Burning In Your Headphones: Does It Work?

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “Break in your new shoes,” but are you aware of the fallacy of “burning in your headphones? The hardness of new shoes caused blisters on the wearer, therefore they need to be broken in. Wearing it more frequently is the only remedy, although being paradoxical, to loosen up the rigidity. Once the wearer has found the shoes’ most comfortable position, the shoe is said to have finished breaking in.

Burning In Your Headphones
Burning In Your Headphones

What do you do right away after purchasing a new set of headphones? A few of us may open the box and post an Instagram story. Others could start their preferred playlist and turn up the bass right away. But if you ask any audiophile what they do when they get a new set of headphones, they’ll probably say they burn them in. Audiophiles are picky music consumers who strive to acquire the greatest possible sound from their headphones, speakers, and other audio gear in general.

With meet-ups, Facebook groups, and online community platforms like The Indian Audiophile Forum, where large numbers of tech enthusiasts and enthusiasts exchange ideas, reviews, and thoughts about headphones and audio equipment, India’s audiophile community has been expanding and thriving over the past few years. Newcomers may find the members’ enthusiasm and passion for the discussions’ topics daunting. Nearly all of these aficionados concur that burning in is necessary.

What is on fire inside?

A magnet and a voice coil or diaphragm are two basic parts that every pair of headphones and speaker has. An electrical input interacts with the magnet when it is connected to an audio source, moving the voice coil, which creates sound. Most headphones operate in the same manner, involving numerous moving parts packed into a small speaker that is likely held together with adhesive before being set free.

Headphone speakers are likely to be very stiff and can sound unpleasant, much like breaking in a brand-new pair of shoes. The speakers must “loosen up” before giving their best performance. The act of breaking in a brand-new pair of headphones is known to audiophiles as “burn-in time.” Often, headphones can sound drastically different after just a few hours of use and immediately out of the box. When they are initially relaxed for a few hours, they can sound full-bodied, warm, and cohesive instead of sharp, shrill, and shallow. Burn-in can be done on headphones, speakers, or really just about any brand-new audio equipment.

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How should new headphones be broken in?

Every audiophile has a specific procedure they stick to religiously. However, the majority advise listening to audio continually through the headphones for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Many headphone manufacturers advise burning in their products for 4-6 hours before listening to them. Some companies have even released ‘burn-in’ smartphone apps that you may download to aid, like the 1More Assistant app.

Playing “pink noise,” an audio file that plays all frequencies, might be a more scientific strategy. In order to ensure that performance is optimized for all sound frequencies, this ensures that the headphones receive “all-around” training across the frequency spectrum. Every few hours, audiophiles would do routine inspections to monitor any changes in the performance of their headphones.

My personal advice to most people is to just leave a headphone plugged into a laptop or phone overnight while playing your favorite music at a volume of 75%. I usually like to keep things simple. Usually, after 7-8 hours of nonstop use, headphones should have relaxed enough to produce the intended sound.

How to Burn-In Headphones and Earbuds
Burning In Your Headphones

What impact does burn-In have on sound?

The sound of headphones right out of the box can be somewhat dull. They could have a harsh, sharp, or tinny sound. Most likely, the bass would be absent, or it would sound shallow and lack depth and feel.

Burning in earbuds will probably soften the treble’s harshness, making the highs shimmer rather than sound strident. Vocals typically come across as more authentic, convincing, and lifelike than the distant sound emanating from a subpar loudspeaker. However, the bass usually has the most effect; it should sound comprehensive, deep, and coherent.

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Guitars used in rock and pop music should sound coherent and full-bodied rather than twangy. Drums should sound sparkling and crisp instead of flabby and harsh in jazz compositions. Bass drops in EDM tunes should sound heavy and rich, not light and hollow.

Fact, Magic, or Myth?

Since they don’t contain any batteries or other electronics components that are likely to run out of power or break down after a few years, traditional wired headphones unquestionably have a longer lifespan than their wireless counterparts. Carefully used headphones have the ability to improve with time, much like great wine.

According to CNET’s Steve Guttenberg, “I think headphones’ sound matures over time, and I recently had the chance to compare a brand-new set of Etymotic ER-4PT in-ear headphones with my 10-year-old ER-4Ps. I felt the older set was slightly more “relaxed” and more laid-back in its tonal balance, even though the two models have identical specifications.”

While the majority of audiophiles believe that new headphones should be broken in before use, a vocal and ardent minority contends that burn-in is a common myth with scant data to back up the assumption that it makes a discernible difference.

