Cable Break In for the Naysayers

I still cannot believe that in this stage of Audio history there are still many who claim cable break in is imagined. They even go so far as claim it is our ears that break in to the new sound. Providing many studies in the way of scientific testing. Sigh...

I noticed such a recent discussion on the What’s Best Forum. So here is my response.

______________________________________________________________________________________________ I just experienced cable break in again firsthand. 10 Days ago, I bought a new set of the AudioQuest Thunderbird XLR 2M interconnects.

First impression, they sounded good, but then after about 30 hours of usage the music started sounding very closed in and with limited high frequencies. This continued until about 130 hours of music play time.

Then at this time, the cables started to open up and began to sound better and better each passing hour. I knew at the beginning they would come around because they sounded ok at first until the break in process started. But now they have way surpassed that original sound.

Now the soundstage has become huge with fantastic frequency extensions. Very pleased with the results. Scientifically I guess we can’t prove cable break in is real, but with good equipment, good ears, it is clearly a real event.



I’ve just had three demo Audioquest Dragon power cords my system for 5 weeks and my system was absolutely firing on all cylinders.  Just now replaced the power cords with brand new Dragons which I purchased.  Performance of my system took a truly noticeable dive - more constrained mids and upper frequencies, and less of a free flowing sound all around.

Nice anecdotal story — thanks for sharing.  I’ve shared a somewhat related story where I inadvertently installed my fully broken-in digital cable backwards and that just killed my system to the point it sounded broken.  I fairly quickly found my mistake and everything instantly returned to normal when the cable was reinserted the proper way.  I don’t even think the cable was technically designed to be directional and my take on this that, and as a corollary of break in, it takes time for a cable to get settled into a system and for the signal “flow” for lack of a better word to get optimized even if a cable is already broken in.  That’s just an uneducated guess, but I sure as hell know what I heard that day.  Combine this phenomenon with the break in of the physical materials in a new cable and it’s no wonder they can change so dramatically.  Now, how long before the flat earthers invade and wreck this thing?

I've had great Red Wine in storage that does the same thing.  First it's good, then it's great, but then it closes up again.  But wait, six months later it's fantastic.  Wine is way more fun than cables.  😂

Nevermind I see in the previous thread where it shorted from your cable to the Rel.

I can see that happening easily. I moved my Sub cabling to the speaker end for less congestion. 

It is no problem when you don’t agree with my topic, but if you can, flesh it out with more details as to why you feel that way, it would be helpful.


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I think science has also proved that different people hear the SAME sound differently. No need to be subjective any more. The below is just one of the links. There are other scientific articles on similar vein.

So it is fortunate that some people can distinguish even minute changes while others cannot. Unfortunately both camps are into hi-fi and the group that cannot distinguish changes claim that there are no differences.

The best we can do is to ignore naysayers and enjoy this hobby.

Same Old Song May Sound Different To Individuals

I remember the phase that "if we can't measure it, it can't be real".

However, perhaps we do not have the proper equipment to measure it.



ozzy OP

7,070 posts

I remember the phase that "if we can’t measure it, it can’t be real".

However, perhaps we do not have the proper equipment to measure it.

we do…our ears. 

I have found that some cables break in quickly while others need extended time.

Ozzy, I gad the same experience when I upgraded XLR cables from Earth to the new Pegasus.  They are fabulous!

Science begins with observation, then measurements, theory, predictions, tests to prove the theory is right and wrong… etc. But it starts with observations in the real world. I am sure there are many cable companies that can nearly completely predict the sound of a cable on their reference system. Which brings up the confounding variable, the system the cables are used in. Most all are unique. 

