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Headphones Burn-In Isn’t Real?

Do you think that headphones burn-in isn’t real? Do you even know what headphones burn-in is? If you are a tech-savvy geek or a relentless audiophile, you will already know about this legendary issue/non-issue. And if you don’t know, we are about to go pedal to the metal to explore this subject in great detail.

You need not worry about “burn-in” when you purchase brand new headphones. But there are some shards of truth used by flat-earth headphone burn-in type connoisseurs to perpetuate the burn-in theory. But what’s true, and what isn’t? Let’s do some debunking…


Is Headphones Burn-in Real?

Is Headphones Burn-in Real

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. Stories about shape-shifting reptilian overlords overtaking the consciousness of the British Royal Family members during satanic rituals is one of our favorites. But headphones burn-in isn’t a real thing. And that’s because it’s not true. But there are a few half-truths to decipher.

The definition of headphones burn-in is the process of ‘breaking in’ a set of new headphones. Some believe that a brand new set of headphones needs to be bombarded with hours of “pink noise” before they reach optimum audio levels.

Over time, the materials used to construct the headphones will become less rigid due to the force and heat. The loss in rigidity gives the speaker driver element more freedom and improves sounds quality.

That’s the headphones burn-in theory, but…

The reason so many people believe the headphones burn-in theory is because it’s rooted in some truth, like all good tales. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Like any product, the materials used will deteriorate over time. The headphones speaker drivers will lose rigidity, no doubt about it. But this should not affect the audio quality in any way.

You won’t be able to measure the changes with your ear. But the rigidity will most definitely weaken over time. Larger speaker drivers will have larger changes over time. This could slightly affect the surround sound because this is the spot with the most flexing action takes place. But this is not so dramatic for headphones in comparison to larger speakers.

Can We Prove Headphones Burn-In is Real or Not?

Even though the constant use of new headphones might cause the materials to weaken, the sound driver element is not affected. So already, from the start, you can see that headphones burn-in is a myth of sorts.

The majority of audiophiles swear that headphones burn-in is real and improves audio. But audio quality by ear is very subjective. ‘Good Sound’ is a highly relative thing.

If you experience a change in sound quality after approximately 50 hours of use, did the materials turn into soup? No, of course not. In essence, the headphones burn-in theory has never been proven, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

What do the Experts Say?

What do the Experts Say

When you don’t know something, ask the experts. Fortunately for you, we are experts with decades of sound and studio engineering experience. So what do we think about the headphones burn-in theory? We simply go where the evidence takes us.

The truth is there is no documented evidence on headphones burn-in. So why do so many audiophiles still argue daily about this non-issue? Why do they believe that burning in headphones to improve audio is a viable strategy? Here are a few opinions courtesy of audiophiles who believe that burn-in is real.

Steve Guttenberg of CNET

Audio experts such as Steve Guttenberg of CNET believe that sound does mature over time. He felt that his 10-year-old pair of ER-4Ps are “slightly more relaxed and more laid-back in tonal balance” than some brand new Etymotic ER-4PY in-ear headphones.

Did you see the language Guttenberg used? He “felt” that the older headphones were “slightly” better. Not very measured ways to gauge sound improvements. This is the problem with the burn-in concept.

Other audiophile experts who believe in headphones burn-in use very similar language to Steve. And almost all of them state that no measurable difference was noticed aside from their feelings and their own beliefs. Unfortunately, your feelings are not facts.

The guys from WIRED said…

The guys who work for WIRED have the total opposite attitude to the majority of audiophiles. They believe that headphones burn-in isn’t real, and they completely scorn and laugh at the idea. They said the burn-in concept is “tribal knowledge” and that the term is ambiguous at best.

In these types of situations, we like to draw on facts to prove if something is real or not. But there are no measured studies or evidence to support headphones burn-in. Other than a few audiophiles waxing lyrical about their feelings.

Is There Any Data on Headphones Burn-In?

This discussion is more polarizing than American politics and twice as vicious. Audiophiles swear that the differences in sound after burning-in headphones are like night and day. While the opposition says it’s never been measured, and it could just be a placebo effect. You hear what you want to hear, depending on your opinion.

