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Do headphones and monitoring speakers performance change over time ?
Old 15th January 2019
  #1
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Do headphones and monitoring speakers performance change over time ?

At the risk of invoking a cable-type conjecture debate, I'm wondering if you've noticed any sort of ' burn-in' effect in your location monitoring headphones or portable speakers over time ?

The long term posters here probably have a favoured pair of these devices which have remained in your remote rig for years. You rely on them to give you valuable information about mic placement, direct to reverb ratios, ambient noise levels, stereo width and more. If those characteristics changed over time, you'd be acutely aware of them, I'm sure.

What's usually described as ' burn in' typically occurs during the days and weeks after acquiring a new pair of transducers, when you're probably still acclimatizing to the sound anyway, so subtle changes could go un-noticed ?

I've proposed a model for what might happen in another thread, but I bring it here because it seems relevant to the way we use such devices on location.

Here's the ' introductory proposal' : https://www.gearslutz.com/board/show...&postcount=323
Old 15th January 2019
  #2
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TMetzinger's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
I haven't noticed any "burn-in" effects, but I believe that age deteriorates all mechanical devices, which would include speakers and microphones (and our ears!!!). Every device will vary. But I also believe that what we perceive is NEVER a 1:1 mapping to what those transducers capture (mics) and transmit (speakers). Our brains are ridiculously adaptive.

Take all of the above and I believe that monitor speakers and mics will change over time. But they'll do so slowly that our brains will compensate. We'll adjust our EQ on recording to compensate. We'll know what "good" sounds like on our slowly changing monitors because we listen to "good" on them all the time.

Winer remarks in The Audio Expert, 2nd edition, that the distortion measured in even the "best" loudspeakers is at least an order of magnitude worse than any other device in the signal chain. I believe it. But, as I noted above... our brains compensate very very well.
Old 15th January 2019
  #3
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JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Speakers definitely wear out. Especially when they are dropped by the union stage hands and no one tells you about it.
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #4
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➑️
Speakers definitely wear out. Especially when they are dropped by the union stage hands and no one tells you about it.
Not to mention the passive degradation over time on parts like speaker roll surrounds...the rubber dries out and becomes brittle eventually...hence the worthy business of reconing ! The notion of ferrofluids and such can only dissipate heat at the magnet/motor end, not the outer radial edge of the diaphragm.

If there were clear objective lab measurement differences between out of the box new and after a few weeks of 'running in'...I'm sure manufacturers would take note and incorporate some burn-in time to their QC and end of production line checks and procedures ? Maybe some do ?
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #5
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JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➑️
If there were clear objective lab measurement differences between out of the box new and after a few weeks of 'running in'...I'm sure manufacturers would take note and incorporate some burn-in time to their QC and end of production line checks and procedures ? Maybe some do ?
To me, the idea of "burn in" just means that the speaker is approaching it's end of life faster. Why run pink noise, or sine waves, or music at high volume through the speaker for X amount of time? When it would just further degrade the speaker's life expectancy?

And usually, when I install a new system, it gets a fair amount of pink noise music, and voice run through it at low to medium volume during the tuning and optimization sessions, and just walking the room and listening to the system from every seat in the house possible while playing as many different types of music as possible; to make sure there aren't any dead spots or weird EQ, delay or phase problems that need to be addressed before you have a show..that they have been "burned in" and checked for mechanical stability already.
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
i get to measure speakers on a weakly basis, mostly speakers for use in live sound, meaning they get a seriously punched! some of these speakers have been in use for many years (such as some old turbosound floodlight systems, but also my own tannoy coax speakers in one of my studios) - one of the rental companies i'm dealing with measures speakers every time they come back to the warehouse after a show: there is evidence that speakers change over time, but very, very slowly (and sometimes in unexpected ways). even daily atmospheric chances can affect measurements to a higher degree than some of the degradation i've seen over a period of many years!

if you happen to have a speaker controller to correct speaker response in your studio, you could compensate these effects for the most part...

if one driver is really out of whack, do some reconing as studer suggested, swap a tweeter and you'll be up and running again; chances are you're good many years to come.

if however one constantly is driving a system to its limits (using an amp that is too weak!) trying to get levels beyond the manufacturers specs for healthy use (or simply: if one doesn't have enough rig for the gig), i'm sure detoriation will show up much faster.

[and some rant: i think (most) any claims about 'burn in' are bs! (maybe except for tubes, but even here i remain sceptical). i could not ever measure or hear any difference between speakers old and new of various manufacturers unless they design/components got changed, but never upon replacing woofers/tweeters]
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➑️
To me, the idea of "burn in" just means that the speaker is approaching it's end of life faster. Why run pink noise, or sine waves, or music at high volume through the speaker for X amount of time? When it would just further degrade the speaker's life expectancy?
Well, kinda.

