White/pink noise files to break in headphones: Am I hearing things?

Discussion in 'The Cutting Edge' started by Mr. Lin, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. Mr. Lin

    Mr. Lin Lunatic Member

    So I've had my Grado 325i headphones for 2 or 3 months now, and, as people here on AK have promised, there were positive improvements. Although I had expected more bass after break in, there is plenty now (much more than when I first got them), the sound is less top-heavy (was a tad bright at first), and more balanced overall. Like all the best audio components I've owned/heard so far, they're very revealing of the source, and that's not always pretty. Not a good idea to play dirty records through these. Yet in the end I think for the best, don't you?

    My approach to break in - understanding it's an extensive process, particularly with this model - was to simply leave the headphones plugged into my receiver during the day and all night, because I sleep with a CD on every night. Over the course of a couple weeks this gave some good results, nothing dramatic.

    Then I came across some wav files on the internet which are intended for headphone break in. White noise, radio white noise, pink noise, a sorts of frequency sweeps. So for the past week every night I hooked the headphone amp up to the computer, put one of those files on repeat, set the volume at or a little higher than what I would listen to, and let it go, sometimes for 12+ hours.

    I have to say I got more out of this than I was expecting, perhaps because I thought I'd already broken the headphones and so there wouldn't be much, if any, change. First of all, the low-frequency sweep has loosened the diaphragm up a bit (I assume), and there's a deeper, more powerful bass than before. The overall balance is even better, and the high frequencies seem smoother than ever. Really good headphones now sound even better! It sort of hit me when after a couple days of this I put on a jazz XRCD I've been listening to a lot for comparison, and it sounded a lot better.

    Some people may question this whole thing and wonder if I'm hearing things because I began using the break in files. I know this is another one of those unfortunately divisive and controversial subjects in the audio community. Am I positive it worked? Of course not. Do I really believe I hear a difference, listening to the same CDs on the same CDP? Absolutely, and like I said, it was actually pretty surprising.

    The only issue now is when to stop. At what point am I no longer breaking in my headphones, but simply aging them, so to speak? The other thing I should mention is that I'm simultaneously breaking in a brand new pair of Tara Lab RSC Reference Generation 2 interconnects intended for use between headphone amp and source, which I'd bet will take a very long time indeed. I guess it's just a judgment call I'll have to make.

    The point: this method is something to consider if you have new[er] headphones, but - at least this is how I feel - I wouldn't leave it on with the volume too high, especially when they're right out of the box. Regular listening volume, maybe a little louder, that should do it.

    And now, I am finished rambling, but I had to get that out.
  2. zenith2134

    zenith2134 Addicted Member

    Yeah, agreed that its better to take it easy on the volume control with brand new headsets. My 325i's got a slow burn-in with a cd of 60minute pink noise on repeat. I piped it through the cd changer's headphone jack for awhile but that wasn't the best solution, so I used my little dot mkII amp to finish the remaining 2 days or so of burn-in. I estimate roughly 200 hours of burn-in at this point, and little has changed after 100hours.
  3. zenith2134

    zenith2134 Addicted Member

    FWIW, interconnects can take years to really burn-in, so I've heard. This is partly due to the fact that the signal running through them is so tiny (generally 2 volts or less) and that people don't run signal through the cables 24/7 like power cords can be subjected to.

    Also, I run the volume pretty high during break-in's of my headphones.... About halfway on my cd player...which is loud...
  4. Mr. Lin

    Mr. Lin Lunatic Member

    Regarding the interconnect thing: I'm really itching to get a burn-in conditioner, probably the Hagerman FryBaby. Over and over I read how effective these things are, I'm very curious.
  5. Chipp

    Chipp Computer nut gone stereo!

  6. zenith2134

    zenith2134 Addicted Member

    Good program, thanks for the tip. I definitely believe in dynamic driver break-in. As controversial as it may seem, I also think circuitry burns in. Take for instance my Sony SACD changer. It was lifeless and thin sounding when I bought it new, and has really changed for the better after a couple of years of use.
  7. Mr. Lin

    Mr. Lin Lunatic Member

    I believe you. There's a lot of strange phenomena when it comes to breaking in audio electronics, but the proof that it works is in what you hear IMHO.

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