Remembering Where It All Started

My first attempt to build a good sounding 2 ch system started a couple of years ago with a generally well regarded integrated amp, DAC, streamer, and small bookshelf speakers in a seriously compromised space. The past six months I’ve been assembling its replacement with a better component based system and much more capable floor standers in a significantly improved space.
I setup the old system today to reminisce and was shocked by the first impression of what I can only describe as compressed muddy sound. It’s not at all what I remember and quite inferior to the new system even in its incomplete state. But as it played a strange thing happened. The sound opened up and offered tastes of the limited magic it managed in its better moments. It’s still nowhere near the new system but also not the compressed muddy mess that I first heard. I was liking what I was hearing.
Two things came to mind. The first thing I thought of was to keep the system set up somewhere rather than sell it so I can periodically remind myself of where this journey started when obsessing over the next little incremental improvement that’ll probably cost more than it returns in audible improvements. Compared to where I started the new setup sounds pretty bleepin’ good, which I may need to be reminded of occasionally. Chill a bit and enjoy what I’m fortunate to have. It’s damn good as is and more than many can swing.
The other thought is how baffling it is that something that sounded so poor at first, compared to what I’ve become conditioned to hearing, could open up and improve so much over the course of a couple of hours.
What is at play hear (pun intended)? I know audio memory is short lived and we acclimate to what we are hearing. But to go from sounds like crap to sounds a lot like what I remember, which wasn’t all crap, in such a short time is perplexing, and honestly a bit concerning. This has costly decisions written all over it.

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I cannot explain this scientifically. Perhaps someone else can. However, all electronics need to warm up. There are certain optimal temperatures within which they operate. Secondly, capacitors take a little time to become charged and settle in.

I suspect that the difference you are hearing is related to this.

I think of my electronics like a car in this respect. It operates better after it has been allowed to run for a short period of time before driving it.


I concur! Burn in (medium and long terms) and warm up (short term) are for real!

That makes sense. It had been awhile since both the amp and DAC had been powered up.

I agree - an interesting new wrinkle for me is that class D stuff needs warmup/several hours of on time to start sounding good. Thankfully it draws very little when not in use, so it stays on all the time. The issue this year has been a crazy number of thunderstorms, so have unplugged everything in the house more times this year than probably all of the times before in my life put together.

The most extreme example of warmup I personally own is the class A/B Vitus amp. Its default state when plugged in is standby, as it wants to be powered at all times. If it has been unplugged for a while it takes at least a full day or more to get up to snuff.

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Even with my PS Audio gear which remains on all the time in standby mode, the sound improves by the time I’m listening to the last song on the first CD. Sometimes I’ll repeat the first song again, just to confirm how much better it sounds. It’s not a huge difference, but the system becomes more refined after it’s been up and running for an hour or so.

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My SimAudio amps explicitly state in the manual that they need 3 days to warm up after being powered off. I know I can hear the difference during the first day. I’m not so sure about the rest.


Interesting. So a take away is you should get your system running several hours ahead of critical listening sessions.
I suppose another could be that if I want to continue justifying the expense of replacing the old system I should keep the new one powered up and the old one unplugged between comparative listening sessions.