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Burn in

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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I notice that on the 'quotation' thread, the burn in nonsense has raised its head again.

As (I would guess) one of the few on this forum who has designed equipment to be burnt in I wanted to explain what it is, and what it isn't.

Electronic components suffer from high infant mortality rates - either they pack up early, or they last for ages. If you are making equipment where failure is expensive or has consequenses (aerospace, medical etc), then you want to weed out the equipment that is going to fail early. Running the equipment at elevated temperature accelerates the failure (many failure modes are heat / thermal stress related). If your box survives burn in, then its probably going to last for at least its designed lifetime. This is burn in.

What burn in is not, is some miraculous process whereby components somehow drift into spec over a period of usage. Amplifiers are not like Ford Mondeo gearboxes, they dont need to rub the parts together for 3 months for them to work properly. The following link is to Radiospares, a company that supplies electronic components. Each component has an online data sheet. See if you can spot a component that refers to the parameters changing and needing to be burnt in. I can't.

www.uk.rs-online.com

So how did this burn in nonsense start? My guess is that some HiFi hack confused 'running in' - which is a valid requirement of mechanical systems (speakers may well benefit from running in, for example), with burning in - which as I explained above is about failure rates.

As for burning in cables, this only illustrates the paucity of technical eduacation in schools these days.
 

cheeseboy

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Jul 17, 2012
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just chalk it up to another one of the many wierd and wonderful things hi fi enthusiasts want to believe will make things better yet will fly in the face of little things like facts ;)
 

Covenanter

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Jul 20, 2012
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What amuses me about the "burn in" idea is that the underlying assumption is that the listener's hearing remains constant and their aural memory is perfect.

Chris

PS As has been said on other threads electrolytic capacitors do potentially change over time. Whether the effect is large enough to hear is another matter.
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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Excellent post andyjm. I would add that mechanical components can have a bit of a wearing in or loosening up period from new. Items like speaker cones and cartidge tips and suspensions. It's also possible that valves could have a period where they change a bit as they get used from new. In my experience these effects have been subtle. Other people seem to have experienced less subtle burn-in / wear-in effects.

I also think that sometimes it might difficult to separate actual burn-in or wear-in from our ears and brains getting used to the presentation of new items of hi-fi equipment.
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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andyjm said:
As for burning in cables, this only illustrates the paucity of technical eduacation in schools these days.
The vast majority of the people who 'buy in' to the notion of hi-fi component burn-in are NOT kids in school (or who have recently left school).

Component burn-in has been talked about/promoted/recommended/believed by certain manufacturers, magazine reviewers, dealers and enthusiasts for the whole of the 30 years I have been interested in hi-fi.

So you should be addressing the accusations about standards of scientific education in schools to another era. To the era when the (mostly) middle-aged folk who believe this stuff were at school.

The 'kids' and youngsters of today (and the last 10 years at least) are using headphones and PCs, docks, MP3 players, smartphones, tablets, desk speakers, streaming services, downloads, youtube etc. etc.

You won't find most of them coming within a country mile of the kind of dealers who advise 'burn-in'. (Nor the literature or websites that discuss it, or even the kind of equipment it supposedly applies to.)
 

andrew_cawood

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Nov 13, 2011
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I can't claim to be very technically minded, but logically I don't understand how 'burn in' only ever seems to be positive - as if the component has an evolutionary instinct to go in the right direction.
 

DandyCobalt

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Oct 8, 2010
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I'm about to receive some expensive (for me) speaker cables that the supplier has put on a "burning-in" machine for a week.

I have read quite a few reports (including distinguished hifi magazines) that things like speaker cables do change in their sound over the first 40-70ish hours of use.

As for me that would be approx 6 weeks of proper listening, this would then fall outside the acceptable returns period if I don't think they are worth the money, or sound wrong for me.

To avoid this, the supplier is burning them in for me first (at no cost). I thought that it was a reasonable precaution while everyone debates the issue.

I don't have the balance on my credit card to buy a burnt-in pair and a non-burnt-in pair at the same time to compare.

Has WHFSV done any blind testing on this subject?
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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DandyCobalt said:
I'm about to receive some expensive (for me) speaker cables that the supplier has put on a "burning-in" machine for a week.
Just to satisfy Andy's theory about cable burn-in illustrating "the paucity of technical eduacation in schools these days", have you left school recently Dandy?
 

andyjm

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Jul 20, 2012
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DandyCobalt said:
I'm about to receive some expensive (for me) speaker cables that the supplier has put on a "burning-in" machine for a week.

I have read quite a few reports (including distinguished hifi magazines) that things like speaker cables do change in their sound over the first 40-70ish hours of use.

As for me that would be approx 6 weeks of proper listening, this would then fall outside the acceptable returns period if I don't think they are worth the money, or sound wrong for me.

To avoid this, the supplier is burning them in for me first (at no cost). I thought that it was a reasonable precaution while everyone debates the issue.

I don't have the balance on my credit card to buy a burnt-in pair and a non-burnt-in pair at the same time to compare.

Has WHFSV done any blind testing on this subject?
DandyCobalt,

Have you ever read a report on this subject from someone who isn't trying to sell you something?
 

DandyCobalt

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Oct 8, 2010
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Unfortunately, I left school a long time ago, did a science degree and my business is in a highly researched-based area of science.

(Though I gave up physics as soon as I could.)

I try and get my information from a range of sources, as I am highly sceptical of scientific claims (especially where vested interests/money/power/fame are concerned).

In fact, most of scientific research falls into these latter areas as scientists have to gain funding for their research, and compete with other scientists for their fellowships/grants/chairs/power/fame etc etc...

