‘Breaking In’ Speakers: For Real?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Lowbrow, Jun 19, 2021.

  1. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA!
    I’ve read some opinions regarding the need to break in speakers before they can truly sound their best … but is this a real thing? Wouldn’t that mean that new cabs and combos sound somehow sub-optimal to shoppers?

    I’m sure there are plenty of opinions on this… it would be great, though, to get some informed insight on the subject from those with tech knowledge or actual experience as well.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
    wmmj and agedhorse like this.
  2. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    Eden used to recommend playing soft music through the cab, at low volume for a period of time before plugging in and cranking it up. I don't know if this really made any difference though. I suspect someone with some experience in speaker manufacture will chime in with the info.
    Killing Floor likes this.
  3. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    That's what music store shredders are for!
  4. moley6knipe


    Dec 18, 2018
    I run a Barefaced Big Baby 2. Manufacturer says it sounds better when it’s been used a bit. I was massively sceptical but the sound defo improved after a few loud gigs. Whether that’s real or psychosomatic is another question!
    mikewalker likes this.
  5. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I'm quite sure these speakers have all been tested and tested before being packaged for sale.
  6. Cars have been tested before sale as well...
    Speakers are mechanical devices, just like cars.
    The surround "breaks in" when first used.
  7. I bought a pair of Eminence delta 12s for a Musicman cab to replace the stock speakers. It sounded tight and anemic for a while, and now it sounds fuller and more "open". So, I would say that a break in period takes the new stiffness out and allows the speaker to breath easier.
  8. PotsdamBass8

    PotsdamBass8 Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Paging @agedhorse…

    I could see either side of the argument. It’s VERY likely that we are just getting used to the sound of the speakers over a short period of time. I will be the first to admit that I hear things differently day to day, and my tastes change like the weather.

    But we’re also talking about materials that are designed to flex, and I’m not sure how extensively any manufacturer could test a cabinet before selling it. I’m certain that you wouldn’t cause damage to the speaker (kind of like how people used to say you shouldn’t drive a new car very fast for the first X amount of miles), but it is possible that some of the materials are slightly stiffer and after a short period of playing time, become slightly more flexible.
  9. How long is the question I would ask.
    DrummerwStrings, Ekulati and fhm555 like this.
  10. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    With modern speakers, the kind used in pro audio and bass, the changes that occur in the first few hours of use are so small as to be imperceptible in double blind testing. To put it in perspective, the shift of TS parameters during the first few hours is going to be less than 5%, and when you get a shift of >10% it’s a indicator of damaged suspension components.

    At the same time, the production tolerance of a new speaker is typically +/-5% for a premium speaker to +/-10% for an average speaker.

    Under the most controlled listening conditions, I might just barely be able to detect a 5% difference.

    In a damaged speaker, the parameters that change tend to conflict with the rest of the parameters and the differences are more pronounced.

    Now there is more truth to break-in with some guitar speakers, and speakers that use other techniques such as paper surrounds, or where the cone is less rigid. These are also speakers that tend to deteriorate over time and with use (especially abuse). We rarely see this kind of driver in bass and modern PA applications.
  11. okabass


    Mar 19, 2005
    When I made my 8X 10" fridge clone, I drove it 30 or 40 Hz about 1/3 power some 24 hours in my garage. I noticed difference after that. Kind of nicer, warmer or more balanced sound.
    butterfingers1 likes this.
  12. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    From a purely mechanical fatigue-life standpoint I cannot believe there would be a night and day difference in sound after a few hours of playing. If a few hours of playing light music "loosened up" the suspension to such a degree that it was very noticeable, I'm not sure how the suspension could then last for thousands of hours at high/gig volume over decades (as have all my cabinets) without sounding awful.

    That said, below is what Eminence has to say on the subject. As for the shoe break-in analogy in the article let me just say that shoes do not normally change sizes during break-in. It's more a matter that materials simply settle in to their design anticipated characteristics/properties. Here is the entire article:

    Speaker Break-in

    Speaker break-in is no myth and something significant really does happen. All speakers are built to meet certain specifications, and we work diligently through QC efforts during and after production to ensure that happens. Every component used in a speaker has tolerances, which can relate to small variances in initial performance. The mechanical properties of a speaker are slightly modified once a speaker is put into service, and the tone is affected by these changes. Speaker break-in is a natural process that is influenced by how much you use the speaker and how loud you play it. Think of a new pair of shoes. They are not most comfortable right out of the box. They feel best after you have worn them for a while, softened up, and formed to your feet. Much like your new pair of shoes, new speakers need time to “break in”, and will not sound best until they do.

    The components making up the speaker’s suspension are primarily what changes during break-in. These components are the spider (lower suspension) and the cone surround (upper suspension). As the speaker is used, the spider and cone surround begin losing some of their initial stiffness. The sonic results you will hear are an increase in overall warmth, slightly deeper/fatter lows, and warmer/smoother highs. Subtle changes will continue throughout the life cycle of the speaker, but the most noticeable amount occurs in the early stages of use.

    The duration of time required to achieve break-in will vary between speakers. Your environment can affect speaker break-in as well. It may take longer in a cold, dry climate versus a hotter, more humid environment. Again, your usage and volume will also affect break-in time. There are several methods people use to speed up the process, but these methods can be damaging to the speaker and are not recommended. The best method is to simply play your new speaker at normal to high volume as frequently as possible. You may even find it is fun and enlightening to experience the changes in your speaker as it breaks in!
    RyreInc, spatters, Socobass and 6 others like this.
  13. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    No. It’s not a real thing.
    seamonkey, covermego and boggus like this.
  14. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Thank you one again for an explanation free from confirmation bias and marketing BS.
  15. Fernando Costa

    Fernando Costa

    Aug 4, 2013
    Most mechanical devices "fit" better in the first few hours of use. It means this is true. Currently the difference is small because of the high technology used, just like in today's cars too. Just a few hours of use and the sound will improve, very little, but it will improve. It's physics.
    Mili, butterfingers1 and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  16. logdrum

    logdrum A person! Supporting Member

    Maybe the first few minutes when the initial signal is introduced to the speaker. Like time 1 second to 600 seconds later. But the is before the customer gets the speaker
  17. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Confirmation bias goes hand in hand with your ears, heating and perception changing as you play. If you play loud, especially for a long time, your hearing will shift changing perception.

    There is a difference between sliding friction and wear mechanisms and spring-mass mechanisms. For example, a motor operating on magnetic bearings (or on oil film non-contact bearings) exhibit virtually no change from zero hours to tens (or hundreds) of thousands of hours.

    There are no sliding or friction mechanisms in a speaker, it is an axial or linear motor that when operated within its linear limits does not degrade appreciably over tens of thousands of hours. The suspension components function as neutral position biased springs.
  18. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    Sometimes I think this forum is less Talkbass than it is AskAndy
  19. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2008
    Maybe you’re breaking-in the speakers….but maybe the speakers are breaking-in your brain.
  20. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    This is a good way to look at it IMO, there is some validity to the comparison.

    It's also why we limit our listening sessions and take breaks when testing amps and speakers, starting at lower volumes and ending with the higher volume tests.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jul 27, 2021

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