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Hifi audition tracks - songs and tracks recommended by SNA members

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This thread consolidates many other SNA threads already posted on the topic â€what tracks would you recommend to audition hi-fi?†so that all this advice is in one place.


I’ve done it as multiple posts because it came to 11,500 words.  Each of my posts is based on one or a few threads, and has the link to that thread, my quick take on its contents, and my cut-and-pastes of recommendations that looked particularly relevant.


My next few posts explain why I’ve done this, and has my caveats and disclaimer.  The keywords I was looking for were “tracks†“songs†“audition†“test†and similar.


The advice I was looking for was the why as well as the what of the recommendation, plus a touch of which.  Here’s what I mean, the ideal recommendation looks like this:


Artist/Album/Track: aka what was recommended
Medium/pressing: aka which format and version eg “not the remaster...â€
Comment: aka why it’s a fine track for the purposes of auditioning hifi



The rest of this thread should take this shape:


My detail on why I did this, method, caveats, disclaimers, acknowledgements (two posts)

A detour into stereophile (one post)

Threads – general audition track threads with specific recommendations  (about 12 posts)

Threads – gear reviews (one post)

Threads – media manufacturers (one post)

Threads – bass audition track recommendations (four posts)

Further recommendations, if any, and any general discussion arising (SNA members).


Using this thread:


If you find something you like, you can go to that thread, and also search this thread for other mentions of the same thing.  For example, the Kodo Heartbeat Drummers of Japan and the 1989 Telarc 1812 Overture are repeatedly referenced.  [use the SNA topic search bar or use CTRL – F]


The facet of listening that you are particularly looking for might also be found using SNA topic search or CTRL – F.  For example, “soundstage† “cannonâ€. 


This thread is limited to mentions of specific audition tracks that are supported by detailed listening reasons.  Please go to the linked threads for:


1.            Lists of tracks recommended for entire audition CDs (the cash-laden audiophile’s equivalent of a mix tape)


2.            Debate about whether you should use familiar or unfamiliar tracks when auditioning


3.            Useful advice about using a shoddy recording as part of your audition


4.            Using live tracks as part of your audition


5.            Auditioning bass in context with other music, in other words not just on its own


6.            General recommendations


7.            Stuff to do with test tones


(The jury seems to be out on #2, but the majority view seems to be “yes, you should†on #3, #4 and #5)

Edited by ThirdDrawerDown
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Threads – general audition track threads with specific recommendations   This is one of the longer threads. It was started by Paul Spencer in 2010.  Most posters included details of the virtues o

This thread consolidates many other SNA threads already posted on the topic â€what tracks would you recommend to audition hi-fi?†so that all this advice is in one place.   I’ve done it as multip

Is that all......? 




Turns out that there was a thread started by Paul Spencer in 2010 which did exactly what I’ve done here, so plainly I am standing on the shoulders of giants.  That thread leads off this round-up.


To all the people who started or contributed to these threads, thank you.  I’ve learned a lot and I have some music to hunt out!  I think also I can now answer my friend’s question on this topic.


Method, caveats, disclaimers,


Have I captured everything? No, of course not.  


This thread is limited to mentions of specific audition tracks that are supported by detailed listening reasons.  I counted as “vague†such things as “listen to this†“you gotta hear this!†“sensational†“sparkle†“highly recommended†“well-recordedâ€.


You see, I learn by reading and listening.  If someone says “there’s two backing vocalists on Jennifer Warnes’ “First We’ll take Manhattan†and you should be able to distinguish between them when auditioning for clarity and separation†then I can check that out.  Less useful is saying “this has great backing vocals†or “this has bass†or “this has BASSâ€- all these comments could be more informative.


Also many audiophile concepts elude me.  People use all sorts of words to describe the feature of the sound that has captured their attention (or is absent or not quite right).  But I can’t tell if the instrument that is giving me grief when I listen to those tweeters is cymbals or a hi-hat,  to me it’s that hissy shiny splashy piece of drum kit that I want to go away, and maybe I should learn the names of all these bits anyway.


