The track Recat from Loderbauer/Villalobos is literally quadraphonic, even when played on two channel. It's trippy.
Another suggestion I heard which makes a lot of sense is to ask non-hifi people in advance what music THEY really like and then select the best-sounding of their list before they come over. Then, they find themselves hearing something very familiar but they're so focused on the quality level that they both enjoy the song they love AND focus on the equipment making it sound so much better.
This is a little different but sometimes I will play Lucky Man from ELP. I have found most of their old stuff was poorly recorded. However, this one track must have been remastered (in a good way) somewhere along the line. It's a track most of my older friends are familiar with but have never heard it on a good system. Also, Dire Straights, Brothers In Arms.
Allegri, Miserere, Tallis Scholars.
Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpzdB0G3TJU
A little into the performance you will see that there are three distinct groups of singers, in different places around the church.
On a good system, the church acoustic is fantastic.
I have enough genres of music to suitably 'wow' any tastes (except for Rap).
But a few generic crowd pleasers are:
I've got the Music in Me
-Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker; Sheffield Labs Direct to Disc LP
- Steely Dan; any format
- Ohayoo Ohio; Splendor in the Grass (44.1/16 FLAC)
Jazz at the Pawnshop (Vol. 1)
- this never fails to impress even non-Jazz aficionados
The Carpenters - Singles (1969 - 1981)
- DSD 256
- any album really
I start with a short cut to show off the system capabilities with vocals. I use "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" by Manhattan Transfer. I love the 10 seconds starting at 2:30 in the song. What's next depends on the persons taste. If no preference I got to a blues selection. For classic vinyl I'll grab my Beatles Box (Mobile Fidelity 1/2 speed mastered vinyl collection). Either Norwegian Wood or While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
+1 "Babylon Sisters." The initial drum kick, Fender Rhodes, and cymbal splash (left speaker) is quite startling. I played this track for a seasoned audio store guy in Denver (remastered version), and he immediately whipped out his phone to add it to his "critical auditioning playlist."
@aewarren Many of us own music we like without it sounding good enough as a show piece for non hifi listeners. (There are poor recordings of great music, right?) Perhaps the general gist of the OP eluded you. Or maybe you're just chest-thumping.
GREAT SELECTIONS! Wow...Steely Dan, totally wonderful. Also, James Taylor...knew him from CH in the '60's.
Try Maria Muldaur, Midnight at the Oasis and Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust as well.
Ronstadt is also a great choice, as is the white UB-40 album where Chrissie Hynde does a duet on Breakfast in Bed...not a bad song in itself.
So many choices, and not even started on classical Decca's...but Sheffield is mentioned...agree!
LOVE that music!
I usually ask what they would like to listen to, if no preference then in no particular order.
Casino by Acoustic Alchemy (on Arcanum CD)
AJA by Steely Dan. (The whistle sounds like its outside and across the street)
Caravanserai by Santana (first two tracks)
Ode to Billy Joe by Patricia Barber from Cafe Blue (great rendition)
I'm sure you all could list tracks all day as could I. The above is just what comes to mind today. Of course now I have to play them before the day is done or they'll rattle around in my head until I do.
Niereka - Dead Can Dance
Ray of Light - Live Version - Madonna
Ride of the Valkyries - London Philharmonic
But really if they want to hear it, I will ask them and pull it up on streaming. For the average non audio person they are much more impressed with a surround sound and music. Not a lot of offerings.
This is an odd one but in the late '60s Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales made an album of music that is hard to describe or classify, at least for me, as it is a mix of several genres. The album was called "Hooteroll" and there is one cut on the album, One AM Approach, that is extraordinary on several levels. The lateral imaging on a good playback system will go 10 feet beyond your speakers. It is one of my first choices for non-audiophiles to hear and appreciate what imaging is all about.