Excellent observations on break in of your new AQ T XLRs.  About a year ago i upgraded to WyWires Platinum full loom (XLR interconnects, USB, Power Cords).  For budgeting, each type was purchased, 1 type a month over 3 months.  SQ of each type improved substantially over time up to about 150 hours of burn in.  The USB improved the most from initial installation.  The power cords the least but the change was still remarkable.  I will use the USB as an example of how SQ improved. Upon initial installation the platinum was better than me previous USB; however, I noticed digital glare. Over time the digital glare reduced until gone.  Background became dead silent. Timbre improved and the sound became more liquid and sweet.    Staging and imaging improved as the staging widened.   Bass became more detailed.  As you stated, cable (and equipment) burn in is real.  I also have no issue as you do with those who do not hear (or believe).  It’s all OK.  IMHO, I love the coherent, detailed, and liquid sound of WyWires Platinum and think they are an excellent value.  I do not see many AGoner’s using them. 

For those of you who have experienced cable break in first hand, have any of you noticed a cyclical pattern of sounding closed up, followed by being more open, back to being closed sounding, etc - with each cycle being different in terms of how open or closed it sounds?  I’ve had this experience a few times now.  Not sure if it’s burnin, or possibly other factors like THD being higher on the AC lines.

Without any implied agreement or disagreement with the OP, the idea that "if it can't be measured it can't be real" (to paraphrase) cannot in any way be a valid position. (Not that above poster necessarily agrees with it either, while many do).  Science constantly finds better and better ways to measure smaller and smaller  phenomenon and more importantly - new ones.  That's like saying nothing new is left to discover.  Oh well... 

I've used cables professionally in live sound, movie production sound, recording studios and post production studios and have never noticed any difference in a cables sound due to breaking in nor has anyone I've ever worked with, including the best engineers in the world.  

If the frequency range or electronic character changed because of burn in it would be very easy to see these changes on a scope, no one has ever seen these changes. There are definitely burn in periods for headphones, speakers, amps, and even DACs but not cables they carry the signal the same way every time (if they are in good shape), and thank goodness they do if cables changed the signal imagine the issues in nearly every aspect of electronics. 

@akgwhiz @ozzy

You say "if it can’t be measured it can’t be real" as a false argument. You are missing something very fundamental in electronics and physics, frequency changes can easily be measured on scopes that are much more precise than anything you can perceive by your ears. The resolution that scopes can see is billions of times more sensitive than your ears and the neurons in your brain. A simple frequency recording screen grab when a cable is new then compared to when the cable is used for 150 hours or so is a picture that is has many magnitudes more information than is necessary to show that there is no difference in the way the cable carries the data. Sure some thing science can’t measure "how much do I love my wife" and such but frequency or electronic timing is what engineers do best in fact the most accurate thing humans do is measure timing it’s out to about 20 digits I think, just imagine if the cable the signal was flowing through wasn’t burn’t in or in some sort of in between stage of burn in obviously that would leave these timing mechanisms useless, but they're not. Hope that is clear.

It's a broad general statement that declares that "i know that there's nothing I don't know".  That's my only point.   It's an over-reach imho.  Im not at all saying that we can't measure countless things with instruments  better than we can ourselves.  I'm a scientist and over my 38 yr career in my field there were numerous developments and insights that were "impossible" or deemed impractical.   Until some became common knowledge to a high schooler.  Einstein didn't like the idea of quantum connectivity calling it a "spooky action over a distance".  We can now observe it, recreate it.  Next, quantum computing.  Just sayin.  Have you watched the YouTube of the Cal Poly guys showing that electricity isn't simply the flow of electrons down a wire but is a primarily a magnetic-induced phenomena?  It's enlightening.  EE isn't my forte but there's always something to be learned.

+1 for Bigtwin re red wine especially. Bottle shock, then meandering evolvement of the palate, aroma, and body. Very real!


same thing with cables. My most sensitive instruments- my ears- tell me so.



I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the benefits of periodic cable cooking, and if I should purchase a cable cooker.

I somehow doubt this thread will be the one to put a rest to the same words and arguments (on both sides!) that has been raging on since I think the 1970's. Funny how the passion has been so fierce through the decades.