If I wrote “hissy shiny splashy thing†on SNA people would laugh at me and point.  So it’s helpful if someone says, “this track from the first chorus has the drummer playing around the edges of the cymbals using brushes and then holding them down with her hand.  You ought to hear the sound of the bristles and then rapid decay.â€


From each thread I cut-and-pasted the text that possessed such detail.  If the detail included the pressing or the medium, eg “use the vinyl’ or “the remastered CD†so much the better. 


I have not done these things, because that way lies madness:

- Enclosed every quote in a quote box

- Acknowledged the writer of every quote

- corrected speiling or punctuaton


I also

- edited text to remove matters irrelevant to the purpose of this thread

- added [bass] to help as a search term, where it was not mentioned in the original post

- bundled text from several writers, where it was on the same subject, eg 1812 Overture.

- removed the gaps between posts.  We are used to the gaps, therefore when styles change rapidly the effect can be odd.


If you want exact quotation or to find the authors of these opinions then please go to the original thread.


In my explorations I found a thread which explored the distinction between the terms “test†and “audition†with great vigour.  In practice I found the distinction is blurred and yet meaning remains clear; the purpose of auditioning is to test component and system capability; even stereophile with their scientific measurement refer to the act of using an audition track as ‘testing’; if there is a battle it’s been lost already (and anyway I don’t want to play there).  FWIW I use the term “audition tracks†and meantime have been comfortable with the word ‘test’ cropping  up a lot throughout these 11,500 words.

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Why I did this


A friend sent me this, and set me to wondering, and I figured others had Gone There Before Me

“What would be your candidates as audio source material to test speaker capabilities?  I’m thinking of material which has examples of:

ï‚·         a capella singing to show accuracy on voice reproduction;

ï‚·         bare piano;

ï‚·         a piece with a lot of bass extension – possibly two types – long deep bass notes and short clipped bass;

ï‚·         a stark electronic piece for responsiveness;

ï‚·         a ‘big’ orchestral piece for dynamic range (not overdoing things with 1812 cannons);

ï‚·         a small ensemble jazz piece for instrument separation...




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A detour into stereophile

Stereophile advertises itself as having the largest repository of reviews of hi-fi gear on the interweb.  they usually mention details about their audition tracks, this is just one of the things I like about their speaker reviews.  Usually the mention is on page 2.  An example is below.


Stereophile’s reviews are searchable by artist and by musical effect.  You can go to your favourite search engine and type in the relevant string:


"dead can dance" host:www.stereophile.com

"sneeze" host:www.stereophile.com


Example review:




“[regarding] the contrast between silence and sound that characterizes loudspeakers that are built with fanatical attention paid to the elimination of cabinet resonances. Whether it was a voice, a bass-drum thwack, or an exposed triangle, sounds just appeared, naturally faded, then disappeared, leaving nary a trace. "Yulunga (Spirit Dancer)," from Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (CD, 4AD 45384-2), is my standard test for contrast ...


Even better, because of its unique venue and perspective for a rock recording is the Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Session (CD, RCA 8568-2-R), in which voices and instruments seem to just hang in space.


But I felt the strongest frisson from listening to "Finale," from producer-engineer Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast Collection: The E. S. E. Sessions (SACD/CD, Blue Coast BCRCD 1012). Following Glen Moore's bowed solo on his rich and gritty double bass, there's a long pause that makes many think the show is over—though not those who can hear the continuing soft ambience. Hang in for a bit and be startled by a brief, nonsensical monologue that seems whispered almost in your ear. This first fascinated me when I listened to it in multichannel.

Edited by ThirdDrawerDown
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Threads – general audition track threads with specific recommendations


This is one of the longer threads. It was started by Paul Spencer in 2010.  Most posters included details of the virtues of the recommended tracks.  The style guide modelled in this thread is very good. Thread also has some lists without accompanying explanations.




