What music do you use to assess your system?

I'm looking for music that will reveal shortcomings or strengths within ones system. Lets list some of our favorite songs that have: good, fluctuating bass lines, songs that have a solid, centerd vocal, songs that are super complex with alot going on, songs that test tone, songs that test inner and micro detail, songs that test how well a speaker can convey dynamic swing, and any other aspects I didn't mention.

Of course I'm not looking for one song that covers all areas, I'm fine with one song only covering one aspect.

When listing songs, please include what we are looking for in that particular song!
As I'm being a media selling dealer, I have so manymany test vinyls and CDs, but still prefer to assess my system with just a music I love to listen to. My favorites are original Command Records releases, Liberty label with famous exotic favorites that combine percussions and big bands, Early releases of Columbia FDS. Very hard to list all the titles, so would not pick any specific for the purpose.
I choose each style of music which I prefer.
I choose excellent, mediocre, and poorly recorded tracks.
I choose only tracks with which I am very familiar.
I narrow my selections down to a reasonable number (12 or so).
For each track, I listen only for one or two minutes.
By the end I will then know if it is worth listening further. If so, I will then listen to all cuts in full if I am able.
I just realized I did not really answer your question. Sorry. I will try to find my auditioning discs and list the tracks, and why they were chosen.
I am very much a treble nut. So usually i have along a lot of music with great treble stuff in it. Without a perfect treble, I walk..
Mozart: Extante Jubilante on L'oiseau Lyre with Emma Kirkby
Her amazing voice is heavenly.
(available on LP and CD I have both)
sinead oconnor "I do not want what I Haven't Got for her voice. The 'sheen' surrounding her voice can be phenomenal.
Telarc Robert Shaw Atlanta Symphony Carl Orff "Carmina Burana for massed voices And the childrens choir.

Then for lows I like Madonna "Music" (the Madonna album with her cowboy look) Some good bass on that.
Then nearly any Techno compilation. My favorite is Best of Techno Vol 5: FLUID.

Sometimes it is good to have BAD sounding music. to see if it's flaws shine as brightly as they should.
PJ Harvy "$ Track Demos' Her voice is astounding at times..
Then the violins in Dutiot Falla Three cornered Hat(London) .an early 'all digital' CD. Sometimes the violins sound like cardboard cutouts. Or like a ripsaw on a metal washtub... Baaaad. Worst violins I have EVER heard.
A good system will show them for what they sound like. A not so clear one will gloss overthem.
This is my secret go-to audiophile demo acid test.
Jmcgrogan2, that's hysterical! Thanks for the link.

Dave Grusin's Two For The Road. Not only is it enjoyable to listen to, but it contains exposed portions which really make it easier to judge a system; female vocals, piano, brass, percussion, and bass.
Oh boy, and we've officially digressed, 4 posts into the thread.
WARNING: do not watch that video unless you have 4 minutes to burn. You will never get that time back, and you will not be able to stop the video once you've started watching it. Thanks for the laugh!
Geez, I watched the video too, I'm speechless. Words fail me.

Now, back to the original OP's question. Some of my tracks I use to maintain a baseline of familiarity when auditioning new equipment might be Rautavaara's "Cantus Articus Opus 61" for its extraordinary sense of atmosphere and orchestral treble nuances, Bela Flecks old standby "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo," Keith Richards "Rockawhile" for its sense of timing, groove, and kick bass drum, Bill Frisell's "Blues for Los Angeles," again for groove, swing, and propulsive bass guitar, and Hovhaness' programatic "Mount St. Helen's symphony 50" for the entire palette of orchestral instrumentation, dynamics, and tone color.
What the fox you sayin'?
I think that the best example that I have found is Christina Aguilera's Christmas album. Her vocals will quickly expose flaws in a multi driver/X-overed speaker design versus a single driver or coherent design such as the Quad ESL speaker. This is an excellent album in all respects including bass! Hope this helps you.
Complicated Classical - Pick one you enjoy in high def to access separate bass, mids and tweeter responces

Modern Separation - Steely Dan Show Biz Kids: go track to track

More Modern Dynamics - 30th Anniversary The Court by King Crimson: use the highest def. choice on "I Talk to the Wind” and others of interest. Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in HD. Jazz- Take 5 HDCD.

Any grainy CD with great music to test for playback harshness.

Songbird by Eva Cassidy for female and acoustic sounds

Bass Mekanik Quad Maximus to slowly warm your system up and later check low end sound quality.

Choose the best HD performances whenever possible.

