Updated: Mar 24
Okay, now I’m going to write about a somewhat touchy subject – at least to some people.
It’s a subject that kind of divides people in two camps – ‘snake oil’ or good practice.
I’m talking about the process of ‘breaking in’ brand-new audio products, like headphones, speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, preamps, DACs and the list goes on.
I've been reviewing headphones and speakers in magazines for more than twenty years, and the one thing that I've found to be universal for all headphones and speakers, is the importance of proper break-in before evaluating the sound quality and sound stage.
Through the years, some headphones have sounded super-weird out of the box, and only 'settled' after several hundreds of hours of use.
To me, it's just the way it is with headphones, and the reason why I keep pressing on it in my review videos on YouTube.
Basically, no other reviewer does, because they don't know better, to be blunt about the subject.
Funny enough, the naysayers very seldom have tried ‘breaking’ anything in themselves, they have just formed an opinion without any personal experience.
But you and I know better… 😉
Here's what you should do to ‘break-in’ your brand-new headphones:
✅ Get a DAP or media player that won't stop playing after a couple of hours of unattended playback. iPads and iPhones tend to stop playback after a couple of hours if you don't finger on them, so choose another media player.
I use my handheld Sony-recorder that I normally use to record HiFi-systems with (I have plans on publishing really cool videos with high-quality recordings of different HiFi-systems at HiFi-shows. I got loads of them already, for people to listen to and compare). My recorder can of course playback music non-stop for as long as needed.
✅ Upload an hour worth of music to the DAP or media player and include a five-minute song with just silence. I’ve attached an MP3-file with five-minute silence – I guess the only time it’s okay to play an MP3. 😂
✅ Create a playlist of the uploaded music and enable [Repeat all] in the playback settings.
✅ Let the listening level to medium volume in the headphones.
✅ Let the music play in the headphones for as long as you can – around the clock – for at least two weeks or more. Aim for at least 500 hours of playback before evaluating the results.
It really doesn’t matter what music you choose, as long as the tracks are somewhat even in level.
When you are done with the ‘break-in’ and have evaluated the results, please drop a comment because I’d love to know about them. 👍❤️
Every headphone brand and models are different from each other, so there is no universal ‘sound’ that will immerge when the headphones are properly ‘broken-in’.
However, through the years, I have found a couple of improvement that often happen during ‘break-in’:
✅ Out of the box, the low-end often sounds a bit ’detached’ with the rest of the frequency spectrum, but improves after a couple of hundreds of playback. Sometimes the low-end becomes deeper and punchier after break-in, but most of all, ‘falls into place’.
✅ The stereo panorama lacks coherency and have ‘holes’ halfway or two-thirds of the way out to the hard-left and hard-right positions – where the sound is lacking in depth and definition. This improves after a couple of hundreds of hours of playback.
✅ Some headphones ’opens up’ in the upper mid-range and treble, after ‘break-in’, whereas others become less ‘harsh’ in the mid-range. It all depends on the design and driver material used, I guess.
✅ The mid-range depth and definition almost always ‘improves’ after the break-in period.
✅ As a result of all the above, the listener ‘engagement’ becomes better, and in some cases, much better.
Good luck! 😀👍