“I'm surprised a search didn't turn up anything. The idea is to put together a list of reference tracks. The tracks should have a high quality recording as the main criteria. Also mention if there is anything about that track that stands out as a demo/ref track.


Artist: Harry Connick Jr
We are in love
Track: A nightingale sang in Berkley square
Medium: CD
Comment: Beatiful recording, good test of imaging

Artist: Natalie Cole
Album: Stardust
Track: What a difference a day makes
Medium: CD
Comment: Acoustic double bass good for bass quality test, vocals should sound sweet and not harsh ... I'm over the song as I've heard it on just about everything, but it's the one track I compare with the most.


Artist: Dire Straits
Love Over Gold
Track: Private Investigations
Medium: All (I've listened to LP and various CD incarnations and all have the same effect)
Comment: The instrumental latter half of the track is a good test for bass & dynamics: the pulsing bass line should be deep and tight, and when the electric guitar comes in it should hit like a lightning bolt. There's a couple of quick drum fills that are loud and pounding (especially the kick drum) that should not sound flabby against the intricate vibe and piano work in the background.

this track. It has just about everything in it at one stage or another. A great test track.


Artist: Emerson Lake and Palmer
Album: Welcome Back My Friends ... (Live Double CD)
Track: Karn Evil Nine
Comment: It's live, it's very well recorded, the musicians are superb and the dynamics are totally preserved.


Artist: David Ross MacDonald
Southern Crossing
Track: All of them
Medium: CD
Comment: Recording of various acoustic guitars made in Australia. David describes how he recorded them and mostly if not all using simple microphone + laptop in a friend's living room. Acoustic, unamplified recording doesn't get any better than this.

As electronica the three following items (IMHO) use the full dynamic range available to the medium and will highlight all sorts of various aspects of production - sound creation, air in a mixdown for reverb tales, depth and width of soundstage and especially your conscious music listening abilities.


Artist: Third Ear Audio
: Third Ear Audio
Track: Any however, track one, two and the last.
Medium: CD
Comment: A collection of dubby beats - immaculate production and lovely musicality.

Artist: Ott
Album: Skylon
Track: Any, however track one is ideal for use as a reference because it is one of the complex productions I've ever heard. Ott (yes, that is his real name) is himself a sound engineer, and as such produces technically sophisticated tracks. This man knows how to make sonic beauty like no other.
Medium: CD
Comment: This is an album that is total delight from beginning to end.

Artist: Shulman
Album: Endless Rythms of a Beatless Heart
Track: Any, however one and three are great for reference purposes
Comment: These guys are mastering engineers as well, and this is their creative outlet. Style: World, Electronica: IDM, Psy dub.

Artist: Keith Greeninger & Dayan Kai
Album: Blue Coast Collection
Track: 1. “Looking For A Homeâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Vocal harmony, sensational imaging.

Artist: Tchando & Alexandra Anderson [bliss]
Album: Quiet Letters
Track: 1. “Sleep Will Comeâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Dynamic range, bass attack, imaging.

Artist: Bill Callahan
Album: Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
Track: 4. Rococo Zephyr
Medium: CD
Comment: Richness of male vocal, layered imaging.

Artist: Dead Can Dance
Album: Wake
Track: Track 1 Disc 2. “Yulungaâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Familiar to many here…………absolutely brilliant track.

Artist: Antonio Forcione
Album: In Concert
Track: 1. “Heart Beatâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Brilliant guitar work, great detail & dynamic range.

Artist: Hugh Masekela
Album: Hope
Track: 12. “Stimelaâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Old standard……………fantastic demo track.

Artist: Roger Waters
Album: Amused to Death
Track: 12. “Three Wishesâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: Quirky – huge bass.


