years ago.Id never even heard it discussed.I personally have not heard these differences.
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post #8 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 12:51 PM
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Try this (I have many times). Take new speakers, give them a good listen, make some notes. Now, run them for 100 hours while you're not around. I do it while I'm out of the house. Come back for session two, listen to same music, same levels. I've personally found pretty large differences with most speakers. Some speakers haven't changed much, but most have changed significantly. Usually smoother, more integrated and better quality bass.

Two-Channel Forever! Anthem Amp 2 and Pre 2, Modulus 3A and Belles 150A Hotrod, SF CD-1, DH Labs Silver Sonic throughout, Tube traps in corners, ACI Jaguars with ACI Titan II subs. Family room: NAD L40 with ACI Emeralds and Force sub.
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post #9 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 01:16 PM - Thread Starter
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"Break-in theory is based on material property changes with time of use. If the materials in your speaker change that fast (in less than 3 days), they should have used VERY lousy materials"

OUCH. As I said, they aren't very good... However, most cars have a break-in period of several hundred miles. Is that a reflection of the quality of their materials as well?

"I believe that both break-in. You and the speaker. Now that makes sense doesn't it?"

This is likely to be my experience.

"Funny thing I never recall break in on speakers or amps 20 some years ago.Id never even heard it discussed.I personally have not heard these differences."

Actually, the first time I heard it was about 20 years ago...from the person I most respect re: audio equipment. He owns a high end shop and was the first retailer to sell Vandersteen speakers - when Vanersteen was making them in a garage in Santa Barbara, CA.

"Some speakers haven't changed much, but most have changed significantly. Usually smoother, more integrated and better quality bass."

I know that the difference between my first listening and my second was not my imagination. I hope to keep these things going a couple more days and see where things are at that time.

Thanks to all of you who are sharing your opinions and experience. I appreciate and respect all of it.

Turn it UP!!
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post #10 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 01:20 PM
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I am on week 3 with my new Athena speakers. They say it needs 50 - 100 hours of break-in at moderate volumes.

I am at maybe 150 hours now and notice how the imaging seems better and the highs have started to smoothen out.

So, hell... myth or not... it's if you feel comfortable with them within the warranty period. No?
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post #11 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 02:05 PM
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Would the type of speaker and what materials are used affect "break-in"? For example would b&w's require more break-in time because the woven kevlar needs time to loosen up vs. say a Monitor audio speaker with a solid aluminum driver? What about electrostats? What types of speakers need break-in and what don't?
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post #12 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 02:41 PM
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I believe that speaker break-in is real as the speakers' contents haven't been introduced to power, yet. Speaker wire, for instance, is also believed to need a break in period. Perhaps because the metal inside the wire is getting rid of any impurities that won't allow it to conduct the flow of electricity properly...or...something like that...ok, so I'm guessing.
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post #13 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 02:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by drbrousters
"Break-in theory is based on material property changes with time of use. If the materials in your speaker change that fast (in less than 3 days), they should have used VERY lousy materials"

OUCH. As I said, they aren't very good... However, most cars have a break-in period of several hundred miles. Is that a reflection of the quality of their materials as well?


The mechanisms are different :) For cars, the break-in are about gears and journal bearings, where direct contact and wearing occurs. Break-in helps smooth the contact surfaces, and once the surfaces are smooth enough, hydrodynamic lubrication takes effect, which stops the gears and bearings from further wearing. For speakers, if there is any break-in effects, they most likely occurs at the suspension spring, cones, rubber/foam rings, and other moving parts. Material properties, such as modulus, and even dimensions may change with time due to movement or "creeping".

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post #14 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 03:05 PM
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The only speaker break in i can recall is when i left my front door open went to bed and woke up minus my legacy studios.
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post #15 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 04:43 PM
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Okay, I searched and searched and searched... But, I am so far unable to find ONE article on loudspeaker break-in (or any related issues) in the JAES. How come???

Without a body of peer-reviewed studies, this subject has to remain, at least in my view, as engineering anecdotes and assorted opinions rather than material facts.

Serious! I cannot believe nobody has conducted systematic studies on the subject with high enough scientific qualities to get published in the JAES and other well-respected engineering journals.

Where else should I search???
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post #16 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Speaker wire, for instance, is also believed to need a break in period. Perhaps because the metal inside the wire is getting rid of any impurities that won't allow it to conduct the flow of electricity properly
You learn something new everyday :)
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post #17 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by sushi
Okay, I searched and searched and searched... But, I am so far unable to find ONE article on loudspeaker break-in (or any related issues) in the JAES. How come???

