by Bryan Bergeron, Editor by Bryan Bergeron, Editor
Although I like to keep up with the latest innovations in electronics, my personal taste is toward vintage tube
amps and musical instruments. I rarely take out
the plastic for a new model of anything. However,
I was checking out a new 100W tube amp recently
and I asked for a demo. The sound was surprisingly
harsh to my ears.
The salesperson’s response was that this was a new
floor model and that the speakers hadn’t been broken in
yet. Not only that, the speaker cables and the power cord
were new, as well. He was confident that it would take
about 30 hours of continuous use to burn in the cables,
and perhaps double that for the speaker to reach
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard about breaking
in speakers, but it was a first for the cables and power
cord. When I expressed doubt about the speaker cables,
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he showed me a national audiophile magazine with ads
from companies selling pre-broken in audio cables. The
more expensive cables were broken in 100 hours or more.
According to the full page ads, both the insulation and
copper wires require breaking in, again to reach
“full fidelity.” I thanked the well-meaning salesperson
and headed home to do a little research.
It turns out that some — but not all — high-end
speaker manufacturers recommend breaking in speakers.
For example, Celestion ( professional.celestion.com)
— which manufactures high-end speakers for guitar
amplifiers — recommends breaking in speakers. They
suggest warming up a speaker and then playing 10-15
minutes at full volume to get it up to spec in the shortest
time. Some boutique amplifier manufacturers include
burn-in as part of their production process.
Breaking in a speaker makes sense, given that it’s an
electromechanical device. I can understand the need to
get things moving to loosen up the cloth and other
materials. Even so, there is no universal consensus that
breaking in a speaker is needed or that it even works.
If you check the blogs, you’ll see that a common
perception is that the break-in period is the
manufacturer’s ploy to get customers used to their
speakers so they won’t return them. So, as far as
speakers go, I’m leaning toward the break-in side.
However, I put the concept of cable break-in
in the same category as multi-dimensional time
travel with a phone booth. I’ve never seen a rational explanation for breaking in speaker cables, much less power
cords. And yet, there are businesses that
advertise on the web offering break-in services for your
For only $39 per cable, you and your family can avoid
the inconvenience of breaking in your own. Or, another
company will sell you a cable cooker so that you can
break in and periodically recondition your cables in the
comfort of your own home.
I have no problem with someone trying to make a
living by offering products and services that, while
questionable, don’t actively harm anyone. However, it’s a
disservice to well-meaning salespeople and the general
public to popularize voodoo electronics.
In pulling together the articles for Nuts & Volts, we do
our best to validate the science behind each article. But
we also rely on you, the reader, to take an active role in
commenting on our content — positively or negatively.
The laws of physics won’t be changed by group
consensus, but opinions and perspectives can be
shifted in the right direction. NV