Artist: Daryl Braithwait
Album: Rise
Track: Waters Rising
Medium: CD
Comment: Great album but I love the "snap" of the drums in the middle of this track. A good test if a speaker or amp can punch it out.

Artist: Phil Collins
Album: But seriously
Track: Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Medium: CD
Comment: Great short and sharp instrumental


"Child Song" Track 3 on The Cinematic Orchestra's 2007 album Ma Fleur. Great track, magic combination of guitar, drums, double bass, (largely irrelevant) vocals, and keyboards, with a lot of good soft/loud dynamics. The reverb from the db bottom string buzzing on the fretboard at 3:36 will tell you something about the system if you care to notice...


Artist: Cliff Eberhardt
The Long Road
Track: My Father's Shoes
Medium: CD
Comment: Rock solid centre vocals.


ARTIST.....Spookey Men's Chorale
ALBUM......Tooled Up (on cd)
TRACK......Shett Har Vettahi (track 7)
The whole production is exquisite, nought but a bunch of crazy guys singing with all their balls. All midrange but with the volume up, eyes closed, sitting in the sweet spot it feels like you are sitting in an acoustically beautiful church or hall. Each voice should be able to be heard individually with rich vocal timbre. Huge soundstage.

ARTIST.....The Heliocentrics
ALBUM.......Out There (on cd)
TRACK.......Distant Star (track 2)
Mostly because Michael Catto's drums are front & centre. The kick drum thumps you in the chest. The bass is tight & deep & the spacey, complex Sun Ra'ish feel compositon challenges you to keep up with the individual instruments. Beautiful production. If that kick drum don't thump then walk away.

ARTIST.....Jimi Hendrix
ALBUM......Band Of Gypsies ( on vinyl)
TRACK......Machine Gun (track 2, side one)
ahhh.... the glories of analogue. Jimi at his peak with SOLID bass n drums! Cranked right up (of course) it feels like you are sitting there in front of the Marshall stacks getting your brain mashed. No other live album I have puts you in such a space/time warp, you are there, you feel like someone has slipped you some acid & you're having an out of body experience. MASSIVE, MASSIVE soundstage, wide & deep. It's palpable. Jimi's guitar playing is transcendental & all the drivers in your speakers are pushed to the max. Plus you are aware of the importance of Jimi producing the most important musical statements of his generation. Seriously heavy.

King Crimson
Album: Frame By Frame 4 CD set
Track: Bolero (re mix) / time 8.52
Medium: CD
Comment: My number one reference track - Instrumental with a full range of instruments and frequencies followed up with 30 seconds of instrument tuning. Its a speaker killer


Artist: Jewel
Album: Spirit
Medium: CD
Comment: This song I use to test the vocality of the speakers. Jewel has such a sweet voice it seems only logical to use her this way.

Artist: The stone roses
Album: Turns into Stone
Track: Fools Gold
Medium: CD
Comment: Used to test both the bass of the speakers and also their reproduction of electronic music.

Artist: The Corrs.
Album: the corrs unplugged
Track: whole album
Medium: dvd
Comment: dolby digital recording, this album is used to test the surround capabilities of receiver & speaker setups, the songs that have the orchestra more highly involved use a lot of rear channel output. One thing I noticed with my 7004's & 7006's just recently was that when Andrea Corr plays the Tin Whistle I can actually hear her breathe in, something I've not heard ever before


Artist: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Montreal Symphony Orchestra), conducted by Charles Dutoit
Album: Holst: The Planets

Track: 5. "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age"
Medium: CD
Label: Decca 417 553-2DH
Comment: [bass] Near the end of the track (from 8:00 onwards) an organ plays trouser-flapping low, low bass notes that will test your woofers, subwoofers, and your pet's constitution (as in: "Why is my entire body shaking?").

