Best headphones/IEMs to experience burn-in

I understand burn-in is a highly controversial topic, but for the people who do believe it, which headphones were the ones that convinced you that it was real? I’ve heard that the Meze Rai Solo and the DCA A2Cs experience quite a lot of change from burning in for a week or so. I personally didn’t notice much change from the A2C’s, but that is most likely because I’ve only had them playing for 20 hours, and all of that was on my head, so I wouldn’t notice much change.

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ZMF dynamics. 20 characters

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The CA Solaris IEM need a lot of burn in as well from the posts Ive read.

The Verities are probably the ones most talked about re needing burn in amongst the ZMF line up.

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There’s a lot of arguing about the burning in drivers but I’ve always felt that people ignore that breaking in the headband and ear pads almost always improves sound quality over time.

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Ether CX, first headphone I actually left playing when not listening.

Burn in is mostly psychosomatic. It’s your brain that is changing and acclimating to the new sound profile. Try this. Put on a pair of old, familiar headphones and listen for a while. Then put on the new headphones and listen to them exclusively (for weeks, if necessary) until you feel they’ve burned in. Now switch back to your old, familiar phones and they will probably sound awful until your brain re-acclimates to them. Nothing has changed on the old phones (they don’t “un-burn-in”, but your brain is used to the other ones.

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Things to check out might be: Ether CX, DT177X GO, TFZ. No.3, KBEAR KS2, Moondrop SSR. KBEAR is only 25 bucks right now of Aliexpress too. They are beyond boombastic out of the box and calm down a bit… still overly bassy, but you’ll get the idea.

“they don’t “un-burn-in””

This raises another interesting question. Let’s assume, for the moment, that one believes in “burn in”. The question is, if a pair of headphones go unused for perhaps a year, an arbitrary selected time, would they require going through the burn in process again?

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I’ve never experienced this with headphones.

There are expensive capacitors that do change electrically with use and revert back without use (relatively quickly).
Old Valves seem to take a few hours to open back up, but that’s a fairly extreme case since they’ve often been sitting for decades.

Align those electrons

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Mmmmmmhm, electron wrangl’n ain much but it’s honest work

That said, I’ve got a DCA A2C and a Ether CX… I listened to them at like hour 1 and then burned them in for another 50 on Pink noise and music over a week

An that was months ago, I’m sure both have hit just over 100 hours and to be honest my impression of them has not changed…

I think the biggest impact related to burn in that exists is Pad age, as pads age they can start to make small changes to what were hearing. Espically if the Fit/Seal changes with pad age

But that’s just my 2cents… I still burn in for reviews simply to sastify the believers tho I myself have not really “experinced” burn in yet…

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This discussion needs to be careful about:

  1. Human habituation and training
  2. One-time and uni-directional changes or wear from use
  3. Potentially reversible changes (e.g., following from too much heat; static build-up, etc.)

#1 Human habituation is fully proven and has been researched for generations. Yes, a lot of things we call “break in” are just people getting used to different products.

#2 One-way change is unremarkable outside audio, as wear can be easily seen and felt. Following experience in buying a series of new cars, new tires, and new dynamic-driver speakers/headphones, I’ll go to my grave believing that break-in is real for everything mechanical that moves in a predictable and controlled fashion. Be it springs, pistons, rubber (as it wears and hardens), or the moving components in audio. The fuel economy on one of our cars went up by 25% after 15,000 miles and its acceleration improved too – the parts got to know each other and the friction went down.

However, the changes in audio are usually MODEST and difficult to distinguish from #1. With a single test sample, humans cannot evaluate both #1 and #2 at the same time. To fully evaluate break-in, one would need to buy two or four samples of the same product. Let two run and leave two others new in the box. Let the brain burn in on the burned in products, and then but only then try the new/unused samples.

Given the modest changes in audio equipment, a 4-sample test is likely not worth the effort. To my ears, new speakers (dynamic drivers) do generally sound muffled. Break-in likely follows from the cone and surround softening, but others also claim this follows from the “magnetic fields aligning” with use.

I also perceive changes with new tubes versus those burned in for 24-48 hours. They start out without much high end or dynamics, but then open up over time. This is predictable with every new tube and can be evaluated by swapping tubes with a known set of headphones.

#3 involves reversible changes, and think it may have been true with my old HiFiMan headphones. They were planar magnetic, and seemed flat or hollow for a few hours when not regularly used. I have no way to prove this without testing multiple samples.

No one disputes that car tires perform differently when warm (i.e., Formula 1 heaters; drag racing burn-outs). Audio equipment might logically change too. But likely for the worse with too much heat.

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For me, the most dramatic example of burn-in was my HIFiMan Sundaras. It took a really long time for them to burn in, but I can say categorically that was not mere habituation–there was actual frequency change that let me hear things and understand lyrics that I couldn’t hear or understand when I first got them. The other thing that convinces me about burn-in is my Etymotic ERS4s, which needed none. They sound great right out of the box and continue to sound great in exactly the same way. And when I switch between the two headphones, they consistently sound like themselves–very different from one another, but always the same. If burn-in were simply a matter of habituation, I would presumably need to rehabituate every time I changed between the 'phones, but I don’t.

Potentially yes, potentially no. What people describe as “burn-in” is caused by a marked number of sources/causes. It could be driver flex and/or physical changes in the driver over time, it could be your brain adjusting to the sound, it could be other things. That is part of the problem… people want to say it either “exists” or “it doesn’t.” Best for people to get experiences to understand these things in my view. Hearing is believing they say…

I can understand why some folks are saying that burn-in is just habituation. And it’s certainly possible, though I don’t think that’s what’s happening, myself. But in the end, like everything else in this hobby, it comes down to a very simple question: does your set up give you pleasure. If it does, explanations don’t matter.

It reminds me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where, at the end, there’s a dramatically figured female rabbit robot (would that be a robbit?). She moves in a jerky way around him, and he points to her and says to us in the audience, “Mechanical.” Then she comes up and kisses him. He starts reeling, with a big kiss mark on his face, says, “So? It’s mechanical!” and follows her offstage walking in that same jerky robot way.

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