You can get a very good sense of the spaciousness on the YouTube recording if your computer has a reasonably good sound system, and also decide if you like the music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxyhB-o1eZg
I should add that I do not care for the rest of the music on this album but it is worth the money for that one cut alone. Also, I have not heard the CD version, but the vinyl is stunning.
"Right Time of the Night" by Jennifer Warnes. I second The Carpenters, Steely Dan's "Aja" or "Babylon Sisters". It really depends what your guest is familiar with - you need to engage them with music they like - non-audiophiles are not necessarily impressed with pure performance of unknown songs. A good system will render a familiar song in a way that they haven't heard before. And for God's sake, don't play it at concert volume unless they're hard rockers!
So many good ones mentioned already. Tin Pan Alley, Birds, Babylon Sisters. All sound great on almost any system. I have many to add to the list. Check any of these out.
James Blake, James Blake – moody British dubstep with a meticulously architected soundstage. He sounds very much in the room, with some scintillating electronica sounds that I can only describe as remnant digital circuit artifacts. Limit to Your Love will tell you how low your woofers can go. If your sub doesn't go to 20hz you're missing out.
Beck, Sea Change – Incredibly realistic and transparent, immaculately recorded.
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange – Crisp, electronic R&B, in particular Super Rich Kids, another test of your woofers.
Ray Lamontagne, God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise – Close mic'd Americana, lap steel guitar, prairie nostalgia. Best served with whiskey.
Muddy Waters, Folk Singer – Up close and personal with Waters and Buddy Guy, who the record didn't want for the date because they thought he could only play electric, and they were looking for a Dylan sound. Waters showed up with Buddy Guy anyway and recorded a masterpiece that sounds like you could throw your arm around them.
Radiohead, Kid A – Futuristic android electronica, urgent and ethereal.
Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – A workout for your mid-bass. Big center image, crisp SFX, dark backgrounds, audio indulgence.
Soloman Burkes That's How I Got To Memphis from Nashville or If you are looking for a video he does a great version of Cry To Me on Jules Hollands Later.Phil Manzanera's, Miss Shapiro on Diamond head, or even East of Echo or Frontera. Has anyone mentioned Blue Monday obviously overexposed but still great heart starting sound
@diamondupree pretty much mentioned others
James Blake (superb) - wilhelm scream
Bill callahan - rococo zephyr (the voice close mic)
Pink Floyd - money
Depending on guest taste I ask them for Fav track... They then comment afterwards they heard things they'd never heard before (after sometimes 1000s of plays)
Tina Arena - Sorrento Moon - phenomenal '3D' sounding acoustic guitar along with Tina's powerful vocals and also a nice bassline as well.
Simple Minds - Speed Your Love To Me 12" ext version - this is a real wall of sound and the beginning section just builds and builds to a crescendo of sound - this really does show how much control your system has!
If you want to dazzle your guest with an unforgettable audio experience that gives them an expansive sound stage and presentation like they’ve never heard before, play Wilson Phillips, “Good Vibrations” from their album “Dedicated.” It impresses every time.
I also like “Pure Imagination” from Barbara Steisand’s Encore LP for those who are more refined and/or not rockers. For spine chilling intimacy, Michael Mcdonald’s “I can let Go Now” from the “If that’s What it Takes” LP.
Just to show that analogue vinyl is far from dead, Linda Ronstadt singing "When You Wish Upon a Star" -- Nelson Riddle & Orchestra -- Elektra/Asylum Records 60474-1-E -- Recorded & mixed by George Massenburg -- Album : "For Sentimental Reasons". No one believes that it is a vinyl record even when they see it spinning on my turntable.
Nearly all of the above mentioned tracks should do the trick, but I always like to play a selection that the listener thinks he/she has heard countless times. My favorite demo song is "Bohemian Rhapsody" on 180 gram vinyl. After assuring me they have heard it hundreds of times, I tell them they have never actually heard it at all. After playing the track, which has an incredible dynamic range, I then reask how many times they have heard this track, and the inevitable answer is, this was the first time!