Artist: The Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, conducted by Nils-Erik Sparf
Album: Vivaldi: The Fours Season
Track: Any
Medium: CD
Label: BIS CD-275
Comment: This is without a doubt the best-recorded classical music CD I own. It has amazing clarity, and an equally amazing soundstage, with fabulous depth, width, height etc etc.

Artist: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Hugh Wolff
Album: Copland: Appalachian Spring, Music for the Theatre, Latin American Sketches, Quiet City
Track: 2. "Music for the Theatre: Dance"
Medium: CD
Label: Teldec 2292-46314-2
Comment: This track has percussion that'll see how quickly your system recovers from transient attacks (or whatever the audiophile phrase is for "sudden bangs").

Artist: Steve Vai
Album: Passion And Warfare
Track: 2. "Erotic Nightmares"
Medium: CD
Label: CBS/Relativity 467109 2
Comment: This is a very busy instrumental rock track that has piles of guitars in it. The better your system, the more guitars you can hear.

Artist: Mike Stern
Album: Odds Or Evens
Track: 2. "D.C."
Medium: CD
Label: Atlantic ATL 782297-2
Comment: A jazz-rock track with a great 'room' sound (especially from the drums).


Artist: Yim Hok-Man
Album: Master of Chinese Percussion
Track: 1 „Poem of Chinese Drumsâ€
Medium: CD
Comment: fantastic demo track  It is awesome for testing how low you can go, and in general the ability of your system to bust out good bass.


Artist: Nick Cave
Album: Let Love In
Red Right Hand
Medium: CD
Comment: IMO impressive simply for the arrangement and composition of the track. Seems to me to be well-recorded and well-mixed, seems to have pretty good dynamics, great tight bass and there's this bell that I reckon sounds fantastic on better than average gear. Quickly sorts out serious gear from its lesser counterparts for me.


1. INXS - "Johsnon's Aeroplane" - Killer bass right from the get go.


2. Bill Bruford - "Hells Bells" - killer bass again but with some nasty keyboard mayhem - rich tapestry of sounds.


3. Loreena McKennitt - "All Souls Night - The voice of an angel. This track is simply gorgeous and should test the ability of any system to replicate pure cystalline vocals.


4. Ray Lynch - "Rhythm in the Pews - Keyboard instrumental - unique song and tests the dynamics on offer.


5. Michael Manring - "Disturbed" - This guy is a monster bass player and so is this track. The pounding of the drums / bass / rythym will reveal a lot of inadequacies with inferior equipment.


6. Bill Douglas - "Diamond Dance" - A progressive new age track that has massive sound stage and is a delight to hear on good equipment.


7. Steeleye Span - "Gaudette" - a multi part vocal harmony extraodinaire. A lack of other instruments lets you hear the vocals without any other interference. A lot of tape hiss from the master tape but wanes as the track increases in intensity but returns for the fade out. Multi timbral vocals with echo sounds brillant.


8. Shahin & Sephir - "1001 Nights" More for a new age reference as it's the type of music the wife likes - keeping her happy lets me spend more.


9. Simple Minds - "Someone, Somewhere in Time" - let's a system reveal how a wall of sound can sound with plodding and repetitive bass. Not too well recorded.


10. Genesis - "Cinema Show" My favourite song. While poorly recorded with a lack of dynamics, I play this to see if I can improve on what I have at home.


11. Jonathon Cain - "Passion Dance" - New age track featuring delightful piano / keys / drums/ bass / crisply recorded - tests clarity of the snare / higher piano notes.


12. Michael Danna - Deidre of the Sorrows - Plaintive track featuring sparse moody keyboards that gauges longevity of a listening session with this type of music.


13. Mannheim Steamroller - "Toccata" This blows hi fi reps sway. Insane dynamics, huge sound stage, great song, great drums, great synth work.


14. Return to Forever - "Majestic Dance" - Killer jazz fusion track - gauges if the system can keep up with the legendary Al Di Meola on guitar and Chick Corea on keys. Super dynamic stuff.