The idea of breaking in new headphones is completely debunked by Wired: “The ambiguity and voodoo can confuse buyers and quickly turn into a colossal waste of time. The fact is burn-in has now become tribal knowledge. You might as well be kissing each earpiece 50 times to see what sonic difference that makes,” they write.

Burning in has been a mixed bag for me personally. After a few hours, I definitely notice that most headphones sound better. Every month, Headphone Zone ships thousands of headphones to consumers all throughout India. After getting their headphones, a small percentage of them call us to voice their dissatisfaction with the sound quality. Nobody wants a music enthusiast to discover that their favorite test track sounds terrible with a brand-new set of headphones. Our normal advice is to give it another listen after letting the headphones break in for a few hours. No one should be surprised that many individuals are shocked by both the advice and the result.

However, burn-in doesn’t always transform a subpar set of headphones into a fantastic pair. Before anticipating a transition to occur at the end of the burn-in phase, one must undoubtedly use extreme prudence. I think the burn-in process, along with getting used to the sound of a new pair of headphones, can take anything from a few hours to a few days. However, it probably won’t hurt to take your new headphones and leave them playing overnight before using them to listen to your favorite playlist the following day if it doesn’t cost you anything other than time.

What Makes Some Audiophiles Think Headphone Burn In Is Required?

You must comprehend how headphones reproduce sound in order to grasp the essence of headphone burn in.

You’ll be aware of the headphone components that are being attacked during the process.

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Burning In Your Headphones

HOW WORK HEADPHONES?

In essence, headphones are speakers. Speakers do not make sound, unlike what many people believe. They mimic sound.

Sound is stored as encrypted digital data on contemporary playback devices, like smartphones. The info is sent to your headphones when you press “play.” Since information is encrypted, it must be transformed into electrical impulses and then into sound waves that can be detected by your ears and understood as sound by your brain.

A diaphragm is a component of headphones that aids in converting electrical data into sound waves. The diaphragm is linked to a coil. The diaphragm oscillates as a result of the electric current flowing through the coil. The sound you perceive is the result of the diaphragm compressing and shifting due to this action.

The concept of “headphone burn in” is founded on the idea that modern headphones have rigid voice coils, diaphragms, and magnets.

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The air is not compressed and rarified as it should be by a rigid diaphragm. It does not accurately translate the original electric signals into sound waves.

Therefore, audiophiles advise playing hours’ worth of previously recorded audio in order to condition a potentially rigid new diaphragm and its associated parts to a high degree of audio quality.

IS HEADPHONE BURN REAL, HOWEVER?

A simple yes/no response is insufficient.

Even though there are commercial apps that operate on the premise that headphones burn in works, ardent opponents of the procedure complain that it is ineffective.

Experiments and Debates Through the Years

There are three independent headphone burn-in tests that this page can confidently cite as examples.

Tyll Hersten’s Double Blind Test is the first test.

Three sets of brand-new AKG Quincy Jones Q701 headphones were delivered to Tyll by the manufacturer. He tested the two after putting one pair away.

He took one, mounted it on a fake test head, blasted pink noise through it, and then over the course of 90 hours, evaluated the frequency response.

At intervals of 5, 25, 60, 120, 300, 600, 1200, 2400, 3900, and 5400 minutes, he took measurements.

Test No. 2: Tyll Hersten’s Comprehensive Test

Tyll conducted a subjective test for his second headphone burn-in test. He chose the Quincy Jones Q701 headphones nonetheless.

Without determining which pair of headphones was green or white, he listened to both of them. But he knew that one of the two had been broken into.

He was unaware that the white pair was brand-new and the green pair had been worn in for roughly 1,000 hours. When he put them on, he had to distinguish between any variances in sound quality to know which was white and which was green (not broken in).

The RTings.com 120-Hour Burn In Test is the third test.

For their headphone burn-in test, RTings utilized four distinct headphones (made by various brands). However, each had a unique transducer.

After a headphone burn in a period of 120 hours, any changes in sound required to be discernible to the human ear in order to be attributed to the burn in effect. Burn in was disproven in this instance since the difference was undetectable to the ear.

Test #4: Pink Noise Headphone Burn-In Test from Oluv for 2018

Although he came to the conclusion that there was a difference, he claimed it was “insignificant” and “negligible.”

Does this imply that you’ll hear better after breaking in your headphones?

The results of the tests mentioned above vary depending on whether the headphones were broken in or not. However, the changes are so little that they are invalidated.

Additionally, each test had its own restrictions, such as Tyll’s tests’ use of only one brand of headphones and their use of headphones with various transducers (RTings.com test).

