For Your Edification and Enjoyment re "Burn In", etc.

Just published at, my article "Audiophile Law: Burn In Test Redux". 

Validation of my decision ten years ago.  :) 

"Break in", rookie.... If someone tried to sell me something and said "It needs to burn in". I'd take my money and my comments and spend them somewhere else..

I addressed "break in" and "burn in" in the article as it pertains to the phenomena under assessment. 
Are you the guy who sent me beta test cables (Vantage Audio/UK) years ago that smelled so strongly of tobacco smoke that I had to store them in one of our unused cars until I could properly deodorize them?

They were shipped from Illinois (maybe Chicago).

DeKay, nope, not me. I don’t smoke, have never touched a Vantage Audio product, and have nothing to do with beta products and the public. :)
Seems an awful experience!

Good to know when I read your future posts as this has always been in the back of my mind when reading your past ones.

I do smoke tobacco in moderation (always outdoors) and the cables left a really bad smell in my memory.

Perhaps a case of mistaken identity.  I do not know the man, but several times have been mistaken for Doug Schneider,  who is also a reviewer.  Not sure of pertinency to your situation.  
I addressed "break in" and "burn in" in the article as it pertains to the phenomena under assessment.


As I said Douglas, several times before. I have NEVER heard the term "BURN IN" used by professional repairmen. ONLY by rookies. Just like the term "MOTOR" in lue of "ENGINE". The term is used all the time by WHO? Drivers not mechanics. The same with "burn in".
If words don’t matter to you, they do to the people like me.

Why? I can’t think of a single time you can substitute burn in, for break in in any way other than people in the audiophile community. WHY BURN IN? A lack of command of the English language, (not a first language).

My counterparts in other countries would use words like this, but would point to the word "BREAK IN" in the BOOK. If you mean breakin but type burnin, what other word salad, do I have to decipher.
I can’t hear a difference means, "Sometimes" I can’t hear a difference? or ALL the time?

Terms like brake in, conditioned, seated, lapped, settled, ran in, trued, lined up, within tolerance, out of spec, misaligned, tune up, etc.

Even BRAKES are seated, but NEVER EVER BURNT IN. BUT they can BURN UP, catch on fire, go up in flames, up in smoke, burn to the ground, become glazed, BUT they never burn in..
Is the MOTOR "blowed up", Goober. :-(
Aunt Bee, would have said "Are you having engine trouble, Andy"? Seized a piston, due to a lack of oil? :-)
That "Dipstick" Goober...

What next, you'll want to borrow a cable conditioner. :-)

oldhvymec, wonderful, you have made your point. Now, I presume you will be silent, unless you have something pertinent to the article to discuss.   

Douglas - an excellent article, congratulations. How refreshing to read sensible, objective, honest, thorough, grounded opinion, written well. 
Do keep reposting it here, won’t you, as needs be...
bluemoodriver, thank you! I seem to occupy a position in the industry and community that is fairly vacant, that of eschewing most forms of system enhancements/methods called "tweaks", and endorsing other methods that some ridicule. It all comes out of building hundreds of systems, not theory.

I will disgruntle those who take a hard objectivist position in terms of components, and disgruntle those who take a hard position on tweaks. So be it. OTOH, I have split the difference once again in not only this article, but also a cable review that has just been submitted. It reveals with very strong evidence, if one explores the materials the company has made public, that 1. Geometry, conductor material, etc. do make an audible difference, and 2. That when well designed according to strict parameters (measurable), it sounds better than other cables. So, that article steps a bit into both camps.

I recall my father, who when discussing particular subjects would opine, "There are a lot of left fielders, and a lot of right fielders, but not a lot of center fielders." I’m trying to play center field. BTW, can we please for once have our reactionist politically motivated disturbers hold their tongue? The comment has zero relevance to politics, and I don't care what your opinion is on the matter. The topic is tweaks. Thank you!  :)

Hmmm, I can only comment from admittedly limited experience. I have upgraded from a well run-in Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold to a Zodiac Platinum. For the first 500(!) hours I thought I had made a mistake until literally all of a sudden the fog cleared and I had substantially enhanced micro-detail, soundstage width and depth as well as significantly improved impulse performance.