IME, it goes something like this:

- Burn in - first <1% of the speaker's life. The rubber surround loosens up, same for the spider (which is usually soaked in a mild glue - micro cracks will start to appear there). The usual mechanical stuff.
- Then you've got the working life of the device, where the burn-in process has finished and the driver spends it's time in-spec.
- Towards the end of the working life, capacitors in the crossover will be out of tolerance, UV will have hardened the rubber surround, etc etc. The speaker will be out of spec and require replacement parts.

FWIW, I've measured a ~10% change in the resonant frequency of LF drivers before/after break-in.
Generally, though, the Thiele-Small parameters shift in fairly complementary ways, so the low-frequency alignment stays intact.

Chris
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Guru
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 ➑️
...I've measured a ~10% change in the resonant frequency of LF drivers before/after break-in...
really?!? what brand/item?

i'd stop using it immediately would i ever encounter such a kind of behaviour...
Old 15th January 2019
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
The central cortex is very adaptive and can correct for minor aberrations
Ear pads age on cans and must be replaced , drivers don't if well cared for and not overdriven or dropped
Speakers can age and wither but this takes many years of chemical substrate slip, we change LS regularly now
No body listens on 40 year old Tannoys with any expectations
Im listening now to a new pair of active 3 ways in the prototype form after 10 yrs of active 2 ways
The perceived bottom end is marked
The dynamic is enhanced (1kW a side) and they are so clean Anna Netrebko is almost a lethal force on the hi Cs!
Roger
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #10
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JCBigler's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 ➑️
FWIW, I've measured a ~10% change in the resonant frequency of LF drivers before/after break-in.
Generally, though, the Thiele-Small parameters shift in fairly complementary ways, so the low-frequency alignment stays intact.

Chris
Measured how exactly? And what changed by 10%? And on what speaker?

A 10% change in level/frequency response/power efficiency/whatever would indicate to me a bad design or faulty manufacturing.
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris661 ➑️
Well, kinda.

IME, it goes something like this:

- Burn in - first <1% of the speaker's life. The rubber surround loosens up, same for the spider (which is usually soaked in a mild glue - micro cracks will start to appear there). The usual mechanical stuff.
- Then you've got the working life of the device, where the burn-in process has finished and the driver spends it's time in-spec.
- Towards the end of the working life, capacitors in the crossover will be out of tolerance, UV will have hardened the rubber surround, etc etc. The speaker will be out of spec and require replacement parts.

FWIW, I've measured a ~10% change in the resonant frequency of LF drivers before/after break-in.
Generally, though, the Thiele-Small parameters shift in fairly complementary ways, so the low-frequency alignment stays intact.

Chris
This sounds plausible to me, because it's an electro-mechanical device, with parts that stretch, respond to temperature and humidity variations, although with years of materials-science development behind them you'd expect much effort towards minimizing these variables, more consistency within tighter parameters over a longer time...that sort of thing.

I recall decades ago, when car tyres were probably still more rubber than polymer, the recommendation was to to be more careful with inflation pressures and maximum speed for the first 100 miles or so..similar principle perhaps ?

I wonder if tennis or squash balls undergo 'break-in' (bounce-in) before major tournaments ?
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #12
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Lumbergh's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 ➑️
I wonder if tennis or squash balls undergo 'break-in' (bounce-in) before major tournaments ?
No, because for a tennis tournament you dont want long term consistent behaviour from the ball, you want the ball to ping around. Essentially you are using the short term properties of the ball. If you used the same balls for different matches over a tournament then, yes you would want to burn/bounce them in so they behave consistently for different matches.

Cricket balls are a much better illustration - a new Duke ball swings around like crazy for the first say 10 overs, then settle into a less potent threat for the next 50-60 overs. Then they deteriorate rapidly and reverse swing for the final 20 overs. This is intended behaviour for the sake of entertainment. If you wanted every ball bowled to be consistent you would bowl them in for 10 overs in the nets and change them after 40-50 overs. That would be rather dull though.
Old 15th January 2019
  #13
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jimjazzdad's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I love this forum! Where else would you find the expertise to make an analogy between loudspeaker burn-in and life cycle and cricket balls? I never cease to be amazed at what I learn here...
Old 15th January 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I have Grado 325 open back cans in use for 13 years as my monitoring tool. Rolo 46 has raised the primary problem in ear pad wear, however with the Grados the ear pads are very easy and economical to replace. Unfortunately this is not the case with most cans. He also is right on target with the mechanical dependability of cans as opposed to speakers: they last a lot longer if not abused.
Hugh
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by JCBigler ➑️
Measured how exactly? And what changed by 10%? And on what speaker?

