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Hi-Fi Burn in and Demagnetisation

by Alex Peck on April 25th, 2010

I purchased a second hand copy of the IsoTek Full System Enhancer CD. My aim? To debunk the incredulous claims that this CD can improve the fidelity of my Hi-Fi system. 6moons, amongst others, have given favourable reviews, which made me curious.

The sleeve states this disc can be used for two things: burning in components and demagnetising the whole sytem. The track listing is as follows:

  1. Full system burn-in & demagnetisation.
  2. Full system burn-in & demagnetisation with low level tones.
  3. Full system rejuvenation, including demagnetisation tones.

Burn In

To be honest, burn in seemed plausible to me. In particular, it seems intuitative that speakers may be “burned in” because they have moving parts which might loosen up over time. I have burned in speakers and been able to discern a change in their sound.

I have also observed that my system sounds better if left powered on. I can’t remember ever realising that the sound of a cable had changed over time, however. Perhaps because I’m not in the habit listening analytically to my system. I generally prefer listening to music.

I hadn’t previously thought about the scientific explanation for burning in electronic components (or cables for that matter), but I now suspect that it relates to a stabilisation of the intrinsic magnetic state of the conductors. I’ll return to this later.

Demagnetisation

I was extremely skeptical that playing a CD could somehow affect the state of my HiFi such that later reproduction of music would be audibly better. Then I played track 2 of the Full System Enhancer. It sounds like white noise with some clicks and pops, and the occaisonal continuous tone.

Spectral analysis of Track 2 (via CoolEdit Pro)

The result: a subtle improvement. Whilst I try to avoid Hi-Fi bollocks where ever possible, a tenuous description is required at this point. To expand on subtle improvement, I would say that the sound was slightly more realistic in terms of ambience and timbre. This seemed more apparent with live recordings.

Is it really better? Could it really happen?

I’m tempted to say yes, but I have doubts about anything I don’t fully understand. I therefore decided to try to explain what might be happening by applying some basic physics. A quick scan of Wikipedia (which I assume is acurate enough for the purposes of this discussion) highlighted the following pertinent facts:

  • Conductors have atoms with free electrons. The free electrons move around randomly until an electric force is applied, at which point they flow in the direction of the force as a current.
  • When a material is magnetized, the free electrons remain bound to their respective atoms, but behave as if they were orbiting the nucleus in a particular direction, creating a microscopic current.
  • All materials can be magnetised to an extent, even diamagnetic metals such as copper, silver or lead (diamagnetic materials have a relative magnetic permeability of less than one).

From that, I inferred that my Hi-Fi could be magnetised (though perhaps not very much because it is primarily composed of diamagnetic materials). Clearly, when magnetised, a conductor’s ability to transmit an electric current will be affected. Audio signals are transmitted as a voltage in analogue form (everything after the DAC). Therefore, it is possible that there would be an audible difference between the magnetised and demagnetised state.

I know that a magnetic field can induce an electric current, and vice versa. So it seems that there exists a mechanism for a Hi-Fi system to become magnetised through normal use, and demagnetised using a magic sequence of audio signals.

In conclusion, this process seems plausible to me. To truly understand what is happening requires a firmer grasp on the laws of electromagnetism.

From → Hi-Fi

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