15. Steve McDonald - "Scotland The Brave" - You have never heard a better version. Features stunning keyboard work.


16. Michael Manring - "Monkey Business" - You ain't heard slap bass like this. Totally insane.


17. Tri Atma - Namaskar - A World / Ethnic song that features great percussives. Crisply played and crisply recorded. A great track!


18. Vanessa Mae - "Contradanza" - What a song! Reveals the strengths of any system. Electronic violin at its best.


19. Gordon Giltrap - "Roots" - Acoustic / symphonic bliss - superb playing - a good system will enhance the full depth of this recording to the utmost.


20. Lanvall - "The Crystal Entrance" A totally stunning track that will bring tears to your ears. I played this at my daughters funeral, there was not a dry eye anywhere. A short track featuring angelic vocals straight out of heaven. You won't have heard anything as good as this.


21. The Watchmen - "Holiday" great dynamics and clarity.

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More of interest... credit to the original posters:




Police Greatest Hits Track 5- Walking on the moon.
There is no EQ on this mix and it will tell you more about what your equipment is doing, than listening to audiophile material.




The Police - Greatest hits. Track 5 is Walking on the Moon. It is an old vinyl master transferred straight to CD. It can sound very bright and speakers with "hot" tweeters will stick out like dog balls.


Harry Connick Jnr - "She" CD track 7 "Joe Slam and the Spaceship"
A bit of a strange funky track but has great bass and drum dynamics !!


Doobie Brothers album, " Takin' It To The Streets" Tiran Porter track called 'For Someone Special'.
original WARNER BROTHERS on CD. ( 7599-27300-2) or MOFO version: 

            - Skunk Baxter playing a beautiful steel string acoustic in the left channel- should sound like he is in the room with you.

            - Tiran Porters' beautiful smoky vocal- all honey and grit.

            - Tirans' alternatively thumbed and plucked bass- you should be able to easily discern what he is doing.

            - The trumpet line that creeps in under the vocal line- the better the system, the earlier you notice it.

            - The smoking sax line that appears after the middle eight, just to the right of centre.

            - The overall dynamic range.

            - The audible spring in place on the snare at times during the track.

            - Lastly, the compulsion to hear the track right through- the mark of great music, and a transparent and engaging system


Phil Collins "True Colours".
A well recorded drum track with excellent vocal presentation and centre imaging. The drums go from left to right throughout the song. Very dynamic also.

Phil Collins "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven"
Dynamic horn intro with one of the best basslines I have ever heard. Snare is recorded with plenty of snap and air.

The four (five?) following  will test dynamic scale, instrument detail and vocal power.....but with live music influence ie not studio or clinical/ perfect biased:


Gilberto Gil - Kaya N'Gan Daya Gilberto Gil's tribute album to Bob Marley. Very well recorded, with good dynamics and some solid bass. I chose the track 'One Drop', but you could really pick any track from this album. 'Waiting In Vain' would be another good choice.


Buddy Guy live if you want to hear dynamics, also Albert King with Stevie Ray In session.


Mia Dyson parking lots is another to hear cone breakup at higher volumes.

Amina Claudine Myers salute is amazing for piano, acoustic bass and African drums


Dream Theater (any of their albums)
Tool - Lateralus
Rage Against The machine - Self Titled
(All good for trialling some heavier music, listening for instrument separation, staging, and dynamics, also bass response.

Tori Amos - Boys For Pele (Piano and vocals are incredible on this album)

Alan Taylor - Color The Moon (Folk album, accoustic guitar and vocals. I've seen Color the moon on some audiophine albums before)

Infected Mushroom - Legend Of The Black Shawarma - (Very well produced electronic (psy-trance) album Check out the dynamics, response and staging)


Roots Manuva - "Man Fi Cool", wild bass dubline, masterful dry drum sound, splash reverb etc

Beck - "Guess I'm Doing Fine" , beautifully recorded and a great test of speakers' ability to deal with "saturation"

Ramon Morris - "Don't Ask Me", excellent soundstage/instrument placement, fine jazz soloing/noodling

Pheonix - "Everything is Everything", an exercise in "good" compression, phenomenal dynamics

Roots Manuva - "Highest Grade Dub", flippin' heck, a test for any speaker, massive but complex. Produced by Lord Gosh. Fat space interrupted.

