Best recordings to demonstrate soundstage?

I am interested in imaging and soundstage. I have picked up a pair of Thiel 3.6's and would like to test their imaging potential.

Box speakers are something of a problem for me because for some years I have listened to large planars, which throw up a huge soundstage. The Thiels have a much more constrained soundstage as compared to planars, yet they can seem wide and accurate and at times. With the right recordings they are absolutely amazing.

Hooverphonic and Morcheeba are 2 bands that I tend to use. Within their music there is so much going on. Sounds flying left and right, beautiful vocals centered, with layered vocals surrounding.

Can you help me increase my list? I love all kinds of music period. In your experience what is the best music and or tracks for highlighting soundstage?

Thank you,

Tom Petty anything is very good.

Bob Dylan Oh Mercy

Roger Waters Amused to Death

There are so many it is almost impossible to make a shortlist....there is no problem with box speakers per se as regards soundstage.
My absolute favourite (for not only soundstage but overall quality) has to be Chuck Mangione's "Children of Sanchez." I only have the vinyl version so I'm not sure how it sounds on CD. If your looking for great solo guitar, try anything by Ray Montford.
Thank you for the ideas. I don't have any of those recordings but will try to get them. The closest I have is Division Bell by Pink Floyd minus Roger Waters...

I agree, there is nothing wrong with box speakers, they have a different sound than what I am used to though. I was striving to find a speaker that was more precice than my planars. The Thiels are very precice. Now I've got to take a new look at the recordings I use to judge soundstage.

I was just listening to Charity of the Night by Bruce Cockburn and found it quite nice.

Thank you,
Mickey Hart, Planet Drum, 1991 Rykodisk (RCD 10206)
Mickey Hart, At the Edge, 1990 Rykodisk (RCD 10124)
Greg Brown, Covenant, 2000, Red House Records (RHR CD 148)
Ry Cooder, Paris, Texas Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1985, Warner Brothers (9 25270-2)
Mazzy Star, Among My Swan, Capitol Records (CDP7243 8 27224 27)
Manu Dibango, Wakafrika, 1994 Giant Records (9 24566-2)
Paco de Lucia, Siroco, 1987, Verve (830 913-2)
Animatrix 2003

An Evening with Windham Hill Live, 1982 Windham Hill (WH-1026)
Michael Hedges, Aerial Boundaries, 1984 Windham Hill (WH-1032)
Hiroshima, 1979, Arista (AB 4252)
John Mellencamp - Whenever We Wanted
Tears for Fears - Raoul and the Kings of Spain
Shelby Lynn - I am
Sting - Soul Cages
Seal - Human Beings
Paul Lusson trio playing the Satie Gymonopidie
Wow, thank you all. Many of these I know only by name. I'm heading over to Fry's and will look them up and report back.

Paco De Lucia - I was just listening to his cd Castro Marin last night. Quite nicely recorded with plenty of dynamics but also very nuanced.
Don Dixon loves to play with staging/imaging effects on his records. These are not audiophile quality recordings - tonal balance is splashy on top and pumped up in the bass - but they are great rock music recorded with great impact. Look for any recording with his cover of "Cool" from Westside Story. It should do the trick.

A follow up to my suggestions above... Ry Cooder, Mickey Hart, An Evening with Windham Hill Live, and Aerial Boundaries are some of the best recordings I've ever heard. They'll make any system sound fantastic. The dynamics are stunning.
Richard Thompson - Grizzly Man (soundtrack from the motion picture)
Flim and the BB's - Big Notes
Herbie Hancock/Watermelon Man, released on Sony/Columbia Jazz compilation CD is a great test track for soundstage precision. It's a great test track in many other aspects too and oddly - a fine piece to listen.
For ambience space try Judy Collins spectacular vocal-only Amazing Grace on the Whales and Nightingales CD.
I have a number of the recommended recordings, but I don't understand how studio recordings could demonstrate soundstage. Studio recordings have no real soundstage. If there is any, it's only an artificially simulated one. Tried the DiBango—great music, nothing special with the soundstage. Tried the Micky Hart—better for soundstage, good depth, but still nothing special. Put on Sting's Soul Cages. The soundstage is amazingly wide and consistently several feet beyond the speakers. Sometimes it even sounds like 5.1. The engineering is spectacular. What's going on?

