Purist Demo CDs and the Mapleshade Sampler,along with Taj Mahal:Martin Scorsese presents the Blues.
I Am Walking:New native music.Good spatial effects and tests top/bottom end extension/dynamics.
This is an interesting question. I do have a couple. Itzak Pearlman and Oscar Peterson together on TELARC - its a great recording with two very difficult instruments to reproduce well - viol and piano; Duke Ellington's Duke's Big Four to see how tight those knick drums get reproduced; usually something large and orchestral like a beethoven symphony to see if the system has good large work clarity; and finally something like Art Pepper +11 to kind of roll all those things in together.
Rostropovich on Teldec with a chamber ensemble (I'm too lazy to go to my basement and tell you the exact details) playing a Vivaldi piece. Always start with that. A couple of bars into it the music drops a couple of octaves, and that moment is when amplifiers get their soul exposed for the world to see. Dynamics, microdynamics, ability to raise current as speaker impedance drops, attack and decay, all tested at once. Also Roger Waters' Amused to Death for soundstaging, Vienna Teng for vocal naturality, Massive Attack or Thievery Corporation for bass, Nils Peter Molvaer for range and detail, etc.
I just bring a CD with an approximated impulse response. I can do the Fourier transformation in my head.
If I want to understand the effect of the room, I bring a 5-second glide tone.
Between these 2 tracks, I have a pretty good understanding of what is going on. Any other approach is a waste of time.
Grateful Dead--Reckoning (acoustic), any other live electric recording that I'm fond of
Pink Floyd--Wish You Were Here
Shirley Bassey--Live At Carnegie Hall, Something
It is more important to me how the equipment sounds on stuff I play a lot rather than on "test" CD's.
I agree with Tpsonic, the Mapleshade stuff is very revealing. One of my favorites is Kendra Shank's Afterglow recording.
The first two cuts, Almost Blue and Photograph are excellent for testing. Gives you that "I'm in the room with you" presentation. On a good system this can give you those goosebumps.
For example, the energy coming from Kendra's voice on Almost Blue can be too much for my CJ Premier 11a amp. On Photograph, the music flies outside-of-the-box into parts unknown.
Should only be the one's that are the top five in your collection. This way, you will know what differences are being produced. One of my favorites is the sound track of the motion picture 'The Mission'. I also have the DVD and I use that too. The range of the music on the latter disc's is unbelievable.
1. Orlando Gibbons "fantasias for viols' (Jordi Savall)
2. John Coltrane "Coltrane quartet plays"
3. Cannon's Jug Stompers yazoo comp
4. Morton Feldman "Coptic light" (Michael Tilson Thomas)
5. Jimi Hendrix "Band of Gypsies"
Paul Kelly, May 1992, Neil Young, On the Beach, Willie Nelson, Teatro.
I always use something from Greg Brown. Great for checking out midbass richness. His voice shouild sound appropriately gravelly and powerful.
I don't like to use my favorite recordings because with repeated listening, the joy of listening to them for fun can wear off. I like to use recordings that I like enough to listen to over and over, but not ones that I really enjoy listening to when not auditioning equipment.
1. Cream Live at Royal Albert Hall
2. Diana Krall - From This Moment On
3. Ray Brown - Soular Energy
4. Larry Carlton - Greatest Hits Re-recorded
5. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (deluxe edition)
6. Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin
Select cuts from the above CDs seems to test all elements of system performance.
and those select cuts and elements tested by each selection would be ??????????
The answer to your question is long but here it goes.
First, my listening preferences are for a wide, deep soundstage with space around vocals or solo instruments. Natural sounding mid-range. Articulate bass. I am a drummer (amateur, and bad for a LONG time) so I am very sensitive to the percussive impact of recordings and systems ability to reproduce. Natural, realistic sounding cymbals. I like "warm" sounding systems.
1. Cream - "White Room". This is an excellent sounding rock recording. Not a lot of "compression". Soundstage is wide and deep. Drums are back in the presentation. Ginger Baker plays deep into the toms. Realistic sounding cymbals. Jack Bruce bass line can be heard throughout. Clapton IS God and he tears it up on the solo.