In a similar vain, I replaced JAN Philips 7581a tubes with NOS cryo‘ed Svetlana Winged-C 6L6GCs in my Wavac EC 300b amp.
The goal was to eliminate a slightly forward, discant emphasising sound. What I got for the first 50 hours was numb, incongruous sound and I was ready to give up. All of a sudden though, holographic soundstage, sweet but intense violin sound and an overall organic presentation that I was looking for.

In summary: while I agree that for basic ‘good-better’ comparisons, burn-in can be largely ignored, for real fine tuning it is essential to account for it.
I agree with antigrunge and my experiences with most components has been that use makes a serious difference in sound. I dont even care why this might be. 

However, I read most of the article and I dont think that anything schroeder said was objectionable.  In fact I am not sure he said much of anything. Kind of milquetoast. I agree with most of what was written, but am not sure why he felt the need.
It matters not whether the individual is an industry member or not. Their assessment of change of the sound of a system over time is pretty well worthless. The longer the time period, the less worth to their opinion of the change to the system.   :)

Hmmm. I cant really respond as I have no idea what you just wrote actually means.
Reubent, ah, one of my generation; good job! 
I suspect you get my intent; it's a big "put on" by all these people who want to make a big impression about what they can hear, about how break in/burn in is SO important, and how it makes SUCH a big difference, and... there's nothing much behind it.  People forget, indeed, that they are as susceptible to floating impressions and wandering subjectivity as anyone else. I have demonstrated it. 

It's not a very comfortable discussion for all the manufacturers, dealers, etc. who lean heavily on these concepts in support of their products and/or services. Notice how break in and burn in is never demonstrated, that is, the purported benefit/change etc. is never actually shown in a side by side comparison? Because they can't - or won't. I have demonstrated that it is relatively easy to get to the bottom of it. The average audiophile can do so for themselves with 2 pair of cables, or two amps, etc. Many have the means to see for themselves whether their impressions have any basis in reality. Most prefer to avoid such a clear test of their impressions. They would rather sit in their smug confidence that they are able to hear equipment changing. Whatever.  

I'm far from an enemy of the industry; I have worked with many manufactures and have good relationships with them. It's the nonsense, the peripheral, tangential, useless aspects that I have no need, nor respect for, and I see them as hindrances, not aids. The average audiophile has believed a lot of crap that is actually counter-productive in setting up superior systems. The average audiophile would never discover this. I had to set up hundreds of rigs to get to the point where I was clearly questioning the process, and had the equipment available to conduct a more involved comparison. I would not expect that of the average HiFi enthusiast. I would, however, expect that some might be open to the suggestion that they are changing rather inconsistency. But, of course, that is beyond the pale of most enthusiasts; their ego can't take consideration of that outcome.   :(

I find the arrogance in declaring what I hear to be nonsense quite objectionable. One of the problems with so-called experts is that they tend to end up believing their own blasé utterances. In this particular case, I happen to think he is on hopeless ground arguing that you should compare things straight out of the box. That is so patently non-sensical that it actually doesn’t warrant any objecting argument.

Enjoy the music
The phenomenon of thinking one hears change to a system over time is universal, and I experience it, too. I happened to question whether it was in fact equipment changing. I conducted informal testing and learned that it is not the equipment changing, but inconsistent impressions of the audiophile. It's quite simple, but with significant implications. 

Well I think it humorous that doug thinks he has more to offer in terms of opinion than the average hobbyist. Is believing in component change really a big deal and I would challenge doug to prove that this belief or many others he finds distasteful are deleterious to the hobby. 

For some all amps sound the same, for others there is no difference in cables and others believe in any claim no matter how absurd. There is no proof in this hobby and I thought we were done with the idea that we can objectify the subjective.

Why in the world would I spend hours and extra funds to prove something that I have accepted and that I perceive as significant? This would be a total waste of time. But what I find most objectionable is the fact that he feels the need to ascribe reasons for those that dont share HIS opinion. 

Hey Doug please refresh me on the qualifications of becoming a reviewer. Is there a degree, apprenticeship, or a school...I want to get me one of them high paying gigs. 

