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Turntable/cartridge burning in

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 07:59:30

Posts: 15
Joined: March 29, 2012
I am very new to vinyl. I am just wondering whether a turntable or a cartridge needs a burning in process to achieve its designed level of performance. A while ago I purchased the Audio Technica ATLP120 turntable with the included AT95E cartridge. It seemed that it took about two weeks for the sound quality to stabilize and become satisfactory.

I purchased a Shure M97xE cartridge a few weeks ago and after installation the sound was awful. I thought it was defective and asked for a replacement. Yesterday the replacement arrived. I installed it. The sound is better than the previous one, but still not even close to the AT95E, which is not right according to all the online reviews of the Shure M97xE. Therefore, I am asking whether any turntable or cartridge will go through a burning in process. If it does, what kind of music shall I play to expedite the process? I mostly listen to classical. In your experience, how long it will take before you get the best sound that it is able to offer? In addition, could the burning in process cause some damage to the vinyl record so that I should avoid using my really precious ones for the process?

Thanks in advance for your reply.


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RE: Turntable/cartridge burning in, posted on March 29, 2012 at 09:41:56
Posts: 7341
Location: Powell, Wyoming
Joined: July 23, 2007
Hi rondos and welcome to the Vinyl Asylum.

In my opinion, based on 40+ years in Hi Fi, "break-in period" is a myth, promoted to facilitate sale of high priced cartridges and other audiophile gear while quelling buyer's remorse.

Think about it....

What better way for a "high end audio" retailer to explain away underwhelming performance while a customer is auditioning pricey cartridges and cables than to blame it on break-in period? And once the sale is made and the customer listens to the new gear at home and doesn't hear the 'magic', he then needs to be patient, allowing for the break in period to pass. By then of course he's accustomed to the sound of the gear (which really hasn't changed at all) and less prone to return it to the retailer.

In the past forty years, I've bought a lot of new cartridges. None have ever exhibited any sort of "break-in" where sound improves over time. It either sounds good out of the box or it doesn't.


I purchased a Shure M97xE cartridge a few weeks ago and after installation the sound was awful. I thought it was defective and asked for a replacement. Yesterday the replacement arrived. I installed it. The sound is better than the previous one

It's possible the first cartridge was defective. Also consider that poor alignment and improper VTF will adversely affect the performance of any cartridge. One common newbie error is setting VTF at the low end of the manufacturer's recommended range in the erroneous belief that it will reduce record wear. In reality, it's more likely to cause mistracking, damage to records, and poor sound. I've always run my cartridges at or close to the manufacturer's maximum for best performance.

Always good to hear from a new convert to vinyl. Have fun with it!


RE: Turntable/cartridge burning in, posted on March 29, 2012 at 09:54:17

Posts: 486
Location: Northern Kentucky
Joined: August 5, 2011
with all due respect to cactus, my long experience has been different. in my experience, a new cartridge will often experience a period of edginess in the treble and constrained dynamics while the new parts are working in. the most recent is a denon 103 ($180), hardly an expensive cart, but very good. the same has been true for me with vehicles, bmw motorcycles take at least 20,000 miles and dodge cummins diesel trucks take about 50,000 (18.5 mpg highway new, 25.0 at 60,000).
the period can vary, but after 10 hours, it should be about 80% of what you can expect and 100 hours it is done.
let us know how it works out.


Tom Collins


I agre, 100 hours is about the average any cartridge I owned, posted on March 29, 2012 at 10:33:34

Posts: 12561
Location: SoCentral PA
Joined: December 19, 2007
needed for the elastomers of the suspension to loosen up.

Tolerances in a cartridge (and of course the better ones have specs concerning that far tighter. That cantilever, too, will flex and loosen up over that early period.

The entire thing being that the magnet structure et al become aligned, which is why the sound changes. If the cartridge was not designed to allow for that break in, those changes would still occur, but that alignment of the moon, the sun, the stars and Jupiter would not be correct.

I've found that a sprinkling of ginger snap cookie dust will hasten things along. Simply crush the cookie until it is fine dust. If you wish, you can snort the remaining dust as only a tiny amount is needed for your cartridge. I'm told it produces a very fine "high." Or so JimK says.

Music. Window or mirror?


Setting the VTF on the light side when new WILL cause mistracking and other problms, because of , posted on March 29, 2012 at 10:40:28

Posts: 12561
Location: SoCentral PA
Joined: December 19, 2007
what you feel DOESN'T happen. I can usually lower the VTF a bit after a short break-in period and again with more hours on the cartridge.

I'm not speaking of 2 gram (more?) swings, but 1/10 gram increments can result in much better sound.

Music. Window or mirror?


RE: Turntable/cartridge burning in, posted on March 29, 2012 at 12:21:24

Posts: 15
Joined: March 29, 2012
Thank all of you for your prompt responses and suggestions.

I worry about the burning in issue because I experienced it with my audio system a few months ago. At first I was almost shocked by the sound coming out of the system. It was not only muffled, but also coarse and strange! On the second day, the sound was still very poor. I almost thought about returning the system. In the morning of the third day, I somehow remotely remembered a friend mentioned something like the longer you use the speakers, the better they would sound. So I intentionally left the system on but idle when I went out during the day. And when I came back late that afternoon and played the system again, suddenly the sound became much, much better! It was rich, clear, and dynamic. When I closed my eyes while playing symphonic music, the sound was even three dimensional! The difference was so huge that it couldn’t be just my ear getting used to the sound. That experience convinced me that speakers need burning in, and thus I am wondering whether turntable or cartridges need burning in as well.

I will report back on the Shure cartridge.


I agree with cactus...nt, posted on March 29, 2012 at 17:29:14
Doug G.

Posts: 911
Location: Upper Midwest
Joined: September 21, 2005


RE: Turntable/cartridge burning in, posted on March 30, 2012 at 02:52:06
Just Looking Around

a good cartridge should sound good right out of the box and should sound a little better after burning in.

a bad sounding cartridge will never sound good even after thousands of hours of playtime.

forgive the intrusion of a lurker.


It is dependant on the type of elastomer used in the cartridge suspension..., posted on March 30, 2012 at 04:45:39

Posts: 5797
Location: Glen Burnie, MD USA
Joined: December 18, 2003
May 1, 2004
Different cartridges show very little break in effect and some are very sensitive to the new cartridge blues.

Some manufacturers go as far as to recommend the ambient temperature that their cartridges should be used in. ALmost all manufacturers recommend that we check our adjustments periodically due to the effects of ambient temperature and the effects of cartridge breakin.

I have experienced breakins of 50-100 hours on several cartridges over the past 40+ years. Its not your imagination...


We don't shush around here!
Life is is just samples thereof


RE: Turntable/cartridge burning in, posted on April 1, 2012 at 17:32:04

Posts: 29
Location: Australia
Joined: December 23, 2009
My experience is that break-in is very real, not some kind of psycho-acoustic myth.

(My most recent cartridge change on my SL1210-MN bearing with a Jelco SA-750D, was a NOS Ortofon Kontra-B. Straight out of the box, it was virtually un-listenable, harsh, analytical, and dynamics that gave you a headache. It gradually improved and settled down at around 50-hours. Now it has the sonics you would expect from a good quality cartridge. But from new until now, it was nothing short of a total transformation.)


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