Bringing home your new subwoofers will rightly invoke excitement for the unique sound experience you are about to embark on. But, to enjoy the sound produced by your speakers, you should be mindful of the implications of not considering break-in periods, especially for subwoofers.
Differing opinions exist, ranging from quotes of 0-100 hours for subwoofers to break in. While it is not required to break in your subwoofers, playing a test tone for the manufacturer’s recommended break-in period will help to evenly distribute the pace at which the frequencies are broken in.
However, given that the subwoofer is responsible for the lowest frequencies (hence the impeccable bass tone that it produces), you might not notice a sound quality improvement right away.
Instead, you can have confidence that breaking in your speakers will help the suspension to properly function, thus providing you with the audio experience that the designers and manufacturers of the speakers intended.
How Long Do You Have to Break In a Subwoofer?
There are many different quotes and expectations for breaking in your subwoofers.
While some subwoofer owners claim that they did not find much of a difference in the sound quality when they broke in their subwoofers, other audio experts will tell you an entirely different story- one in which the free-air resonant frequency (Fs) was altered significantly enough for a novice to notice.
In determining the length to break in your subwoofer, it is best to review the manufacturer’s recommendation for your speaker’s design. This can range from 0-100 hours but is generally closer to a 10-12 hour average.
While this is not always as practical in a car, a subwoofer for a home sound system should always be broken in.
It is understandable that when you bring home your subwoofer, the last thing you want to do is to have to test and listen to a test tone through your speaker. Instead, you will want to hook up your equipment and begin to stream music or the latest movie with a soundtrack that will be incredibly enhanced through a deep bass.
Read my article which explains how bass and frequency are linked.
Keep in mind, though, that breaking in a subwoofer can impact its long-term performance. As a speaker has various parts that move in sync with one another, it is important to ensure that each part is properly “warmed up” before requiring it to move. You can think of this as stretching before sprinting.
Why Do You Need to Break In Your Subwoofers?
In the example above, a sprinter would typically stretch before beginning his or her race. However, they might go for a light jog to warm up their muscles prior to the stretch.
In comparison, a subwoofer does not need a light jog before being able to be stretched. Instead, you can “stretch” or break-in the suspension by running a test tone for an average of 10-12 hours. Then, your subwoofer will be ready to “sprint”.
Breaking in your subwoofers helps the varying frequencies to adjust evenly, even though the subwoofer only plays low frequencies. This helps the moving parts of the speaker to sync together and produce the highest quality sound.
Though some claim that you do not have to provide a break-in period for your speakers, this can change the way in which the speakers perform.
Sure, playing a standard set of music through your speaker will allow the speakers to adjust, but they will adjust to the frequencies that are played at the rates at which they are played. This means that if you play a song with loads of high frequencies, then the low frequencies will take longer to “break-in”.
When you choose to invest in a subwoofer (and the rest of your speaker system), you are likely wanting to achieve higher quality sound than what your previous sound system was providing. To achieve this goal, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on breaking in your equipment (as well as other standard setup procedures).
Alternatively, in choosing to avoid breaking in your subwoofers, you risk the improper setup of your equipment including variants in sound quality which can ultimately detract from the sound system you were hoping to achieve.
Instead of running this risk, it is best to simply break in your subwoofers by playing a test tone to help the equipment to properly adjust.
Do Subwoofers Get Louder as They Break-In?
Since we have discussed the sound quality as enhanced when your subwoofer goes through the break-in period, you might be wondering what this means exactly. After all, there are many different components to experiencing high-quality sound.
Subwoofers should not get louder as they break-in. Instead, they will adjust to the varying frequencies provided and will most effectively play the sounds that are coming through. Additionally, the speaker will perform in the way it was intended by following its manufacturer’s recommended break-in (or no break-in) period.
This might seem confusing to someone who has never worked with or dealt with speakers before. Perhaps this is your first time bringing in a subwoofer into your home sound system and you are just wanting to make sure that you do this correctly. This is why it is so important to read the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Obviously, they are the ones that produced the speaker that you are attempting to set up. Consequently, the manufacturer will know what is going to help their product to perform at its highest rate. This includes the break-in process.
You may even find that your manufacturer does not recommend a break-in process and instead has other recommendations for playing various sounds when you initially use your subwoofer and other speaker equipment.
These can include playing your sound at half of the maximum volume, not using your speaker in the cold (as the cold temperatures can negatively affect the materials that the speaker is made of and cause it to crack or break), and more.
Additionally, keep in mind that the electrical current that passes through the speaker (to produce the sound you are attempting to play) will have a heating effect which works similarly to the “stretching” the suspension concept described above.
What Happens if You Do Not Break in Your Subwoofer?
Some will claim that nothing will happen if you do not break in your subwoofer. Interestingly, this can be true at times and false at other times- it depends on the manufacturer of the speaker. However, this again points at how important it is to review the manufacturer recommendations for your unique subwoofer purchase.
If you do not break in a subwoofer that comes with a manufacturer recommendation to break it in, you could risk harming the sound quality produced by the speaker as well as damaging your equipment. To avoid these negative consequences, review the manufacturer’s guide for the break-in period required for your subwoofer.
As there are many differing opinions on the internet, forums might not be the place to find your answers to all of your subwoofer and sound system questions. It is important to recognize that online forums can be a great source of information.
However, the writers in these forums do not always have insight into your particular equipment and are, rather, speaking from their experience with their own equipment. Though this can be a great source of information for a place to start your research, it is best to refer to sites that come with more expertise.
So, if the manufacturer of your subwoofer recommends a standard break-in period, be sure to follow these guidelines. This will help to prevent the damage of your sound quality and equipment and help you to achieve the sound experience that you were originally attempting to create.
How to Break In a Subwoofer
While there are many different guides on how to break in a subwoofer (if you break it in at all), there are general guidelines that meet the needs of most manufacturer-recommended subwoofer break-ins. When breaking in your subwoofer, consider the following:
- Select a test tone or audio soundtrack with consistent low-frequencies.
- Slowly increase the volume from low to medium to high at varying intervals (depending on the manufacturer’s total recommended break-in period).
- Note the stiffness in the cone and surrounding equipment including changes during the process.
- Collect test measurement data (Hz produced, Amps used, etc.) to be compared before and after the break-in process.
Again, when considering breaking in your subwoofer, it is important to follow the recommendations from your speaker’s manufacturer.
Though all subwoofers are created with the same essential components, the construction and design may vary from brand to brand. This is what provides a competitive nature in the marketing of a subwoofer as each will have its own “flavor”, so to speak.
Importantly, do note that breaking in the subwoofer is not the only precaution you need to take for maintaining the safety and functionality of your sound system equipment.
Be sure to properly encase, display, and set up your equipment to achieve the best results. While purchasing high-quality equipment can yield far greater results in terms of sound produced, there is far more that goes into caring for your sound equipment than simply plugging it in.
Be sure to check for the best setup options depending on your entire sound system specifications and home aesthetic.