Well, in the liner notes there is a reference to QSound, a virtual surround process that explains the amazing soundstage effects.

Go to:

Other artists' recordings using QSound:

Still, the best recommendation for demonstrating a real soundstage, rather than simulated, would be simply engineered orchestral music. Reference Recordings are a excellent label. There are others, but it's hit & miss.
02-25-08: Ojgalli
I have a number of the recommended recordings, but I don't understand how studio recordings could demonstrate soundstage. Studio recordings have no real soundstage. If there is any, it's only an artificially simulated one.
This is probably true with most pop music where each track has been recorded separately and then mixed together. If there's any sense of soundstage in these, it's been simulated as you say. But I'm not convinced that "studio recordings have no real soundstage." If the musicians are recorded with an open mic, why wouldn't there be a spatial sense?

Perhaps it's just my room and my set up, but I hear a spaciousness with the Mickey Hart and Ry Cooder cds. An Evening with Windham Hill Live is probably the best example in my list. You feel like you're sitting a few feet away from the musicians.

But you make a good point about orchestral music. It's probably going to give the most realistic experience--along with chamber music.
Ojgalli, your point is well taken, but many of us like rock and roll, and they just don't make rock and roll by putting four guys in a room with two mikes. Some records do make for a convincing approximation of soundstage, however - including almost every record I mentioned above - I think only the Telarc Satie disc is recorded in purist stereo. The Mellencamp disk (Whenever We Wanted) sure sounds like it was recorded with a live band and two mikes, and with a minimum of effects, even if that is not the case.

I, for one, don't care whether a sound stage is real or simulated. The sense of space and impact is the same.

I have more of a problem with the tendency (including my own) to overlook second rate music/performance just because the disc was recorded well. Ideally, we buy nice equipment to make good music sound even better, and don't buy second rate music just because it shows off the gear. Having said that, there are plenty of reco's in this thread for good music recorded well.
If you want live music with great Soundstage try

Harry James & his Big Band - Sheffield Labs...if Harry is not there in front of you and in your room then something is not quite right with the setup.

George Bensen - Weekend in LA - On Broadway - this is one of those rare live recordings that is holgraphic - the drums have been masterfully recorded.

If you want to hear a duet with distinct positions then try Robbie Williams "Me and My Shadow" or "Well Did you Evah" from Swing when your Winning. (this is with Count Basie Band and although the singers are standing but two feet apart you can easily hear this.)
Michael Stearns-The Lost World...immense.


Sky Blue Sky, by Wilco has what I think is excellent soundstage plus has good dynamics. Kind of alt/country, sort of low key with good rock/dynamic moments.
All LSC, specially 2400 and 2500
I thank you for your reply and believe you are probably on the money with your picks of analog recordings. I do have a couple of the RCA recording of Julian Bream that are quite nice. I believe they were state of the art for the 50's and 60's, and have amazing sound. Unfortunately a single guitar doesn't show me enough.

I believe there is a recording studio in Chicago still putting out 2 mic analog recordings. Unfortunately I can't remember it's name.


Midnight Oil, Earth and Sun and Moon
Paul Kelly, May 1992
James Taylor, Fire and Rain
Pink Floyd, The Wall
very good soundstage and overall sound quality is Dick Hyman,From the Age of Swing-Reference Recordings.Also Ray Brown,Live at Sculler's,Telarc, and Ray Brown,Live at the Loa-Summer Wind-Concord Jazz.3 of the better ones IMhO.
I second the recommendation for "Sky Blue Sky" by Wilco (just wonderful, crisp production.) In that vein, I would also heartily recommend "Sea Change" by Beck. Its the one album I reach for again and again when I want to demonstrate the strengths of my system.

Also, if you can find it "Pleiades" by Xenakis on BIS (cd-482). Wonderful sense of place and spaciousness.
Buena Vista Social Club. Nice and spacey.
Go ahead, make fun of me. The Veggie Tales worship songs CD seems to have been recorded with only one microphone, and you can hear every person in the room in their own space. Even if you don't like the music or the message, its use as a diagnostic tool makes it a totally worthwhile purchase.