What would be productive is if someone were to organize a double blind test, to test such things as differences between power cords, broken-in vs brand new, etc.

This debate could fairly easily be put to rest, I think, with say 5-ish participants from both camps.  And maybe a few neutral judges just to have the bases covered.

If done right, with the right transparency and the right controls in place, the HiFi landscape could be changed forever by such a test.

Come on @jays_audio_lab or some other YouTuber, there is a huge opportunity here to be the one that organized the event that ended these decades-old debates.  I won't mention the other personality on the other side of the fence that could also participate; every time his name gets mentioned threads seem to go sideways!




The argument that some among us have superior uber sensitive hearing and thus can claim to hear large and obvious differences between fuses, cables, dog whistles, big bang vibrations, sunspots and fog...just renders any discussion conveniently moot. Sort of a relief really. I've ridded myself of bad sounding cables here and there but any discussion of cable break-in always seems to reach that point of "oh well, you can't hear it and I can." I once called Morrow Audio (nice cables) about something and Mike actually answered the phone...I couldn't help asking what I thought was a sort of humorous question, "What if I prefer the sound of UN broken in cables?" We both agreed that in that case you just have to buy multiples of each cable and swap then out before they can reach their break-in potential. Expensive but hey, I have extremely sensitive hearing.

In my early years of this hobby, well before cable break in was even discussed, I put in new Audioquest speaker cables to connect a Threshold amp to my B&W 801 S2's. If the stereo shop where I got them wasn't over an hour drive away they would have been returned that same day. Needless to say, they ended up staying in my system for over 25 years. No expectation bias there. 

FWIW I don’t believe any inanimate object can break an entering, cables or otherwise.

I read an article somewhere in the past year about the sounds associated with aurora borealis (northern lights).

It’s been “folklore” for centuries that people have reported HEARING them while scientists, ahem, *S*C*I*E*N*T*I*S*T*S* have scoffed, ridiculed and generally been real d**ks about the idea.

That’s the thing about “THE SCIENCE!” There IS no “THE SCIENCE!” as a fixed, invariant, quantifiable unchanging thing as new data comes in as it has indeed.

Cables, Capacitors, Cartridges, Vacuum tubes need to break in? Synchronicity? In the words of Sigmund Freud to Carl Gustav Jung, “Bosh, Doctor, you are mistaken.”

Until “THE SCIENCE” changes.

Auroras make noise? Who knew.

My joking aside, I think an important contention is that despite many manufacturers / engineers in other lines of products conducting [robustly designed] consumer preference analyses for a variety of reasons, for whatever reason these seem utterly absent from cable companies. Preference studies can be mildly painstaking and usually not free. In this case it’s almost like something that’s not been demonstrated is better staying that way; why?

Just curious to me. No bother any which way.

For those that don’t believe let them live in their own world.

fact the metal has to season in as well as the connectors as dielectric 

Teflon takes the longest , I deal with upgrading Loudspeaker capacitors Xovers frequently and 100% just like with a cable I give them minimum of 200 hours to 

fully settle in . If they don’t believe ,not worth your time debating .

just like with new electronics .

I have tried several sets of speaker cables in my system, and with few exceptions, they all sound different after some usage. My expectation bias always leans towards revelatory, and my hopes are generally dashed out of the gate and I must wait for them to settle to hear their true character. 

     Back in March 2022: a thread about power cords and break/burn-in was started.

     I hate to type, so: I'm going to copy/paste some of my speculations.

     That a highly complex musical signal, MIGHT affect Poynting vectors and signal speeds*, in interconnects, in a much more profound manner than a simple AC (ie: a fixed 60/50 Hz) signal, in a PC, seems likely (at least) to me, as; in EVERY formula regarding *those two, a signal's frequency (frequencies) always factors in greatly.

