I have always evaluated with the same cds. What they are, is not important to this post. Instead I want to bring up a thought. There are a number of cds that sound great on many systems because of the recording quality. I had a Krell amp at one time that would blow me away with a good recording, great dynamics and detail. It would however dissapoint with mediocre to bad recordings. In other words, the things it does best, are the same things that make it unlistenable at other times. The same is true for other equiptment I owned. I think there are certain things that need to be sacrificed in order to get a balanced system that will give overall enjoyment and enable you to go deeper into your cd collection. So, my point is, you should listen to the music you like and will spend most of your time listening to. If those cds don't sound good when you demo, then the system is not for you, unless you are willing to listen to only audiophile quality recordings.
Sorry for the poor spelling. I knew "dissapoint" didn't look right....
The answer would probably depend on my mood. Limited to five, and pressed to choose right now, the list is below:
(1) Joni Mitchell "Hejira' Asylum 7E 1087
(2) Charlie Haden "Closeness" A&M SP-710
(3) Roger Waters "Amused to Death" Columbia LC0162
(4) Stevie Ray Vaughn "Couldn't Stand the Weather" Epic FE39304
(5) Dead Can Dance "Into the Labyrinth" 4AD Records DAD3013
All these choices are in LP format. There would be a different list for CD, as I do not often duplicate titles. I could change my selection if ask again this time next week. This has to do with what is currently being played on my own system, making the jump to another system and environment a bit less difficult.
Albert is absolutely right(not to say his list is the list to use, no offense Albert) on the idea of using music you have been listening to recentely. It is what you have most recently heard and therefore is the best/most recent reference you have and nothing is better then that. Best of luck, :-)Tim
Abstract7; interesting thread. Like some have noted above, my list will change over time-- but slowly. All are CDs.
1. Holly Cole "Temptation"; female vocal timbre, background noise.
2. Enigma "Cross of Changes"; Bass, dynamics, PRT.
3. Cowboy Junkies "The Caution Horses"; female vocal timbre, detail, and relaxation effect.
4. JJ Cale "Guitar Man"; Pace, Rhythm, and Timing; also male vocal timbre.
5. Lucinda Williams "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road"; an HDCD disc; Soundstaging, female vocals.
I don't specifically buy "audiophile" CDs. All the above CDs can also be used to check tonal balance, which should be an assumed characteristic of any well recorded CD. Cheers. Craig.
Albert, ATD is my alltime, all time favorite cd.Truly a workout for the system, and the room.Female voice: Karen Carpenter. (brother can you spare a nail?) Her voice melts me down.
Great choices so far. Here is my list, for what it is worth... 1) Lucinda Williams "Car Wheels On a Gravel Road" - dynamic, voice of coffee mixed with diesel fuel, excellent sense of guitar strings. 2) Dar Williams "Mortal City" - one of the most divine women's voices around, angelic, great acoustic guitar work. 3) The Cure "Mixed Up" - not for the bass shy, an excellent representation of modern music. 4) Steely Dan "Aja" - so much to offer for testing; male voice, instruments, drum kit on Aja, variation in pace, dynamics, etc. 5) John Coltrane "Blue Train" - an essential jazz piece, the required jazz instruments, contains both the smooth and frenetic sides of Coltrane.
I tend to use recordings of music that I have frequently heard live. Since I have heard the Chicago Symphony live hundreds of times I use the Reiner (Classic Vinyl preferred)and Solti performances of Bartok,Reiner's Sheherazade, Solti's Mahler 8th and the HP remaster of Ozawa's Rite of Spring. These pieces have solos for most of the instruments and voices as well as massive tutti's. Vaughn Williams Symphony Antartica is a favorite for low bass with orchestra.
For sub bass response for test cd try soundtract to movie Titanic. I use it to see what bass response speakers put out. Very dynamic recording. Almost every song is loaded with deep bass.
I agree with the gist of Blbloom's post, but I would like to elaborate. While I agree that it is certainly important and fun to test a system' abilities in the areas of bass, soundstaging etc.; the more elusive aspects of a system's capabilities are what ultimately define a great system for me. Those things, for me, are usually found in the area of dynamics; microdynamics specifically. If a system is good at reproducing microdynamic info then it can reproduce the expressive qualities of a performer. The tiny little swells or violent crescendos that a performer or say, a string section in an orchestra makes while phrasing, make all the difference in determining wether a recorded performance is good or not. Most systems in my experience, even very expensive ones, when asked to reproduce this info (assuming it is there to begin with) fail this test miserably. Some of my favorite test recordings are: the finale to Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" Solti and Chicago S. on Decca; if the almost manic feel of the string section playing at a tempo that is probably too fast is not obvious, then the system is not happening. Just about any recording of Marriner conducting Bach with the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields, preferably on Argo; whoever said that classical music doesn't swing?, Sonny Rollins "The Bridge"; this recording is in most respects as far removed from audiophile standards as you can get. Mono, a little grainy, but man does it capture Rollins' amazing ability to grab a rhythm section by the balls. Amazing and pretty rare for a horn player. Most horn players, even many of the greats, play TO or WITH the rhythm section; Sonny feels like he IS the rhythm section. Dexter Gordon "Sophisticated Giant"; Dexter always had a tendency to play behind the beat, in his later recordings it became so exagerated that the tension created was unconfortable and almost painfull to listen to. The system should be able to reproduce this tension without sounding confused. Another recording that I like to use is Bill Evans "Waltz for Debbie"; this recording captures the "sound" of The Vanguard really well. After having been to the Vanguard many times over the years, including to hear Evans himself; I find that if a system can reproduce the distinctive sound of this club, then it's probably pretty good tonally in the more general sense. A musician acquaintance and colleague likes to point out that "no one (musician) ever got fired for having bad sound". Perhpas a bit of an exageration, but what he means is that solid rhythm and expressiveness are of paramount importance. Cheers.
