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In Reply to: RE: is speaker break-in real? posted by Presto on June 27, 2017 at 15:34:27
Speaker break-in is real, simply because material creep (modulus relaxation at constant strain, or increased strain for constant stress) is real. Organic materials are often quite prone to it; inorganic materials generally aren't. As a senior design engineer, that completely nails it.
Incidentally, the popular opinion is that speaker break-in uniformly improves performance. There are many instances where measurements and careful listening tests have proven the opposite.
But going back many posts to Paul Barton's claims as relayed by Kal, there is no question that the perceptual component of the matter is quite real too.
"Incidentally, the popular opinion is that speaker break-in uniformly improves performance. There are many instances where measurements and careful listening tests have proven the opposite."
That was my experience with a fresh pair of Klipsch RF-25s. I plugged them into my known system and was very impressed. I was thinking, yes they are reference level speakers. Very detailed and extended. Two hours later things loosened up and the speakers got a lot warmer and lost their edge. Completely different and not subtle. Never experienced this before or since, typically I can't hear much change from new loudspeakers.
Can't say I'm surprised. Different speakers have different reactions to break-in. Plus, break-in is not a unique state, but drifts over time, and in response to the severity of the break-in regimen. The manufacturer, for example, probably uses a single break-in regimen for all samples of a given product, and this may or may not (usually the latter) approximate how the end user will exercise the product.
The governing PDE's for creep are usually first order, so the solution is exponential with a characteristic time constant. However, creep in a loudspeaker responds to more than one mechanism, so there are usually at least two significant time constants at play. Even more complex, there is a measure of recovery in mechanical properties after exercise, so "break-in" per se isn't a monotonic, deterministic progression, but rather a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of phenomenon.
There are also very long-term changes that take years to come to light, such as very slow, but relatively steady, continued cross-linking of bonds in synthetic rubbers. I have a Focal driver from the 1980's that, back in the day, had a soft surround made from a synthetic rubber (I'm guessing NBR or SBR, not sure.) Today, the surround is as stiff and as brittle as glass; indeed, sections of the surround have broken off in response to mild finger pressure.
The topic of speaker break-in is huge and generally a headache for manufacturers...
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