Without a body of peer-reviewed studies, this subject has to remain, at least in my view, as engineering anecdotes and assorted opinions rather than material facts.

Serious! I cannot believe nobody has conducted systematic studies on the subject with high enough scientific qualities to get published in the JAES and other well-respected engineering journals.

Where else should I search???
Nowhere. Come on sushi, you're an engineer, you know you won't find proof on this matter or with cables. This is another one of those subjects that will drive you to seek counseling. :)
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post #18 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 06:37 PM
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I remember buying an H/K 795i receiver from a factory rep and he suggested leaving the reveiver on for 72 hour burn-in to make sure that none of the parts would fail. That was what the burn-in was about.

I am not sure about speaker break-in. I think it is more mental break-in for the owner. I mean, you have to get used to a new sound - psychologically speaking - you are getting used to the speakers.

If a speaker actually 'breaks-in' than it should be a measurable phenomenon. I have not seen one iota of data to support it.

Dave

"If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut." - Albert Einstein
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post #19 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 06:40 PM
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Sushi, here's one paper by David Clark resulting from five years of research.

Journal of the AES, 99th Convention

"Precision Measurement of Loudspeaker Parameters"-- David Clark

Link: (PDF file) http://www.dlcdesignaudio.com/dlcpaper.pdf

snippet:

"A break-in process is recommended. Drive-unit storage may cause the
diaphragm suspension to drift away from its normal or in-use position.
Break-in, with the drive-unit axis in the in-use orientation (usually
horizontal), restores the normal diaphragm position. The recommended
procedure pneumatically stretches the suspension to one excursion extreme,
then the other and continues to alternate, decreasing the excursion each
time until x is at zero. This process can be completed in less than 1 min."


There's no shortage of input on this topic at the rec.audio groups from loudspeaker designers and experts like John Dunlavy, Tom Nousaine, Dick Pierce, etc., but what I'd like to see is more research and information on "listener adaptation". James (jj) Johnstone of ATT labs wrote some good stuff on that, but I haven't been able to find it lately.

What I remember from his words is that listener adaptation is very real and convincing, it starts at first exposure and continues even when one isn't actively listening to the component or components in question, and it can take weeks to flatline.

That's been my experience as well, although I have confused one for the other.
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post #20 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 07:12 PM
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This single commentary by Dick Pierce is one of the most Quoted of Quotes, and I Quote:

Sept. 1995

"Been there, done that. Literally hundreds of times.

Yes there are both audible and measurable changes.

The foremost change is in suspension stiffness. Off the production
line there is, depending upon the exact version of the centering
spider, a siginificant, one time and permanent reduction in the driver
suspension stiffness (equivalent to an increase in Vas) of about 5% or
so. This occurs within the first 20-30 seconds when using high-level
sine waves at resonance. (By the way, pink noise and other broad band
signals are nearly useless, despite the strident claims of some, for
effecting these changes). Most of these changes are simply due to the
beaking up of the varnish impregnation in the spider.

Resulting from THAT change is a reduction in the resonant frequency of
the system proportional to the square root of the change in stiffness.
Also, there is a reduction in Qts, since we've changed the mechanical
reactance of the system somewhat.

Now, there are a WHOLE bunch of changes that can easily be measured
once this first break-in has occured, but, for the vast majority of
them, these changes recover once any high-level signal that caused
them has been removed. Some of the reasons for this are:

1. recovery of elastic strain in the suspension due to exceeding
some linear limits
2. Recovery of some stiffness due to reduction of the suspension
temperature increase caused by high-level driving.
3. Recovery in the voice coil resistance due to reduction in
temperature of the voice coil.
4. Recovery of gap field strength due to reduction in magnet
structure temperature.

TO give you an example of the effects (and some of the work I've done
along these lines), I once built a device that would measure reonant
frequency continuously. It consisted of a phase-locked loop with the
speaker controlling one input to the phase detector. The system would
alwyas drive the system towards 0 phase shift, so it would track
resonant frequency. The input to the VCO was digitized and recorded,
and the results plotted.

On application of the signal to a "new" driver, there was an immediate
drop in resonance over a period of about 1 minute until the system
reached equilibrium. From that point on, the resonance was stable at a
given drive level for (quite literally) several days. However, you
would, depending upon drive level, start to see a slight reduction in
efficiency and a slight rise in Qts that was absolutely and directly
correlated with temperature as the voice coil and magnet system heated
up. Typically, for a driver dissipating 50 watts at resonance, this
change ammounted to about a 0.2 dB reduction in efficiency, dependent
upon how well the system dissipated heat.

