Headphone Burn In

For Christmas, one of the things I received was a new set of headphones for my iPod. They are Klipsch S4 headphones which Consumer Reports had rated highly and reviews on Amazon seemed pretty favorable as well. There was nothing really wrong with my Sennheiser CX300 headphones I’ve had for a few years, but I felt like maybe I could do better.


Some of the reviews on Amazon said that these headphones required a “burn in” period to sound good. I had heard about that with some types of headphones, so I did some research. It’s one of those things that people don’t seem to agree on or whether it is even real. It seems like it would be pretty easy to measure the performance of headphones if you had the right equipment, but I guess a lot of headphones now actually conform to the shape of the ear and use a tight fit to produce part of the sound. So maybe it is harder than I think. Anyway, I think it is really funny that even though there isn’t much proof about burn in and what is effective, that there is a long page of instructions telling you how to do the best possible burn in of your headphones. It is posted at head-fi.org and referenced by a lot of different websites. You can actually get MP3’s with sounds recorded that are supposed to maximize burn in.

When I got the headphones, I tried them out and they didn’t sound all that great. So I left them plugged in while a playlist of normal music played at a little higher volume than I would typically listen to, but not as high as it would go. Some people recommend 40 hours of burn in, but I thought they were sounding better after only 15 minutes. I left them plugged in and would check back every now and then and over the next few hours it really did seem like the sound quality was improving. I let them run all night and then listened to them and they did sound very good, though not quite as much bass as I’m used to with the Sennheisers.

They are also very comfortable, almost like they aren’t even there. One thing is they have a Y cord instead of the asymetric cord of the Sennheisers which I had learned to like because it lets you unplug the earbuds and hang them from around your neck if you need to just take them out for a second to listen to someone or something.

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