A 10% change in level/frequency response/power efficiency/whatever would indicate to me a bad design or faulty manufacturing.
Measured with impedance sweeps to determine Fs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah ➑️
really?!? what brand/item?

i'd stop using it immediately would i ever encounter such a kind of behaviour...
It was a Beyma 15P1200Nd, freshly back from the recone shop. That's a high-power 15" subwoofer driver for use in PA systems. I usually feed it from a Crown MA12000i.

Fs was 44Hz when it arrived, and 40Hz after I hammered it with a few hundred watts of low-frequency sine tones for a few hours, in free air.
Cone excursion was probably an inch peak-to-peak during the break-in process. I was not gentle, but it's a powerful driver that needed to loosen up. Being gentle wasn't an option.


Before you all go crazy about a 10% change, it was a shift of one of the Thiele-Small parameters. The others changed, too, in ways that keep the frequency response similar before/after.
That is not the same as 10% change in level or whatever else. It's a change of a dB or two here and there, after I thrashed the driver for a while to get the suspension as loose as the other three of those drivers I own.

Chris
Old 15th January 2019
  #16
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NorseHorse's Avatar
Lightbulb

Re: headphones

We have a box of headphones that no longer sound the same as they used to. The Marine Band sent some of their old headphones to DRMO (auction) for the same reason. And there have been several times I've discovered broken or not-up-to-spec headphones when I've visited sessions.

Between regular use, age, and dings, the sound will change. Not in a linear way by any means (and some of the headphones weren't linear to begin with!!! ), but I would not expect them to sound like new forever.
Old 15th January 2019
  #17
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Plush's Avatar
 
5 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I put the life of professional monitors at 15 years and headphones at 10 years. After that I change them out. Some manufacturers will advise about the lifetime of their products.

Bryston amplifiers advise at least 20 years. Genelec used to advise 15 years.

Headphones take more physical abuse, especially those used on location. More than likely the manufacturer will discontinue that model of headphone before it wears out. Then they have the latest and greatest model at the store. I then β€œupgrade.”

Currently I am very happy with Beyerdynamic 1770 closed headphones. The Sennheiser 800 still sound excellent as do the Sennheiser 600.

PMC advised me to break in my PMC Superstack by facing the monitor fronts close together and playing very loud pink noise for 1 week. It worked very well.
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumbergh ➑️
Cricket balls are a much better illustration - a new Duke ball swings around like crazy for the first say 10 overs, then settle into a less potent threat for the next 50-60 overs. Then they deteriorate rapidly and reverse swing for the final 20 overs. This is intended behaviour for the sake of entertainment. If you wanted every ball bowled to be consistent you would bowl them in for 10 overs in the nets and change them after 40-50 overs. That would be rather dull though.
Here in Australia, when faced with a formidable opposing overseas team, our players resort to sandpaper, to tweak the swing behaviour. The official term is ball-tampering, and it causes the cricketers involved to cry crocodile tears at press conferences when found out....
Old 15th January 2019
  #19
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mpdonahue's Avatar
Generally, loudspeakers and headphones are mechanical systems with elastic elements, wear points and functional tolerances. All these things change over time and use and will eventually effect the driver performance.
My 801 series 2 speakers used daily for mastering pop music lasted about 12 years. I noticed a subtle change over the years and finally replaced the drivers and the electrolytics in the x-over and they sounded like new again. It functionally gave them a heart/lung transplant. Those speakers gave were eventually replaced by the speakers I have now and spent another 10 years on the road. My current Dunlavy SC-V would probably due for a rebuild, but I've already replaced the lower and upper mids (The driver matching is a science project in itself). The next thing on the list is the crossover.
I find that headphones are much more disposable. 7506's generally last me 10 years, but general use pairs rarely last more than 5.
As always, YMMV.
All the best,
-mark
Old 15th January 2019
  #20
Gear Guru
Monitors can change especially when the woofer suspension rots away.
Old 15th January 2019
  #21
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rumleymusic's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I suppose any physical device or membrane will change over time. I'm sure new speakers need some encouragement to perform their best, not much different than a piano or violin. After that, slow deterioration until death. Kind of an apt metaphor for life
Old 15th January 2019 | Show parent
  #22
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TMetzinger's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic ➑️
I suppose any physical device or membrane will change over time. I'm sure new speakers need some encouragement to perform their best, not much different than a piano or violin. After that, slow deterioration until death. Kind of an apt metaphor for life
So - playing pink noise is the equivalent of smacking your newborn speaker on the butt?

If a vendor puts "break-in" instructions in writing as part of their owner manual... then I'd go along.
Old 16th January 2019
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
Stradivariusz's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Don't know about headphones, ut since I let change the woofer suspensions which were rotten I've got the speakers back and was crushed by the poor sound.
After few hours of playing sound came to it's normal level, not to say better than before. It was really a massive change.
In this case there was a mechanical issue not electrical.
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