2. Diana Krall - Excellent overall recording. Starting with cut 1, the sound of the brass should be natural and jump out at you as this great cut kicks it up a notch. Piano is well recorded as is her "scotch infused" voice. Great check for natural midrange. Jeff Hamilton is her drummer and he is one of the best. Great sounding cymbals; natural, air around them, great dynamics. Several other cuts also will tell you much about the mid-range and treble reproduction of your system.
3. Ray Brown - "Exactly Like You". Well recorded piano, bass, drums. Listen for placement of instruments. Deep articulate Ray Brown bass line throughout and solo. Gene Harris is the pianist and at about :45 into this cut, he hits a hard single note with his right hand. It should jump out of the right speaker and knock your head back. Listen for the note to decay, many systems "clip" this note making it sound hard and artificial. Natural sounding drum solo and well recorded cymbals that ring and decay!
4. Larry Carlton - You have to order this CD from his web-site. It is one of the BEST recorded CDs I've heard. Try cut 4, "Hello Tomorrow". In the first 15 seconds a solo alto sax should be presented center stage with plenty of air around it. It should sound "round". The attack of the strings from the acoustic Larry plays stands out. Check out the bass line on this cut. You should be able to follow every note. The sax recording on this cut is really good.
5. Lu - Get the Deluxe version of this one. It has the studio version and a "live" set. The "live" set is well recorded and kicks butt! "2 Cool 2 be Forgotten", great cut. Excellent vocals. Lu is center stage and you should be able to hear the "gravel" in her voice. Excellent drum track. It's a metal snare and should sound like one. Follow the bass line throughout. So many cuts on this are well recorded and can be used to examine soundstage presentation and vocal reproduction. "Hot Blood" ROCKS! If you don't get dynamics here something is not right. GREAT GROOVE.
6. Shelby - difficult to concentrate when all I can think of is an intimate encounter with Shelby. That notwithstanding, this is one OUTSTANDING recording. Cut 1 should present her voice center stage, silky smooth, breathy. DEEP BASS. Instruments presented in their own space.
Hope that helps. Remember, it is about getting closer to the music after all!
I tend to take cd's that are lesser engineered cd's than the best engineered cd's, probably unlike most of the ones already mentioned. If the ropey cd's sound musical then, a) the speakers are good, and b)the best engineered cd's will sound awesome without even listening to them.
One cd that springs to mind that I take to shows is Oasis 'D'ya know what I mean'.Its a bit brutal for speakers.
Only one CD, 15 tracks. A compilation of very familiar and different types of music with different enough styles to experience either the magic or uncover the warts. Track list (track numbers in parenthesis):
1. Maria Kliegel - Bach Cello Suites (1)
2. Dianna Krall - Live in Paris (11)
3. Rahsaan Roland Kirk - The Inflated Tear (2)
4. Art Pepper - Plus Eleven (1)
5. Rory Block - Last Fair Deal (4)
6. Big Joe & the Dynaflows - Layin' In the Alley (10)
7. Paul Butterfield - East West (3)
8. Sue Foley - Love Comin' Down (9)
9. Steve Hunter - The Deacon (1)
10. Terje Rypdal - Chaser (6)
11. Otis Taylor - White African (2)
12. Edgar Winter - Entrance (4)
13. Reverend Horton Heat - 24 Hits (3)
14. & 15. Blue Rodeo - Five Days in July (10, 11)
Thanks Rsorren, I appreciate the detailed response but I'm afraid there a few crucial details missing.
1. Which recording of "White Room?" There are probably a 100 of them.
2. Which Dianna Krall album?
4. Larry Carlton has a bunch of CDs on his website. Which one? The one that is titled "Larry Carlton" doesn't have that song for track 4. When I search for that song I find it listed on 6 albums.
5. I look on allmusic.com and find about 8 groups named Lu. I also found 16 listings for "hot blood" but none for a group named Lu.
6. I also see several listings for Shelby. Which recording by which Shelby?
Herman, I was refering to my first response.
1. Cream - Live at Royal Albert Hall - White Room
2. Diana Krall - From this Moment On
3. Larry Carlton - Greatest Hits Re-Recorded from his web-site
4.Lu refers to Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - 2 CD "Deluxe Edition" remaster
5. Shelby Lynne - Just a Little Lovin
Sorry, came in late and didn't read all the way through.