I love the way @douglas_schroeder seems to dismiss opinions that don't coincide with his agenda. Very condescending behavior, but it's really nothing new.

audition_audio, I did not seek reviewing, and I am not paid to write/review, so you are off the mark with your assertion. Perhaps you would like to spend 1,000+ hours doing the work associated with reviewing unpaid! I spent thousands of my money attending shows so that I would become familiar with the gear offered in North America. So, you can walk back your insinuation/assertion. :)

The community can see my body of work over the past 14 years at, which I humbly offer is the evidence of building hundreds of systems, learning what does and does not work in building systems. It is not necessary to have a degree, apprenticeship, etc. to reach the conclusions I have, but it is necessary to build hundreds of systems and conduct dozens of interviews (unpaid, conducted of my own impetus). I suggest that your inference that I have nothing more to offer than the average hobbyist is incorrect.

Many years ago I used to have an attitude similar to yours. An interesting thing happened to me, however; I was offered an opportunity to review. Along the way, I realized that I was able to conduct comparisons, to learn things I never would have been able (or, more accurately, would not have spent the money on) if not for reviewing. Now, gratis, I am sharing them with a community rife with skepticism on some topics and hubris on other topics. So be it. A few will see the wisdom in my approach, and will benefit.

Thank you for sharing your opinion here, and I invite to to go back and reread my two articles to gain more insight. :)

I love the way @douglas_schroeder seems to dismiss opinions that don’t coincide with his agenda. Very condescending behavior, but it’s really nothing new.

while i appreciate his reviews and many of his comments, i would have to agree with you on this ozzy...

Clearly, the article shows that I am not simply dismissing opinions, even going to the point of saying sincerely that if the results contradicted those of the first test, I would have to reevaluate. Is that dismissing opinions? I am respecting the opinion of those who insist tweaks have efficacy when I am wiling to humble myself enough to set up a test, rather than laugh at them and ignore putting it to the test.

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In which case Doug has it right. The reader inferred something from Doug’s post. (I doubt Doug implied he had nothing more to offer than the average hobbyist, so the reader must have inferred that.  Or so Doug implies, anyway). 
You are implying Doug doesn’t know the difference between infer and imply. Doug can infer from your post that he does, and you don’t. 
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I missed the post about the stinky cables. I cant imagine having to go through something so terrible. Did you experience any long term psychological problems?
Thank you Douglas, very daring of you to publish that here. I like people who are willing to expose themselves to ridicule. My experience agrees with you whole heartedly however, there is one problem. An anecdote does not a study make. This is an opinion piece. I believe your opinion is correct but that is only my opinion. The "numbers" are not large enough to be able to draw a conclusion with certainty. It is a start for those with influence to come forward with these opinions. The manufacturers are loath to do it out of fear they might scare away market share. They tend to support the mythology.

There are people who sincerely believe they hear improvements in sound quality coming from various tweaks and break-in. They deserve a solid explanation for this result but, when you try to explain the plasticity of human hearing and audio interpretation you lose them or I lose them. I am not the best at explaining these things. Perhaps you could do an article entitled "You Only Think You Are Hearing What You Hear."  
An interesting read, Doug. I don’t doubt your observations but with a sample set of 1 (or 2 counting the 2010 "burn in" article) question the validity of your conclusion(s) as general truth applicable to all systems/listeners. I do admire your courage though!

Note - My (now somewhat redundant) comment made before reading mijostyn’s response. Pretty much in agreement with him...and in particular the closing, "You Only Think You Are Hearing What You Hear." Absolutely! Ultimately, what else matters?
mijostyn, thank you for posting our thoughts. I suggest that what the supporters of tweaks/methods I compared preset anecdotal evidence and opinion. I did informal testing, which is entirely different. I agree that if conducted in the industry, it would be a much more tight study. Yes, the numbers could be bolstered by further study, but the grouping of the tweaks/methods is far stronger evidence and cannot be easily dismissed. It does support the contention that a far larger number of tweaks are also likely ineffectual. 

I am not concerned about explaining the "why" of the phenomenon involving perception that equipment seems to change performance. As I said, I also experience it and believe it is universal. Studies have been conducted often in regard to adaptation to stimuli, but in this regard audiophiles's egos seem unwilling to accept that their impressions can change over time and that might be the experience, versus the equipment changing. 