The manic tempo in the last movement of the Concerto for Orchestra is in the score. Solti takes it at the marked tempo and even went so far as to examine the autograph score before the recording to resolve some tempo discrepancies between the parts and the conductor's score. Microdynamics, to use that audio term, in a live performance of Bartok's Concerto played in a dry hall like Orchestra Hall Chicago will show the gap between live and the best system. That piece is my favorite to see if a piece of equipment is an improvement or not.
The gap between live and the best system is indeed huge. We are in agreement, Pls1, about the merits of the Bartok/Solti. As concerns the tempo of the finale, you are quite correct; in absolute terms. By "probably too fast" I meant probably too fast for the strings to play confortably, hence the manic feeling. To my ears the strings sound as if they are collectively about to lose control. This creates a feeling of wildness which is actually quite exciting in a way, clearly not as controlled as Reiner's reading. Moreover, I'm sure you would agree that adherence to a specific metronomic marking is only one way to potentially capture a certain feeling in the performance of a piece. In other words, sometimes a slightly slower tempo combined with exciting use of dynamics can be more effective. In this particular case I'm torn, for as I said, I rather like that feeling of wildness in this particular reading. How about that brass section though? Talk about power and excitement. Regards.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time considering this one. Limiting to only 5 is difficult. I also agree with many of the comments about how you would take what you had been listening to recently—it establishes a base line that you are familiar with at that time. That too makes this question more difficult. One thing I’m sure of, I would take a variety of music that fits my tastes. This would include: female vocal, jazz trio or quartet, orchestral/symphonic music, piano solo, and guitar solo, upright bass, and something dynamic. When I say solo—it would not have to be entirely solo, enough so that the individual instrument can be heard similar to a solo passage. Also, there are seven selections, but any one album may contain 2 or 3 of the areas I would need.
1. Bobo Stenson Trio “War Orphans” ECM
2. Elliott Fisk Classical Guitar works by Bach and Scarlatti Mark Levinson Recording
3. Bach “Goldberg Variations” performed by Ito Ema on M*A
4. Eiji Oui “Mephisto and Co” Reference Recordings
5. Patricia Barber “Companion”
1. Jacintha “Autumn Leaves” Groove Note
2. Harry Belafonte “Belafonte Sings the Blues” 45RPM Classic Records Reissue
3. Respighi “Church Windows” 45RPM Reference Recordings
4. Michael Newman Classical Guitar on Sheffield D2D
5. Pete Townsend “White City”
Sorry if I sounded testy. I heard virtually every Orchestra Hall performance of the CSO ( and many at Ravinia) from the late sixties to the mid 80's. I also had a fair amount of personal contact with Solti and was at several of his recording sessions. Solti was a student of Bartok and every November near Bartok's birthday Solti played an all Bartok program. The manic intensity was certainly a Solti trademark. My only real regret about moving to the SF Bay area was giving up my multiple series season tickets in the first row of the balcony at Orchestra Hall. Now I only hear the CSO live two or three times a year when travel on business.
No need to apologize Pls1; and no you did not sound testy. Yor obvious experience and knowledge of the subject at hand entitles you to be confident with your comments and opinions. You are an asset to this forum. By the way did you have occasion to get to know Larry Combs or Ray Still? Two of my favorite wind players. Regards.
Ray Still was an astonishing oboe player and quite a character even by the stereotypes of oboe players. I didn't get to know Larry Combs. I knew the brass players the best, especially Adolph Herseth (trumpet) and Dale Clevenger (Horn). I became more than a subscriber because at the University of Illinois when I was a "gopher" for the Decca recording team and Solti. That's how I got to know Solti and to attend rehersals and recording sessions over the years. Additionally, my wife, who is also nuts about music,was the banker for the CSO and the Lyric Opera.
Ray Still was my favorite aboist and I regret never having had the pleasure of meeting him. Many of my oboe playing colleagues revere his work with the CSO and yes his reputation as a character is well known. Some of the CSO's recordings are used as great examples of American school wind playing as I'm sure you know. I recently had the pleasure of working on a project with Larry Combs and I was extremely impressed with his musicianship. Most don't realize that he is also a first rate jazz player; on the clarinet as well as the saxophone. Remarkable player and a true gentleman.
oboist not Aboist; obviously.