Jump to content

Best Listening Test Music?

John C

Recommended Posts

Anyone want to recommend your favorite CDs for testing gear?


My all time fav is Jennifer Warnes, The Hunter. The engineering on that CD is simply amazing with lots of crisp clean sounds across the spectrum. The entire CD is a masterpiece but the Djambe drum in "Way Down Deep" is especially good at evaluating Bass.


Link to comment

An interesting subject - I have often thought about this. I tend to use the same CDs for testing gear (in this case ripped). The problem with finding a really good recording is that other stuff can then sound so bad by comparison.


I will have to have more of a think, but one vote would go to Van Morrison's "Moondance" - original CD, not remastered, particularly the track "Into the Mystic".


Rather than have any particular favourites, I am more surprised what sounds good and vice versa. Yesterday, I was playing a lossless version of a Jose Feliciano and it sounded simply stunning! Original Led Zep releases on CD - just awful!


I will check out that Jennifer Warnes - I have her "Famous Blue Raincoat" on vinyl and that was always a great recording.




Link to comment

I use music that I am extremely familiar with. Some of it doesn't even sound the best, but I am able to identify differences in the playback chain through this music. That said, some of my favorite music for testing is Jewel - Spirit, Eiji Oue, Minnesota Orchestra - Bolero (Reference Recordings), Rebeca Pidgeon - The Raven, Pearl Jam - vs., Chet Baker - Chet (Analogue Productions version).


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

Link to comment

Interesting choices and I agree with Chris that it is best to use music you know well when comparing gear.


Tim - must check out the Dire Straits again - think I recently ripped it to my Mac as a 256 AAC - maybe deserves better? Telegraph Road is an epic I seem to remember - there's another subject - which are the most epic tracks - I remember an Outlaws track called "Green Grass and High Tides" that tried to outdo Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird". I also rember Donald Fagan's "Nightfly" as very well produced.


Have just ordered the Jennifer Warnes - cheapy off Amazon new and used!




Link to comment

I thought I would throw in a few "non-traditional" selections since I am sure we all know the audiophile standard fare (i.e. not Patricia Barber, Diana Krall etc.):


Kruder & Dorfmeister: K&D Sessions (house/electronica, simply an outstanding recording- seriously!, really reveals all aspects of your system- transparency, soundstaging, bass, mid, treble, imaging, detail). This is very cool music and to date I have not found anything that will put your system to the test like this double disc. My highest recommendation.


Madonna: Ray of Light (Madonna dips her toe in electronica waters.... don't laugh! I am not a huge fan and 95% of her material is cheeze ball- the other 5% is great for party/dance music, but William Orbit produced the album, and he probably had a huge budget for recording, and Orbit won awards for the production, loads of detail, huge artificial soundstanging, big bass).


Speaker Room: Lumin U1X | Lampizator Pacific 2 | Viva Linea | Constellation Inspiration Stereo 1.0 | FinkTeam Kim | dual Rythmik E15HP subs  

Office Headphone System: Lumin U1X | Lampizator Golden Gate 3 | Viva Egoista | Abyss AB1266 Phi TC 

Link to comment

I use Mrs. Blaileen (sp?) by Primus to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Now you're not gonna hear a lot of silent passages to evaluate system noise, but you will instantly, from the first note know the speakers low/mids and punch. And probably freak half the folks within earshot out.


It has humbled many speakers in local shops and pointed out that price is not really an indicator.


Funny look I see on sales folks faces when I humbly go, is that what clipping sounds like? What's that funny sound?






Link to comment

Interesting thread you have started here John C. You have already got me to part with some cash for the Jennifer Warnes and Tim's post got me playing Dire Straits' "Love Over Gold" album (Side 1) for the first time in years.....and, I totally agree Tim, a stonker! I played it as a ripped 256 kbps AAC version of the original (not remastered) CD direct to ADM9s and Sub and I have never heard it sound so good. The instrumental endings to "Telegraph Road" and "Private Investigations" were particularly impressive - power (drums) and a lot of fine detail - and all from an AAC version.


Interesting choice on Madonna's "Ray of Light" - I must check this out. Certainly not a fan of Madonna, but even her early stuff ("Like a Virgin", etc) still sounds well produced.


I have thought of a couple of other albums worthy of mention:


- Van Morrison's 1970 live album "Too Late to Stop Now" - the best live album I have heard and terrific, detailed interaction with audience

- Talk Talk's "The Colour of Spring", frequently mentioned as a favourite by discerning music folk




Link to comment

John C, Thanks for your recommendation of "The Hunter". My copy arrived this morning, co-incidentally with a copy of Jennifer Warnes' "Famous Blue Raincoat". I quickly ripped them both to lossless and set my system on shuffle as I was leaving for work.


