If you’re looking to ignite a war in an online forum, bring up speaker break-ins or cables. We’re not mentioning much more on cables in this piece, but for those of you who don’t believe in speaker break-ins: we’re going to politely disagree.
There are two radically opposing schools of thought regarding the need to burn-in, or break-in, new speakers.
The first one is that speaker break-ins are an utterly ridiculous idea. The thinking behind this one is that our ears become accustomed to the sound of our new speakers, and that the overall performance of a speaker doesn't change perceptively with use.
In the second school of thought, it’s believed that speakers are only worth listening to after several hundred hours of burn-in with a white noise generator and increasing amounts of bass-driven music. This is based on the idea that speakers need to be broken in properly in order for their performance to be enjoyable to even the average listener.
The simple truth is that with the advanced materials used in the construction of modern suspensions and surrounds, the performance of a speaker changes over time. Out of the box, a speaker tends to sound a little stiff, particularly in the bass frequencies. You may find that the overall response on your new drivers is a little tight or restricted. After a period of time, you'll notice the speakers open up and begin to sound more natural.
This can absolutely happen if you've auditioned a pair of well-played speakers at your dealer – at the store they probably sounded great, accompanied by a lot of warmth and depth. But at home, your brand new speakers sound cold and shallow. At the store they had dozens, if not hundreds, of hours on them while your new out-of-the-box speakers are factory-stiff.
The suspensions see the largest change, [as] they are made from impregnated textile and at a microscopic level the textile fibres pull apart a little when they are stressed, which leads to a softening. Break-in can take from a few hours to a few days. This depends mostly on the signal used for the break-in. Louder music will break in the drivers more quickly. Music with more bass will speed up the process too. The same effects can apply to headphone drivers.”
- According to our Head of Acoustics, Dr Jack Oclee-Brown
The suspensions and surrounds will begin to deform as more signal is applied to the speaker. That deformation causes the material making up the suspensions and their surrounds to soften and become more flexible. It should be noted that the cones themselves do not deform, and by "deform" we simply mean that they change shape to accommodate the movement of the speaker cone and voice coil.