I would highly suggest using material that you are VERY familiar with. Regardless of the type or artist, if you are absolutely familiar with the track, you should be able to hear the difference.
That said, I usually use some very familiar live recordings. These live recordings have various different details in them that become more obvious on higher resolution systems and in a really good system you get a feeling of actually sitting in the audience. On high resolution systems you can actually hear conversations going on in the audience and you get a real sense of the room dimentions of the venue.
I generally use Eva Cassidy's "Live at Blues Alley" and Patricia Barber's "Companion". I also like some cuts on Indigo Girls "1200 Curfews". Obviously, I'm a fan of female vocals!
Again I would highly suggest using the most familiar recordings you know. If you don't have any familiar music, I would highly suggest getting familiar with something before you start auditioning. If you like classical, choose classical. Large scale classical pieces seem to me to be particularly difficult to recreate with a stereo rig.
Whatever you do, don't let the audio store people choose your music. Every store will have different favorites and you won't get any consistency.
Track 8 from Little Feat's "Chinese Work Songs", song title "Tattoo Heart". Janis Ian's "Breaking Silence" Analogue Productions gold disc. Mark Knopfler's "Sailing to Philadelphia" and "The Ragpicker's Dream". Bela Fleck and the Flecktones "Left of Cool".
In this case familiarity does not breed contempt. Listen to the music you like and recordings you know. Hopefully, you like a variety of music so that you will be able to ascertain a components full range. I hold a singular opinion that you should develop a set list and adhere to it to limit variables in all your auditioning and that you should do it in a known acoustic environment (preferably your own listening room) while changing only one component at a time. In the end, since most amplifiers are more than competent these days, whatever strikes your subjective fancy will be the winner, so why fret. So called "classical" music is still the best IMHO, but if you can't stand it what is the point? Human singing voice, both male and female, human speaking voice, both male and female, strings (violin, viola, cello) will provide various cues, percussion, bass (and 1812 cannon shot if you like those, ah!) should round it out, small ensembles and large orchestras. Strangely enough. listening to a couple of poor recordings can set a kind of baseline in your ear/mind, helping you hear the better ones by contrast. Don't overwhelm your ear/brain processor with too extensive a listening session.
chris isaak,heart shaped world,track 6, harry connick jr.,we are in love,track 6,mighty sam mcclain,any,the commitments,any,rickie lee jones,first cd
Nojima Plays Lizst, cut 2 La Campanella. Listen to the percussive attacks of the highest notes. Should sound crisp, clear, but meaty and "woody"...not metallic or thin.
Great test for comparing amps and wires, processors, and of course tweeters. Have fun.
John Scofield "Getting There",Robben Ford "Getaway",Stevie Ray and Albert King "Blues at Sunrise",Dr. John "Satin Doll",....good luck
I always try to use a couple of bad recordings when I compare equipment. A lot of the music I like is recorded poorly, and it's hard to find a system that can minimize the flaws of bad recordings while still making good ones sound their best.
Lloyd Cole, First Track, Don't Look Back, I lost the liner notes a long time ago, but it sure sounds like a Hammond organ in the mix. On the 4th track, Loveless, listen to the opening bouncing ball percussion. When this first came on my dog's ears stand straight up! The interplay of piano and the rest of the percussion mixed in with Lloyd's vocals and pianos are really something. This is a nice, full, lush sounding CD.
Stravinski, The Soldier's Tale on Chesky. Listen to the layers and placement of all the orchestral instruments with the actor's voices placed rock solid. Far more than a great kid's piece, this is great stuff. Listen to the third track in Part 1 "Airs By a Stream". The strings start out WAY outside the left speaker! Other systems will sometimes accomplish this space by losing focus in the middle.
John Lee Hooker's "The Healer" Fire up track one with Carlos Santana playing his usually soaring and melodic licks. This piece bogies. Or how about #2 with Bonnie Raitt? I love the way that woman sings. Her voice has a wonderful edge that isn't always silky, but it sure hits home. As John Lee says:" When Adam and Eve first saw each other, that's when the blues started".
The keys are using music you love, you are very familiar with, and that has a wide variety of sonics. Any DMB of course!
Chesky ultimate test CD the first song "Spanish Harlem" Rebecca Pidgeon and the saxophone cut by Joe Tyner is very revealing of the low level details some components/wires just don't let you hear.