Best demo CD for hi-end audio?

Hi, I was just wondering what CDs you guys bring to demo some hi-end audio equipments?

I'm looking for a recording that is perfectly recorded and that can help, say choosing between two 100,000+ pair of speakers. A recording so good, that when you do hear some distortion, wrong tone, noise, etc, you know it's not the fault of the CD, but the equipments. A recording so moving, you'll end up in tears by the last track.

Thanks in advance,
The best demo CDs are the ones you realy like to listen.
Marakanetz beat me to it.
And me too.
Me three! If you can't listen to your personal favorite CDs on a system and be moved by them, then that system is not for you, period, IMO.
And me too, too :>)
I always use the same CD(s).

On EMI: Complete Beethoven Piano Trios.

When I last used them at the SF Hi-fi show, to evaluate the best speakers there, ALL of the reps of those speakers wrote done the CD #.

If anyone is interested, email me and I will send you the # or post it here. I am on vacation and won't have access to the # until next week.

P>S> I too agree with the previous posts.
Hi, could you be more specific?

What CD do you demo when you want to test a pair of "full range" speakers. What CD do you demo when you want to test how warm/cool sounding the amp is? What CD do you demo for imaging, soundstage, etc...

Thanks again,
I would reccomend your favorite title ,that you know and have heard a million times. Then take 2 or 3 others that you know well, that may or may not sound neutral and go from there. You really need to demo with cds you no,so you know what your dealing with in comparisons.
I would like to recommend two CDs.

1. The Dorian Sampler Volume 2. Use this sampler to test vocals,organ, and transient response. Listen to the first 10 cuts.

2. Stereophile CD2. Use this disk to test the bass response of the speaker from 200 hz to 20 hz. This will tell you if the speaker really puts out any bass.

Hope this helps.
Thank you Etbaby, that was exactly what I was looking for. Any more?
You just don't get what people are trying to tell you. Don't be surprised if you're not that happy with what you end up buying.
DrDiamond, I hope you are having a good vacation. When you return, I would very much like the #of the EMI recording that you are so fond of. The piano is one of my favorites.
I take along several CD's. Make sure you have different types of music so you can make sure the speakers sound good with all of the types to which you like to listen. One that I make sure to take is Rickie Lee Jones' Pop Pop. There is a song on that CD that gives speakers fits. It is Jimi Hendrix's Up From The Skies. A speaker that struggles with this song is weeded out immediately. Excellent quality speakers will be able to handle that song at higher volumes without congestion, keeping separation between the instruments. Lesser quality speakers will turn it into mud. It is also a great CD for acoustic bass and female vocals. There is also a song on it called "Dat
Dere." In this song, the drummer is playing brushes. With excellent speakers, you can make out the swishing of the brushes, hearing the bristles, etc. With lesser speakers, it just sounds fuzzy and indistinct. You can learn a
lot about a pair of speakers with this CD.
Maybe you should try "listening" to Music and stop "hearing" sound.

Try this. "Listen" to a piece of Music that you have never heard before.
Then "listen" to the same piece of Music on another system or componet. If the Musicians seem to play better and the Music is better then the system is better. If the Music is the same, then buy the cheaper system or componet.

Read about the TuneDem method. Maybe this will help.

Remember that owning a great hi-fi allows you to discover new Music and this should be important for the long term contribution that hi-fi can bring into your life.

FlatEarth 101 :-)
I this RS Beck gave a great answer , examples of music where lesser systems struggle. Also do not make the mistake of bringing something that is recorded so well that its impossible for it to sound poor. For Example something like Steely Dan's Two Against Nature. That is recorded so well it would sound great on a boombox ! In general I would use Jazz compilations that have as many instruments as possible. took you 20 people to convince you to keep the Mac gear you many is it going to take to convince you to take music you KNOW in when demoing gear. I agree with Onhwy61.

Don't ask questions if you are not going to be happy with the answer.

If you MUST have other peoples recommendations

1. Barney Sing a Long
2. Anything by Shawn Cassidy
3. Abba
4. The instruction CD that came with your fridge

gee...not finding anything in my list you like?...then go get YOUR OWN FAVORITES from your collection.

my 2c

A recording so moving, you'll end up in tears by the last track?

How about, "If I Had a Hammer " from "Spaced Out: The Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner". Incredibly moving talk/singing by two of the Federation's best crooners.