I truned the stimulus, occasionally monitoring parameters. The
suspension stiffness took about 5-10 minutes to COMPLETELY recover,
and the voice coil and gap strength recovered as the system cooled to
ambient temperature.

I would be more inclined to attribute permanent break-in of the sorts
often claimed to simple acclimation of the system to ambient
conditions, aided only slightly by actual signals. And if there are
signal-induced changes, it's demonstrable that so-called "break-in"
disks, pink noise, and arbitrary selections of music are probably the
LEAST effective ways of doing the job, again, despite the anecdotal
claims to the contrary. Rather, excercising the system at the point
where the mechanical stress is the greatest will accomplish the task
FAR faster, if at all.


TO briefly summarize my findings: there is a measurable, permanent
change in compliance when the driver is first exercised off the
production line as glues and varnish impregnation is permanently
loosened. Subsequently, there are completely recoverable changes when
the system is excercised.

--
| Dick Pierce |"
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post #21 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 07:31 PM
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Big thanks, bigwally! :D (how the heck did I miss it?).

However, what the authors described in that particular paper is, while very plausible, not what WE usually refer to as "speaker break-in," which may take up to tens and hundreds of hours of ACTUAL playback, eh?

I am aware of the newsgroup discussions by the experts, and know that experts' opinions too are very split on this subject. But as I said, those discussions, without formal publications, still remain in the category of "engineering anecdote" in my mind. It really surprises me that there is so little on the subject in the formal, peer-reviewed literature...

I also believe that very few studies has been formally done on "listener adaptation," in the specific context of speaker break-in (or, more precisely, upon exposure to unfamiliar loudspeakers).


By the way, ALIENS, I'm not an engineer by trade. I wouldn't miss such an obvious article shown above if this were a literature search in my own professional field. :D
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post #22 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 09:43 PM
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I'm going to stick my neck out here as an engineer, and it will probably be chopped off by someone who knows more than I (or at least thinks they do). The only mechanical break in I see as reasonable is the effect described by Dick Pierce in the quoted post above, where a folded spider suspension has epoxy/varnish/etc. in folds that function to artificially stiffen the fold joint. Once plastic deformation has removed those impediments, the suspension should not change further in stiffness.

If the spider changes notably over a prolonged period of time, then it is likely that the cause is continued plastic deformation of a matrix binder in the fold regions, and IMO that constitutes material failure of the spider and a poorly chosen material and design. Likewise, the modulus of a surround should not change unless post-elastic strain has occured. If that is the case, again, IMO it constitutes a failure of the surround and a material poorly chosen for the job.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that a speaker can measure significantly different after weeks of playing, but if it does then poor engineering was done on the front end.

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post #23 of 86 Old 07-10-2003, 10:31 PM
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Hmm...you can take it all with a grain of salt.
http://www.paradigm.ca/Support/TechF...tml#Question17
Not much the speakers but the sub was definitely needing something.
This was NOT the same sub I heard at the shop but after playing it watching TV, watching DVD movies/concerts, etc. by the end of the week, my faith was restored:D

Now with my receiver, I was terribly disappointed in the sound that was emitting from my speakers when I first hooked it up. This was a big upgrade for me ($2K) and I thought I had done my homework properly on choosing a higher end receiver. Highs seemed harsh and mids were non-existent. But by the next week, all my fears disappeared. Dialog was clear, sound was spacious and the highs were non-obtrusive. True story.
But thats a different thread.....
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post #24 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 01:01 AM
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Bruce,

Thanks for the cite. So, Dick Pierce's commentary basically confirms that speaker break-in does NOT occur in the way usually claimed to occur by "audiophiles." The permanent change in the driver, if any, is essentially finished within the first few minutes -- practically speaking, this should be finished before the speaker leaves the factory and test facilities.

