Headfonia Tips: Burn-In Your Headphones

headfonia_tips_burn-in

Headphone burn-in? Yes, burn-in your headphones, but no longer than 24 hours. From experience all the brand new headphones I’ve tested from zero hour stop changing after 4-5 hours.

1000 hours? Most probably the pads have started to absorb moisture and/or deformed and that’s what’s changing the sound. Less sibilance after 500 hours? Most probably the ears adjusted to the sound. Better bass? Often headphones are slightly muddy in bass when brand new from the box. However, in my experience it never takes more than 2-3 hours to clear up the bass.

What about the music? Just plain music anything that happens to be playing. No pink noises, no frequency sweeps, no special formula for a burn-in mix. I tried them before, don’t think they made a difference.

What about amps? Yes caps require burn in and such, but again, I don’t think they need 300 hours as suggested by some. I usually run them overnight (which is roughly 8 hours) and I don’t think the sound changes any more after that. With some amps I don’t even notice any change at all from zero hour to whatever hundred hour I listen to them for. The newly built Bottlehead Crack took perhaps only 30 minutes and that’s it. When my friend Yobbie got his WooAudio WA5 with the boutique caps, people have been saying that the boutique caps need 300 hours before they settle. I got the amp right when it was quite new at around the 24 hours mark, and I listened to it for a few weeks and never noticed any change whatsoever.

I think all the talk about such-and-such component must be burned-in for 500 hours using a precise combination of pink/white noise, bass sweeps, frequency sweeps sound are… I just don’t believe in them. You just spent $500 on a brand new spanking headphone and you need to run it for 500 hours before you can hear what it’s capable of?

Just my $.02.

Headfonia Tips: Burn-In Your Headphones
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68 Comments

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Brian Lewis

    From what I have experienced, headphones are different. Some have benefited from burn-in more than others. Some didn’t seem to change at all. I don’t have golden ears, however, and am prone to be wrong from time to time…just ask my wife.

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Chase Leipert

    Thanks.  It’s good to hear other views on this.  From my own experience I believe that some burn-in helps (i.e. my speakers were quite harsh when I first got them) but I have always found the suggested number of hours to be extremely high, especially when the products have all been tested beforehand as well.  I’m curious though: a lot of this isn’t just from the users, but from manufacturers and re-sellers.  If I look for valves to purchase the site often says that they need 200+ hours to burn-in.

    Taken with your comments as context, this could potentially be counter-productive for the consumer.  Most people don’t leave their equipment on 24/7 to burn it in, so if you believe that the components need 200 hours + to burn in then you won’t be returning them to the seller in the cooling off period.  So recommendations like this, if false, could actually affect statutory rights.

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Yuwei Wang

    Haha, I think that’s a lie from the business part of it. When you got something that not quite suit your taste, the burn in would change a little bit. However the overall sound won’t be changed much. After 300 hours of use, the product is over the free return period and users ears are getting used to the sound. Just a theory of mine. LOL

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Mike

      I have similar thoughts myself. 

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    SoundEskimoo

    you should try the AKG K701 , take long time to burn. or it’s only a myth?

  • You are right Mike, greetings.

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Don’t forget brain burn-in!

    P.S. Everyone knows that capacitors require an infinite amount of time to properly burn-in.

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Mike

      Burn the caps until they explode. 😉

  • Myth, I have K702 and after one day burning – I can’t hear the difference with sound what I have today.

    • Reply May 8, 2012

      Mike

      I’m reviewing the K550 with a BNIB unit and there is no change after 30 mins.

    • Reply January 18, 2014

      Juan De La Rosa

      if you were consistently listening through them throughout the day your ears adjust to each incremental change in the sound. If you got a sample sound at initial listening and let it play for a few hours straight, came back on the same song and still didn’t notice a difference then I would be more inclined to believe you.

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Benedict Brown

     I honestly don’t understand why one would ever put music through headphones without them on your head. Sure there probably is a slight element of burn-in, but wouldn’t it be far more interesting to listen the changes in the headphone and enjoy them straight away rather than putting them aside for several hours? Maybe when you’ve heard hundreds of pairs of headphones it’s less interestingm but it’s not doing you or the headphones any damage to just put the damn things on your head.

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Mike

      Precisely. 

      I think people are too scared to listen to their headphones at “less than optimum state”. 