     Further: the above and what I'll c/p (seems to me) lends credence to how the application of a stronger, DC voltage/field, outside a dielectric (ala Synergistic MPC and Audioquest DBS systems), might stabilize those vectors and signal speeds, PERHAPS eliminating some time smear and, "burn-in". 


5,456 posts

03-31-2022 at 12:13am 



      Bear with me a minute, in my folly, far as a possibility on why a power cord might make a difference.

      Based on some of the theories on how electricity works, simplified:

      The conductor acts as a waveguide for the signal/voltage.

      Within the conductor: when excited by an AC current, electrons oscillate, generating photons/electromagnetic waves that travel, always from the source, to the load.

       Keep in mind: all signals (ie: music, AC) are sinusoidal  waves

       Those photons/electromagnetic waves travel through and outside the dielectric, which (according to it's permittivity/Poynting vectors) will have various effects on those waves.    One of the most obvious is the dielectric's effect on the speed of the signal.

      The better designers of printed circuit boards, even take the above into account, when choosing materials for their products.

       I posted a link on the first page that included data on the manufacture of semiconductor chips and what was observed when materials were cryo'd, during the process.     Short version: better contact/lowered resistance between layers.

          Under the scanning microscope: much smoother surfaces observed.

       I would hope, by now, it's a given that various cable constructions, twists, braids, etc, can make for a cleaner transmission of signals (ie: Litz, etc).            

        Just seems to me (a hypothesis): given the above (some theories and some things established/measured/proven), it's not a big stretch to believe a power cord, built of the best conductor (ie: Ohno CC silver), wrapped in a very low dielectric coefficient dielectric (ie: Teflon), cryo'd for the smoothest transfer of those photons/magnetic waves and twisted in some crazy way, might not smooth out some of perturbations/noise, from the crap an AC waveform had to go through, back to it's generator.  (run-on, much?)

       I haven't tested this, actually comparing two circuits, but: it wouldn't surprise me, if a power supply that used a choke, would be less affected by a better power cord, as the former can eliminate a lot of the high freq garbage, etc, that's either created by, or makes it through all the big converting/filtering stuff, before.

       Never thought about PCs before the good stuff hit the market, but: the Physics/QED made sense.

            I tried 'em, I like 'em and the science makes my head feel better.

                              Don't care WHAT it does to anyone else's!



5,456 posts

03-31-2022 at 12:27am 


     OH, and: it takes some time for the dielectric to form, take a charge, polarize, or however one chooses to define the process, when a dielectric is subjected to electromagnetic waves, which affects the Poynting vectors, measurably/predictably.

                              The lower the material’s dielectric constant: the longer that takes.

                                         PC (interconnect/etc)  burn-in?    Maybe?

                                                          Happy listening! 

Optical cable break in?  C'mon now.  Exactly what is there to "break-in"?  Light bounces of the insides of a hollow glass fiber.  The light isn't energetic enough to affect the material.  The rest of it is highly questionable at best and given how incredible the placebo effect can be I'd say any perception real or not is possible....apparently.

I cook my cables between the TT, the phono stage, the preamp, the amp, and the speakers. Everything in my main systems has no problem logging at least 50-60 hours a week during the winter, about half that during summer. I don't use a steady modulation or tone, just my library. I have revisited source material after a week or two of break-in.... but I am not sophisticated enough, or my short term memory has

gone, well,

I've forgotten where

to tell the difference in cable performance in any realistic way. If something sounded unacceptable at first use I don't have the will power to keep going for some theoretical improvement from poor to wonderful. But I do, and have, secured replacements. I admit my cable budget wouldn't cover the cost of some cable isolation stands, but then I'm more Stoic than Epicurean... I don't spend too much time trying to quantify the subjective-- life is too short     I'd rather go record shopping.

I still cannot believe that in this stage of Audio history there are still many who claim cable break in isn't imagined.


Produce scientific measurements and objective evidence of it happening and you might have a reasonable argument.

