Some people recommend that you should break in a new subwoofer before it fully becomes a part of your sound setup. There are arguments for and against going with this approach, but assuming you choose to break in your subwoofer, what are the top signs that show it’s properly broken in?
Here are 4 signs that your subwoofer is properly broken in:
- You’ll hear more pronounced bass.
- You’ll notice little or no subwoofer distortion.
- There’ll be no burning smell from the subwoofer.
- The subwoofer will become louder.
The rest of the article will look at the points above in more detail. I’ll cover everything you need to know about breaking in your subwoofer, so you can feel confident that you’re breaking in your subwoofer the right way.
1. You’ll Hear More Pronounced Bass
One of the main reasons behind subwoofer purchases is the want for better bass sounds. A properly broken-in subwoofer will enhance lower frequencies, ensuring that you can hear the lowest audible octaves a lot better.
After the subwoofer is properly broken in, you’ll hear a discernible improvement from how it sounded straight out of the box.
2. You’ll Notice Little Subwoofer Distortion
With subwoofer distortion, the output waveform of the lowest octave signals will sound deformed in comparison to the input. So, the bass you’ll hear won’t be the bass signals sent to the subwoofer drivers.
Subwoofer distortion is not always obvious but trained ears can pick up on the way it sounds. There are a few causes of distortion, but breaking in the subwoofer before use ensures all internal components are primed to deliver exact signals. You’ll prevent non-linear movement in a speaker driver, thereby eliminating distortion on the subwoofer side.
3. The Subwoofer Will Not Produce a Burning Smell
Poorly broken-in subwoofer drivers can get damaged by the strong audio signals that come from heavy bass sounds. Inefficiencies between the sounds produced by the drivers and the electrical audio signal passing through the coils can generate a lot of heat in the system. Mechanical damage will likely follow when the system can’t dissipate the heat generated.
Coil burning or melting is one of the core signs of a subwoofer that isn’t yet strong enough to handle the audio signals fed through it. By properly breaking in the subwoofer, you can avoid the heat-producing inefficiencies. If your subwoofer is playing at your preferred volume without any smells emanating from it, it’s likely broken in enough.
4. The Subwoofer Will Become Louder
Many subwoofers get louder after undergoing break-in. If you notice your subwoofer becoming louder after breaking it in, it might be ready to go.
It’s recommended to test the subwoofer at different volume levels to ensure that everything is working properly. It’s a good idea to use the same sound clips during the test procedure to keep things as accurate as possible.
How To Correctly Break In a Subwoofer
You can break in a subwoofer the right way by doing the following:
Review Your Subwoofer Connections
The first step to breaking in your subwoofer correctly is to avoid the mistake of using the wrong connections on your unit. For instance, you need 16-gauge speaker cables to get the perfect results from your subwoofer. You should also connect your speakers in phases and avoid shorting out your amp. Connection errors can damage your subwoofer before you’ve even had the chance to use it.
Look for a Suitable Break-In Track
When you’re looking to break in your subwoofer, it’s best to use a track that has repetitive deep bass. Opera music or soft jazz doesn’t work well in this situation. You need a track with a deeper and regular beat, such as a reggae tune. Whatever option you choose, you need to ensure the track has enough bass to move your subwoofer’s drivers overall.
Pink noise is a common recommendation, but such tracks rarely have the energy required to make the subwoofer driver work.
Here are some tracks you can use for subwoofer break-in:
Start the Break-In With a Moderate Volume
After you’ve chosen your break-in track, you should play it at a moderate volume for about 15-20 minutes. The idea is to allow the subwoofer drivers to adjust to your amp and progress to the warm upstage. It will be easier for the suspension components to start loosening up with proper adjustment.
Escalate the Break-In
After the initial adjustment session, you can speed up the break-in by playing the sound at twice the moderate volume for two hours. The subs should get louder when you return after the two hours have elapsed. At this stage, the mechanical components on your sub have become more flexible overall.
Complete the Break-In
The last stage of the break-in process is playing another 10-12 hours of the break-in track at a moderate level. The extra working time can deliver additional 1-2 decibels of gain. By the end of the session, your subwoofer will be a lot louder than it was before the start of your break-in process.
How Long Should Subwoofer Break-In Period Last?
Your subwoofer break-in period should last 12-14 hours. This duration is recommended because it provides the device with enough time for components to settle in and deliver deep bass with little to no distortion.
However, manufacturers of powerful high-end units may recommend devoting up to 100 hours to breaking in a subwoofer. You’re likely to see this requirement for home theater subwoofers instead of car sound systems. However, it’s still unclear if such lengthy break-in periods can yield better results compared to those broken in for a quarter of that duration or less.
On the other hand, some manufacturers don’t recommend break-in periods. In such cases, users may choose to conduct a break-in of their own accord, hoping to get better results from the subwoofer. However, if the manufacturer doesn’t explicitly talk about breaking in the subwoofer, it is likely that the unit does not feature components that will benefit from the process.