Nitin Sawhney - "Tides", sparkling cymbals, piano dynamics, frequency breadth

Brous - "Streamers", great arrangement, lots and lots of instruments, crazy chord spread, carefully recorded

Anouar Brahem - "Le Pas Du Chat Noir", stunning instrumental recording, real but lush, typical of ECM


The Who - Won't get fooled again.  Lots of stuff in a single track. I use this as a good lead-in to "stuff to check". eg screams are subdued? Doesn't have the tension I want. Instruments muddy? The spaciousness isn't there. etc.  The recording is easily exposed.

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) - Mindip Recording and playing. Dynamics in an intimate jazz setting.


First we'll take Manhattan Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat). Lead guitar by Stevie Ray Vaughan, guitar by Robben Ford.  You ought to distinguish the backing vocalists (there’s more than one)


Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto's Insen, especially the track Berlin. Any speaker that can play that track to the end is magnificent. Have the remote handy though; there's a moment at about 1:30 that will have the sales guys turn white and break out in a cold sweat. The gnarliest ambient track you will ever hear!


Ott, Skylon, From Trunch to Stromness: Ott is a sound engineer and this is his creative outlet. Needless to say, it is superbly well produced. Immensely complex and layered dub. As a result the height and breadth of the soundstage is an important aspect of reproducing this track. A producer mate of mine introduced this album to a mastering engineer in Melbourne who uses it to calibrate his ears before mixing any artist that uses any electronic elements in their music at all.

Third Ear Audio, Third Ear Audio,
Intro + Ethereality + The End?: Intro and The End? will reveal the bass handling and resolution of your speakers and/ or sub integration. Ethereality is all about revealing sibilance and overall resolution.

Bluetech, The Divine Invasion, Finding the Future by Looking Backwards + Holding Space: Tweeter response will be mercilessly tested in these tracks. Also good use of an uncluttered soundstage with the emphasis on the delivery of fewer sounds - although this is not minimalist by any measure.


The Roots - You Got Me (this version)  The levels are horrible, but as you wait you hear the verbal play between The Roots & Musinah, who sounds almost reluctant to sing the first line, and warms up quickly - the coaxing male vocal and the lo-fi but wonderful audio engineering values make the first minute of this a test for any system's listenability - I want to be drawn in to the musical conversation.

Lana Del Ray - Born To Die - Got this for free - quick test demonstrates if complex pop arrangements are going to trouble a system - simply skip to the middle of most tracks.

The Roots - The Seed 2.0 - Fantastic track, beat has to move you, rhythm has to come through, separation on layers needs to be vast as they're stacked so closely together in terms of Hz.

Anything by Roots Manuva - Dreamy Days being a personal favourite, but his more 'dub' stuff (like his new album above) is better engineered and more testing. Join the Dots is another track from Roots that speaks clearly on, on good systems, and mumbles unintelligibly on, on poor systems. Lyrics like "(Roots) Manuva get gettin the got, stewed chicken in the dust pot runnin it hot" from the chorus is clear on most stuff, but if you hear the verses you're home and dry.


Massive Attack – Teardrop - Timing and soundstaging are everything on this track. It led me to love the Monitor Audio RS6 / Musical Fidelity X-series combo over heaps of more expensive (and cheaper) stuff. If you listen to it on cheap systems, you might enjoy it as a lo-fi, trip-hop track. On wonderful systems, tiny details come to life which show the true level of professionalism (and orchestration) on the work.