Classical,opera male and female vocals etc.
Paul Simon Graceland- been using that since 1985
"Paul Simon Graceland- been using that since 1985"

It was released in august of 1986 :-) And I agree its an excellent album.

Good Listening

Mannheim Steamroller "Fresh Aire Seven" using it consistently since 1990.
+1 for Graceland.

No matter when it was released...
A well miked acoustic guitar trio can be revealing. Tones, dynamics, location. 3 distinct guitars, different strings, different styles.
Whatever is in heavy rotation at the time. If a new component is introduced in my system, whatever music I'm very familiar with (usually 6-10 CDs worth) at the time is used to evaluate. If I'm impressed, I'll dig deeper into my collection and dig up some really old stuff to see how it holds up.

All the best,
Ptss brings up a good suggestion. Try California Guitar Trio.
Peter, 85, 86, so my memory is shot. At least I didn't say I've used it since 1976! Sounds great on my INT-150 you sold to me- It has been my 'go to' album for many years for a few reasons. I like the album, it seems to be well recorded, and my familiarity with it makes it ideal for auditioning equipment.

PS- now that I think of it, I know I didn't use Graceland when I bought gear in 1985- the year I got married-

Once again, and as I've come to learn, Peter is always right
Here's some more I use-

Dave Gruin- Discovered Again, Sheffield Lab D to D (Lab 5) I know for a fact I've been listening to that since the 70's

Donald Fagen- The Nightfly- the album is fun and contains some excellent spatial cues
I like to listen to some well recorded piano music as well as something with flute. These two instruments seem to challenge an audio system and point out its weaknesses pretty fast.
My other suggestion would be to listen to music you know really well, something you have been listening to for years.
There are also many test recordings available but I'm not very familiar with their value.

Did not mean to offend you, I too like the album as I mentioned in my post. When I saw the post I thought that album has not been around for that long, I got my copy in the early 90's, so I googled it.

How do you like the latest , I think, Paul Simon Album "So beautiful or so what " (2011) :-)

Good Listening

No offense taken!

I've not listened to Paul Simon's most recent recording-
Jacintha - A Tribute to Ben Webster

Doug Macleod - There's a Time

Illinois Jacquet - A Shadow of your Smile

Ray Brown Trio - Soular Energy

+1 to all of those, I truly enjoy the copy of Doug Mcleoud's album you gave me. Thank you so much !

Good Listening

Here's another title which I've used to assess gear- Donald Fagen- The Nightfly.
I love going back and reading old posts by myself to see how my audio hobby has progressed.

I recently got a pair of new speakers and they make everything sound better so there's no need to play a song I've heard 1,000 times to pick out slight differences because everything sounds awesome.

I have found that songs with Piano or classical (large orchestral) music will showcase a systems weakness but I also found that you can asses tone, attack and decay, transient snap, bass articulation, imaging, and frequency extension on many songs.

I have also found that Classical music will showcase dynamic swings and will let you asses if you speakers still sound detailed and impactful at low volumes (whats this called by the way?)

I have also found that one of my old "go to" songs I used to asses my system sounds about the same on most speakers (sounds good) and that there isn't much going on to test a speakers performance.

I've found that complex passages where there are many instruments being played at once are good songs also.

I guess in retrospect, I'm wondering now if its not more important to improve your listening skills and asses your rig on any and all music rather than the 10 songs you've heard 1,000 times...
I like to use the opening of the vinyl LP Genesis, A Trick of the Tale. It has a nice, broad range of notes. Bad, digital listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJIVuinJlsU

I'm such a gear head that I don't actually use music to assess my system. I use many other criteria though, such as; looks, cost, number of knobs and believe it or not weight. I figure the more something weighs the more stuff is in there so it has to sound good. Oh yeah, where you buy a component is also important. 8^)
+2 rja
I don't "assess" my own system, but when I am auditioning components, I usually use these: Something off Brubeck's Take 5 record. Desmond's alto will show up a honky or forward midrange like nothing i've heard. Nora Jones Feels like Home. Music isn't the greatest, but her voice is very well recorded and up front. Will also expose midrange and vocal forwardness and lack of naturalness. James Taylor JT. Vocals reach down to the baritone range and and will expose a tubby or thin lower midrange. This is often a function of the room, but it's still a useful tool. Lambchop Is a Woman - great low-level sounds like piano pedal and fretboard sounds show a system's ability to reproduce little sounds. That's pretty much what I go by.
I try to take something that has very complex piano parts - Yelenna Eckemoff's Cold Sun comes to mind - because in my experience a system that reproduces a piano well - with all of its subtlety-to-bombast and everything in between - can do just about anything I'm going to want it to do. Very difficult instrument to reproduce truly well.
Here's mine;
Jamie Cullum -twentysomething CD/SACD (2004).
Miles Davis- Kind of Blue CD/SACD (1986, 1999).
Paul Simon -negotiations & love songs (1988).

