Have you experienced burn-in?

  • Yes
  • No
  • For certain headphones
  • Indifferent

0 voters

The subject of burn-in is pretty hotly debated among headphone enthusiasts. So my question to you is, have you experienced burn-in? (We will keep this headphone-related as I know it also pertains to speakers, amps etc…)

We have a wide variety of community members here, from neuro-scientists to people who have been in the headphone hobby for 30+ years so I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Does burn-in actually change the sound or is it your brain getting used to the way the headphones sound. Always lots of interesting stuff to discuss in this hobby!


I’m indifferent, I’ve not experienced any drastic changes after what ever X hours of burn in.

But if a manufacturer recommends it for their product then I’ll usually adhere to their guideline before I listen or post any reviews or impressions, for my self I’ve not experienced it.

What I will say however is Pads DO have a break in time and sound DOES change as your new pads start to soften and adjust to the shape of your face, frankly, I feel that’s likely what a lot of people are “experiencing” a change in the seal and position of the driver to their ears. But as far as the driver changing it’s mechanical response/operational characteristics over time over a period of time… I have to say I have some skepticism about that one

I’m curious if anyone has ever recorded the frequency response of a brand new pair of headphones then compared it to readings taken after prolonged periods (50 hours usage, 100+ hours usage, etc.) to determine if the sound is actually changing or if it stays the same.


Tyll did


Agreed. SolderDude did some interesting measurements about just this thing with the HD650.


Oh neat! Tyll’s post is pretty interesting, the reduction in distortion on the low end for the AKG driver is pretty consistent!

So the better question is can we repeat it with a variety of other headphones?

And yea changes from Pad aging is something we’ve all experienced, my HE 4 actually had a set of very old worn in DT 880 Pads and any time I rolled something else onto it the tonal balance went wonky. It’s a shame the guy who bought them didn’t like the sound with the broken in pads… oh well

Either way I also use a set of “worn” Grado L Crush Pads on my current Magnum V7 Build, as newer pads sound… BRIGHTER.

So hopefully some one else has done some measurements with another set of cans! I’d be curious to see what trends emerge over a larger data sample

Pad aging actually reminds me of the Final Audio Design Heaven V Aging . According to Final, the housing metal ages with use and ends up having different acoustic properties when it has aged. Its an interesting concept but I can’t say if it works in practice since I haven’t had the chance to try a pair.

I haven’t noticed a discernible difference listening to headphones after putting them through white noise. I have noticed a difference when listening to headphones for a week or so though. Some headphones that I didn’t enjoy at first grew on me (the AEON Flow Closed for example are a perfect example). I would attribute that to mental burn-in more than anything else though.

What would have been cool is if he left one pair of headphones on the measuring head for multiple days without touching it and measured it in intervals. That takes movement out of the picture, but pads can become a factor.

To alleviate the second issue, you could do measurements with the headphones suspended without letting the pads touch anything. That way, all you really measure is whether the sonic qualities change with time.

Then you repeat that with multiple sets, while doing measurements on a control set where only a few mintues of burn in is allowed over the course of multiple days.

Mhm, adjusting to a different presentation or a “perceptional” burn in is common, happy to hear that your aware of and acknowledge it! I think the biggest perceptional adjustment I’ve experienced was when I first got my Speakers, a set of LSR 308s I use for mostly movies and TV. My first impression of them is that they were a bit dark, but what ever I left the EQ alone and binged a few shows over 5-6 days

Well the next time I put on my HD 800 … I noticed how bright it was!!! Yikes, I had the SDR Mod in bound but whoa, after adjusting to how the Monitors were tonally I found my self… really fatigued by “bright” stuff. .

I’m pretty sure burn is a real thing for at least bicellulose drivers because of the moving parts. Idk about the rest though.

I have not really experienced either. IMHO,the biggest parts of any and all audio systems make the biggest difference and,of course,the actual source. I am still trying to find a way that I might think and really say “a combination of sources,amp,headphones” will take me beyond what I have and take me to nirvana. IMHO,it’s easy to hear difference between lower end and higher end stuff. What happens and how it happens when you start comparing low-end combinations(for 45 minutes on the treadmill) or high end combinations(listening late at night because you have a rent-paying tenant below you(2nd floor versus 1st floor).

