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Burn in explained


Burning in audio gear is one of the most important tasks reviewers undertake as only when the "gear" is broken in, burnt in, cooked, toasted, etc, can reviewers render a valid evaluation. Of course, the same applies to other users, customers and retailers. The burn in process, though known to most people who work in the electronics business, isn't based on solid scientific data to help us determine the length of time or when a new component is, in fact, fully burned in. However, it is relatively well known that the process deals with various issues, such as mechanical, thermo-mechanical and, of course, electrical elements.
For equipment such as loudspeakers, amplifiers, preamplifiers or source components, burning in durations vary greatly. We customarily burn in each component for at least 100 hours, during which time we frequently check the progression. When we hear no differences from one day to the next, we assume the component is fully burnt in and we proceed with our listening tests.
When it comes to cables, the burning in period ranges from three days to six months. Some cable manufacturers will tell users that their cables will sound best after signal flow has taken place for hundreds of hours. Cables might take a very long time to burn in and that interruptions, disconnection, even bending the cables will diminish cable performance and another breaking in period will likely be required. We can attest to their statements' accuracy as we have discovered this during our own listening tests. We have found that most upscale cables take a long time before they actually establish a signature which can be documented for our readers-and it is one of our frustrations.
Testing cables is one of the most difficult chores and the least liked, we may add here, by our reviewers/panellists. Some cables, when handled for the purpose of reviewing, must be connected, disconnected and reconnected, which results in many unproductive hours. Without a doubt, some reviewers are tempted to save time and money and write the review based on time-limited observations‹and what you get from the cable is not necessarily in compliance with the reviewer's claims.
The pulsating signals subject cables to an exceedingly intense and dense array of data, which covers not only frequency extremes but also mimics and addresses the intricate configurations of harmonics. Though not documented in depth by most manufacturers, changes that occur in metal conductors while burning in often transform the sonic complexion of conductors, an unpredictable dilemma in signal transfer technology.
Acoustics, the study of sound, is frequently considered a division of mechanics because sound is due to the motions of particles of air or other medium through which sound waves can travel and thus can be explained in terms of the laws of mechanics.
Electricity and magnetism have been regarded as a single branch of physics since the intimate connection between them was discovered in the early 19th century. It is known, for example, that an electric current gives rise to a magnetic field and a changing magnetic field induces an electric current - important elements when designing electronics or cables. Other elements to take into account include electrostatic technology (which deals with electric charges at rest), electrodynamics (with moving charges) and magnetostatics (with magnetic poles at rest).
The breaking in procedure must also take into account the dielectric materials used. Dielectrics in cables do not conduct electricity but should curb breakdown under high voltages; should not draw appreciable power from the circuit; must have reasonable physical stability; and none of their characteristics should vary much over a fairly wide temperature range. Generally, the dielectric constant of air is defined, as 1 and other dielectric constants are determined with reference to it. Other properties of interest in a dielectric are dielectric strength (a measure of the maximum voltage it can sustain without significant conduction) and the degree to which it is free from power losses.
Finally, non-metals have much higher electro negativities than metals (of the non-metals, fluorine is the most electronegative, followed by oxygen, nitrogen and chlorine). The larger the difference in electro negativity between two atoms, the more polar the bond between them. In the extreme case of a bond between a metal and a non-metal, a complete transfer of electrons takes place.
All this (and much more) will affect the stability of conductors wrapped up in a dielectric material. Although the breaking in process isn't very well explained in scientific terms, it governs the sound we hear through a system.

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