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Jeff Kong

      ive owned a few headphones, and amps…and i find the first hour or two quite fun to listen to. you find slight changes after every few songs for the first hour or two, feels great :3

    • Reply April 29, 2012

      Don Vittorio Sierra

       Some cans are unlistenable out of the box which is why burning them in is a must. Most cans are already 95% their potential though so with most of them, there is really no need to burn them in when they are not on your head.

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Mike

    Just sharing stories.. early in the days when the Senn IE8 was first launched, some people said that you need to burn it in to about 600 (or maybe 800) hours before you can truly listen to the true IE8 sound. 

    Seriously.

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Jeff Kong

      simply ridiculous

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Chris Allen

    Makes a whole lot of sense.  I used to believe that my HD280 Pro would sound better after 1,000 hours of listening.  It only took about 10 hours from purchase for me to notice it ‘opening’ up.  I know a lot of people, Head-Fi’ers especially, tend to dislike the HD280 Pro, but I love them. 

    Anyways, great tip, Mike!

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      Yes, 1000 hours, I really wouldn’t bother.

      • Reply April 27, 2012

        Chris Allen

         I think I’ve passed those numbers greatly with some nice and frequent listening times. 🙂

  • Reply April 26, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    TO my experience Burn-In is real. Anyway if happen that you don’t like the sound of your new Headphones out of the box I don’t think you will like after burn-in. Just my $.02 😀

    • Reply April 26, 2012

      Jeff Kong

      To my experience, only happened once out of 8 times. Wanted to throw my headphones out of the window when they were new out of the box….now…love them :3

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    John123John

    Tricked me mike, thought this was a Bottlehead Crack review! 

    Haha, but I do like these Headfonia Tips. Definitely agree with you. Im not going to burn in my headphones 1000+ hrs before I can “listen” to my headphones. 
    Jeez.

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      I’m getting ready for the Bottlehead review. 🙂

      Have you read our Impressions on Facebook? It’s extremely positive.

      https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=387463131298390

      • Reply April 27, 2012

        John123John

        ofcourse! expected nothing less. Everyone seems to enjoy the Crack. I just need to get around building mine!

        stupid midterms…

        • Reply April 27, 2012

          Mike

          The build is simple enough and the 6 hours time frame is quite accurate. Just take your time when you do the build, don’t rush it as if you do something wrong, troubleshooting is going to take a lot more time. So do things slowly, splice the wires clean, do a clean solder on each joint and always double checks after every few steps. 

          I find that once I start, it’s very hard to stop building. The crack is very addictive (duh)! So make sure you wait until midterms is done, otherwise you’ll never hit the books. 

          Also keep in mind that once the amp is done you’ll be listening to it for a few hours. More reason to wait until midterm is finished. 😉

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Mike

    Yes I can’t imagine it being too far different than headphones.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Mike

    A lot of psychological aspect indeed.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    dalethorn

    Could be. Since Tyll did his tests (on only one model of headphone though), we know that burn-in does make changes, but how much is a matter of degree and certainly has a psychological component. What I would like to see is a test of several different brands and models of mid-priced (maybe $125 to $250 USD?) headphones bought off the shelf at retailers, to eliminate the chance that the manufacturer pre-burned them. Personally, if I were making $300 and up headphones, I’d put every finished sample on an automated test rack and let it play overnight before boxing and shipping it. It wouldn’t add to the cost.

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Kirnu

      True, but I think Tyll’s test was not significant at all. First, let’s not assume he could physically feel (or heaven knows, smell) a difference between the two. Let’s also assume that he never accidentally guessed the right one. That said, if you listen closely to the video, it plays like a 5-10 second loop over and over again. Once you’ve really studied a piece of information that small, even the slightest change can be easily identified. Now, I know it’s not efficient to listen to the whole song while comparing to the extent he was doing, but I doubt he would tell a difference if that was the case. And plus, it’s almost guaranteed that those two models didn’t sound identical stock anyway; as driver accuracy cannot be that precise amongst the thousands they make. But of course, this is all based off of one test, by one guy, with 2 specific models of the same headphone. Not very significant IMHO.

      I’m sure “burn-in” exists in some form, whether miniscule or slightly noticeable; I just think people tend to explode it out of proportion. And it’s kinda funny, because the ones that stress it the most, seem to paint a target on their face that notes they are getting “mind tricked” to the highest degree. Not intending to offend or poke fun with that comment 😉

      • Reply April 27, 2012

        dalethorn

        Fair enough observations – I haven’t been affected myself that I’m aware of, but still, until someone runs the tests on headphones that aren’t pre-burnt, we have nothing whatever to go on except anecdotes. You might notice also that with a lot of new models such as Grado PS500, Shure 1840, Vmoda M80, some of the Beyer Tesla series etc. – that the manufacturers are making a big point of precise “driver matching”. Now I haven’t bugged any of them on this issue, but I would like clarification as to whether the drivers are matched only within each headphone, or also from headphone sample to sample. The latter seems less likely, but would instill more confidence if true.