Very impressed - the track you mention came up and my sitting room started vibrating - my system loved it, but the house construction is not up to the job! Great song, as you say excellent production and lots of percussion detail superimposed on the background LF beat. Thanks for the recommendation.


C'mon folks - let's have some other recommendations. I don't want to build up a collection of Audiophile Reference recordings - these have never attracted me - but I do like to hear of well produced music which encourages me to search out new things.


Here's a few more recommendations from me:


- most of the Bob Marley remasters sound great, but I would single out "Survival"

- Bob Dylan's "Good as I've been to you" - just a nasal Bob and guitar singing trad songs, but I love it and you can hear every nuance of the guitar work

- Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here" - still in my view the best rock album and follow up album ever made - hardened audiophiles will tell you that DSOTM has never sounded as good on CD as vinyl, but rumour has it the SACD release comes pretty darn close




Link to comment

effectively, cuts like "Telegraph Road" do show how a system retains composure with low bass, but generally I through together a mish mash taht I've been listening too at the time and take that along. I suppose that soon well just take along a flash drive with a few albums on it. If some people are not doing it already.


It's gone now, but I demo'ed a subwoofer at a dealers a few years back, and he was using a music server. He didn't have a CD player set up!






Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

Link to comment

A few more: (these are among the best albums in terms of sound quality that I have ever discovered, and the music is terrific as well)


Roy Haynes Trio- featuring Danilo Perez and John Patitucci (2000): Roy Haynes is one of the great jazz drummers and the recording quality is A++. Features studio and live tracks. Outstanding.


Koop- Waltz for Koop: Hipster jazz blended with downtempo house. Very "organic" and ultra clean recording.


Underworld- Beaucoup Fish: This will really, really test your system's abilities- layers upon layers of detail, massive soundstaging. "Jumbo" is a favorite.









Speaker Room: Lumin U1X | Lampizator Pacific 2 | Viva Linea | Constellation Inspiration Stereo 1.0 | FinkTeam Kim | dual Rythmik E15HP subs  

Office Headphone System: Lumin U1X | Lampizator Golden Gate 3 | Viva Egoista | Abyss AB1266 Phi TC 

Link to comment
  • 1 month later...

Ray Lynch - Deep Breakfast very cool sound if you have not heard it, it is a new age album worth listening to, it is truly different than anything you have heard. He is a classically trained musician, that took a turn at sampling and creating some of the coolest sounds I have heard.


Meav - the crystal clear-est (I think I just made ua a word) soprano I have heard, also some cool deep timpani drums in the Celtic flare.


Jazz at the Pawnshop, is the album name, not sure of the artist, the first track is very cool.


Katie Gray - From Far Away, track 5 "Set Free"


The best recording I have heard to date: Antonio Forcione "Live" is the album name.


This is a way cool thread, a good change of pace over arguing about system design!




\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

Link to comment

It is awesome that someone mentioned Primus! I would fancy myself a part time Primus fan, and they do have the best bass lines in the business!


I would never have thought to use it to test a system I will have to pick that one up.


\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

Link to comment

Speaking of Madonna, "Justify My Love" will rattle many speakers and walls! As a good mid-bass/bass test.



\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

Link to comment

I second the Primus. Some incredibly thick bass lines to test the woofers. I'd also recommend Rodrigo Y Gabriela. It has lizard skin on the front or something I think. It's acoustic renditions of Metallica's Orion and Stairway with some latin/spanish flamenco added. The recording sounds amazingly crisp and clear. I find it's a really good test for tweeters.


Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...

I always use Madonna - Music

When the bass kicks in its a good test of control.


Like wise for Stereophonics - Nothing Precious at all.

I've heard systems totally loose it with this track.


One of my favourite test tracks Pride by Syntax. Just sounds great.


When I bought my first set of speakers I used Texas - I don't want a lover and I've always used it since.


I usually throw in a bit of what I'm listening to at the time to finish off.




Link to comment
  • 3 weeks later...

Any Archie Shepp's would do. Start with True Ballads. What about Gene Ammon's Boss Tenor, Also Wynton Marsalis's The Magic Hour could just about trigger my mood.

I have difficulties with rock as most of the system I try does rock rather poorly.......



Qnap NAS (LPS) >UA ETHER REGEN (BG7TBL Master Clock) > Grimm MU1 > Mola Mola Tambaqui /Meridian 808.3> Wavac EC300B >Tannoy Canterbury SE


HP Rig ++ >Woo WES/ > Stax SR-009, Audeze LCD2

Link to comment
  • 2 months later...

In the dim dark past when I used to audition and purchase new audio equipment I used recordings of beautiful music that were very difficult to reproduce.


A few of these were:


Berlioz - Te Deum (LSO, Massed Boys Choirs, Abbado) recorded in a cathedral



The Psalms of David Vol 1 & 3 - Choir of Kings College Cambridge (recorded in the chapel).



