Breaking in Chimera Lab’s Advantage Audio Cable
Based on Customer Feedback, as well as my own Listening Experiences, the Break-In process of the Advantage Series II Audio Cables takes time. There is a significant change in Sound Performance as the cables break in.
I put at least 24 hours of break in on my cables before I ship them. I use the Sheffield XLO “Burn In” CD on repeat and I drive the cables with the appropriate voltages into the appropriate resistive load. The cables will be at 20 to 25 percent of their final Sound Performance potential. In fact almost everyone who has purchased my cables are very happy with their sound performance right out of the box.
There is still a perception audio cables have a short break in time or worse yet, don’t require break in. I have had people contact me and ask me why my cables’ sound performance changes so much and why they take so long to break in.
The Advantage CCC Wire Litz Braided Cables have the highest ratio of conductor to insulation cross section or area of any Audio Cables I am aware of. The cables consist of a Litz Braid of a 25.5 AWG CCC conductors with a sprayed on insulation that is only 0.001” thick. This provides a conductor to insulation ratio of close to 10 to 1. Only 11% of the cables cross section is insulation. I believe this is the primary reason why Advantage Cables offer excellent dynamics and transient performance.
I believe that the Advantage Cables Break-in is primarily related to the conductor and other Audio Cables’ break-in are more related to the insulation. I think Audio Cables with a high insulation to conductor ratio have an apparently shorter break in time because you are hearing the insulation breaking in. I assume the conductor Break-In, on these Cables, also takes place, but the change in sound performance is more subtle and in some cases not noticed or masked by the insulation.
Some customers used a second audio system, “Break-in” CDS or “Cable Burners” to break in the Advantage Audio Cables. I have tried these same devices to reduce the break in time for customers. These methods will not appreciably reduce the break in time required for the Advantage Cables. A Break-in CD like the Sheffield XLO does seem to help a little, but the various Cable Burners do not seem to reduce break-in time at all. The Cable Burners I am familiar use the concept of high voltage and wave shapes that provide pulses or peaks. This might work on breaking in the cables’ insulation, but doesn’t seem to have much effect on breaking in conductors.
Advantage Cable Break-In must be done in the position, for example between CD Player and Preamp, where you plan to use them. Advantage Cable Break-In must be done with the source and driven equipment you will use in these positions. You must have the volume control set at the level you usually listen to Music. Using a Music CD wide a wide dynamic range, Movie Sound Tracks are good, works well.
One method to use to Break-In the cables is to turn on just a portion of your system and Break-In the cables by running them 24 hours a day. If you are installing interconnects between your CD player or DAC and your Preamp, turn on the CD Unit leave the preamp turned off and play Music, with a wide Dynamic Range through the cables by having a CD play with the “Repeat” command enabled. If the cables are between the Preamp and Power Amp/Amps, turn on the CD player and Preamp and use a Music Source on “Repeat” to Break-In the Cables. In my System, this breaks-in the cables so they achieve the Third Stage of Sound Performance
An Audio Cable operates in a complex environment; effected by the AC Voltage, Output Capacitance, Impedance, Inductance, and Resistance of the source equipment. It is connected to the driven equipment which has its own Input Capacitance, Impedance, Inductance and Resistance. The Audio Cable has its own Impedance, Inductance and Resistance. The values of these elements can change with frequency, primarily in the Source Equipment. It is this complex environment that the cable must function in.
The Advantage Audio Cables go through three stages of break-in to reach the Fourth or Final Stage of Sound Performance. The break-in time will depend on the type of cable, the position in the system and equipment it is connected to. Lower voltage applications, between a CD Player/DAC and the Preamp, require less break-in time than between a Preamp and Power Amp.
The more conductors in the Litz Braid, the longer the break-in time, so speaker cable will take longer to break-in than an interconnect. Equipment with an output that varies in Capacitance, Impedance, Inductance and Resistance across the Frequency requires more break-in time. The Sound Performance Stages of the cables are as follows.
First Stage of Break-In = The cables will sound very open, clear and with good detail resolution and dynamics. The midrange and lower high frequency will have elevated volume levels. The lower output of the bass and high frequency information is due to reduced bandwidth performance at this Stage. In some systems, especially with aluminum or titanium tweeters, the upper midrange and high frequencies may sound edgy or even fatiguing. The soundstage will sound OK with some lack of Focus. It will take from 5 to 15 hours of break-in for the cables to reach the Second Stage of Break-In.
Second Stage of Break-In = The midrange and lower high frequency will sound less elevated and up front as the upper high frequency sound level increases. This is followed by the bass extension starting to fill in. The lack of Focus may become more noticeable and the sound stage will start to widen and have more depth. It will take an additional 15 to 35 hours to reach the Third Stage of Break-In.
