Audiophile Myth Busted: Burning in Headphones

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HeadphonesEquipment burn-in is gospel among a certain sect of audiophiles.  But is it necessarily applicable for all audio devices? Granted, it sounds more logical than elevating your power cords on wooden blocks and tracing the outside of your CDs with green markers to repel stray laser beams or something to give your gear a little time to loosen up. But the guys at Wired have a new post explaining why burning in your headphones really doesn’t do any more good than that sort of spooky voodoo:

OK, audiophiles: real talk. Earphone makers seem to be either too polite or scared to say anything. And the people in the industry who should know better are only actively encouraging a ritual. So let me say it for them: Earphone burn-in is a bunch of hokum.

As the story goes, unlike large pieces of gear, or the phosphors in a television, there’s simply not a lot of manufacturing variance that goes on in the small space of a headphone enclosure, so headphones are going to sound pretty much the same ten years from now as they do today, assuming you take care of them. And the same seems to go for other small, similar transducer devices like microphones:

Shure has tested some thoroughly used pairs of its E1 earphones, which first launched in 1997. And guess what? They measure the same now as when they came off the line. In fact, during the 15 years Shure has been actively selling earphones, its engineers have reached the same conclusion again and again: The sound produced by these tiny transducers during final testing is the same sound you’ll get in a day, in a year, and in five years… unless something goes wrong.

The company has an even longer history making microphones, which use the same technology as headphone transducers. “We’ve got a lot of data on those over the years, and we’re not convinced on mic burn in either,” [director of monitor products, Matt] Engstrom says. “If you think about it, regardless of whether a mic is plugged in, it’s always hearing, it’s always on. So, in theory, wouldn’t those drivers always be burning in, and therefore wouldn’t the curve be very very different over the course of its life?”

Indeed, just because no one has proven it untrue is a reason for what we at HomeTechTell call “spooky audiophiles” to keep believing in headphone burn-in, and they will never listen to reason on this subject, even if someone spends multi-millions of dollars on a comprehensive study proving that it’s all hokum. Until that time, the rest of you can take heart that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pump pink noise through your headphones for hours on end when you first buy them, and get back that lost time enjoying them with real music.

Via: [Wired]

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