Audiophiles are an impatient lot. The problem with our hobby is that burn-in is a necessary evil to hear almost any audio component at it's best.
One of my dealer friends once reminded me not to make any hasty judgement of any Focal Utopia speaker before it had at least 500 to 1000 hours on it. "These impatient guys never hear the Beryllium tweeter open up, and think that the problem lies with the speaker and sell it off.", he advised in his usual sagely way.
I am now on to my second Utopia speaker, and his words could not have been truer. The Teflon capacitors in my Conrad Johnson also require punishing burn-in, with most users reporting significant changes at the 300 hour mark, with further changes happening all the way up to the 1000 hour mark.
You could use one of the many burn-in CDs on the market and put your CD player on repeat, but I hate reducing the life of my laser pick-up just for this purpose.
I've been using the Frybaby for a few years already, but somehow forgot to do a write-up on this wonderful device.
Jim Hagerman runs a small company, Hagerman Audio Labs ("HAL"), which is based in Hawaii. HAL is quite well known for it's low cost but high performance designs that have been offered to the DIY crowd. HAL also makes a number of innovative devices such as burn-in devices and even a vacuum tube tracer !
The subject of this post is the Frybaby, a compact burn-in device that can either be powered off a 9V dry cell battery, or off it's supplied AC adapter.
The Frybaby could not be simpler. It's housing opens to accept the 9V battery, which should power the device for approximately 33 hours for a single Alkaline cell. A single knob on top of the device selects the output level, with a setting for moving magnet and moving coil phono stages, and a setting for normal line level output. A pair of RCA jacks are located on one end of the unit, together with a jack for the AC adapter. An LED indicates power as well as operation, blinking at the rate of modulation.
Adapters are also supplied to convert the RCA jack to a pair of twin binding posts, for the purpose of running in speaker cables.
The line level burn-in signal is 1V, with 10 mV output for MM and 1 mV output for MC. The bandwith of the signal is from 200 Hz to 20 kHz, with a sweep tone from 2 Hz to 200 Hz. A CD with a burn-in track is also provided in case you need to run-in your CD player.
Application of the Frybaby is limited only by your imagination. Here is what I use my Frybaby for :-
1. RCA interconnect cable burn-in
HAL recommends burn-in in what they describe as "voltage mode". The interconnects are connected as per normal, with the other end not connected to anything. After 48 hours, "current mode" burn-in is done by looping the interconnects back to the other RCA terminal. You can do as many cables as you want, by connecting the cables together in series using the supplied RCA female to female adapters.
|"Voltage mode" burn-in|
|"Current mode" burn-in|
2. Speaker cable burn-in
The same method is employed as for RCA interconnects, except using the supplied RCA to speaker binding post adapters.
3. Running-in your amplifier
Hook up the Frybaby to one of the RCA inputs. You can burn-in each input that you will be using for best results. In the case of pre / power setups, only the preamp needs to be switched on unless you need to burn-in your power amp too.
4. Running-in your tonearm cables and phono interconnects
This is a highly recommended tweak. When running-in tonearm cables and phono interconnects, this is best done at high level output, as the low voltages typically seen by your cables are really too small to achieve effective burn-in. You will need to disconect your tonearm wires from your cartridge and find a way to hook up your Frybaby to the cartridge clips. You could find a cheap stock interconnect, cut off the plugs on one end, and solder small alligator clips on to the wires to facilitate hook-up.
5. Running-in your phono stage
Select the appropriate output for your phono stage and plug it into your phono stage.
6. Running-in speakers
Most of my amplifiers are tube based and are not practical for running-in speakers for long durations. I hook up the Frybaby to a small T-amp I keep around for this purpose. For powered subwoofers, the Frybaby is plugged straight into the subwoofer RCA input.
The burn-in tone is quite bearable, sounding more like a table fan on steroids. I've even managed to burn-in my bedroom speakers while I sleep, albeit at low levels.
The benefits of burn-in are quite audible to my ear, even for setups with thousands of hours under their belt. The effect varies from cable to cable. Some cables start off being bright, harsh and lacking in bass, while some sound dull and shut-in.
Even old and well used cables seem to benefit from periodic burn-in every 6 months of so. I cannot offer any explanation for this, but do give it a shot.
Does every audiophile need a Frybaby ? Perhaps not. But if you change equipment often, or own equipment that need length burn-in, the Frybaby quickly pays for itself.
Need to do powercords ? Have a look at the Frycorder instead.
The Frybaby costs USD 249 (worldwide shipping included), and can be ordered directly from HAL at http://hagerman-audio-labs.myshopify.com/