Third Stage of Break-In = The frequency response will completely flatten out. The presentation will become very clean and less up front. The lack of Focus is disappearing and the imaging will improve as will the low level detail resolution. The Bass comes in and it is very tight and you will hear lower bass notes than your other cables provided. In effect the sonic signature of the cables will seem to disappear and the Music presentation will be very real and non-fatiguing. It will take an additional 30 to 50 hours to reach the Final Stage of Sound Performance.
Fourth and Final Stage of Sound Performance = The Sound Stage will be wider than your speakers with excellent depth, height and precise localization of individual instrument and choral voices. The timbre of the instruments will be very accurate over the entire bandwidth. Triangles have excellent harmonics and decay. The metallic sound of Brushes on Cymbals is very lifelike. Rhythm, Pace and Dynamics are effortless. Many customers find they are now listening to Music at lower Volume Levels due to the effortless presentation. You will start to hear subtle acoustical cues like the singer turning her head while she is singing. You will find you are listening to the Music and forgetting about evaluating your system.
Customer Feedback on Break In – Here some excerpts from my Customers Audio Cables Reviews that included the cables break in they experienced in their audio system. It is interesting that although their perception of the time it took varies, they agreed on the changes in sound performance went through.
Peter Curzons - The Advantage audio cables are breaking in exactly as described, but definitely on the quicker end of the time scale. I think we're on third stage now after 40-50 hours.
Jeffrey Catalano (High Water Sound) - OK, I love the Chimera Labs audio cables. I still think they have some ways to go (break-in) but, at this moment, they sure let the music play.
Koby Koranteng (Hi-Fi Logic)- Well, right out of the box, I have to turn down the volume.(Gain) After 100 plus hours, my eyes popped plus my Jaw Dropped - Talk about a doubling effect. This is what happened. Pace and Dynamics was as good as it gets. Attack, Presence is just phenomenal. Coherence, Air, Tonal Balance is just too good, all instruments sound the way they should…..PS: FOCUS & SOUNDSTAGE PAST 100 HOURS PLUS IS - DEAD ON AND WIDE
Scott - Wow....with only your 24 hours of break in: Just outstanding performance....nothing more to be said. My experience with the Chimera Labs Advantage Audio Cables in my system indicates that after the flattening out of the range in the 150 to 200 hour period: To my ears the sound continues to gain more naturalness....for lack of a better word...but instruments just continue to gain a more natural timbre...maybe....a more natural "richness"....not artificial at all. I am at about 300 total hours now on this pair.
Christopher Korody- As for your Chimera Labs Audio Cables - they are definitely broken in. I cannot believe I would hear all that I am hearing without your Advantage Audio Cables in the mix.
Charlie Azzolina at Azzolina Audio- As you mentioned your Chimera Labs Audio Cables change dramatically during break in and this was my experience. After a week of 8 hours play a day your audio cables had transformed into something else entirely, becoming more and more articulate. I have taken some time to change different interconnect audio cables in and out of the DAC to line stage position to better understand what effect implementing your Advantage audio cables has brought about. The gradual changes over the break in period prevented me from being able to more readily understand the eventual difference. To sum up the character in real language I would just use one word: natural. Your Chimera Labs Audio Cables are natural. This is a word I reserve only for the best.
Keith Harris - How do your Advantage Interconnect audio cables sound with more break-in...BAD ASS. I actually stopped the full on break in process to wait for the new Chimera Labs audio cables to arrive. I also ordered the XLO Break In CD from Amazon and the Caigs Deoxit. Going to hook up the whole thing and run it all at once to break it all in together. All I can say is WOW. Just WOW.
Jose A. Cano - I have been 'cooking' the Chimera Labs Advantage RCA Interconnect Audio Cables since they arrived, and I want to give you some feedback. As the audio cable burning process was going on, everything has been improving dramatically…by the first day, the midrange; actually I thought it was too much…this morning, when the highs started to show, I realized how much detail I have been missing before. Then it was the bass; by yesterday it was tight and deep, and this morning sounds...well…accurate, just like the real thing, not like a movie theater. And then the soundstage, They are playing just in front of me; it makes me move my head from right to left to follow the musicians... I have been listening all day without any sign of fatigue, and, most important, I have been enjoying the music so much that I have forgotten to take notes about how good your Chimera Labs Audio Cables are.
Charles Beaman - The Chimera Labs RCA interconnect audio cables are in place for: CD out, and preamp out to CD burner. They took quite awhile to come around, but that's typical here for audio cables; it's probably more "me" than anything else. Neutral and musical, plus they are just beautiful to look at.
