The movie soundtrack "Shaft." Excellent recording with dynamics, bass weight, clarity, full orchestral arrangement, and timeless music.
"No Absolute Time" Jean Luc Ponty
"No Absolute Time" Jean Luc Ponty
I burn a disc of music which I know well and will be listening to at home on the speakers I select. I listen to a wide range of music so my test disc includes rock, jazz, classical, female vocals and so on. It even includes a few tracks which are not well recorded as this can help show you whether the speakers will give a "warts and all" presentation or a "rose tinted" one.
I strongly recommend you do not use music you are not very familiar with, regardless of what your current speakers are like.
Hens' recommendations are excellent. I'd suggest putting most any Reference Recording on your list. Try Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue conducting, Pictures at an Exhibition. Whether or not you are a classical music listener, full orchestra is a necessary part of your CD audition list. Orchestral music is a major challenge for any speaker. If it can do orchestra right, it will do everything else right too.
Ideally, something you are familiar with to have a basis for comparison. A great sounding recording does not help you much if you don't have a reference. I usually take with me things I know well. Recently Vienna Teng, Rostropovich on Teldec, Massiva Attack. For imaging, cannot beat Roger Waters Amused to Death, uncanny. You did not tell us your favorite style of music, so the range to choose from is way too wide. Note this has been discussed a lot, so doing a search on it may bring up things that are in your musical area of interest.
Auditioning speakers in a system other than your own requires that you know exactly what the music is like - you need to know it intimately. I personally do not think I make a major decision like speakers without a) putting them in my system before I bought, and/or b) being willing to sell them for a small loss if I did not like them - assuming that is the part of the cost of changing speakers.
As for what I have used in the past, I can recommend the following discs:
Ry Cooder's A Meeting By the River (lots of delicate tones, transients, and ambient noise); the above-mentioned RR discs of Eiji Inoue and the Minnesota Orchestra (Aaron Copland works, or Pictures at an Exhibition); a copy of Chopin Preludes (either Yevgeny Kissin or Maurizio Pollini); the Zubin Mehta recording (LA) of Holst's Planets or something similarly 'loaded' (instrument separation, clarity, ability to tame 'Saturn', and other dense passages without giving up the delicacy which is really there in good dense music); I also take along piano music which is more melodic (any number of things), I take along horn music which shimmers when done right (and for the last several years, that has been the 'French Music for Trumpet and Organ' by Hardenberger & Preston disc from bis), and I take along music with closely-miked stringed instruments (for me, the best way to get a grip on tone, and the speaker's ability to deal with all the ambient aspects (lots of stuff going on with this, just like there is with Chopin preludes). I also take along vocals, which is more difficult to deal with because I don't find female vocals the best way to test - for me, the interesting vocalists to test with are Bobby McFerrin, Keb'Mo, and perhaps someone on the female side, someone like Mariza. The speakers have to ace each and every one of these discs or they would fall from contention. No mercy.
To enjoy your new speakers buy any or all of these:
Dave Grusin Hommage to Duke
Maceo Parker Roots & Grooves
George Benson Weekend in LA live ("On Broadway")
Tom Petty Wildflowers
Eagles Live Hell Freezs Over
Eva Cassidy Live at Blues Alley
Old School Nation 2 (Hi-Bias Records)
Peter Gabriel Shaking the Tree (Sledgehammer has excellent bass)
Hugh Masekela Hope
Duran Duran Strange Behavior (some of the best extended mixes from the cream of the cream of 80's sound engineers)
Requiem Mozart with Emma Kirby (Chis Hogwood version)
David Gilmour On an Island
Keb 'Mo Slowdown
Bob Dylan Oh Mercy (Man in Long Black Coat is a masterpiece from Daniel Lanois)
Sheffield Labs Drum track XRCD - just to test your speakers at high SPL's and see how they hold together.
Don't just use "great" sounding CDs to audition new loudspeakers but be sure to include the poorer recorded CDs you may have; the older ones that have not as yet been digitally remastered to 20 bit or 24 bit processing with the the latest state of the art remastering electronics. I always bring the crappier sounding CDs as well when I audition to see how well the newer upgraded speakers do with those. One CD that comes to mind is Jackson Browne's "For Everyman" CD. I've been looking for a newly remastered version but so far, no luck. The original is awful.
Tracy Chapman "Tracy Chapman". One of the first CDs I bought and I know it SO WELL. I use track 4 (solo voice only dead center) to compare even the slightest changes such as interconnects etc. Good range and dynamics but not "audiophile".
The key is to have full range minimal processing good dynamics music THAT YOU KNOW VERY WELL AND HAVE LISTENED TO FOR EVER!
Precisely, bring the music you like. When I audition speakers I intentionally bring some CDs that I like that are garbage to see how the speakers handle them.
Definitely useful but I'd be careful selecting speakers that way. If the audio quality really is garbage like Metallica's latest overcompressed POS then you are going to end up with speakers that beat the signal into submission. These same speakers are unlikely to make a quality good recording shine - assuming you listen to other CD's.
I don't have a clue what type of music you listen to most so I'll spare you another arbitrary recommendation. But some of the comments above are excellent and I will try to add to them.
