Reader Brian Gray sent me a long treatise on burn-in and hearing. Too long for these posts, but I include a snippet from his thoughts.
"... hearing the effects of burn-in ... it's analogous to the average person not being able to distinguish between a professional grade instrument and a student grade instrument. To most people, they will sound essentially the same unless there is such a drastic difference, it becomes clear as night and day. With 'break-in' of interconnects, speaker cables, and electronic devices, it is indeed a more subtle effect. EDUCATION must be part of the equation in order to understand the complexities of sound on all of its levels. In other words, EXPERIENCE with LISTENING to a diversity of audio sources, along with a reasonable understanding of acoustics, physics, mathematics, and general scientific principles will bring a person closer to the truth in audio creation and reproduction.
It is quite amusing when an individual with a some sort of college degree or related work experience starts in on a controlling diatribe that focuses on telling anyone who will listen that his personal insight must be correct because he or she has the purported documentation to prove his opinions as factual. As you have pointed out countless times over the last few years, you have been able to reproduce the same results (given the limitations of the equipment and other environmental factors) time after time. The conclusion is: the answer you provided; NATURE over nurture, hands down! I've done more than my fair share of experiments and I can state with absolute certainty, you are correct regarding the 'break-in' process. I've conducted similar experiments and came up with the same basic results."
I appreciate several aspects of Brian's thoughts: his analogy of student instruments vs. professional grade and the education it takes to hear them is spot on. But his comment on Nature vs. nurture is interesting as well - not because it resonates with my thoughts - but because attempts to discredit what one experiences are only valid, IMHO, when they also include a reasonable explanation of why we hear what we hear, not just a dismissal because they find it hard to believe based on know 'facts'.
"Facts' change all the time.