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How to properly break in speakers?

If you’ve recently purchased new speakers for a high-fidelity audio or home cinema setup, you may have heard about the “speaker break-in period,” often misunderstood, responsible for a change in audio quality and response over time. Most audio experts, including our team at BR8KIN, recommend breaking in speakers upon receipt. However, consumers are often puzzled about what this really means and how long the break-in period for speakers lasts – what actually happens, mechanically, with your new speakers during their break-in period, and why is it important?

The anatomy of a speaker

To get to the bottom of this process, we need to examine some of the different parts that make up a modern speaker. You have:

– The diaphragm, also known as the cone. It’s the part that vibrates to produce sound.
– The voice coil, which acts on the diaphragm to move it back and forth.
– The dust cap, which protects the voice coil from dust and debris.
– The spider. It’s a small suspension that gently holds the voice coil in place.
– The basket, another name for the outer frame of the whole device.
– The surround, which flexibly attaches the diaphragm to the basket.

There are other parts involved, like the amplifying magnet, but the ones listed above are the ones of particular importance when it comes to breaking in speakers.

Breaking in speakers: An important mechanical process

The components we are most interested in are the flexible ones: the spider, the inner surround, and the outer surround. While the fixed components are designed not to change over time, the flexible components need to do so to perform their job properly. Among these, the spider is most affected during the speaker’s break-in period.

This component comes out of the factory with a certain stiffness needed for proper installation. However, the physics of sound amplification favors flexibility. For this reason, the spider is designed to adapt to the specific physics of the voice coil it is responsible for centering over time. As the speaker plays, the spider gradually gets accustomed to the shape and specific structure of the voice coil.

How to break in speakers? Is there an efficient and safe way to break in new speakers?

Absolutely. To ensure the best results, a signal with a full range of frequencies is preferred. For example, if you play a signal lacking bass, the spider will never get accustomed to the deep vibrations needed to produce those sounds. The component will never be forced, with just regular music, to work on its entire dynamic range, limiting its range of motion across the entire spectrum. A fitting analogy would be starting a brand new car and immediately pushing it to go from zero to sixty right out of the factory – it will operate much smoother after a few hundred kilometers.

For this reason, we advise Hi-Fi enthusiasts to plan for a 10-hour speaker break-in period, sometimes referred to as “speaker burn-in,” by applying a specialized break-in signal that is easily available online. Keep the volume consistent during this time and make sure the system plays just loud enough, having previously played a commercially available track at a reasonable volume. Over time, even if you only let your speakers play for 10 hours in a row, they will eventually break in.

What to expect after breaking in your speakers?

Generally, you will find that broken-in speakers offer more engaging performances and more efficient rendering across the frequency spectrum. Before break-in, you may feel that your speakers sound narrow in the low-frequency range or have a somewhat blurred midrange and lack details. Once you have completed the break-in period for your speakers, you will notice that these different frequency registers start to stand out, producing a more distinct audio environment, whether you’re playing contemporary music or whispered dialogues in a movie.