Also look into that classic recording, "Christmas on the Ponderosa" sung by those happy yodelers Lorne Green, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon.

These are sure to test the strengths and weaknesses of any system as well as the patience and sanity of your local audio dealer.
Gunbei, where the hell did you get those ones????? I was going to suggest the great recording by the Temple City Kazoo Choir, featuring Strauss' Also Spake Zaresthustra and Led Zepplin's Whole Lotta Love, but that's only available on (red, white and blue) vinyl!
Most importantly, I agree with those above who suggest listening with music that you are intimately familar with, warts and all, is the best way to test components. I have ordinary recordings with various borderline problems that I can use to judge components - if the problems are over emphasized or not existent I've ID'd a problem. I use about 5 different CD's for evaluation, none of the made for equipment evaluation! The problem with evaluation of any equipment outside of your own home is that even when you hear something that you think is a problem you really don't know what component is responsible for the problem unless you are intimately familar with the other products in the chain. Thats why home evaluation in really manditory.

However, assuming that perhaps you have not been at this long enuf to assemble recordings which would help you I have a recommendation, if you can find it: "Depth of Image" by Opus 3. Its on CD and LP. This record contains a dozen or more cuts of various kinds of instruments/groupings/vocals etc, all recorded using a simple mic' set up and each cut has a description of what you should hear when you play the cut. And if you can't hear what you should when you play the disc you either have a set up that needs work or you need changes in your system. It can be humbling, especially for those who think they have a great set up already. It is the only test recording I have ever found of any value (other than used for establishing frequency response using test tones and if that is your goal, get a Rives test CD and a Radio Shack meter).

Oh, and I would never use a disc that I had any real emotional attachment to - if I do I just start listening to the music not the sound. Ditto SOTA recordings - hell they will sound good on a lot of junk but give you the impression that its great.
When I got into this insanity, I was routinely using recordings I was familiar with as has been suggested above. Typically, I'd use Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms", Foo Fighters' "One By One", and a Telarc recording of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite". Along the journey, a salesman turned me on to Roger Waters' "Amused To Death", which is an outstanding test disc, and I also learned the value of a good female vocal recording (Cassandra Wilson's "New Moon Daughter", Patricia Barber "Modern Cool", Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheel On A Gravel Road" for a different take on the female vocal, and any Diana Krall or Norah Jones CD).

You came in with a very good question, and seemingly from the perspective of someone just getting started. You've taken some abuse in this thread which was unwarranted in my opinion. I hope it hasn't scared you off from asking more questions in the future. There are some extremely helpful folks around here.

Best of luck.
Re-reading your post, I'll offer that if you want to hear objectively what a system can do, the Opus 3 Depth of Image and Dorian and Stereophile samplers mentioned above, as well as the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration disc, are good choices for seeing how well the equipment soundstages, its frequency response (for low frequencies, also get an organ recording like Reference Recordings' Felix Hell recital, that has some true 32 foot pipes at good volumes), dynamics and transient response, etc. But the last item on your list is what I and many others focused on, which is that recording quality has little to do, in my view, with moving you to tears. That depends on the performer and performance and the music in question, and the only person that matters for that is you. I may be moved by Mahler and Shostakovich adagio movements, you by Led Zeppelin or The Clash, so my recommendations might not mean much for you (check the Most Aching Beautiful Music thread for a load of recommendations in all genres). But you should at least bring with you the CDs that most communicate the music and move you on your current system. If they don't work their magic on the system you're considering buying, think twice before upgrading.
EMI CDCD 47455

Does "Depth of Image" by Opus 3 exist in HDCD version only? Is a regular CD available?
I have it on a regular CD, didn't know it came in HDCD.
Depth of Image, so far as I know, was only on LP and regular CD. I'm not sure if its still in production. It used to be carried by high end stores - you might try some of those, using the ads in Stereophile, as well as E-Bay for starters.
I think there's truth in both classes of suggestion. A really well recorded disk will help you find the more revealing speaker. That's for sure.
However if this speaker makes some of your favorite music less than enjoyable due to the poor quality of the recording then you'll find it very difficult to live with your super-system.
There's an old joke about an audiophile with a $50,000 system and 20 LPs .... all different versions of the 1812 overture.