What I used to test speakers (in my home) are chosen from the music I listen to all the time, enjoy the most, and are recordings with which I am intimately familar. Some will be SOTA recordings (not many), some not (mostly), some recordings that are borderline in some respects but otherwise very enjoyable.
Jax 2 is right on regarding the using of a drecky recording but I do find it useful have recordings which I find very enjoyable but have recording issues that become too prominent on some components/speakers, often found in the reproduction of the upper mid range/highs common to some brass, pianos, and cymbals in a drum kit for example.
I don't usually use SOTA audiophile recordings (although I have a couple which will really test a system which) because unless you are very familar with the contents they tend to make even ordinary stuff sound better than it is when you play normal stuff. And I do, usually select recordings of solo instruments, vocal, and/or small groups, as there is nothing much to hide faults, whereas orchestral recordings or recordings with amplified instruments can cover a lot of sin.
Hope that helps a bit......
No worries - I did read your post - I was just trying to clarify that some awful
CD's do sound better on some systems in a sense that multiplying two
minuses can make a positive. This means that a few bad recordings have the
potential to be quite misleading when judging a system.
For example, compressed recordings nearly always sound better on a speaker
with a midrange scoop and "harsher" on a speaker without the
same scoop - that is simply because distortion sounds harsh (less harsh if it
is eq'd down across your sensitive midrange hearing). So the prototypical
boom boom tizz type speaker with a hole in the midrange will make it sound
better, as well as oh-ah impressive.
The midrange scoop is the great legacy of the all too popular two way
speakers with mid/bass woofers that start beaming at 1 KHz but do not
crossover to the tweeter until 3 or 4 Khz. At a nearfield distance of three feet
these will sound ok. However, in any room where what you hear is 50%
reflected off axis energy - then these speakers have a hole in the midrange.
whereas orchestral recordings or recordings with
Exactly. If you can't follow any instrument of your choosing on large orchestral
or big band (due to their being too much going on) then that indicates a poor
quality system. A good system should uncover every sin on even the busiest
recording. It is an awful lot easier for a system to play one small instrument well
than to play a big band that fills the entire audio spectrum at high SPL and still
sound as if each instrument is being played individually and effortlessly.
So beware the salesman who sells you a speaker based on *only* listening to
Diamonds and Rust by Joan Baez - you should check to see how the speaker
handles a busier recording first.
I like many of the records mentioned here for auditioning, particularly:
Roots & Grooves
I'd add 5 more to consider:
Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderly (vocals/sax)
Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (big band/piano)
Jennifer Warnes "The Hunter" (vocals/bass)
Peter Gabriel's "Last Temptation" soundtrack (tuned drums)
Eels or E almost anything, but maybe "Beautiful Freak" to start. (deep bass + music vs taped effects contrast)
All are good tools for evaluation.
I agree with the suggestions above to:
a) bring music you are very familiar with, regardless of your current equipment.
b) bring something that you know is NOT a good recording/mastering.
I use iTunes to burn a CD of songs in WAV/AIFF which I feel have: eitther great dynamic range, crystal clear vocals, strong sibilance (a negative), lots of bass, very good soundstage with real instruments, bad studio recording. All these songs are from my collection. I also use this CD to adjust my own systems or help friends setup/audition gear.
ANOTHER IDEA: If you don't know if your current CDs/SACD/Albums are good recordings maybe in your post you should state something similar to this....
You are seeking great recordings or transfers, etc. of.... identify the genres of music you listen to.
e.g. Traditional chamber music, singer songwriter rock, classsic female jazz vocals, modern rock, bluegrass, etc.
The point being, though there are amazing classical recordings, I have no classical music on my test CD since I never listen to classical.
good luck, ed
Not sure if this adds anything, but some time ago I was waiting to get into a dealer's large room, and listened to some smaller speakers in the line with one of the dealers demo CD's sitting around. it was a pretty good recording, and I thought the speaker was quite good, especially for the money.
It wasn't until I put on one of my reference cuts (Rickie Lee Jones Pop Pop comes to mind) that I could hear how colored the speakers actually were.
Springsteen's Devils and Dust is a decent recording I often use because it uses acoustic instruments and voice, and is an example of the kind of thing I actually listen to often. ALso at least 1 classical cut is mandatory. A speaker should be able to do many types of music reasonably well, and a well recorded orchestra (and string quartet) will tell you much about a speaker, even if you don't play that kind of music. I can't tell you the number of times I have done an upgrade or tweek, that sounded quite nice on a variey of cuts I used. However it was only on a well recorded orchestral track that I could truly tell what was going on due to the upgrade.
A nice piano cut should be included in your audition as well. I find Bill Evans is great for that, without being a true audiophile recording.
I also Like Patricia Barber, Companion. Lot's of nice details,congas, audience claps, drinks getting knocked over, etc that can clue you into a speakers transparency and dynamics.
'A nice piano cut should be included in your audition as well. I find Bill Evans is great for that, without being a true audiophile recording'.
I have Bill Evans at Town Hall, Volume 1 on cd, there is nothing I would say to the effect that this particular Bill Evans cd is a 'non audiophile' cd, especially the drum solo on track #6. Sounds excellent to my ears. Just my 2c.