Jonathan Horner - I won't say that I’ve been a total skeptic about audio cables, since it makes sense that any system s strength is dictated by its weakest link, and there are all kinds of potential electrical and mechanical issues in an interface between active electronic components, but I’ve never experienced anything like what happened tonight. It thoroughly vindicated the four stages of “breaking in” the Chimera Labs Audio Cable that you predicted would occur. My audio system has never sounded more natural and that is the highest compliment that I can pay.
Greg Melvin - R'cvd the Chimera Labs RCA audio cables and am very pleased. I know you're not surprised to hear that, but I am very happy to be able to report it. Just as you advise, it wasn't until 50 hours of playing time until the audio cables really came into their own, or rather, disappeared and left the music.
Dan Baschkopf- I probably have a little over 70 hours on the Advantage RCA Digital Audio Cable now. It sounds wonderful. I was a little nervous when the cable went through a very forward” stage, but that became much more relaxed and musical without loss of charity. This included extended highs, very realistic mid-range and deep, tight bass with a realistic soundstage relative to the size of the ensemble. Your audio cable is an incredible improvement over my previous audio cable. It gets better each day those additional ambient queues make it seem more real.
Robert Spence -MaxxHorn Immersion Audio Horn Speakers. I have been through the break-in process twice now! I have one pair currently between my DAC and preamp and a second pair between my preamp and amplifier. With no break-in, I did feel the Chimera Labs Advantage Interconnect Audio Cables initially played a bit congested and tight with the soundstage not particularly open and/or airy. Within the first 1-6 hours of play, the soundstage began to open up considerably with an initial loss of focus. The bass while initially tight, became slightly boomy and somewhat predominate. The audible result was that the highs became, or presented slightly recessed, or perhaps were somewhat over powered by the bass. I continued the break-in process and was intrigued by the way the Chimera Labs Audio Cables seem to change many times during the first 12 - 200 hours - sometimes changing from the beginning of a particular selection to the end. I suggest that any of your customers should be made aware of the potential for major changes in these Advantage Audio Cables during early break-in and continuing the first month of normal listening. An impatient customer will never know how glorious the Chimera Labs audio cables can portray the music, unless they patiently wait for complete break-in. In time, the Chimera Labs Advantage Interconnect audio cables will reveal nuances and details from the music source in a very emotionally beautiful, and balanced manner, like no other audio cable I have experienced.
Babis Kokkinakos - I must say here once again how critical your suggestion for a long break-in period for Chimera Labs Audio Cables is. Otherwise, conclusions wouldn’t be right.
Andrew Cox - Most of the modifications to the audio equipment required break in and the Chimera Labs Advantage Audio Cables and Chimer Labs CCC wires were no exception. I tried to speed the process by lowering the volume on the preamp and playing overnight but break-in seems to require program material at ordinary listening volume.
The initial sound of the Chimera Labs Audio Cables before break in is "clattery". Increased detail is apparent but fatiguing. Bass extension is lacking. I would advise against listening analytically to the cables at least for the first five hours or so. After about 30 hours everything had mostly settled down but I felt that the sound was still subtly changing up to about 50 hours.
Emerson Foster - I've lost track of how many hours the Chimera Labs audio cables have on them. It's probably around 160. At first they sounded less open in my main system than the second system I burned them in on (I do not recommend breaking Chimera Labs Audio cables in on a second system). The Advantage Interconnect audio cable seemed to open up and smooth out after about 24-48 hours of play in my main system.
Though there was improvement with each step, it's clear to me that the Chimera audio cables are the best I've had for revealing the full bandwidth and every detail of sound. Soundstage, imaging, separation, and clarity were all improved. Micro dynamics were noticeably improved and low volume listening became really enjoyable for the first time since I've been listening to stereo.
Mark Savoy - Well, you've probably figured out by now that I changed my mind about returning the Advantage Interconnect audio cables I bought a few months ago. You were correct that the Chimera Labs audio cables needed more burn-in time before serious auditioning. As you requested here are highlights of the audio interconnect break-in process.
Very clear and coherent; lack of phase smear evident compared to other audio cables I used; lower treble and upper midrange have elevated levels resulting in fatiguing and harsh sound with my titanium speaker tweeters.
Elevated lower treble and upper midrange subsiding, bass coming back; coherence has muddied a bit, but no worse than the other audio interconnect audio cables I have.
To my amazement the frequency response has completely flattened out; harshness has disappeared; I hate to sound like a cliché but the best way to describe the sound is to say they seem to be disappearing; my 2-way speakers have somewhat restricted low frequency response but my impression was that the bass wasn't quite as "big" but I think it's due to it being tighter and faster because I can now hear lower notes through the speakers; I actually prefer the low frequency response this way; coherence is getting better; at this point, your Advantage RCA Interconnect audio cables easily beats all the other (five) audio interconnects I own.
