Music to test with:

I have found myself coming back to same of the same recordings when I buy/audition a new piece of equipment.
I really like Jennifer Warnes "Famous Blue Raincoat" The Cowboy Junkies "Trinity Sessions" both of those on CD and LP. The Bangles "Eternal Flame" Bob James "Touchdown" Al Jarreaus "Mornin'" and even the Carpenters "Make believe it's your First Time" I have also used Andrew Litton conducting Tchaikovskis 6th symphony.
There are many more recodings I like but I was wondering what you use when you are auditioning something new?
I find that music that I'm really familiar with and really enjoy works well when auditioning systems. Stay away from music that you're unfamiliar with if you're auditioning a new piece.
I like Rickie Lee Jones 1st album, and Pirates. Willie Nelson's, Stardust album. Carmina Burana with the Czech Philharmonic. Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano, by Claude Bolling/Jean-Pierre Rampal. John Klemmer, Straight From The Heart, on Nautilus Direct Disc. For CD, I like Sade, Best of. Joni Mitchell, Hits. Sarah Brightman, La Luna.Madonna, Immaculate Collection. On SACD, I like Weather Report, Heavy Weather. The Bangles. Dvorak's New World Symphony, Bernstein.
The following are a reasonable cross-section of the various LPs that I often use to evaluatge a system:

Opus3 7900, Test Record 1: Depth of Image
(If I could only use one LP to evaluate a system, this would be it. Very naturally recorded acoustic instruments and voice with selections in a variety of genre from classical to jazz to folk. Listen to the small choir performing Isaac's Innsbruck to see how well the system can differentiate each voice.)

Argo ZNF 6, Holst/Savitri
(This recording has excellent reproduction of soundstaging and vocals. As soloists move on and off stage, the movement is clearly tracked on a system that reproduces soundstage information well.)

Audioquest 1001, Robert Lucas/Usin' Man Blues
(This Kavi Alexander recording tells me immediately whether a system can reproduce pace and rhythm - if this recording doesn't sound alive, there's a definite problem with the system. Unfortunately, I've listened to many expensive systems that fail this simple test.)

BIS LP 163/164, La Spagna
("Ancient music" recorded on original instruments in a church acoustic. Very interesting and distinctive textures and timbres that are challenging to reproduce / differentiate accurately. Side 3 is particularly telling.)

NorthStar DS0004, Arturo Delmoni/Songs My Mother Taught Me
(Wonderfuly natural reproduction of violin and piano.)

Klimo Open Window 002, Baroque Violin/Banchini
(Want another demonstration of the merits of simple miking and tube electronics - this recording will stress a systems ability to reproduce accurately the harmonic overtones of a violin and cello.)

Athena ALSS 10004, Stravinsky/Petrouchka
(Yes, Ansermet's strings can sound a little scrappy at times, but what a wonderful performance extremely well captured in this Decca recording re-issued by Athena. Side 2 band one for massed strings, then about the last 3/4 inch of side 2 for an entire orchestra going full tilt.)

Classics for Pleasure CFP 40339, Allegri/Miserere, Tallis Scholars
(If you ever need to convince someone that a system can reproduce the illusion of tremendous depth of field, let them listen to the antiphonal choirs captured in this recording. If you don't hear it on the system you're auditioning, look elsewhere.)

And then there is the Moeran, Lloyd, Arnold... But, this is enough for a start. I'll be interested to read other's favorites.
I think Buckingham is right on. That doesn't mean you can't become familiar with other recommendations. Fair warning, too much testing with your favorite music may make your favorite music less favorable.
Some favorites are:
Lyle Lovett: Joshua Judges especially tracks 3,4,6,8
Brian Bromberg: Wood, Awesome stand up bass and piano
Burmeister CD-III
Bobby Mcferrin: Beyond Words. Track 1 in particular

By the way I agree with Unsound. I can't tell you how many cd's I can't listen to anymore from over-use.
Anything by Celine Dion. If the rig makes it sound good it must be great.... buy it.

I remain,
If I find a system that makes Celine Dion sound good I'll market it and get rich. Singers like her were the reason for scan buttons on the radio.
I forgot about the Lyle Lovett, I use several of his recordings too.
I don't buy or audition things often enough to get tired of my test material. At least not so far. I'm just wondering what I'm missing or should try next time.
...please spin on the Fifth Movement of Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique!" You'll know when you hear it, if you got it all. Regards!
Also it doesn't make sense to me why would anybody test, or audition HIEND equipment with rock noise/music??
People buy HIEND equipment to listen to the music they like. Classical music is no more intrinsicly better than rock than Bach is better than Mozart. Why would someone who loves Frank Zappa or Neil Young (neither of which I like) buy a Berloiz album to test their gear?
In addition to the common James Taylor-type recordings, these are some of my other favorite "demo" discs:

City of Angels - Soundrack
I am Sam - Soundtrack
Ben Folds - Rockin' the Suburbs
Thomas Dolby - Alien ate my Buick
Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms XRCD2
Grateful Dead - Dicks Picks 17
Ray Brown - Soular Energy
Dave's True Story - Sex without Bodies
Apollo 13 Soundtrack (track 20)
The Firm Soundtrack

(I know, a lot of soundtracks, but I like that they have various artists on a single disc and usually offer a consistant recording quality across the disc.)
Actually, there is an excellent reason for using music created with natural acoustic instruments rather than synthesizers or other esoteric electronica. We know (at least musically educated people know) what an oboe, piano, violin, upright bass, or snare drum is suppose to sound like. Nobody really knows what an electric guitar washed through five or six little black boxes is supposed to sound like.