I have a couple Vangelis cd's that work for me. before I upgraded I didnt find them to stand out however there was a huge improvement when I upgraded to a better setup.
I've had a few standards over the years.
Peter Gabriel's soundtrack for "Last Temptation" has some descending patterns on tuned drums that are a great test of a system's bass response.
Don Dixon's cover of "Cool" from West Side Story on his "Romeo at Juliard" cd has close miked his bass and also features finger snaps that just "hang".
I also like the Shelby Lynne cd for female vocals.
The track "Sista" from the Rachelle Ferrell cd "Individuality(?) combines a well recorded rythm section with well recorded vocals.
Any of the cds from "Eels" or "E" provide taped and live material mixed to contrast the ambience between them. Very revealing. The track "Susan's House" from Eels' "Beautiful Freak" throes in some monster bass lines as a bonus.
A recent addition (for audition) is Lindsey Buckingham's "Under The Skin" cd. The tracks "It Was You" and "Show You How" are recorded to capture the ambience around multiple vocalists - the effect is pretty dramatic on the right system.
Some new ones that just came to mind: Chris Izaak's Baja Sessions, Dave Mathew's Busted Stuff, Midnight Oil's Earth and Son and Moon, Crowded House Woodface.
ben harper- burn one down, ground on down, and power of the gospel. burn for the percussion, ground for the way the song begins and ends, power for the intro.
Johnny cash- solitary man and the man comes around. solitary man for the guitar and the chorus of man comes around.
getz/peterson- blues for herky; there is a lovely interplay with stans sax and oscars piano.
gustav holst- jupiter from the planets, for the way the song builds throughout and be able to place instruments in the soundstage
brubeck/rushing- evening, you have jimmy rushings powerful vocal against the intricate backup of the great quartet.
Pink Panther soundtrack/theme song by Henry Mancini.
Try Master of Chinese Percussion - Yim Hok-man - crank it and listen carefully to the timbre. Sheffield Labs Drum Tracks 1 & 2 are useful too - again listen for timbre. Both should produce transients above 110 db at the listening position while still sounding effortless & clean (take an RS meter if in doubt). Both are available on XRCD.
Ok...I really use the following tracks to audition systems (notice I didn't not say "components"):
Track 1 - Quick Rejuvenation from the IsoTek Full System Enhancer & Rejuvenation Disc I swear by this CD to break-in and warm-up a system. If Im going to audition a system, I ask if I can let this track run before listening. The original CD has (2) additional 30-minute tracks (one with more low-frequency information than the other).
Track 2 - Ave Maria by Sarah Brightman off the Classics release Yes, this is the common wedding classic. However, if Ms. Brightmans voice alone doesnt make you want to leave your wife-to-be at the altar, youre good until death do you part. Sarahs voice floats and never sounds shrill; always lovely and relaxing.
Track 3 - The Mummers' Dance by Loreena McKennitt off the Book of Secrets release Its very easy for the low-end to become muddy; it should be a platform for the ethereal vocals. The harmonies should be clear and distinct; not one voice. The system should not over-sweeten this track (overall engineering could have been better) it sounds very good, but not amazing. All focus should be on the vocals.
Track 4 - Song of The Nile by Dead Can Dance from the Spiritchaser release So many things to listen to during Song of The Nile (this track stands in contrast to the previous the system should make this obvious). Imaging and panning is always interesting. The skins of the percussion have texture. The vocals hang in the air and the decay lingers without seeming confused. Each instrument is very well recorded, and the overall piece is exquisitely produced.
Track 5 - Prelude from the Bridal Suite by Eric Tingstad off the Windham Hill Guitar Sampler This is a very simple arrangement; miced very closely, yet the room is still captured. There is good dynamics, nice tonal balance, and great PRAT.
Track 6 - The Ballad of Bill Hubbard by Roger Waters off the Amused to Death release The challenge in this track isnt the obvious the holographic sound staging and imaging. This track is about making nuance obvious. The low-end can be boomy; it should add to the tension. I hate how this track just suddenly ends, though.
Track 7 - Kitkahaki by the Sea Beggars from the unreleased Sea Beggars EP This was a demo that I recorded and produced for some friends; one take (with only the female vocal recorded later). The vocal is very aggressive; but the overall sound is natural and honest. Since I was there (and I recorded it) I know what it should sound like.