Can You Break In a Subwoofer by Using It?
You can break in a subwoofer by using it. Some manufacturers in the car subwoofer niche recommend playing your bass-heavy tracks at low to moderate volumes to fully break in the system.
While going through the full break-in process may hold clear benefits for some subwoofers, running the process on some audio systems may be impractical. For example, it may be impractical to play break-in tones for long periods at moderate to high volumes in your residential area. Similarly, playing break-in sounds in your vehicle over a long commute may be super uncomfortable.
It makes more sense to break in the subwoofer drivers through regular use in both scenarios. Using a standard music track instead of dedicated break-in noise means that the drivers in the subwoofer will be broken in at different speeds. However, since subwoofers only deliver lower frequencies, you’re unlikely to notice any difference.
Is It Necessary To Break In Your Subwoofer?
It is not necessary to break in your subwoofer. This is because some models come with high-compliance suspension designs, which ensure that they are ready for everyday use as soon as they’re taken out of the box.
If you have one of these speakers, you’re unlikely to witness any difference in your performance before and after the break-in. However, if your subwoofer features low compliance suspensions, it will have to go through a break-in period to achieve full flexibility.
By properly breaking in your new subwoofer, you can ensure better flexibility for higher suspension components, increasing the subwoofer’s ability to consistently play lower frequencies as cleanly as possible. As discussed above, you’re also unlikely to damage your subwoofer coils due to better heat dissipation.
The Downsides of Not Breaking In Your Subwoofer
When you use your subwoofer without breaking it in, some issues can arise.
Here are some of the downsides of not breaking in your subwoofer:
- Coil burn. Excess heat build-up and signal distortion often lead to coil burning or unwinding. When your subwoofer driver doesn’t have enough travel or excursion room to work with, it’s harder for heat to escape.
- Distorted signal. A poorly broken-in subwoofer will likely have the suspension resisting at the wrong head unit volume parameters, delivering lower quality or distorted signals.
- Damaged suspension. There’s the risk of the suspension tearing off from the basket landing if your subwoofer is not properly broken in.
Why Is Subwoofer Break-In Subjective?
While the break-in process is recommended by many, some people claim that subwoofer break-in is subjective.
Subwoofer break-in is subjective because different manufacturers adopt different approaches to the design of their systems. Every device is manufactured differently, and some people argue that the process is unnecessary.
Such arguments disregard data from subwoofer break-in experiments and claim that most subwoofers can go from the box to blasting at full capacity without any problems.
Here are some common arguments that stand against the subwoofer break-in process:
- Some manufacturers break in their subwoofers in the factory when testing the drivers.
- Your ears will adjust to the subwoofer, making it sound better over time.
- Subwoofer break-in is a sponsored myth.
However, these arguments are faulty. Here’s why.
First of all, you should not assume that a manufacturer has broken in a subwoofer. This is because many speakers are not individually tested after production. Additionally, the test has to be at the maximum output for long periods to ensure it’s broken in. It’s highly unlikely for any manufacturer to meet these requirements for all produced units.
You should also keep in mind that breaking in your subwoofer ensures adequate device function. Your ear’s ability to pick up on sound is irrelevant to the break-in process because it’s about testing the device, not your hearing.
Claims of subwoofer break-in being a myth is also faulty because there are many examples of everyday users reporting improvements. A quick YouTube search shows that the platform is awash with examples of measurable improvement in subwoofer performance.
It makes sense to say that you don’t need to break in certain types of subwoofers (especially home theater units) due to their unique design attributes. However, it is always best to break in your subwoofer anyway to ensure the best possible performance from your unit.
Causes of Reduced Subwoofer Quality
If your subwoofer has less-than-adequate quality after it’s been properly broken in, your device might have some issues.
One possible cause of reduced subwoofer quality is setting your amplifier’s gain incorrectly. Fortunately, the fix is straightforward. Here’s what you should do:
- Set the amp’s gain to low as you play your music.
- Increase the receiver volume and watch for distortion.
- Lower the volume until the distortion is gone, recording the level devoid of distortion.
- Turn up the amplifier gain with the music still playing at the maximum level.
- Lower the gain when you hear distortion until the distortion is gone.
Staying at the right amplifier gain and receiver volume levels will ensure you don’t hear any distortion.
Can You Pay a Sound Engineer To Break In a Subwoofer?
You can pay a sound engineer to break in a subwoofer. However, this extra step is unnecessary. The engineer will most likely use methods that you can replicate within the walls of your own home without paying someone else to do it.
However, it might be a good idea to ship your subwoofer off to a sound engineer if you don’t have enough time for the break-in process. However, unless you are particularly picky about the way your subwoofer sounds, you may find it difficult to justify the total cost and overall hassle of the process.
If you’re unable to break in a subwoofer on your own, you should consider purchasing subwoofers that have been specifically designed to not need the break-in process. Alternatively, you can simply allow time to do its job while taking steps to prevent damage—such as playing bass-heavy tracks at lower levels.