Keep this train a rollin'
I can appreciate the fact that to evaluate a systems potential, the best recordings available would be used.
But,I actually also try to listen to the music I play and enjoy the most. Say, the best audio version recordings of CCR.
I like to listen to everything, all genres regardless of recording quality.

So I assess by randomly queuing up tracks to get a random sample of how things sounds overall.

Every recording is recorded differently, so I listen to make sure I can hear what is going on in each clearly, for better or for worse, and take note of the variations and unique aspects of each recording

Then I just listen to whatever I want to. If I hear a problem anywhere, I take note and address it, if needed.

Another benefit of using a random sample is that one is better able to determine when a particular sonic deficiency is common across multiple recordings (most likely a system problem) or not. If not, then sonic deficiencies can be attributed properly to the recording rather than the playback system
These days a few of my favs are Shonen Knife's Let's Knife, Dylan's Modern Times, Led Zeppelin's Mothership Disc 2. Just for testing purposes, officer.
Old thread... but I'll add Spoon to mix. The whole album is fantastic but the first side of Transference is a reference for me. (All Spoon albums are a must for me)

Also Sting Ten Sumners Tales.

Cannonball Adderly Something Else

Norah Jones first side of Not Too Late.

In the end well recorded large scale classical works always set the highest bar in regards to what it takes to reproduce them best.

For me in addition to that, to cover all the bases safely, I always want to test with various forms of music that includes well recorded electronic music elements just to make sure things are up too the task of delivering the goods at higher volume with this stuff as well without any noticeable rounding, breakup, distortion, limited dynamics, etc.

If those two things can be done really well chances are you are in good shape for most anything else less challenging that comes down the pipe.
I just listen and enjoy without thinking too much about how it sounds, but how it makes me feel. I'm feeling mighty fine lately.
Bach Cantatas by Le petite band .
Kurt Elling/"Man in the Air"
The one and only Stanley Turrentine / "Joyride" on Blue Note. Great sound with fabulous band throwing in everything to include the kitchen sink !
Simply mic'd vocals with accompaniment (piano is good, but acoustic guitar will do), and recordings I've made myself with a pair of good condensers and a Revox A77.
Solo piano,flute,guitar,violin,cello, sax. String quartets,quintets. Mozart/Beethoven octets. Jazz w bass,drums and xylophone. Massive symphonic. All sipping warm brandy. Cheers.
Steam locomotives, thunderstorms, rain on pavement, applause.
Acoustic music.
Well recorded sound effects are actually very good for assessing systems because most people know what they really sound like.
Years ago as a dealer I would tell people to bring their favorite cd's so they can tell what they are hearing, then I would show them mine.I heard so much good stuff I'd never heard before, and I wanted it all. I made a list as I heard it and went to Audiogon or ebay to get it,I was averaging as many as 100 to 200 cd's a month. Many were hard to get and I've paid as much or more than $50 for a CD on top of having a substantial collection of MFSL and Audiophile masters.

One of my all time emotion favorites for statement systems is Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, that will grab you in a way that will have you crying like a baby. For sheer raw dynamics that builds from soft to hardcore guitars going into a progressively harder drum increase that is mind blowing in a monster system. The dynamics show separation and sound stage even though drums, guitar, and vocals are all out at a 100% full tilt. This might sound crazy, but Men at work is recorded very well and they have a few songs that are incredibly detailed. The band Icehouse has a harder to find CD called Masterfiles, it's mastered recordings, I paid $20.00 for it used but I use songs on it for demo. I also used their Great Southern Land, truly great dynamics.
Lesiem - Mystic Spirit Voices, Huge chorus, opera caliber male and female vocals, epic classic and electric guitar and drums. Think Enigma to a new level. Pure power, depth, and smoothness. They have a woman singing that sounds like Sarah Brightman but it's better. This one is for full range speakers the bigger the better. One of my favorite albums.
Great thread-

the 1st three concept albums of the Rock era;
Moody Blues- Days of future Passed
Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
The Beatles- Sgt Pepper

...for openers...

Happy Listening!