Ultimately, if you listen to any pop or rock music you may have to live with a trade-off (or buy two systems ... one somewhat more forgiving than the other).

That said I was listening to this DG organ CD last night, and each time I upgrade my system it just keeps sounding better. And it really does need full range to do it justice. (Bear in mind that mine is approximately a $10k system, new).

Deutsche Grammaphon CD 427 668-2 "Toccata & Fugue BWV 565".

I also agree with the Ricky Lee Jones suggestion ... her first album is also superbly recorded.
If the purpose is system evaluation, I'm doubt the right way is to start with the favorite recordings. What one will get from it, is whether he likes the other system more or less, i.e. he'll evaluate his impression, taste, whatever, but not the system. He'd need a recordings that can help to check how low it goes, if it has any compression in highs, how the mids are doing, etc... Well, it's a technical evaluation, if it's all right, grab your favorite CD and check if it suits your taste.
BTW, I enjoy organ on my monitors very much, while it doesn't go into monstrous bass, it sound very nice and harmonious.
Dmitrydr, your first paragraph is very interesting. I hadn't thought of it that way. I think you make a great point.

Although I feel the point of audiophilia is to enjoy the music we love, if we use our favorite recordings a definite bias could affect our judgement and therefore an objective evaluation might be more difficult.

If the goal is to find speakers that move your soul definitely listen with material you know well. However, if your goal is to judge the speakers purely for their performance, a test CD with various testing parameters might give you a better objective understanding of them.
Thanks a lot for the number.
To me, a great set of speakers should be able to do several things -- resolve the details naturally -- and -- my system always has to pass the "head-bob" test. I have certain music, like John Coltrane's "Blue Train." I take that along as a test, too. Certainly to hear how the speakers will handle jazz and Jazz instruments, but also because a lot of speakers will resolve the music impressively. You'll say to yourself -- it sounds just like a saxophone is playing right here in the room. And, that's a great starting point, but if my head isn't bobbing to the music, something's wrong. Some speakers and systems will reproduce it rather faithfully, but the music has a certain bounce that should take you away and into the music, achieving what I look for most; Speakers and system that will ultimately disappear so you forget you are listening to a system and speakers.
Keep it simple: Vocals, Violins, Acoustic guitars, would be surprised how many hi-end "boutique" speakers falter/differ with these basic tasks....for me...if vocals have that spatial, 3-d presentation...if the violins dont sound like chainsaws or cheese graters(metallic tweeters)...and acoustic guitars have sparkle and impact...well...then you are on to something...

Some suggestions:
Cowboy Junkies: Trinity Sessions
CHris Isaak: FOrever Blue
Dire Straits
Fleetwood Mac RUmours
Misty River - "Live at the Blackgate Stage". Available from their web site or CD Baby. Natural recording, acoustic instruments with vocals. Bluegrass and American music.

Pat Coil's just ahead cd from Sheffield Labs. Track 2 "just ahead" is my favorite for evaluation, great attack in percussion and nice piano too.
I've demoed a lot of speakers over the past 2 years before settling on my current ones. Here are some of the CD's I use:

Marcus Roberts, The Truth is Spoken Here. Wonderful jazz pianst. Great back up band.
Art Pepper, Winter Moon. Very intimate recording. Good systems really let you hear his complex phrasing, how he bends his notes, the vibrato, the spit as it passes the reed and into the sax...just awesome.
Al DiMiola, Kiss My Axe. Track 1. Complex rhythms. Listen to the cymbals. Not so good systems muddy the presentation.
Master and Commander soundtrack. Great drum sequences.
Peter Gabriel, Last Temptation of Christ Soundtrack. Complex rhythms. Wide dynamics.
Dire Straits, Love Over Gold. My Fav.

Heck, why am I telling you this?! I agree with everyone else. Just bring your you own favorites.
Everytime, I buy a new peice of equiptment, i throw on Paul Simon "Graceland" first. Its a great mix of many different sounds.
KIND OF BLUE. Miles Davies.
good recording high hi's & low low's.

great music even for lo-end systems.
Dire straits, On every Street, track, you and your friend
Newbee writes (06-30-04):
Depth of Image, so far as I know, was only on LP and regular CD. I'm not sure if its still in production.

Opus 3 "Test CD 4 - Depth of Image" (CD 19420) is available - it's a multi-channel hybrid SACD.