What does it mean to break-in a speaker?

If you have recently purchased new speakers for hi-fi audio or home theatre setup, you might have heard that about the often-misunderstood “speaker break-in period” responsible for a change in audio quality and response over time. Most audio experts recommend that speakers be broken in before consumers truly begin comparing sound quality between models. Consumers, on the other hand, are often mystified as to what this means or how long the period lasts and what is happening, on a mechanical level, with your new speakers and why does it matter?

The Anatomy of a Speaker

To get to the bottom of this mystery, we need to look at some of the various parts that make up a modern loudspeaker.

You have:

  • The cone also called a diaphragm. This is the part that vibrates to produce sound.

  • The voice coil, which acts on the diaphragm to move it back and forth.

  • The dome, which protects the voice coil from dust and debris.

  • The spider. This is a small suspension that gently holds the voice coil in place.

  • The basket, another name for the outer frame of the entire device.

  • The surround, which flexibly attaches the diaphragm to the basket.

There are other parts involved, such as the amplifying magnet, but the ones listed above are the ones that have particular importance when it comes to breaking in speakers.

Breaking In Speakers: An Important Mechanical Process

The components that we are most interested in are the flexible ones: the spider, diaphragm, and surround. While the fixed components are designed not to change over time, the flexible ones need to do their job. Of these, the spider is the one affected most by the speaker's break-in period.

This component comes out of the factory with a certain rigidness necessary for proper installation, however, the physics of sound amplification favour flexibility. For this reason, the spider is designed to accommodate the specific physics of the voice coil it is responsible for centring over time. When the speaker plays, the spider gradually accustoms to the shape and structure of the voice coil.

How to Break in Speakers? Is There a Correct Way to Break-in New Speakers?

Absolutely. To guarantee the best results, a signal with a complete frequency range is preferred. For example, if you play a signal that is lacking in bass, then the spider will never get to accommodate the deep vibrations necessary to produce those sounds. The component would never be forced to perform over its full dynamic range, limiting its range of movement across the spectrum. An appropriate analogy would be starting up a brand-new car and immediately pushing it to run zero-to-sixty right out of the factory—it will run much smoother after the first few hundred miles.

For this reason, we advise setting aside a 10-hour speaker break-in period, sometimes called a “speaker burn-in” using bass-heavy modern music or any of the specialized burn-in signals that are readily available online. Keep the volume constant during this time and make sure the system is playing just loud enough for you to see the cone moving back and forth. Fortunately, even if you do not want to leave your speakers blasting for 10 hours straight, they will eventually break themselves in as you use them, so long as the volume and frequency considerations are met.

What to Expect After Your Speakers are Broken in?

Generally, you will find that broken-in speakers deliver a more rounded and aesthetically pleasing performance throughout the frequency spectrum. Prior to break-in, you may feel like your speakers sound thin in the bass frequency range or have a muddy, unclear mid-range. After being broken in, you will notice that these different frequency registers begin to coalesce, producing a crystal-clear audio environment whether playing bass-heavy modern music or whispered dialogue in a film.