Best way to test your system?

One of the best ways I've found to test my system is to hook up my dvd player to my DAC and watch a movie for a short time. Since so much music is hyper-produced in the studio, I think many people don't really know what an instrument actually sounds like in native sound. Unless of course they're around a musical instrument in the home or go to acoustic concerts. Yet, nearly everyone is interacting with people, hearing the everyday noises that occur in movies on a daily basis. The reference is fresh.

I find that to hear regular conversations/dialog over some of the systems I've owned really told me how accurate and realistic my system was in reproducing sounds. I've heard people say that music sounds great on their system but film sounds poor. They should both sound good if the system's good. Yes, movies use compression on the soundtrack but still I've had the same exact experience - music sounded great but normal dialog didn't.
I don't necessarily agree with this.

It really depends on what type of music the system is designed for. A low-powered SET system would be incredible sounding in its niche, but there's no way I'd try to crank a movie through it. I realize this is an extreme example, but I think many systems which fall in the grey area in between wouldn't sound great with movies either.

When I could first afford to build any kind of system I began with a 5.1 A/V that did an outstanding job of creating the movie theater experience, but I knew was far from what I had hoped for musically. The sense of scale, balance, impact and immersion for the movie experience was all there, but when I turned off the monitor and played just music through it, it fell flat.

It took years of trying different combinations of equipment to arrive at a music system that really satisfied me, but I had to do it by separating my music system from the home theater entirely. And, when I got there, the two system were completely different sounding with a completely different emphasis. I like a warm midrange that is slightly forward for music. I like a neutral full-range sound for home theater. I NEED a subwoofer for home theater. So far, I hate subwoofers in my music systems.

I realize what I did was the reverse of the course you took, and it sounds to me in your post that you probably favor a full spectrum, large sound in both your music and of course your home theater, so it doesn't surprise me that you were able to find success. However, for those of us that aim for a more intimate musical experience, or are focused on acoustic instruments, moonlighting as a home theater is most likely out of the question.
However, for those of us that aim for a more intimate musical experience, or are focused on acoustic instruments, moonlighting as a home theater is most likely out of the question.

I can agree with that.

Not everybody is into HT and audio.
Sorry to disagree,but movies will only reveal the dynamics of sound and not the subtle nuances required of music.This is strictly my opinion,I'm not trying to change your mind.Everyone hears things differently.Glad your experiment worked for you.
The biggest problem with Movies and your idea, is that the vocals are all compressed, AND vocal sounds are only a small percentage of total range of sounds heard.
The rest of the soundtracks are totally useless for any sort of comparison to real world music. If I want a system that can reproduce an oboe, or a saxophone.. what good is knowing it can reproduce loud car exhaust, bombs going off, gunshots, various wierd noises? And who knows WHAT that particular actors voice sounds like in real life? Most of us know what musical insturments sound like in real life.
On the other side, for voices, one of my favorite Cds for sound check of a system is PJ Harvey 4 Track Demos.. Her voice.. is 'spectacular' (to say the least)
Then, on the opposite side of the spectrum is Emma Kirby
singing Mozarts' Extante Jubilante.
The main climatic group singing in Rossini's Barber of seville.. the texture, the harmonies... heavenly... awesome.
Nearly anything sung by Maria Callas...
Janis Joplin....
Nina Simone..
Johnny Mathis Early.. Johnny Mathis (yeah he's corny as hell but a good voice)
Mark Murphy, not much singing, but cool, cat cool.
Pavarotti. early p only...
Vocal CAN mean a lot in auditioning a system.. but I would have to skip movie scores, or movies in general.
For me, I test a system with piano solo's playing the frequency spectrum. The piano should sound more like there is a piano in the room during soft and loud passages alike, and much less like there is piano music coming through a set of speakers in the room. It's a really tough test, but if your system can do that, it's really well put together. Comparison testing will make it cleary evident what I mean by the above statements. Happy listening,

I disagree, I believe music is mixed more accurately than movies and if you get the music to sound right then the movies will sound good too.
Second the solo piano test. It has the frequency range and strong percussive attacks that will challenge a system from playback component through to speakers. Also modern symphony orchestra, the complex textures and wide dynamic range can quickly reveal weaknesses.
Have you tried putting an OTA broadcast or a dvd through your main system? I don't have a HT. Just thought it was an interesting test.
I am not sure what exactly you are asking?