If your concern is only to find a sound that you like, then you can of course use any source you want. If you desire an accurate reproduction system, you'd better start with a known source.

Thank you Bishopwill!
Having been to many concerts in different theaters or concert halls from the US to western Europe I have to say that each hall has sounded different. Each time the viola has sounded like a viola but it never sounded the same as in the last hall. Does that mean they used a different viola or was it run through a series of black boxes that caused the sound to change? To say that unamplified flutes are they only music by which to judge the quality of a piece of equipment is ludacrous. What do you know about the acoustics of the setting? Something you might think is the problem of the equipment might just as easily be an acoustic characteristic of the concert hall.
I again ask the question; what is the point of using music with which you are not familiar to test something.
I'm not suggesting ssing2 is wrong, for him/her that might be the perfect piece of music. I'm sure you are not suggesting that fans of heavy metal or techno pop have no place in hi-end audio.
I am looking for suggestions to add to my collection to help in the auditioning process. I did not think I would have to defend my preferences of a broad spectum of music.
Nrchy, your point is well taken, but in the end most classical music will be a purer source as the same argument can be made re: music that has electronicly manipulated and then performed in a given space. I don't believe any one is trying to suggest that any particular type of recorded music is the perfect tool for evaluation, just which ones are prone to the least alteration prior to play back. The less alteration the greater the fidelity. Some things are for all practical puposes out of most audiohiles hands. Unless you are evaluating equipment in the same time and space as the perfomance (recoding engineer),or you have a room that is exactly like the recording venue and you know it, perfect evaluations are not likely. But the quest to do our best goes on. With out some standard (sub standard?) the point of this forum would be moot. As if comparing a viewing of paintings with others who have viewed them through different colored lenses. Personaly, I use a variety of acoustic and electronic recordings as they each have specific qualities that make evaluations easier. Good listening.
Unsound, thank you for clarifying the point I was trying to make. To be sure, the sound of a viola will be affected by the environment in which it is played. But if one listens to many violas played in many environments, one will come to learn the characteristic sound of the instrument. The environment may contribute some color, reverb, etc. to the sound of the viola but it won't change the fundamental character.

On the other hand, no one but the artist will EVER know, no matter how many listenings or how many environments, what the the sound coming out of the electric guitar-cum-black box was intended to sound like. Therefore, while it will be entirely possible for one to choose a system that produces a synth sound that one likes, it will be impossible by definition for one to choose a system that replicates with certainty the artist's intention.

Of course one should use recordings with which one is familiar, be they by the Chicago Symphony or by the thrash metal band du jour.

Pianorecordings, best one with a Steinway, the other a Boesendorfer or a Bechstein, Soprano arias, string quartets, a brass octet, a chorus, massed strings, or a nice slice of Berlioz' Requiem played at full tilt boogie are the acid tests I use to let a dealers face turn from chubby red to slightly pale. (-;
P.S. That is, if the dealer knows the sound of classical music. A rare breed indeed and an endangered species, but not yet entirely extinct. Cheers,
Same as Detlof above + lieder in mono. An old Dieskau is fine: can I visualise Mr Dieskau, his physical size, & the characteristics of his voice?
For the adventurous dealer, a tinge of Mahler 2nd symphony (1st & last parts) can also serve very well.
I just heard a really good cd for testing. It's by "Robert Hohner" and the album is called: "Far more drums". If you can, get the Hybrid Multichannel SACD version as the CD layer sounds much better than the normal CD version alone. The recording sounded better than all my HDCD's and was on the same level as XRCD.
here is a contrarian thought - instead of great sounding recording of music you love, use discs that you love but that have problems which can be excerbated by poor performing components, for example a disc with a high end that is almost too etched. if it sounds overly so (piercing) or underly so (dull) you will have easily discovered something. the problem with great recordings, is they will sound so good on so many components and you will be listening to the music and not the sound. i used to bring multiple cd's w/such problematic tracks. makes initial listening sessions much shorter.
here is a contrarian thought - instead of great sounding recording of music you love, use discs that you love but that have problems which can be excerbated by poor performing components, for example a disc with a high end that is almost too etched. if it sounds overly so (piercing) or underly so (dull) you will have easily discovered something. the problem with great recordings, is they will sound so good on so many components and you will be listening to the music and not the sound. i used to bring multiple cd's w/such problematic tracks. makes initial listening sessions much shorter.
Newbee, why be so cruel to yourself ?
I test with the same kind of music that I usually listen to. If one enjoys classical, there would be no real point to having a test that emphasizes vocals. Likewise, if one likes piano music, why would testing criteria emphasize hard-driving rock? Why would one test to ensure that his system sounds great with music that he doesn't listen to and fail to emphasize testing with the music that he does listen to?

My tests are along the lines of Newbee's in that, of the things I listen to and am very familiar with, I take the most challenging music to reproduce and listen very closely to the specific instruments. Can the TONE of the drums/cymbals and bass (electric and upright) be heard clearly? Does the piano sound "right"? Is the brass too "brassy"? Are female vocals clear? Are subtle, complex passages resolved? Etc, etc, etc.

detlof, because i'm that kind of masochist - you should to see my back - i wear out a whip a week. by the way the operative word was "used" (in the penultimate sentence).
Newbee, LOL, I see your "operative" point. I think, I'll go and try it out right now...Cheers,