      • Reply May 24, 2012

        Ken Stuart

        Kirnu – You must be thinking of a different test by Tyll, as he did an objective test, where he did a frequency response graph after various burn-in times, and there was definite differences that were somewhat comparable to frequency response graph differences between different headphone models.
        If the “burn-in” idea was a myth, then there would only have been trivial frequence response graph differences between new and used headphones.
        To me, that was a pretty good demonstration that “burn-in” is not a placebo.

        • Reply May 24, 2012

          dalethorn

          Not only that, but consider that the mfr., in the case of the higher priced headphones, probably does some bench burn-in before shipping. Electronics mfr’s have always done burn-in of their better items. My guess is if you get some headphones that don’t get as much mfr. QC time, the effect will be even greater than what the tests showed.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Benjamin Rose

    I’m really looking forward to the Crack review, I bout a used one a few days ago. It’s coming on Tuesday!

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      I can’t imagine the guy who sold it to you.. this is such a great amp!

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Benjamin Rose

    He needed some money to pay for his medical bills. Here’s a link, he did some mods. $310 US shipped 🙂

    http://www.head-fi.org/forum/newestpost/603775

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      I see. That makes sense then.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Benjamin Rose

    Looks nice, don’t it? Which was your fave phone to use? I have the 650’s!

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      I enjoy it with a lot of headphones, but my favorite is the three Senns HD580-650-800.

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Benjamin Rose

    Then I bet I’ll like it! How much of an improvement is it over the Fiio E9, off the top o’ your head?

    • Reply April 27, 2012

      Mike

      It’s not even close, Benjamin. I’m comparing the Crack to the Woo6. 🙂

      • Reply April 28, 2012

        Benjamin Rose

        Yay, that makes me very happy!!! What are the protocols for tube amps. I know you shouldn’t turn it on with ‘phones plugged into it, but are there any other things? I look forward to you review, and, the arrival of my unit next week!

        • Reply April 28, 2012

          L.

          on: Turn on, wait a while, insert headphone, adjust volume from zero to x.
          off: Turn volume from x to zero, unplug headphone, turn off unit.

          That’s how I do it.

          • Reply April 29, 2012

            Benjamin Rose

            Ok, thank you very much! 🙂

  • Reply April 27, 2012

    Julian Junishev

    I have power conditioner Furman Elite 16 PFEi. Furman is a company that makes AC management products for different professional applications. It’s NOT a manufakturer for audio products, only few of their products are targeted to audiophiles.
    And in the manual of my AC filter they say it needs about two weeks of working to reach its best. So, if such preffesionals believe in burn-in (of a power conditioning unit!) what must we think about the other, more sophisticated audio components…
    I do hear BIG changes in some headphones over time. It took very long period for my k701, the HD650s also needed many hours. But there are headphones that changed nothing or insignifficantly (Senn HD-518, Stax 02mk2).

  • Reply April 28, 2012

    asd qwe

    OH YEAH you finally got your Bottlehead Crack! When will the review arrive?

  • Reply April 29, 2012

    Sorensiim

    When I bought my Pro 900’s there were initial reports of them *needing* 300 hours of burn-in so now that I had the chance, I did it pretty damn systematically. First I wrote a list of 6-7 tracks I would use for testing different musical aspects and then I unpacked them and took notes on my way through the list. Left the headphones to play for 8 hours, then went through the list again, making notes. Then I let them play ’till they hit the 24 hour mark, then the 50 hour mark and then I went for 100, 200 and 300. 98% of the audible change was there at the 100 hour mark but there was clear changes from 50 to 100 hours. They were left playing in my basement and I exclusively listened to that list of tracks when I listened to them, to avoid getting used to the sound and to do it as objectively as possible. If you ever get the chance to borrow 3 new pairs of Pro 900, try letting one of them cook for 24 hours, one for 100 and then compare those to a brand new pair. 

    • Reply April 30, 2012

      Miles Mchugh

      i “think” i heard a change at the 80-105 hour mark for my pro 900s i used to own.  At that mark, something seemed different.