So in my effort to make the "subtle" details, in both
Music, and Movies,more audible, I needed to provide additional drivers, to deliver more "clearly" the parts in the Recording that are very low level.

No longer do I question what the lyrics are on any song,
or what was whispered in a movie, it is CLEAR!

Yes, if your system can re-create a "Piano", to have the
same Big, full sound of a full size Piano, than you are
well on your way, to some good sounds.

Trombone,Bass Clarinet, are a couple other instruments,

that I listen for "realism".

The overall point of this is that there's still no free lunch. The reason CDs were quieter in the past was that it took a while for it to occur to people to try to hijack the volume knob from listeners. People spent a long time mixing their music to sound just the way they wanted it. Typically, they didn't want someone to take that music and make radical or drastic changes to it after hearing it only a handful of times in a mastering session. The job of the mastering engineer was just to balance out any inconsistencies and transfer it to the delivery medium.

In this age, we all do tend to listen to music in much noisier environments and generally, perhaps, pay less attention to the music we hear. In such an environment, it is tempting to try to make your music "shout-out" the loudest. However, the only way to blast into people's ears louder than the last song is to introduce sonic sacrifices to your original mixes to achieve this goal. Much of today's modern music can certainly jump out at you from even the tinniest of computer speakers, but often doesn't stand up to any serious scrutiny on a good full-range playback system. And it's often chock full of pumping compression, distortion and other ear-fatiguing artifacts. Highly compressed or limited music with no dynamic range is physically difficult to listen to for any length of time. This "hearing fatigue" doesn't present itself as obviously aching muscles, like other forms of physical fatigue, so it's not obvious to the listener that he or she is being affected. But if you ever wonder why you don't like modern music as much as older recordings, or why you don't like to listen to it for long periods of time (much less over the years), this physical and mental hearing fatigue is a big part of the reason.

Hypercompressed material does not sound louder on the air. It sounds more distorted, making the radio sound broken in the most extreme cases. It sounds small, busy, and flat. It does not feel good to the listener when turned up, so he or she hears it as background music. Hypercompression, when combined with “major-market” levels of broadcast processing, sucks the drama and life from music. In more extreme cases, it sounds overtly distorted and is likely to cause tuneouts by adults, particularly women.

These can have all of the equalization, slow compression, and other effects that producers and mastering engineers use artistically to achieve a desired “sound.” What these radio mixes should not have is fast digital limiting and clipping. Leave the short-term envelopes unsquashed. Let the broadcast processor do its work. The result will be just as loud on-air as hypercompressed material, but will have far more punch, clarity, and life.

Just my humble opinion.

All very credible points.

Love My Music!
I also agree with piano music and I also use organ with choir; Cantate Domino on proprius track one to me is a recording that really can test out your system.
My way of evaluating a system is listening to a sampling of my favorite music. I've never heard a system that truly made me believe the musicians are in the room. Living 30 mnutes from Manhattan, I've heard some systems that cost more than the average home. Some were outstanding, others were not very good to put it nicely.

IMO music loses something everytime it passes through another component - from that first recording microphone to the speakers in your room.

The way I look at it, find a few systems that let as much of the emotion through as possible, then pick your favorite flavor. Pick the one with the least offensive trade offs.

A lot of people won't see eye to eye with me on that one. There's really no right or wrong here, only opinions.


Bjpd57a1, I promise I didn't read your post prior to the one I made on compression in the loudness thread!
I forgot to mention that I use the Chesky ultimate demonstration disk;covers all different audio terms with music examples and recording techniqus;I found this disk to be very helpful in learning how to listen to the system with regard as to what is being demostrated on that particular recording.