Where does the money come for research? Mostly from profit-making companies or to a lesser extent, governments with something to prove (eg to get re-elected).The bread on scientists' tables comes from these sources.

What happens to scientists that discover "unpopular" things? They tend to disappear into obscurity, as their funding dries up.

So I try and keep an unbiased view.

If anyone is willing to lend me a pair of 3M Tellurium Q Black speaker cables (that haven't been burnt in), then I'd be more than happy to do a scientifically controlled, double-dummy, double-blinded, placebo-(perhaps my silverscreens)-controlled test on a range of subjects - none of whom have a vested interest in hifi (whatsoever, I assure you).

In the absence of that, if a supplier offers to "burn-in" my pair of cables, then I'll take it...just in case
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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chebby said:
The vast majority of the people who 'buy in' to the notion of hi-fi component burn-in are NOT kids in school (or who have recently left school).

Component burn-in has been talked about/promoted/recommended/believed by certain manufacturers, magazine reviewers, dealers and enthusiasts for the whole of the 30 years I have been interested in hi-fi.

So you should be addressing the accusations about standards of scientific education in schools to another era. To the era when the (mostly) middle-aged folk who believe this stuff were at school.
I don't think that peoples age or when they left school has anything to do with it. But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.

* not including corrosion which is another issue entirely.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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steve_1979 said:
But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.
I suspect the GCSE Physics syllabus doesn't really mention it...
 

DandyCobalt

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Oct 8, 2010
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John Duncan said:
steve_1979 said:
But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.
I suspect the GCSE Physics syllabus doesn't really mention it...
If it had, perhaps I would have continued with physics after the age of 13.
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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steve_1979 said:
chebby said:
The vast majority of the people who 'buy in' to the notion of hi-fi component burn-in are NOT kids in school (or who have recently left school).

Component burn-in has been talked about/promoted/recommended/believed by certain manufacturers, magazine reviewers, dealers and enthusiasts for the whole of the 30 years I have been interested in hi-fi.

So you should be addressing the accusations about standards of scientific education in schools to another era. To the era when the (mostly) middle-aged folk who believe this stuff were at school.
I don't think that peoples age or when they left school has anything to do with it.
andyjm thinks it does. And he is an engineer.

andyjm said:
As for burning in cables, this only illustrates the paucity of technical eduacation in schools these days.
He blames the standards of technical education 'these days' for things like a belief in cable burn-in.

Not technical education a generation ago, or some earlier time, but 'these days'. I take 'these days' to mean during the present and recently.

That is why I objected.

People receiving their technical education 'these days' are too young to give a #### about such hi-fi tweaking fads that are at least 30 years old (or even older) and are - in the most part - something familiar to a few, much older, hi-fi enthusiasts.

Frankly the entire subject is obsolete. Only a very few people know about such concepts and even fewer care. Just like cable directionality* it's very old news and is not even controversial any more. (You need enough people who give a #### to make a controversy.)

*andyjm will probably trot out another lecture on directionality now I've mentioned it. Please don't. That subject is even older and even less interesting if that's possible.
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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DandyCobalt said:
John Duncan said:
steve_1979 said:
But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.
I suspect the GCSE Physics syllabus doesn't really mention it...
If it had, perhaps I would have continued with physics after the age of 13.
Yeah, black holes, dark matter, supernovae, power from nuclear fusion... etc. What a yawn to a 13 year-old physics student when compared to the excitement of corroding copper and it's adverse effects on an audio signal!
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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John Duncan said:
steve_1979 said:
But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.
I suspect the GCSE Physics syllabus doesn't really mention it...
Actiually GCSE level science does teach the conductive properties of metals in school.

Don't you remember being told about capacitance resistance and inductance in physics?
 

The_Lhc

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Oct 16, 2008
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steve_1979 said:
John Duncan said:
steve_1979 said:
But anyone who thinks that the conductive properties of a copper cable will change over time* clearly has a limited understanding of basic GCSE level physics.
I suspect the GCSE Physics syllabus doesn't really mention it...
Actiually GCSE level science does teach the conductive properties of metals in school.

Don't you remember being told about capacitance resistance and inductance in physics?
As individual concepts yes, but not in relation to how it differs in different metals, no (A-level physics student).
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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chebby said:
Yeah, black holes, dark matter, supernovae, power from nuclear fusion... etc. What a yawn to a 13 year-old physics student when compared to the excitement of corroding copper and it's adverse effects on an audio signal!
Yeah I've got to admit that at the time I was more interested in getting the girls in my class to let me stick my willy in them :grin:

[UNPUBLISHED, obv]
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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chebby said:
Yeah, black holes, dark matter, supernovae, power from nuclear fusion... etc. What a yawn to a 13 year-old physics student when compared to the excitement of corroding copper and it's adverse effects on an audio signal!
Yeah to be fair at the time I was far more interested in chatting up the girls in my class and learning about a different kind of physics to bother listening to what the teacher was saying about capacitance resistance and inductance. :grin:
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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steve_1979 said:
chebby said:
Yeah, black holes, dark matter, supernovae, power from nuclear fusion... etc. What a yawn to a 13 year-old physics student when compared to the excitement of corroding copper and it's adverse effects on an audio signal!
Yeah to be fair at the time I was far more interested in chatting up the girls in my class and learning about a different kind of physics to bother listening to what the teacher was saying about capacitance resistance and inductance. :grin:
I'm slightly disappointed that your original post was moderated, meaning I couldn't make any reference to directionality.

However, my point was that whilst resistance etc is of course discussed at GCSE, its potential to change behaviour given different circumstances (stress, temperature, whatever) is more university level...

Anyway, burn-in of cables is b-llocks. Can we move on?
 

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