Coherence has continued to improve; ambience and metallic sounds like cymbals are the most lifelike that I've heard in my system; I have used terms like golden or tubey to describe the sound of other copper audio interconnects or fast and ultra detailed to describe silver audio interconnects, but these Chimera Labs Advantage Interconnect Audio Cables defy description; they sound as close to nothing in the signal path that I've found.
Audio Cables Reviews - Ron Davis Ron contacted me about purchasing
Al Bellg - After a few days of burn-in, I heard smooth, extended sound, with more detail than ever before. And it wasn't a close call, either. The "tish" of cymbals sounded totally convincing, dying smoothly away into silence. Bass was rippin' and alive. Best of all, the timbre of instruments was the closest to real I've heard in my audio system (and in several other audio rigs costing considerably more!). After several days of enjoying the Chimera Labs audio cables, I realized I was no longer comparing the sound to whatever the audio system had sounded like before. I was comparing it to my memory of live music, and figuring out how to upgrade the rest of the audio system to get it even closer to the real thing.
Stephen Brooks - After break-in (maybe 60-70 hours) on the Chimera Labs audio cables the soundstage grew to include the 3 feet outside each speaker and probably another 3 feet to the back as well. Cymbals, which always sounded grainy and nasty, now sound natural. Details like microphone placement and recording venue now sound obvious to me. You want echoes bouncing off of walls? This Chimera Labs audio cable does it for me. I then added Chimera Labs speaker audio cable from my Music-6 to the Oris horns and it's more of the same. Everything just sounds so right.
Bert Wong - I estimate that I have about 40+ hours of actual running time on the Advantage RCA interconnect audio cables with every equipment (CD>Dac>Preamp>Amp>Speakers) on. I am happy to report that I am very pleased with the Chimera labs audio cables.
One of my goals has been to increase the depth and height of the soundstage of my audio system. The CD, Cantate Domino, has been a favorite because it has a very wide soundstage and good depth. I have read that on properly set-up system, you should be able to hear the soloist move her head from left to right, up and down as she sings (track 9). I have never experienced this with my system or while listening to friend's system. Well, I now have experienced this sensation with your Chimera Labs Audio cables in my system...it is very subtle and you have to pay attention but it's there! I am very happy about this.
Ron Unsworth - The first two pairs of audio interconnects are still burning-in and are stellar. They have reduced the brightness some and hopefully the new pair, no silver ones left, will further reduce it. Astronomical decay and PERFECT attack on strings.
Wayne Chang - After tens of hours of break in, I started to hear the Chimera Labs Audio Cables merits of better clarity, treble extension, and resolution. But at first I thought the bass was lacking. After more listening and back-and-forth comparisons I started to realize that the bass with previous more expensive cables was a bit boomy while the one with Advantage II was tight and linear.
David Thatcher - I took the Chimera Labs audio cables home the day that they were built installed them between my Sony SACD and my 300B SET (6SL7 SRPP, Alps BB pot) and over the first hours of listening I repeatedly got to lower the volume. Not because things got louder but that they got clearer. The detail goes from being very good to crystal clear but this difference was not just on the highs, it was the full spectrum. The very best way I can describe the way that these interconnect audio cables work is that they change everything by changing nothing.
Geoffrey Clark- The hifi interconnect did, as with all other HiFi cables benefit from burning in, but does in fact seem to produce more audible gains further into the process than previously experienced HiFi interconnects. The main effects were.
Noise - The noise floor dropped, revealing more retrieval of complex harmonic structure. This also had an added impact on micro dynamics so that musical interpretation was easier to understand. Such was the importance of this aspect; recordings I had previously felt were dull and pedestrian in interpretation took on a new and more engaging aspect.
Harmonics - The lower mid and bass areas now have a much cleaner quality, with the harmonics in this area of the fundamental reproduced in such a manner, that timing and the sense of musicians working with each other is greatly enhanced.
Dynamics - The effect here is a new one to me. Large scale dynamics were reproduced with such accurate contrasts, that I found myself lowering the overall level at which the music was played, whilst increasing the musical excitement of the performance. It was as if I had a considerably more powerful amplification, more in reserve.Rene' S. Ramirez - If you remember, I own three pairs of the Chimera Labs Advantage RCA Audio Interconnects. From my experience, it took about 15 - 20 hours before I felt the highs and the lows of the audio cables were playing fully. The mids were good right out of the box, but they improved with time. As the Chimera Audio Cables relaxed, the stereo image grew larger. Vocals are very natural, and so easy for the listener.