Will the industry jump on board with this? I doubt it; too much money in sales/reputation riding on the perception that there is audible "profound", "huge" etc. change over time. Many of the industry members believe it themselves to the degree that they wouldn't question their own experience. There is little hope of changing the opinion of someone so overconfident - even when confronted with evidence to the contrary. It is simply too painful for most audiophiles to consider that they really can't accurately tell whether there has been a change in sound quality over time. 

What can I say Douglas, "You’re a Peach". Not quite ripe yet, but a peach none the less.. :-)
This is a complement. BTW

I’ll offer this, I installed teflon caps in a passive external crossover.

Sounds simple. It was. It was so harsh for the first 100 hours NO ONE could listen to them. The sound was being thrown all over the place, the highs were thin and BOILED your ears. EVEN my deaf neighbor was impressed, he could hear something.. I thought I had messed up.. Well I did sort of... 250 hours it took to sound correct and sound correct they did.. Just wonderful. Two speakers face to face covered with moving blankets, 24/7 for 10 full days..

We uncovered the speakers (RM40s) and were amazed when they were moved back into position, all except the deaf neighbor..

You know how I test cables? ONE at a time always on my left ear, first for a whole week.. NEVER two at a time.. Mechanics 101, Scotty style..

Break them in the way you listen. BUT change the volume...

THEN add the right cable.. If you can’t hear a difference.. Something is wrong... REALLY wrong... It’s not the cable.. :-)

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Cartridges and caps (Mundorf anyone?) are the devices most obviously in need of breaking in, the same does though apply to cables (cooker, anyone?), tubes and loudspeakers. To deny it is at a minimum peculiar. Equating breaking in and tweaks is semantically aberrant and factually wrong.
A while back, when I last visited the topic of burn in of cables, I contacted the company that makes the Audio Dharma cable cooker and requested  a demo. I tried to get a reply several times, and never heard back from the company. Perhaps the company would wish for a commitment to a review, and I could do that in order to procure a unit. 

If the company would be wiling to send me a unit, I will conduct a straight comparison, similar to the one that I did for the recent article, and will do a proper article on it. If the unit works as advertised, and cables really can be "cooked" so as to cause a different sonic signature, then I wish to assess this through my direct comparison evaluation. I think I am on solid ground with the presumption that if the cooked cables have efficacy, then they should sound discernibly different from the uncooked ones. If they do not, then it would be strong evidence that cooking cables is not efficacious and does not result in a change in sound.

I would like to hear from the company in this regard. I will attempt to contact the company once again, and if anyone has connections with the company, tell them that I am seeking an evaluation of one of their units. I could do XLR or RCA. One would think that if there is easily identifiable change to the sonic character of a cable through use of this device, then the company should be happy to allow me to conduct such a review.  I have enough equipment to conduct a comparison with identical amps and cables. 
So what about Caps, cartridges, valves or speakers. Are you still maintaining they sound right straight out of the box?
I have sent a review request to audioexcellence in AZ, laying out clearly my intent to test the cooker in regards to cooked vs. uncooked cables in direct listening comparison. I shared the link to my article, as I wish to respect the company and not attempt to spring a surprise article on them. That would be duplicitous and in conflict with my principles.

I pointed out to the company that this is an opportunity to demonstrate the efficacy of the product, and that there is a possibility I would be embarrassed publicly in having to declare its efficacy. I am open to that possibility, as I cannot state definitively that cookers cannot change the cable; I have not used one. Now, I intend on doing so. 
Here is one thing that I noticed about certain materials. Silver and silver clad are a real bummer to get broke in, plain and simple. I just thought silver cable was an expensive toy. I had 100 feet of pure silver # 12 with teflon covers. USAF surplus. Its 60 years old now. That cable took YEARS to break in. I’d use it, get pissed, and toss it in the cable box. This went on for 8 or 9 years, on 2 10 foot pieces.

The cable wars lit up.. EVERYONE was talking cables.. Me I used SC copper then, for the bass and a SC stinger wire (Cable wire RG56 stripped, no shielding just the stinger and the white cover for mids). It worked GREAT and still does. BTW.

My rich buddy brings over some pure silver stinger cable, silicone and cotton. I was floored.. That was a game changer for me...

I get the silver cable I had out and used it for extension cord for two months on my well pumps. They broke in to the point I could hear a good change. I was getting into ribbons at the time Infinity, Apogee, and VMPS.

