Speaker Break In – The Experience From An Audiophile

This post is going to be a little different from what I usually write about. Today, we’re going to talk about how speakers can be broken in. This also includes headphones as well. There are some of you who might not agree with my views on speaker break in. These views are based on my personal experience.

A Basic Explanation On How A Speaker Works:

I’m sure that you already know this. I’m going to try to explain it in a way to better understand how speaker break in works. A speaker moves inward and then outward to follow the Alternating Current that the amplifier sending it. The alternating current varies in frequency. This frequency is the sound we here. You see, the frequency varies a ton. There’s also a mix of different frequencies that need to be produced in order to produce the sound with detail. A speaker has to be able to move with ease to the lower frequencies while the higher ones need to resonate through the cone. Some speakers let the upper mid range (1kHz) resonate from the dust caps on the woofer (My Yamahas) for example. Mid range drivers produce some treble through the dust cap for example. Cone tweeters are able to handle upper mid range resonating from the cone. Now you know, a speaker needs to do many jobs to provide the transient response they’re capable of.

The Spider:

A view of the speaker's spider.

The spider basically works like a suspension. When the speaker is moving inward, it is pushing against the spider flexing it. The spider’s job is to prevent the speaker from bottoming out in the gap (inside the magnet). When new, the spider is very stiff. It takes more power to achieve the same amount of low end. The low end is also not as punchy nor is it hitting as deep. When the speaker is broken in, the spider won’t be so resistant to movement. Now the speaker is able to move freely with ease thus the quantity, quality, and detail in the low end is improved.

The Surround:

A woofer with a foam surround.

Now the surround does the opposite of the spider. The surround keeps the cone centered as to not let the voice coil rub on the sides of the magnet in the gap. While doing this, it also prevents the cone from moving to far outward. Like the spider, the surround is very stiff when new. Do this: Put your finger on the edge of the surround on an older set and push lightly. Feel how easy that was? Now do the same with your newest set. This is a great way to tell if your speakers are benefiting from break still. When the spider is stiff, it puts too much pressure on the cone causing the cone to bend distorting the sound. Pushing the speaker too hard like this will damage it. When the surround is broken in, the speaker is able to come all the way out to max x-mas (the amount a speaker moves) without causing any cone flex.

Resonating Cone = Mid Range

A mid range driver.

Very rarely will you see a speaker cone move with frequencies above 300Hz. Instead, these frequencies resonate within the cone itself. The cone itself does become softer after being broken in. You can tell be taking your finger and rubbing the cone softly. You feel it sort of bend when you do. When the cone becomes softer, it resonates more easily allowing the sound to become more transient. This also applies to mid range drivers. Most mid range drivers don’t have a spider to begin with. There isn’t enough movement to warrant needing a spider. The crossover filters the low end out.

Resonating Dust Cap = Upper Mid Range and Treble

A dented dust cap.

Not only does the cone resonate, almost everyone forgets about the dust cap. You’ll see people wondering why their speakers don’t sound right with their dust caps indented. Believe it or not, this will hurt the sound. The dust caps on most speakers are designed to resonate to aid in the production of upper mid range and treble frequencies. For example, woofers in two speakers with inverted dust caps will have less forward upper mid range production VS woofers like my Yamahas. The size and shape of the dust cap also make a difference. This is also how full range speakers are able to handle treble surprisingly well. There really is no way to tell if the dust caps have loosened up. You don’t want to dent them. This will mess up the sound of your speakers. Just think of this as the same effect of denting dome tweeters. They won’t like it. Neither will your dust caps.

To Conclude:

Yes, speakers do need to be broken in. They also age very well when played frequently. My 1960s Electrohomes are an example of just how long speakers can last. They’re still going strong and sound amazingly good for their age. Another thing to mention. Sometimes speakers if left to sit unused for a long enough period of time will become stiff. It’s best to play your speakers often to keep them healthy. This will keep them sounding good for decades to come. As always, I hope this helped inform you on speaker break in. Some believe it while others don’t. If there is one thing, speakers do become loser with use. It’s just how the elastic suspensions are. I believe in speaker break in. I’ve experienced it personally. Please feel free to discuss in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “Speaker Break In – The Experience From An Audiophile”

  1. Hello Rhett
    The speakers are used for the reproduction of sounds, that is to say it transforms the electrical energy into sound. The speakers can last many years if they are used with some frequency.

    The first cause of the different sound of the speakers is the design and construction of the transducers, also known as driver. I also have a speaker of many years whose sound is very well maintained over the years. 

    Thank you very much!

  2. Thank you for your valuable information on the speakers. We have some old big speakers a friend made at home as a hobby. They still sound very good but it’s important for me to know that they shouldn’t be left without playing for a long time. How often do you recommend to let them play? 

    • I would play them at least once a month. This shouldn’t be an issue if they sound good. Good sounding speakers will have you listening for hours.

  3. Hi Rhett,

    Thanks for your article! I love music but I haven’t any idea about speaker. You just described it in a easy way. Speaker also need to be broken in I never thought! I’ve also a speaker in my home it’s too old but still it works amazingly. But I have been thinking to buy a new speakers & your article makes me more conscious about it, now I got some knowledge! Please, keep sharing like this article more!

  4. I never realized until today that speakers need to be broken in.  Moreover I did not know that indented speakers can cause problems with sound.  My Bose speakers in my game room have a large dent in one of them and now the sound comes out kinda muffled.  Is that a typical problem that comes with indented speakers?  Thank you for teaching me something new today about speakers and sound. 

    • Here’s an old school trick. Get some duck tape and lightly touch it to the dust cap with the dent. Than pull it off quickly and evenly. I have used this trick to save my Yamahas when my little sister pushed in the dust caps. After you get the dust cap back to normal, I would play them decently loud to get that dust cap resonating again. Although it may not sound as good, it should sound better.


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