Albums you use to test your gears?

Which CDs/LPs would you use to test/compare your system components?
I am going to compare the following components.
preamp: Clearaudio Microbasic vs Yaqin MS-12B tube preamp
- Amp: Linn AV5105 power amp with Yaqin MS-12B vs Yaqin MC-10L integrated amp
- Cable: Zu Wax biwire vs Linn K400 biwire vs Canare 4S11 quad vs single wire (old and cheap) stranded XLO cable
- Turntable: Thorens TD145MKii/Grado gold vs Clearaudio Emotion/aurum classics

My other components are Tyler Taylo 7U speakers and NAD C541i CDP.

My experience so far is that Linn AV5105 (even with the cheapest XLO cable) is a clear winner over Yaqin MC-10L (even with upgrade tubes and the most expensive Zu cable). The difference is readily noticeable with whatever kinds of CD/LP I listen to.
Emotion is marginally better than TD145MKii, but not as much as with amps.

However, it is rather subtle to discern the difference for phono preamps and speaker cables.
Maybe the preamps are very similar and my systems overall are not refined enough to show differences.

I wonder it would help further discern the differences if a particular kinds of music (either on CD or LP) are used for comparison testing.

Any input would be appreciated.
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A good system should always sound good, regardless of source material, so I think the key is always test with a wide variety of musical genres and instrumentation and recordings both old and new, good, great and not so great (take your pick).

In general, a system that can deliver the goods at both extremes, with a variety of both the best modern recordings as well as older and more simplistic recordings, will do a good job with most everything else.

For testing low end extension and control, which is not often present in many recordings, I use recordings including the pipe organ, like the "Pictures at an Exhibition" recording on Dorian. THere are also many good recordings of Saint-Saƫns Organ Symphony that offer a good test of ability to deliver orchestral passages that include pipe organ.
I've always relied on Jennifer Warnes's "Famous Blue Raincoat" on vinyl to test my turntable setup, especially the vertical tracking. Others you can try: Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Dire Straits "Love Over Gold", Fleetwood Mac "Rumours", etc..
Bring an array of CD's with you to the store but be sure to include some that are not recorded that well meaning some that are NOT remastered and are of some older recordings say from 1960's and 70's. Any system will sound great if the music was recorded well in the studio and on the CD. Bring some of the older Beatles CD's such as Magical Mystery Tour, Hard Day's Night, Help, etc. Be sure they have not been digitally remastered. This will put the system you're auditioning to the test especially in the bass response and production.

I also bring CD's of female vocalists so you can hear how well the system reproduces voices of a higher pitch and frequency. I would include Joni Mitchell (Court & Spark), any Judy Collins CD's, Joan Baez, etc. (Sorry I no longer have any vinyl LP's so I can not recommend any for you).

Live recordings are another good source to test out new sound systems with. In general, live performances are not recorded nearly as well as in the studio. Van Morrison's "Live at the Grand Opera House" is a recommendation. Lacks bass but overall, sounds decent.

Finally, I would bring some CD's of classical symphony or chamber music (i.e. Mozart violin concertos, piano concertors, etc) to test how well the system sounds with rather quiet music. Is there hiss or hum between instruments, can you hear many or all of the instruments in the orchestra, etc.

I always thought that ecm lable jazz recordings,peter erskines as it is,bo bo stensons war orphans.My point is if the piano sounds like it should your on to something.i think that the better the recording the less false info youll hear.Thats if you are a fan of trio jazz i guess.Its just easy to dercern whats hyped and what sounds natural,imho.
I usually bring the best recorded music that I enjoy listening to. I see no point in bringing audiophile selections that don't engage me in the music simply because they are good recordings. As Mapman points out, bring a wide variety of material that is representative of the range of music you listen to. I'd disagree that any system should sound good regardless of source material. If your source material is poorly engineered/mixed/recorded there is very little a good system can do to correct any of that. Garbage in = Garbage out. I see no point in bringing poorly recorded music to test, unless it is something you listen to often... I suppose it will tell you what to expect from the system in that specific regard.

I don't know that the best recorded material that I enjoy is necessarily material that you'd enjoy, but here's a few picks.

For hall ambiance and vocal dynamics I like, El Cant de la Sibil La.

For bass, percussion and soundstaging, Qalam Kar, by Trio Chemirani

For leanings towards jazz, bass, piano Achirana

For female vocals, soundstage Holly Cole's tribute to Tom Wates, Temptation

For male vocals selections from either Johnny Cash or Greg Brown.

For stark, solo violin Bach Works for Violin Solo, by Lara St. John

I don't listen to much densely textured dynamic music such as Rock or Orchestral so I tend not to bring anything in that realm. If I did I'd probably choose something from Beck or Radiohead.
This CD will satisfy all your test needs.
Magnificent Recording Quality, World Class Musicianship, Gorgeous Music.

Rosa Passos and Ron Carter
"Entre Amigos" / "Among Friends"
Producers David Chesky and Cliff Korman
Engineer Barry Wilifson
I use the first cut of side two, In Your Eyes, from Peter Gabriel's "So" album to test tonearm/cartridge alignment.

The words "instincts" and "churches" are repeated a number of times. They will mistrack i.e. excessive sibilance if your alignment is off.

Listen for clarity and neatness of the letter "S" in both words.

This of course does not guarantee ideal alignment but, among others, it's one of the passages I use when setting up a tonearm and/or cartridge.
use your favorites
I like Pink Floyd wish you were here and Steely Dan to test out new gear,
"use your favorites"

Yes, that is very true. Actually that is what I am doing. I have a decent amount of collections (500 CDs, 500 LPs). I just needed an additional help.

It is both fun and pain on doing this.
Fun part is if I recognize the sonic improvement from upgraded gears. Pain when I don't.
I read from somewhere that one will be blessed if he/she does not recognize differences among different gears because, then she/he does not need to spend $$$$ to search for better sound. Well, I am not the blessed one. ;-)

One thing I recognized over the weekend is that Yaqin does pretty good for full orchestration on LP. Even though it has less power it produces less congested and muddled sound than Linn. For rest of other music -- solo/chamber classical, acoustic jazz, vocal, pop/rock -- Linn is much more lively and dynamic, and of course, much more power. Yaqin has been somewhat flat on CDs for most music I tried, but Linn is miles different on CDs.

For speaker cables, the difference between the cheap single wire XLO cable has done pretty good so far. Zu biwire WAX produces a marginally better sound -- a little bit deeper base and wider sound stage. But, the MSRP of the two cables are over 10 fold (less than $100 vs $1000). I don't think I can justify the price difference.

I ordered a few more CDs and LPs upon your suggestion. I may come back once I find something more worthwhile to write about.

Thanks all.