Oluv’s test indicated a small change, which he claimed to be insignificant. However, it can be astounding how well the human ear can distinguish little variances in sound quality, especially when using headphones that are so close to the ears.

According to some reports, wearing eyeglasses may have an impact on the sound quality of headphones. Others contend that the earpads are what actually “burn in,” as they eventually form a tight seal around the ears and stop leaks sufficiently enough to improve the perceived sound.

Others contend that burn-in is a “placebo effect,” in which the human brain deceives itself into believing that the sound quality has increased when, in fact, it hasn’t.

But why don’t you try out the headphone burn in for yourself? Simply carry out these actions.

How to Put Headphones in (Step-by-Step Guide)

Here are the steps you should take before beginning the burn-in procedure. Get long music mixes with a variety of frequencies, pink noise, white noise, or other sounds.

The sound produced by merging all the sound wave frequencies is known as white noise headphone burn in. The best headphone burn-in noise is pink noise, which is frequently used as a reference signal in audio engineering.

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Some people refer to it as relaxing noise, but unless you want to lose your mind, you shouldn’t listen to it for the duration of a regular burn in.

BEFORE SELECTING NOISE HEADPHONE BURN IN, YOU SHOULD DO THESE 2 THINGS:

Pick a range of musical genres.

Even if you’re not a huge lover of all the genres, make music mixes that incorporate them all.

Your headphones should be tuned to a variety of frequencies in order to relax the diaphragm as evenly as possible.

Download one of the top headphone burns in programs.

Lacking the time to put up a 9-hour track mix?

Get a burn-in app for Android or iOS to save time. The appropriate frequencies are used in the noises in these apps. As an alternative, you can purchase PC or Mac audio software to loop pink and/or white noise along with your computer’s music files.

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Burning In Your Headphones: Does It Work? 5

Headphone Burning In: A Quick Guide

Put your gear, looped music, pink noise, and white noise files in easy reach in step 1.

Step 2: Loop them all together in four-hour segments using a software or app. Continuous white noise should precede each segment, then pink noise, and finally the music recordings.

Step 3: Hang the headphones in a location where they won’t fall or cause you any trouble.

Step 4: Use the program you used to loop the music to connect the headphones to the computer or smartphone.

Play the sound mix for up to 4 hours at a time every day in step 5. The timing of the headphone burn is crucial.

Step 6: Take a break, put on the headphones, and pay close attention to any variations in the sound quality.

Step 7: Stop when the sound quality is perfect for your requirements.

You have it now! The best approach to burn in your headphones is in that manner.

Here are some additional tips for properly breaking in your headphones.

Guidelines for Effective Headphone Burn In

  • Don’t listen to hours of white or pink noise; instead, watch your headphones burn in time. After setting everything up, let the music start playing on its own.
  • Never listen to music while operating machinery, driving, or working. According to neurologists, listening to certain noise frequencies can put you to sleep.
  • The amount of time you should allot for burn in increases with the quality of your headphones. Aim for 45 to 60 hours minimum. A burn in time of 90 hours or more is suitable for higher-end cans. 
  • Make sure to periodically check the set’s sound quality to see whether it has improved.
  • To protect your investment, set the music’s volume to medium. Don’t wear headphones longer than 4.5 hours each day.
  • Keep in mind that “excellent sound quality” is incredibly subjective. Even headphones that sound fantastic to you may not sound fantastic to someone else. Pay attention to the sound quality you prefer when breaking in your headphones.

FAQs About Burning In Your Headphones

Can headphones be harmed by burn-in?

There are various methods for burning in your headphones (or earbuds). Running a broad range of music, white cacophony, pink noise, radio loud music, frequency changes, etc. through the headsets at a 50:50 ratio is one of the most popular methods. Take note: using your headphones at an excessive volume can harm or even destroy them!

How long should I let my headphones break in?

Generally speaking, burn-in is a painless and straightforward process. Simply keep the headphones on and play music continually. You need to play for at least 40 to 50 hours. Pure tones like sin wave, sweeps, pink noise, or AM/FM static are frequently played by burn-in gurus.

Should I burn in headphones at what volume?

Before switching to 30 Hz, burn them at 40 Hz for some time. Rotate out to sweeps at low frequencies as well. To hear 30 Hz and lower, you might need to increase the volume. These frequencies more closely resemble vibrations (think of a diesel semi truck).

Trina Oralde

I'm a tech writer and contributor who covers the latest in gadgets and technology. I keep my finger on the pulse of the tech world, so you don't have to. Stay up-to-date on the latest with me!

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