How long should a component be broken-in before it reaches peak performance?

How long should a component be broken-in before it reaches peak performance?
No break in is needed
16% (35 votes)
Just a brief period
14% (32 votes)
At least a week
22% (48 votes)
Several weeks
25% (56 votes)
11% (25 votes)
12% (27 votes)
Total votes: 223

Reader Ron Satterly wonders whether other audiophiles consider component break-in necessary before critical listening. How long should a component be broken-in before it reaches peak performance?

ch2's picture

At least a week! Continuously. I'm talking about major components not things like speaker cables and interconnects. Speakers especially need to be broken in. The capacitors in all components need to be "flexed" on a regular basis, ie, not sitting off for a long while without being exercised.

tonyE's picture

I usually buy used stuff from the likes of Audiogon. I gave up on new stuff due to the outrageous prices of most "High-End Jewelry." The only new stuff I get is digital boards for my computers and those don't seem to need no break in.

DAB, Pacific Palisades, CA's picture

It depends on the degree to which an audio consumer is brainwashed into thinking that a given component will sound better over time.

Rhino's picture

I never thought it really made that much difference with purely electronic devices (as opposed to electromechanical ones such as speakers and headphones where meachanical compliance can be changed). But there's no doubt that a recent SACD/CD player purchase had a change in sound after about 150 hours of continuous play. I listened to it out of the box and then only after this break-in period. There was no denying the sound had changed (much less lean).

Dennis's picture

My Esoteirc X03-SE took 1200 hours to sound awesome. It was unlistenable out of the box and only so-so after 500 hours. My Tara Labs Balances ICs took a little more than 100 hours. My Benchmark DAC sounded great out of the box (power cables and IC's were already broken in).

Dave in Dallas's picture

Why doesn't Stereophile specifically ask manufacturers this question as a matter of course when reviewing components or survey manufacturers on the topic? Well?

sam's picture

Components don't need break-in, but it's often a good idea for the listener to get used to a component for a while.

Mike Agee's picture

We want break-in to be complete when a component's sound approaches our ideal. A component that keeps shifting beyond that point, or never gets there, is eventually replaced. Perhaps one criterion for a "classic component" is that it stop evolving at that ideal point. Perhaps those that initially appear bound for classic status do not achieve it because they keep moving beyond that ideal. Those exotic dialectrics that require so much break-in may just keep on breaking-in; an extended half-life basis of change may cloak the fact that the component is slowly moving too far.

Tim K's picture

It depends on the component. I have cables that broke in within a week while my DAC took nearly three months to settle down. I wish it could be universally quicker.

WC2's picture

When you believe in things that you don,t understand/then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way, yeh, yeh.

dannyboy's picture

It's a myth.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

Hellifino. Some things seem to sound good right out of the box. Others take longer. There's no hard rule on this one.

Steve R's picture

I believe that each component needs break-in. Some components need a little and the longest component took about 700 hours before the sound quit changing.

TS's picture

Each product has different break-in times—the ones that I own, anyway.

Scott Soloway's picture

The choices should really be in hours. The break-in period also varies quite a bit from component to component. Electronics with advanced PC board materials, for example. take quite a bit longer than units using fiberglass.

Hank D.'s picture

I've never noticed much beyond a couple of days, but break in is real for almost all components.

Xenophanes's picture

It depends on what is being broken in. Speakers may need a few seconds. Solid state electronics and wires generally none. I understand tube amplifiers may need a half an hour to warm up but that's not break-in. Our hearing may need some time since our enjoyment of music depends a lot on our mood.

Henry Feiner's picture

It varies with components but the really good ones I've found need only a brief period. Tonearm wiring (especially when a LOMC is used) I've found to take the longest time—weeks!

Robin Hillier's picture

Depends on the component. I tried a tiny trends T-amp that sounded sweet from day 1 and didn't seem to change. On the other hand, my DAC had a frequency response like a see-saw for a few hundred hours and then, after a few days of the Isotek burn-in CD and everything suddenly popped into place.

Erik Vermeulen's picture

Some gear is just fine out of the box, while other gear need several weeks to reach peak performance.

Pete's picture

It really depends upon the specific component, the PCB or other dialectic materials in use, as well as the level and nature of its use. For example, a phono preamplifier, with its very small signals and intermittent use, will take longer. A power amp, with its higher voltages and likely greater use (repeat anyone) may well take less time, even when calculated on "hours in use" rather than days or weeks. In any event, and from my own experience, break-in is a real (not imagined) phenomenon.

Jimmy's picture

Unless you utilize the component every single day, it should take a few months to get used to its nuances.

J.R.'s picture

Depends on the component.

Timbo in Oz's picture

Speaker suspensions do benefit from break-in. Worth doing before you measure them and design the box tuning. Caps and resistors can take a while. Most amplifiers benefit from a warm up. Valve amps, IME, take up to an hour.

Robert's picture

Other. As long as it takes for the magic to appear, or until the pain of listening becomes too great. Whichever comes first . . . .

Al Marcy's picture

Some things just keep getting better. Some don't.

HK Mendenhall's picture

More than 200 hours is adequate, I believe, for just about anything—Teflon caps come to mind here, although the Russian K40-9 PIO surprised me for taking so long.

EP's picture

It depends on the component. My speakers took over 200 hours to break in. My speaker cables took over 400 hours to reach their optimum. After about 100 hours my preamp (tubes) lost the hard edge treble and the midrange came to life. In the literature for a component, most manufacturers include a recommended break-in time for optimum performance. However, it always seems to require more break-in time than what they have recommended.

Nodaker's picture

I said at least a week, although silver cables seem to take forever before they reveal their true sonic nature. Tubes about 24 hours.

rvance's picture

I haven't a clue. And after it is broken in, is it all downhill from there? At what point do components start losing their values and negatively affect the optimum circuit topology? (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds scientific.)