Shelby Lynne -- Just a Little Lovin' (other tunes from this album also excellent) Highlight - Thump of bass drum at beginning should shake your room, will test bass response and dynamics from the get go. Instruments have a lot of space, are very well recorded; vocals have a tremendous amount of texture.
Keith Greeninger & Dayan Kai, Looking for a Home (Blue Coast Collection - The E.S.E. Sessions) Highlight: Male vocals, acoustic guitar and steel guitar; startlingly lifelike recording, extraordinarily precise soundstage locations for both singers and instruments.
I might suggest a slightly different approach to this question. It's easy to list great sounding music. The problem being those picks tend to make most every system sound good. I would suggest using music that has always seemed flat (for want of a better term) on one system and ask does the next system improve the sound? Would that not better show the difference? Just a thought.
Thanks @hilde45 for being the first. I should have added a double bonus to have song easily available.. like Spotify. I can't find two of the thee pieces proposed. But Shelby Lynne is great and it's really my style of music!
@bigtwin - Excellent point, and is indicate that your strategy is to use "flat music" to evaluate a system. Really something to think about. But which flat song do you use?
1. Everything Counts (Oliver Huntemann & Stephan Bozdin Dub): Depeche mode is very experimental and this has dynamic sound across the frequency range.
2. Let's Dance by David Bowie: The song has some very busy and relatively quiet sections in the beginning of the song there a horn starts playing in the background - you can tell its a horn by the initial peak otherwise it could be confused with a keyboard/synthesizer.
3. Hey Nineteen by Steely Dan...excellent recording with a variety of sounds and 'musical density'.
Tin Pan Alley by Stevie Ray Vaughn Pulling The Pin - Run The Jewels then something live like Spanish Moon from the Waiting For Columbus live Little Feat album or something from Widespread Panic's Live In The Classic City or maybe the opening tracks of the Grateful Dead's One From The Vault or their Playing In The Band from Sunshine Daydream Veneta, OR 1972.
papyneau The tribute album to Jimi Hendrix called Stone Free. Fabulous musicians from Clapton to Seal & Jeff Beck. Violinist Nigel Kennedy does an outstanding rendition of Fire. The Cure does a take on Purple Haze that I actually prefer to the original. Yet for all this talent, the recording lacks any real depth in the sound. I would love to hear the system that brings this LP to life.
Any song on "Styles" by Ben Liebrand. The entire album is great. +1 for Tin Pan Alley by SRV. Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. These siblings do some great stuff, all recorded on old analogue gear and played on vintage instruments. As mentioned, I could pick 3 a minute lol
Listening for soundstage and detail retrieval I use music I know inside and out.
Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love - Fantastic 3D soundstage. It will wrap completely around you, 360° if the system is capable.
Jethro Tull - Locomotive Breath/Fat Man -There's a definite "buzz" after bass note hits on Locomotive Breath. After Fat Man ends there'e a "hunphhh" from Ian Anderson. If these are easily discernible, the system is pulling out some detail.
TELARC - 1812 Overture - What can I say? First you have to keep the needle in the groove if it's on vinyl.
Honorable Mentions: About anything by Pink Floyd, E. Power Briggs, Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, or any well recorded aorchestral pieces.
Rick Wakeman - Jane Seymour from The Six Wives of Henry VIII. The pipe organ at St. Giles takes you right into the church and the Moog piece takes it to another dimension.
Jeff Beck Group - Goin Down from the S/T Orange album. The separation of the instruments in the left and right channels and right out of the center. The beautiful tone and resonance of Max Middleton’s piano. And of course Jeff Beck squeezes just about every note that you could get out of a guitar. Close your eyes and you can feel the strings bending. The whole album is just fantastic.
Santana - Waiting from the S/T first album. The soundstage and spaciousness comes at you from every direction in the room. The music just floats.
And one more. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris - Why Worry from Real Live Roadrunning. Emmylou sounds like an angel. Oh wait, she is an angel.
First is Stevie Ray Vaughan vinyl version of “Tin Pan Alley”. This song gives you everything needed. Good bass guitar breaks from light to hard pick control, and the part when you can hear the drum stick hit the rim before the skin. Not all systems will render this. Second is anything Doors. Their albums have great sound stage and depth. You actually feel Jim is closer than the rest to you. Third is Jethro Tull “Thick as a Brick”. This album front to back is one of the best produced you will ever hear. Wide rang of instruments to check system balance. Artist to never use Joe Bonamassa the bass on his albums is mud and sounds terrible.
After posting mine earlier and reading these comments, we all have failed to mention one group who still sounds phenomenal: The Beatles. Put on Hey Jude and it sounds like McCartney is right in front of me playing bass and piano and singing. Ringo never sounded better on the drum kit with the cymbals crystal clear. Of course, there are others: Something, Penny Lane, and the list could go on.