I haven’t experienced burn-in in every headphone I’ve heard. When I have I tend to attribute it to the pads conforming better to my head - when considering a full-sized headphone. I believe that I’ve heard it in IEMs though. Maybe I’m crazy, but with IEMs I’ve experienced a bigger shift in my perception of them over time than any full-sized headphone.

I do. Both my Sennheiser HD1 and HD 650 opened up after about 20 hrs. The HD 650 was quite noticeable. Soundstage, imaging and instrument separation were the key improvements.

I believe in “burn-in”… as long as it doesn’t exceed the number of days stated in the return policy. :clown_face:


Ive experienced burn in many times, sometimes it has been subtle and sometimes it has been very big. Usually around the low end frequencies is where Ive seen the most obvious changes bu it varies from headphone to headphone
Also pads have made a night and day difference too some of my headphones.
The same goes for using different DAP’s / amps
I must confess to not caring too much about why ‘burn in’ occurs…I just go by experience :slight_smile:

I think “believe” is not a good word for this. I’ve tended to experience changes in the sound signature of headphones and IEMs where the manufacturer doesn’t do run-in beforehand. Some multi-BA IEMs had almost no bass until they had some hours on them. The bass on some drivers distinctly dropped after hours of use.

For many other headphones the changes, which seemed to happen, were no significant enough to fundamentally change the character of the headphones. With many I perceived no changes at all.


I’ve changed the title to experienced instead of believe since I do agree with you.

I have experienced burn-in for headphones, tubes, some amplifiers and the occasional DAC. That said, I don’t actually put much stock in it in terms of how big a change it makes between “fresh out of the box” and “several hundred hours”. Effects, where noted, have always been small and subtle.

I’ve NEVER had something that I didn’t like before “burn-in” turn into something that I did like afterwards.

Tubes are the exception here, for me, as changes there occur in two domains.

Before tubes have got some hours on them (typically somewhere between 50 and 150 hours, depending on the tube and application) they tend to be noisier, exhibit more whistles and other odd noises and, of course, the microphonic “pings” and “tings” you get here and there as metal, especially anything with tension on it, expands.

A few thermal cycles and power-on hours, and things “bed in” physically and these effects tend to go away completely (absent a bad tube), and you tend to notice this quite readily.

Other sonic changes, are probably best kept for tube-specific thread.

I don’t “listen” during any burn-in time, again tubes excepted, since that helps avoid any “brain burn-in” or “conditioning” on my part.


@Torq when I get my MCTH should I listen throughout the burn in process (going to no matter what, just to experience it) or would it be better to let the tubes go through burn in before listening time? I’ll be getting my Bottlehead with speedball probably next week, so I’ll probably be asking a lot of tube related questions on the forum here the next couple weeks (have to build the darn thing first)

Unless you’re performing an experiment of some kind, there’s no reason not to.

If you’re new to tubes then you’re likely to hear some things that’ll surprise or even worry you at first.

It’s not at all uncommon to get whistles and low-frequency warbles during the first few hours of using a tube and, especially, in the first few minutes after power on each time you listen (though the duration of that will rapidly abate).

Tubes are microphonic, in general, and as things expand/contract, as they will over several minutes to maybe half an hour initially, so you can expect to hear metallic “tink” and “ping” sounds. You can often hear these noises directly from the tube too (i.e. not via the amp/headphones … just ambiently). And they’ll go away progressively faster over time.

With very low-impedance cans, say TH-X00, you’ll hear noise at power-on, and it’ll drop in level over a few minutes of warm-up. How quickly it goes away, and it’s peak level at power-on, will generally drop as well as you get more time on the stock tube.

Finally, exposed tubes are quite susceptible to EMI/RFI. If you hear the classic “helicopter blades” sound, then you likely have your cellphone too close to amplifier. Not really an issue with the MCTH … as half of the tube is buried in the case and most of the top is silvered.

The bigger the tube, the more of them, the purer the circuit (i.e. pure tube designs exhibit these traits more than hybrids), the more pronounced these sorts of things will be. With a little tube like the 6922 they’re pretty minor and go away quickly.