The first track, befor the music even starts, features a couple of adults holding a conversation and kids scattered throughout the studio. A good system will put the voices all over your room, just like they were in the studio.
Hi, I'm 8 years late to the game, but hell I might as well contribute here than start a new thread.

The Punch Brothers' album "Antifogmatic" basically changed my concept of what great imaging should look like. Side 1 actually sounds like it was concepted as an audiophile demo. Chris Thile is a virtuoso prodigy, and is deeply involved with his recordings, even producing on some. His deep involvement with the mastering of his music is vividly on display in this album.

For a stripped-down practice in soundstage, The Staves track "Icarus" places 3 female voices in precise locations between the speakers with consistency.

Here's a good one..
Dallas Wind Symphony "Fiesta!", Reference Recordings RR-38
Diana Krall "Girl in the Other Room", Beck "Morning Phase".
On the rock side...
Steve Wijnrood - esp Back in the High Life
Simon & Garfunkel - concert in the park
Crosby Stills Nash - CSN, Wooden Ships
Dire Straits - self titled and Making Movies

I like the sound quality and sound stage of all of these.  I must say that when I played the Simon and Garfunkel for my GF, her response was... "now I get it".  The space and air in the recording is amazing, especially for an outdoor live recording.
Pearl Jam- Ten
Nirvana- Live in New York (unplugged)

The Cowboy Junkies album “The Trinity Sessions”. Legend has it that it was recorded live (i.e. no multi-tracking), with one single point-source microphone, and in the Trinity Church in Toronto no less. So you can hear not only a very natural soundstage presentation and openness between each musician and their sounds, but you also hear a lot of the space in the church’s acoustics. It’s not overly echo-ey, but it does provide a wide and open soundstage that is naturally recorded and presented.


This is different than many studio recordings where, even though you may hear a large, open, spacious “soundstage”, there really is no soundstage at all  – meaning that what you’re hearing is either electronically added in the mixing process, or is a construct of how the recording engineer layered each instrument into the final mix. That said, such “fake” soundstage recordings can still very involving and fun to listen to, much like Hooverphonic and Morcheeba, as the original poster of this thread mentioned.


As to what soundermn mentioned, “…when I played the Simon and Garfunkel for my GF, her response was... "now I get it". Now THAT speaks volumes, when a non-audiophile finally hears and feels what got us into this hobby in the first place - a closer emotional connection to the music. I love moments like that. For me, I got the same reaction from my wife when I played Neil Young’s song “You and Me”, from his Harvest Moon album, after I upgraded my speakers to the room-dominating Infinity IRS Delta. That experience alone went a long way to an improved WAF for future system upgrades! :-)



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That's a great idea . Bring the spouse in and play them love songs . Smart man .
+1 for the Nirvana.  I don't know if MTV or the artists were responsible for the recording but that one and the Clapton Unplugged sound great IMO.  I'd like to hear more of those, maybe will pick up the Dylan unplugged CD next.
There's also a MTV compilation CD called "The Unplugged Collection" that captures a number of great sounding performances from the show.

Fans of Unplugged will probably also enjoy The Pretenders' The Isle of View, a well recorded live acoustic album also consisting of stripped down versions of what were originally electric songs. Some here also have lovely strings added. Cheers,
Shellac - At Action Park 
For what its worth the Wings/Paul McCartney remastered CD/DVD Rockshow is awesome. I prefer it on DVD but there is nothing wrong with the CD either.
Genesis / Lamb lies down on broodway
Percussion Music, The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, on Nonesuch.  
Add Basia to the list. Her stuff is a lot of electronics plus percussion. This isn't my regular listening material BUT, she is great and will expose a weak playback system. Joe

Another vote for Pink Floyd;
Dark Side of the Moon
The Wall
I heard Dark Side of the Moon in 5.1 or 7.1 last about soundstage!  Actually, it was an assault on the senses--in some places is it was too intense.