Has Pierce or somebody else in his school ever published this in any formal way? I'm really sick of the current state of the debate where these findings perpetually remain as semi-anecdotal assortments of "soft data"... :( Somebody should really "finish" a systematic study and publish the definitive set of data.
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post #25 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 01:55 AM
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Maybe a slight modification to your procedure to help make it a real test?
Quote:
Originally posted by John Desmond
Try this (I have many times). Take new speakers, give them a good listen, make some notes. Now,

Put one back in the box and let the other one
Quote:
run... for 100 hours while you're not around. I do it while I'm out of the house. Come back for session two, listen to same music, same levels.
Regards,

Matt
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post #26 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 06:27 AM
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My anecdote shows that speaker break in is real. It was not subtle, and it was just as obvious on the second pair of speakers that I ordered roughly one year later. It was not some etherial mind body soul merging thing that transformed my life and allowed me to talk to the crickets. It is not something that I could only describe using contrived jargon that those who have been converted would understand.

There was virtually no bass output the first day I got the first pair. I turned on the Bass Boost button (yes, it was an ordinary receiver). I had never turned on a bass boost button before in my life. The bass was still lacking. On day two the music was more balanced. On day three, I had to turn the bass boost button off and left it off. The bass continued to change noticeably.

Same thing with second pair that I ordered for surrounds one year later.

People who had never heard either pair could easily tell the difference. It was not subtle.

It wasn't a scientific study, but I did not require one to know that the stove was hot, or that a baseball glove got more pliable with use, or that new rubber bands were "snappier" than used ones...

I am a little surprised that people think that the spider cage is the only area that could expierience a material change during use. (It really sounds like a straw man argument)

A woofer/mid with stiff surrounds won't change after a little "exercise"?

Those who believe they won't, you have never used anything that did not become more pliable with use? You never played baseball (glove) or tennis (ball) or wore shoes?

You don't think that a change in the stiffness of the rubber surround will change the way a speaker can move air, given the same input signal?

This is one of those things that makes you go HMMM. :)

If anyone did want to do a measure of speaker break in, I would suggest they use scanspeak woofers. Should not be hard to measure at all.

Best Regards,
Doug
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post #27 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 06:35 AM
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I'm not an entire break-in believer, but here is my understanding of why it is hard to be evaluated scientifically:

1. Since it is related to material property change, the effects vary largely from speaker to speaker, which makes a publication to be unsubstantial.

2. Since the changes, if there is any, are mostly related to sound characters and maybe a little distortion wise, they may not be measurable. Judgements by ears are normally not qualified for a technical paper.

lei
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post #28 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 06:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by shodoug


A woofer/mid with stiff surrounds won't change after a little "exercise"?

Those who believe they won't, you have never used anything that did not become more pliable with use? You never played baseball (glove) or tennis (ball) or wore shoes?

You don't think that a change in the stiffness of the rubber surround will change the way a speaker can move air, given the same input signal?

Doug, I don't think many would disagree that certain properities of the matierial change over time. The question would be is it audible. I am inclined to say "no".

To use your example - a rubberband or a baseball glove, those continue to wear with use, and eventually wear out, or at least continue to noticably wear. Using your logic, so should the speaker components, and if we hear a change after 100 hours, after another 100 hours we should notice the sound change again. And continue to change throughout the life of the speaker.

Do you think the properties change once after a certain number of hours, then cease to change? At what point would the sound change again? If Ever?

I like Sushis way of thinking personally - if this is so real why do we have no reputable scientific documented evidence?
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post #29 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 06:47 AM
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JBL Pro deals with this in the spec sheets for some of their woofers. In the specs for the 2226, a high output, very stiffly suspended 15" woofer, JBL states that the T/S specs are stable after a 2 hour run at full power. They imply that this stabilization takes considerabley less time.

Now JBL Pro is a serious outfit with a body of knowledge dating back to the Lansing Manufacturing Co. of the 1930s. They have no-nonsense customers who use speakers as tools and who need to know exactly what the capabilities and characteristics of those tools are. Their customers are not nervous, flitty, delusional, hand-wringing audiophiles but serious people who have a job to do.

Personally I'm inclined to think the fellas at JBL know what they're talking about.
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post #30 of 86 Old 07-11-2003, 06:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by memobug

Put one back in the box and let the other one
I have done this. About 3 weeks after getting my new Sapphires, I accidentally unplugged an RCA cable from my amp (thinking the amp was off). It blew the driver in the speaker.

ACI promptly sent a replacement driver. The speaker did not sound the same as the other one. The bass and midrange were different. It wasn't a drastic difference, but it was noticable.
I put the 'new' speaker in my basement and let it run for 50 hours. I hooked it back up and it then sound like the other speaker.

Not scientific at all, but it works for me. I should have had someone that lives near me (hectic1/jackman) come over and do blind testing to see if they could tell the difference between the speakers. Maybe next time I blow one I will.. :)

Kevin
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