Track 8 - Amy by Ryan Adams off the Heartbreaker release You should be able to peel apart the layers of vocals. The contrast of the percussion (which should be appropriately felt) and bells (that float) give this track nice dynamic contrast.
Track 9 - Sandusky by Uncle Tupelo from the March 16-20, 1992 release Each part should be distinct. The kick drum should not be lost, as it drives the tempo. Some systems will make this track sound like a beautiful mess; it should be a sonic choose your own adventure depending on which part you follow.
Track 10 - I Am Trying To Break Your Heart by Wilco from the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot release- Its not the song, but all the other things that are going on in this track that makes it interesting (particularly at the end). The shakers make you swear youre wearing headphones
Track 11 - Danko / Manuel by Drive-By Truckers off the Dirty South release Simple, clean and clear the polar opposite from the previous track. A lesser system will present this track as boring.
Track 12 - I Could Have Lied by the Red Hot Chili Peppers from the Blood Sugar Sex Magik release Rick Rubin did a nice job producing this track (and the whole album, actually). There is an essence of rawness that allows the emotional intensity to come through. It would have been easy to sugar-coat this track. Note the general instrument texture and the minimal, but appropriate, guitar solo.
Track 13 - Lithium by Nirvana off the Nevermind release Opening bass line should have a rich fullness. The impact of the first kick should be a warning of the upcoming onslaught of guitar noise. If this tsunami of guitar sounds thin, your system doesnt rock. Period.
Track 14 - Saint by Catherine from the Sorry! release This song is a sonic train wreck (not to mention the lyrics). However, a good system will make some sense of this mess. It wont make it sound good (by any stretch of the means), but youll say, I think they meant it to sound like that as opposed to What the hell were they thinking? I use this track because I dont own any Husker Du on CD.
Track 15 - Know Your Enemy by Rage Against the Machine from the self-titled debut Rage Against The Machine the analysis of this track is essentially the same as Lithium. The ability for a system to rock your face is essential for this track. The guitar work is pretty amazing I had to see them live to learn how those sounds are made (a mute toggle on the guitar).
Track 16 - The Grudge by Tool off the Lateralus release Listen for the opening depth charge kicks; the system should be able to articulate each of the kicks as they arrive in rapid-fire succession. This song is really about the percussion; and if it is lost in the noise. There should be fullness in the presentation without the guitar or cymbals sounding harsh or shrill.
Graceland - Paul Simon
Absolute Torch and Twang - k d lang
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis - Columbia CK 52861 (Gold disc with SBM)
Born 2 be Blue - Steve Miller
Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads
American Beauty/Workingman's Dead - Grateful Dead
Oh, yeah, and Pop Pop- Rickie Lee Jones
Spoon/Ga Ga Ga, Radiohead/Amnesiac, Tom Waits/Mule Variations
Nimbus Benjamin Britten string music (fantasia on a theme by Frank Bridge).
Argo Kings College Herbert Howells
Return to Forever "Romantic Warrior"
Joni Mitchell "Song to a Seagull"
"Aladdin" by Carl Nelson-big orchestral sound(Chandos)
Any Massive Attack for punchyness and bass
Dave Brubeck's classic album-good timbre on all instruments without emphasising anything.
Beethoven violin concerto, played by Kyung Whuan Chang live in concert-for string sound/HF.
Any Buena Vista Social Club-overall timing
Any Nora Jones-voice
Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Toward Ecstacy
This is Alice Music - Volume 2
Creed - My Own Prison
Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
3 Doors Down - The Better Life
When we were checking out speakers my wife would bring the sound track from Conan. Listen to it and you will understand why. Caused a few raised eyebrows, of course the speaker she really liked were the Sonus Faber Cremona auditor, and these were the low end ones.
I second The Mission Soundtrack, it's got it all.
Tracy chapmans 1st cd.
Donald Fagen's Kamakirand (if I spelled that correctly)
Eric Clapton 24 nights
And I have an Alpine test cd I bring along at times.
These are all original pressing cds;
Back In Black, DSOTM, Hot Rocks, Any Led Zepplin, Twentysomething.