So, has any scientific data ever been produced on the subject? The answer is no, because what scientist would spend so much time and effort on a subject that isn’t so important when put into context.

Bluetooth safety or wireless internet signals are more interesting and virtuous to scientists than slight audio improvement for headphones. The only evidence on headphones burn-in is subjective.

Could a “Better Fit” be the Culprit for Improved Sound?

Some experts believe that on-ear and over-ear headphones “burn-in” better than earbuds and other forms of in-ear type headphones. Could the simple answer to the supposed concept of improved sound over time be due to materials instead of burn-in?

It could be down to headphones using cushioning and protective materials such as foam, plastic, and fabric. These materials all have more maneuverability than metal. They can conform to your face and ears and, over time, form a better seal and a tighter fit.

Could this be why audiophiles swear on improved sound over time? The padding and cushioning relax over time and form a better fit? Is this the reason why audiophiles report improved sound? We will get annihilated by the audiophiles for making this suggestion. But it’s a very common-sense one.

Highly Recommended Headphone Products

Highly Recommended Headphone Products

If you are reading this article, we can only surmise that you are in the process of buying some new headphones, correct? Are you now convinced that headphone burn-in isn’t real?

But even if it’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that you need some new ones. Let’s take a look at the best headphones that use lots of foaming and cushioning that could theoretically help sound improvements over time.

COWIN E7 Active Noise Canceling Headphones

These quality Bluetooth headphones have lots of padding and immense bass functionality. When you need the best headphones, these are always a serious contender.

Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 Hybrid Headphones

With lots of padding and multiple modes, these hi-res headphones are a product you can’t afford to overlook. They come equipped with amazing noise-canceling properties and are very comfortable.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

This is one of the most highly recommended headphones on our list. The Bose name is synonymous with immense reliability, amazing sound quality, and total durability. If you want headphones that will last, these are for you.

Check out our in-depth Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review for more information.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones

These top-notch Sony headphones are a market leader in many ways. They have the best noise-canceling features imaginable, a microphone, and amazing sound quality.

Razer Opus Active Noise Canceling Wireless Headphones

These are top headphones that offer both wireless and 3.5mm jack options. They look great and perform even better. A market-leading product that takes it to the next level.

For more information, take a look at our in-depth Razer Opus Review.

Panasonic Full-Sized Lightweight Long-Cord Headphones

These classic-style headphones are no-frills personified. They are standard long-cord headphones but offer lots of padding that shapes to the contours of your face over time. They are also unbeatable value.

PeohZarr On-Ear Headphones

These are another set of long-cord headphones that are very comfortable to wear and extremely inexpensive to buy. They are a fantastic deal because they look great, work great, and are very durable.

Want More Valuable Headphone Information?

We have numerous audio specialists ready to help, so check out our helpful guides on How to Reset Your Bluetooth HeadphonesHow to Fix Sound Delay in Bluetooth HeadphonesHow to Connect Your Gaming HeadsetHow To Clean Headphones, and How to Use a Single Jack Headset on PC Without a Splitter for more useful information.

You may also like our articles on How to Keep Your Earbuds From Falling OutHow to Disable a Headphone Jack for PC and PhonesHow to Fix a Loose Headphone JackHow to Wear Headphones with GlassesDoes Dolby Atmos Work with Bluetooth Headphones, and Why do I Hear Static in my Headphones for even more great tips and tricks.

Headphones Burn-In Isn’t Real – Final Thoughts

How should you treat your new headphones? Like a normal person, please. What sort of person bombards a new product from the get-go? Someone with too much time on their hands who thinks that aging a product overnight will create a marginally better sound that cannot be scientifically gauged.

Sound nuts, right? But that doesn’t mean that headphones burn-in doesn’t exist. It’s like the aforementioned shapeshifting reptilians. However, it’s your life. So if you want to blast your new headphones with pink noise, please blast away. But don’t come running to us when your new headphones age quicker than Barack Obama.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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