From the album "Turn Of The Cards" by Renaissance:
1) Black Flame 2) Running Hard 3) Things I Don't Understand.
All three will feature copious amounts of acoustic piano, harpsicord, Rickenbacker bass and an orchestra. Annie Haslam is an incredible vocalist. The use of the cliche' "sing like a bird" rarely applies or is deserved but, on the song Things I Don't Understand Annie actually sings like a bird from the 5;00 to the 6:50 mark of the song. So, there is much here to challenge any audio system.
To evaluate a system / component whether it will suit your needs: Listen to music that you like to listen to!And when you make your choices based on that, your system will grow in the direction you take it...
I would recommend listening to all sorts of music you normally listen to. Do that for a month, and then you will notice whether you are happier than before or was it a let-down.
Any other form of evaluation will take you towards a direction where you will not be happy. Use the demo tracks as a learning tool, they are very valuable. But do not use them to make system decisions.
As many have said it’s hard to pick just (3), I have many - but I do have my #1. A great owner/dealer introduced me to his # 1 (5) years ago and I agree. The imaging/ soundstage/ separate distinct instruments, with Wynton Marsalis, then with Dianne Reeves voice are simply great. Have a listen and enjoy. I am grateful to that dealer in Tampa.
””The Feeling of Jazz” (covered by many) with Wynton and Dianne!
I believe this post will receive responses from those who just want to express what their favorite songs are rather than doing what the OP is asking (maybe he is asking that) It makes sense to use songs (music) to evaluate a system with those you are familiar. But, the same songs when it comes to "evaluating an amp" can vary more than the results you want to achieve. Recordings of the same song can sound terrific in one case or horrible in another depending on the quality of the recording.So, an evaluation of a particular amp can't be limited to just 3 songs of a particular genre but to a range of music. Music of all styles (pop, hip hop, rock, metal, folk, classical, jazz, xydeco, and some others) contain useful dynamics. Your focus may be on male/female vocals,, instruments, or all of those. I'll join the "herd" and weigh in on some of the music I've heard that contain excellent dynamics.......In no particular order.
Steely Dan...Aja Boston Pops...most any selection Jennifer Warnes....most any selection Jethro Tull....Thick as A Brick Stuff...Do You Want Some of This Sanford-Townsend Band...Smoke From a Distant Fire.
not songs so much as musical pieces- *Fritz Reiner/CSO- Scheherazade - this 1960 recording, on the right systems in the right rooms, is like being there, you can hear every little bit of musicians' breathing, music stands creaking, sheet music and clothing rustling, all the little details that spell out "live performance of real musicians." if any of this is missing in the playback, something's the matter with your system. likewise if it sounds harsh in any way. tape hiss should be audible and sound separate from the musicians. *Organ Stop Pizza - "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" - subharmonics below 10 cycles per second in this one, on the world's largest Wurlitzer theatrical organ. need abundant line current and woofer travel/linearity of response or else it just doesn't work and may result in woofer damage. the deep bass should rock the room. room rumble and wind chest noise should be apparent. *Red Norvo, "The Forward Look" - a KOJ recording of the highest quality, of a small jazz combo in a live setting. on the right system the imaging is holographic and wall-to-wall. the string bass should be nice and woody and round, the cymbals shimmering, the drum set viscerally bombastic on the solos, the kick drum should feel like a real KICK, sharp and deep. the electric guitar should not hoot [bad speaker enclosure or panel resonance] and the alto sax shadowing it should stand out. above all, Red Norvo's vibes should have a sharp attack. you should hear some tape hiss [recorded before Dolby A was available] and rumbles in the room. if this recording sounds flat on your system, something must change.
The Art of Noise; Beat Box (Diversion One): The closing piano. The Crystal Method; Returns to The Lab LA: Complex in its' way, live off the boards, and you Can dance to it. Dust your subs. Fat Boy Slim; Live @ Sydney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne: Listen; watch and listen; or just get out of your chair....wake the neighbors....they expect to go off into the deep end, anyway.... ;)
Thank you so much for that variety of suggestions. This thread is generating lots of "work" for me as I' actually listening to all pieces that I can find and decide if I keep it or not in my bank of "song for system evaluation" - And I'm loving it - I discover lots of great stuff!
To those who suggest to use song we like/love to evaluation: this is what I thought at the beginning. But the more I'm into it, the more I find that my judgment is clouded when I listen to those ones. Because I'm moved by the song itself, I suspect a halo effect that make the song better that it is really (a much bigger effect that the one created by well recorded music). I now pick some that ressemble to music I like, with great recording quality and dynamic, but that are not making me too emotive. I have a lot to pick from from your suggestions!
And also - I realize that "top 3" is highly subjective as I love my top 10 equally. But limiting to 3 will keep the mount to song to listen to under control!