Without trying to be too "new agey", everything changes & moves in a spiral from the massive galaxies in our universe down to the smallest nano - particles & all in between including footballs, branches on a tree, threads on a screw, springs etc. & of course electrons in a wire which is easily viewed on an oscilloscope. A sine wave is simply a two dimensional view of this.  

As we are simply part of the universe, why would assume we are any different or our perception of the "sound "of a cable is either. Of course we are not. Thus, cable burn in is as real as anything else & they sound different over time  & slowly may get better & eventually worse. Part of this may also be our taste & what sounds pleasing to us which also changes over time & may even come back around again. 

Additionally, our ears are amazingly sensitive. From all that I've read in the l've read about loudspeaker development by some of the very best designers, they start out w/ what should sound good in theory in all aspects of the speaker & always tweek their designs by ear over a long period of time w/ different kinds of music. There are no measurement devices that compare to this level of sensitivity & why we can recognize someone immediately over the crappy little speakers in our phones in an instant. Just because something cannot be measured does not mean it's not real. 

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@jonwolfpell +1 Everything wiggles and vibrates.

Let’s see how engineers measure this. And predict its movements and outcomes. And then prove it.

- - - -

Tube-rolling = same specs = different materials/construction = different SQ.

Capacitors = same specs = different materials/construction = different SQ.

Resistors = same specs = different materials/construction = different SQ.

Cabling = same specs = different materials/construction = different SQ.

All requiring burn-in.



Describe your system.  I upgraded my cables and I think I heard an improvement.  I was also amazed by how much a power cable made.  There are so many knowledgeable people in this group!

Nordost has a plug in board that can burn in cables. It is so easy to prove. Take a listen to a new cable and then swap them out for the burned in pair. If you feel some thing is off or biased take two Blue Sound Nodes plugged into the same preamp playing I. The same group. It definitely makes a difference. If it doesn’t. Maybe you are better off because your system is not that sensitive or detailed. You can even swap cables between the two BlueSound Nodes and see if you get the same results that the one pair is better. The crystals can change I. The metal when heat or current is applied. I’m not a fan of the measurements crew. I believe there is an imperfection to perfection. Meaning, you need a little $&?! In your system to believe it sounds real. That being said it is up to the listener. I have helped so many friends with dialing in their system. Regardless of the equipment they all preferred a little imperfection. Cable burn in is a real occurrence. Wheather it can be measured or not. Darren from PS Audio developed a phono stage by how it measured. It didn’t work. He then modified it by listening. It is a very, very popular phono stage. Now if someone could create an algorithm from measuring that can produce something that is perfect to humans. One of you out their has to be into AI. Please get on this. 

For a specific example of the inconsistency of measurements vs perceived sound, consider Benchmark amps, preamps & DACS. From all the reviews I’ve seen, they measure as good as if not better than just about anything at any price but don’t sound as musical, natural & pleasing as much else available.  

The only ABSOLUTE in cable "break in" threads-

Never concensus that "break in" is fact.

Cable "break in" does seem more plausible than

"directional cable?"




Wire doesn't change its properties over time! Also, electronic components have very high tolerances and don't change after 100 hours.  Break in claims never cease to amaze me. It's your hearing that is changing adjusting to the new sound. People can believe whatever they want though but, in my opinion, its complete nonsense!

There have been some very good posts on both sides of the question.

From this discussion, If I had not heard the difference before/after breakin I too might (maybe) have been convinced that cables do not break in. Afterall it’s just wire and insulation?

But this phenomenon is real to me, as I have experienced equipment and cabling break in too many times in my 50+ years in this hobby.

However, it does seem that AudioQuest cables are especially sensitive to break in. My Dragon power cords were also quite dramatically changed after break in.

BTW, my system is posted on my systems page.


"I just experienced cable break in again firsthand."

I suggest changing "experienced" to "perceived".

@ozzy I am with you on cable break in and WTS, I believe that our ears/brain adapting is also part of the process. Enjoy the music