Saint Saens - Symphony No 3 (Organ) Chicago Symphony, Daniel Barenboim



All stressed most audio systems. The Berlioz and the Saint Saens for the reproduction of large scale orchestras and or choirs in their ambient settings. The Psalms for voice purity, deep organ and ambience.


I would imagine still, that probably few modern audio systems would be up to it even though it is said that we have progressed!


I would dearly love to hear the master tapes of the above recordings in their respective studios.








Link to comment



I ALWAYS want to hear the masters. In the multitrack format if possible. That is just me, I suppose though. Most people don't have that capability, so I don't expect that to happen unless I know the engineer. Thank you for resurrecting this thread and bringing your test CD's to light. I just ordered them..... While I'm waiting for delivery, I've got Kent Poon's Audiophile Jazz Prologue goin' on right now. Highly recommended .... at 24/96. Just ..... great.


Thanks again - markr


Link to comment

I just hope you still like your stereo after listening to them! :)


I was going to be a recording engineer by profession. Dad talked me out of it! How I wish I had gone with my heart.

Went into Medical Imaging instead. That did not stop me from listening to music though.

So my chances of ever hearing master tapes are very slim. Oh well. :((


Link to comment

I usually use Kissin's recording Chopin Ballade on RCA as I think it has one of the best recorded piano voice (I happen to love the performance as well). You can really feel that the piano is really a 9ft grand piano and you can see the sound shift from left to right as he run through the scale.

Bernstein Mahler's 2nd symphony (Sony) has one of the widest sound stage on a recording that I heard. the cello is extended well outside of the right speaker if you have a system that can create huge sound stage. Lots of dynamic, fine detail in the recording as well.


Mehta, Pavarotti, Sutherland, Caballe's recording of Puccini's Turandot, the Concertato at the end of act one is always fun to try. You have 4 principal singers, 3 seconary singers, a huge chorus and a full orchestra competing agianst one another, if you want to push a system's resolving power and well as its power reserve, this is fun track to test.

For vocal, I like Sylvia McNair's Sure Thing album, my favourite being track 10, all the thing you are, just heavenly voice and the recording captured her voice unamplified realistically in comparison to her real voice in opera house.


For pop song, Jeff Buckely's Grace, XRCD version of the Eagle Hell Freeze Over and Dire Strait is what I usually use.




Link to comment

... I'm confident that these recordings will not reveal anything that I don't already know, but that is the reason that I ordered them - reinforcement. I've had some here (on CA) tell me that I don't have the equipment it takes. I doubt it. My ears keep proving them wrong.


The way that you put this particular set of 'torture tracks' forth, made me want to see (hear?) further if I really have 'what it takes'. I am confident that I do. BUT - I'm already beginning to sweat at the palms in anticipation.... no real worries though.


Though you are an intermittent poster here at CA, you have been around almost the whole span of the website. Your posts have been really 'to the point', fair and (I won't say balanced) even. I respect your viewpoint sir.


Right now, I'm listening to Stomu Yamashita's "Go". -


- markr


PS: I really like that two of the three discs are Duetche Grammophone recordings. DG released some of my favorite vinyl ever.


Link to comment

The reason I used these particular discs is that when reproduced correctly, the music just transports one away to the venue in which they were recorded, the music just naturally billowing forth in its true beauty. On systems with anomalies in any area, these recordings can sound compressed, edgy, and quite frankly not very nice. In contrast to these recordings, there are those like most Patricia Barber, Diana Krall etc. that sound stunning on ANYTHING and are therefore not revealing as "test records".


I am now way out on a limb here and I can see, hear and feel the chainsaws, axes and pruning shears being sharpened!!! ;)


Hmmm, the branch cracketh.


Link to comment

I don't think that you've said anything to bring out either the 'agnostics' or the 'believers' here. You MAY have encouraged some besides me to take your 'test' however..... I'm psyched about hearing these Baxtus! No matter what the outcome.


Link to comment
  • 3 weeks later...

I have only managed to get delivery on the Psalms of David so far - it is unclear at this point whether I will receive the other two recordings. I've had time to listen to this during this weekend - though not as much time as I would have liked. I would think that many folks out there would not find this very interesting but that is not the case for me, because I am a big lover of the Psalms. I was also in church choir (and also school choir) from a very early age through grade school. I was blessed to be a member of a choir that was based in a church that had a very good acoustic space and also had a pipe organ with two very proficient players committed to making beautiful music.


This one takes me back to those days. The sound of the space is incredible. The organ sounds awesome to me - from what I've heard so far this isn't a splashy sort of organ though, it is quite restrained yet clear and beautiful in its timbre. The choir is very good and I can pick out very many individual voices spread throughout the soundstage. The lyrics are crystal clear. I have to agree that this is an excellent recording I cannot wait to hear it all without distraction!


Thank you so much for the recommendation,



Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...