Headphones are a common phone and laptop accessory of the 21st century. They have become more of a necessity these days. Whether you want to watch YouTube videos online or wish to listen to your favorite songs all day, headphones are a life-saver. But what those term Burn-in headphones means? While this may sound bad for screens or TVs, this is not the case for headphones.
A lot of audiophiles in magazines and on the internet seem to claim that “burning-in” your headphones for a long duration will eventually make the sound exponentially better. When you think about it, it probably will make no sense whatsoever. However, there exists a plethora of literature on the subject that can essentially prove or disprove that claim.
What is Headphones Burn-in?
Burning in headphones is quite like breaking in a new pair of shoes. Most audiophiles have noted that headphones sound much better after they have been played for a while. Like shoes that need a little time to stretch and settle, the headphones need to loosen its diaphragm to play better and more accurate sounds.
Most audiophiles argue that they need to play music for a long while before they can finally settle and play according to their intended properties. However, just playing music is not enough, you need to burn your headphones in a specific way to ensure you get the highest quality of sound.
Some manufacturers might scoff over the idea of burning-in headphones, while others even offer up music tracks and comprehensive guides to burn in their products efficiently. Most burning-in processes take up to a few days and can even extend to some weeks in some high-quality ones. You can note a lot of difference in the sound of your headphones over this period.
Can you Burn in your Headphones?
As we mentioned before, most manufacturers will recommend you to burn-in your devices while others will tell you not to. We recommend you do as the manufacturer of your particular brand says.
If you have to burn-in your headphones, you can do so by following these steps:
- Collect different audio tracks having different frequencies and sounds. You can even take the help of some web or computer programs to burn in your files.
- Next, make a mix playlist using these burn-in sounds. Ensure that you have a huge variety of different sounds to loosen up the headphones truly.
- Leave the list on repeat and keep playing for a considerable amount of time. Most experts agree that 100 hours are quite sufficient. Although if your headphones are of higher quality, then you might want to burn them in for longer.
- Keep listening in periodically to check the quality of the sound. Although this step isn’t necessary, we recommend you check out for yourself whether the burning-in is making a difference or not.
- Trying playing lower frequencies in successions. For example, you might want to start with 40 Hz and then proceed lower to 30 Hz after a couple of hours. You can then start getting lower according to your preference.
- You can stop the process any time you want. After burning your audio tracks in, you should be able to hear the pronounced difference in the sound quality.
Can You Stop Burn-In In Headphones?
Burn-in of headphones is usually something which will happen on its own. Even if you don’t manually leave the headphones playing music for hours at a time, eventually, they’ll reach that supposed “burn-in” point. We don’t recommend stopping the burning-in of new headphones. It is because many people claim that the sound quality is better and clearer after burning them in.
If you don’t like this extra clarity, then you might want to lessen your use of the headphones. But of course, what’s the point in buying them if you’re not going to use them? Your headphone will eventually just burn-in and get that sound quality anyways. But this is if you believe in it. Headphone burn-in is still a scientific mystery that many are sure isn't true. So for all we know, you might be able to avoid it simply because it doesn’t exist!
What Do The Experts Say?
As for the “experts”, there aren’t many varying opinions. Most of them come to eth same conclusion that it’s fake and many refer to it as the “Headphone Burn-In Myth”. The audio-visual company Shure has come forward to shed some light on it. They say that in the 15 years that their expert engineers have tested headphones, not once have they encountered a case where the quality got better over time. There are, however, numerous cases where the quality degrades, due to cheap QC of course.
Our friends over at Reddit like to think that the entire thing is “in your head”. They argue that once you hear about the myth, you trick yourself into believing that you do hear a difference. But mostly that’s your ears getting desensitized to the horrible treble and quality of the sound.
A little bit of historical background might help in these cases. You see, older speakers (most commonly those used for theatre performances) had a break-in period. But that’s old now. Many newer headphones don’t have a “burn-in” drive, which means that they’ll give you the same sound quality as before. So, what is the only difference? Well, according to the experts, “you’ll just think it’s gotten better”.
Another argument placed forth is that most headphones go through heavy QC testing and approvals. So the testers play them at full volume for hours at a time to check their durability. So if there were a burn-in period, the headphones would have reached that point way before they reached you.
Does burning in headphones make any difference?
While burning in headphones may seem like a very plausible act for some of you, it is very confusing when it comes to the benefits of it. In simple and short sentences, the answer to this question is, ‘No’. Burning in headphones does not make any major difference whatsoever to the performance of the headphones. While your experience might tell you otherwise, research has somewhat proven that it does not make any major difference to the performance of your headphones. Let us take a look at some facts:
Ø Manufacturer’s fault
By simple logic, this presents itself. If in fact, the process of burn-in did any good to the headphones, the question arises, why didn’t manufacturers perform the process themselves before shipping out the piece? It seems highly unlikely that a company that wants to make maximum profit by providing optimum performance would overlook such a crucial factor.
Ø Scientific evidence by audio engineers
Wired’s Bryan Gardiner explains this by saying that they attempted to test the headphones before and after the burn-in process. He explains this by saying that the Shure Company considered two E1 headphones in 1997. They took one pair and performed the burn-in process for a long period. Afterward, when the unused and untouched headphones were used and contrasted, Shure concluded that the pieces did sound somewhat different. However, their concluding statement said that there was simply not enough evidence to support the claim that burning-in caused that major change.
Ø Experiment by Hertsens
Hertsens provided a more in-depth research article about this process. For this research, they burned-in a pair of Q701 headphones for over 300 hours. When they charted these results and findings on a graph, they concluded that there was some minor change in the performance. However, they also stated that these minor changes were extremely negligible and that it would not make sense to claim that burning-in the headphones had any impact on them.
What are our thoughts on the subject?
Well, considering all the evidence that has been given and all the experiments that were performed, we can safely say that burning-in headphones do not have any major change in the sound of the headphones. Sure, there may be a little change when compared to a normal pair of headphones; however, the change is minute and can be considered irrelevant. Perhaps, breaking-in your headphones with long hours of loud music or death metal music might generate some positive effect. However, as mentioned before, this is not going to be a substantial change. We assume that the ears get “used to the music” when you break-in your headphones, so automatically they sound better after each interval.
With all of that evidence and conclusions in mind, we hope we have answered the age-old question “does burning-in headphones have any effect?” While we strongly support the claim that burn-in headphones do not produce any substantial changes, we also believe that this is not true for the entirety of the cases. Because the process is not damaging, we would say that if you would like to give it a shot, go ahead. But if you are impatient with your new pair, it is pointless to engage in that process.