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Do speakers perform as good as they can out of the box, or do they need time to break in?

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Technically they do “break in” over a short period, but no, they don’t need to. And I know I’m going to get some hate leveled at me for this, so let me explain.

“Breaking in” refers to the period of time it takes for a speaker to be used enough that its performance won’t change thereafter, kinda like how it works with a baseball mitt or new pair of shoes. However, unlike a baseball mitt, we’re talking about electrical components within a mostly rigid enclosure. Consequently, this “break in” period lasts… tens of seconds.

There’s many, many pieces online detailing the need for break-in periods of 24 hours or more, but neither in my time objectively testing hundreds of headphones for five years, nor in a litany of audio engineers’ experience doing the same has any conclusive evidence been unearthed that support the theory that “breaking in” your speakers do anything perceptible or beneficial. In fact, many of the benefits associated with “broken in” speakers are not only unquantifiable, but so damned subjective as to be completely meaningless.

In the latter linked example, the difference was measured at worst 0.09dB—far below the threshold of human hearing. For reference, that’s well below the 2dB masking threshold for any sound under 1.2kHz in a completely dead-silent anechoic chamber.

I also caution you to look at the y-axes of graphs purporting to show evidence of burn-in/break-in, as they are often gamed to show differences between 1 and 0dB. An amplitude of which, I should point out, is completely inaudible. Data can be manipulated to imply certain things, but at the scale we’re talking about? Not much of that translates to real-world listening.

In short: it’s mostly hogwash… mostly.

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