That is when I learned, some things take a long long time to SETTLE, and to break in. The user needs to learn a LOT of patience.. Those cables took close to 10 years before they sounded GREAT and are actually my reference set of cables, to compare against. The funny part is a good hard run for 200 - 300 hours would have taught me a good lesson way back when.

This is a fun way and a good way to test cables. Just hook up one cable. I always hook up the left. 2 week at least, then the right two week later. IF you can’t hear the difference. TRUST me it’s not the cable.. LOL

BUT it will show you what I’m talking about.. Some folks don’t need to do that.. BUT I like to do it that way.. It’s a fun way....

Caps and tubes are covered in component assessment between the two articles. Evidently you did not read the first article.  I have a digital source, so someone else, maybe you, can test cartridges.  Have fun with that one.. Speakers I have not compared yet, but have considered.  

The topic is clearly the tweaks and methods discussed in the articles. I'm not interested in off topic discussion here. 

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I suggest you review the absoluteness of your statements on burn in on this thread alone; maybe my comment will look a little less off topic, then. 
After reading everything I could find on your writing, Douglas, I’ve come to conclusion that you would make a good Grief Counselor. The "poor me" don’t work Kiddo, please read on...

I’m going to quote YOU and how you evaluate a system in comparison.


"I seem to occupy a position in the industry and community that is fairly vacant, that of eschewing most forms of system enhancements/methods called "tweaks", and endorsing other methods that some ridicule. It all comes out of building hundreds of systems, not theory".


Here is the thing Douglas, "hundreds of systems", I have a BIG problem with what you imply. It takes me a couple of days to set up and at least a week for things to settle. To hit 100 hours, on 100 systems, I’ll let you do the math, let alone (S) HUNDREDS, and 2-400 hours for "Break in" to complete.

By your own admission you either didn’t spend much time with the systems you built, OR you spent the last 12-14 year at and 8 + hour a day job just listening. That’s a 2080 hour 40 x 52 year.

I’ll leave your testing procedure alone now, but it’s really BROKE, and your psiphon is just, atrocious. That’s county talk from a Common Man.

Douglas, the numbers just don’t jive buddy.. What’s up? Where do you find time to make a living, listen, evaluate and write your reviews?

Coffee LOL those hours approach pure meth numbers and immortality.
Just sayin’

Just wonderin’..

It took me 10 years to find out about ONE pair of 10 foot cables, your and extraordinary fella indeed..

From the age of 6 - 15 I was taught HOW to listen by a Master Jet Mechanic.. 9 years of being TAUGHT, then I got to listen.... for 50 more...

Skunk at the hen house gotta go...
@douglas_schroeder interesting article (with due respect to other, somewhat critical, responders above). Going slightly against the grain, I have experienced change in the sound of cables on one -- unique -- instance: when a cable is newly produced, i.e. has not been put under load after having been put together (soldered): I have found empirically that it takes about 10-15mins for the frequency response to extend on both extremes.
Of course this is anecdotal, but I thought the experience might add to the communal fun! Regards

I respect Doug for writing the article but this was no act or bravery, perhaps a small act of bravado but I dont doubt he is trying to help so we should only admonish for his hubris and incomplete methodology. I mean truly it takes hubris to believe that your opinions matter enough to publish.

I doesnt help that he only uses digital. After I got my vinyl rig to an acceptable point, I cant hear anything of consequence with digital these days. And yes I have used some very good digital. Not matter how good, at least in experience, it is just like polishing a turd. Dont be haters...just my experience.

I might be willing to send you my Audio Dharma cooker but I dont think from this whole exchange you have indicated that you would be willing to admit any error. Kind of like sending a cable to Frank Van Alstine for review. 

The one lesson learned is to not let your mouth write a check that your ass cant cash. I think we have dog piled him enough and lets just give him the benefit of the doubt because he published with good intentions.
"I seem to occupy a position in the industry and community that is fairly vacant, that of eschewing most forms of system enhancements/methods called "tweaks", and endorsing other methods that some ridicule. It all comes out of building hundreds of systems, not theory".

DS: Eschew. 
MC: Gesundheit.  

And that is more respect than this pompous and bass ackward comment deserves.