  • Reply April 29, 2012

    Vladimer Nachkebia

    I say 48-72 hours maximum.

  • Reply April 30, 2012

    Joshua Liswantoro

    I didn’t believe burn-in theory at begining. However, with more headphone that I purchase, I start to believe the requrement of burn-in. I am agree with Mike, most of my headphone settled by less than 24hours. However, this is not the case with my bjou3. The sound was horrible out of the box. After 24 hours burn-in, the sound still make me want to throw it on the trash. It was after almost 3 days of countinues burn-in that I found the sound is start to be enjoyable. It was not small difference, it was like earth and sky. At first 24 hours, the boomy bass still covering all other frequency. It was the day three where the high come up and the mid start become good. Yeah…. The mid is still a bit muddy after 150 hours…

    • Reply May 10, 2012

      dalethorn

      I wonder what another couple sets of bjou3 would sound like when burned in. Same? Different? Hard to believe that an item that changes that much would sound like the manufacturer designed it to sound, or that it would be consistent from sample to sample.

  • Reply May 1, 2012

    Igor D

    Just got a new pair of HD800. The sound has stopped to change after 2-3 days (a few hours per day) of playing music on them.

    • Reply May 1, 2012

      Mike

      Precisely, it shouldn’t take that much longer.

  • Reply May 1, 2012

    Simon Pressman

    I think what you wrote makes sense.
    all audio drivers (speakers and headphones) that are dynamic drivers work on a mixed principal of elnd voice coil) and and physics (driver suspension and surround elesticity). That is why I have found that often with more expensive gear (stronger magnets, higher power handling and therefore stiffer suspension) needs some burn in time for the driver to “loosen up”. I find around 10 hrs to 20 hours seems to do the job. Once the suspension damping loosens a little, the driver has a more musical and not so overdamped bass, and the decay of the treble is not strangled and tight. I don’t believe the sound changes significantly, it just settles down into how it should sound. Just my thoughts, as for a product needind hundreds of hours? If that is indeed the case for some products, they are what I would consider a poorly designed/engineered product where it is severely overdamped for no good reason at all!
    As long as we all get on and enjoy the music though, it is all good!

  • Reply May 7, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    A lot of peoples say the Sennheiser hd 650 needs at least 100 burn-in hours, True or Myth?

    • Reply May 7, 2012

      L.

      The phones don’t, listeners’  brains probably do 😉  Or maybe the pads. But 100? We don’t believe that 🙂

    • Reply May 8, 2012

      Mike

      Nah..

      • Reply May 10, 2012

        Fabio_Rocks

        200 hours?:)

        • Reply May 10, 2012

          Mike

          600 hours for the HD600 and 650 hours for the HD650?

          Let’s stop this rubbish talk or some people will think we’re talking for real. 😉

          • Reply May 10, 2012

            Fabio_Rocks

            YES! The hd 650 needs 50 hours more than the hd 600 because of the added bass. The Sennheiser Px-100ii needs 100 hours, two times. 😀

            • Reply May 10, 2012

              Hai Nguyen

              I wonder when will you guys start to remember the d7000 :))

              • Reply May 10, 2012

                Mike

                Uh oh..

                This why the LCD-2s are so popular, I guess. 😉

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Ken Stephens

    I noticed the effects of burn in with audio equipment 30 years ago when I started using high end gear, and that was long before I ever heard of anyone else noticing this phenomenon.

    Depending on the product it can actually be pretty dramatic. I bought a pair of buds not long ago and didn’t really like them and they paled in comparison to the bigger phones I use. So they did break in and improved from use, maybe 100 hours or so, but I still wasn’t happy. Then I got a tip to burn them at levels which would cause hearing loss, not ridiculous mind you but 50-100% louder than you would usually use.

    So this made sense and you have to drive the things to break them in, and I only listen at moderate levels, from the lessons learned earlier in life. So this made a big difference and these are now kicking butt and I no longer have to go to the store.

    Whether you think this is real or imagined it can’t hurt to do it 🙂

  • Reply November 2, 2012

    Drone

    Found a free iOS app called “Burner LR”. Very straight forward, and best of all free..

  • Reply December 22, 2012

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  • Reply January 18, 2014

    Juan De La Rosa

    This burn in is real. Got some VMODA M100’s and was not impressed initially. 5 hours later I come back to them after they had been playing while I was away and the bass is significantly stronger and has more kick.

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