White Night: Impressions of Norwegian Folk Music (listen here then buy) This album is just stunning. Norwegian Soloist's Choir in the form of their lives and the best Hardanger fiddle playing I've come across. The polonese layers up beautifully and track 4 - 'Jeg lagde mig så sildig; has some of the best choral recording I've come across. Allsang has challenging harmonics both in fiddle and voice, and Bruremarsj fra Valsoyfjord/Aure will test the higher end of the system with some clean, interesting female soloists. This recording is the one (high def) CD I'd recommend to everyone I know, across any genre.

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Thread includes the OP’s judgement on the tracks that others recommended to him


I have tested my system with the Vocal version of - Nightwish - Dark Passion Play - track 1, The Poet and the Pendulum And auditioned the rest of the tracks on the CD.  My system handled this track very well and after 30 min warm up time for the tube amp it sounded even better the second time around, in fact it sounded superb.  The track is a mix of heavy metal with electronic overtones with an emphasis for the lower registers. Thanks for the recommendation

My personal favourite is King Crimson - Bolero remix
( and its nothing like the classical Bolero) Its an instrumental track that subjects ones speakers with an instrumental fruit salad From the highest registers to the low


The Jam - A Bomb in Wardour St is a great track to test tonal qualities of a system.  If your system is on the bright side, this will sound awful. If your system is on the bright side & you listen to pristinely recorded Telarc type Jazz recordings or Female vocals ie: Diana Krall ...... you'd never know. Those type of recordings sound great on pretty much anything. They will of course sound different but never outright bad.  If your system is neutral or thereabouts this will sound bright but still listenable, you just probably wouldn't want to play it 3 times in a row.  If your system is on the dark side, this can sound quite listenable. Not a bad thing if you listen to lots of roughly recorded & heavily EQéd rock music, but possibly not great if you like all sorts of different music.

Al Di Meola SACD Flesh on Flesh which has incredibly complex bass, rhythm and instrumental sound and sorts the wheat from the chaff -for instance B&W 803 -802 had been damaged by some 15 year old brat breaking the tweeter off because he thought it was a microphone!! the bass was boomy overblown -like the speaker was farting -all the underlying rhythms lost -listened too on my Infinity Kappa9 before we left every note crystal clear. Speaker 2 the focal utopia be the bass and rhythms crystal clear beautifully separated and distortion free. This SACD has a cd layer as well and really tests speakers very well -none of this stupid stuff with reversed phase dangerous bass


The Chemical Brothers - Surrender album, track 6 "The Sunshine Underground". A simply stunning track in a system that can handle it, with a massive and vibrant soundstage, full frequency extensions in both extremes, and with a million sounds happening at once very precisely placed in space within the sound stage.  If your system can do that one you don't need an upgrade.  Section at around the halfway point when the drums took over and I could hear the fine high registers piercing through to be heard Surrender is a great piece of music.  As good as the CD is I recently acquired the Lp. Whilst there is sometimes only a small difference between Cd and Lp on this occasion the difference is huge.It is like going from black and white to technicolour.

From the same album - Under the Influence " , love that bass.


Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto – ‘Berlin’ from the album ‘Insen’
Piano, electronics and field recordings – the piano is beautifully recorded with room ambience (creaking chair) before being belted with a cone melting bass throb. If your system is clean the bass will massage your body and the treble will comb down your hair. Detailed tweeters will reveal field recordings of birds in the distance.


John Zorn – ‘Dark River’ from the album ‘Redbird for Agnes Martin’.   Solo bass drum – only heard this reproduced well once on a 70’s Sansui speaker that had a 12†bass driver.


Sodom - Tombstone; it has some seriously massive bass guitar sounds, and a short "war zone" interlude in the middle which is the only thing I've played that has brought my system to clipping.

Sepultura - Inner Self; recorded in 1989 it has a rather good high guitar tone which should make your innards turn to mush if played correctly.

 Vadar - Helleluyah!!! (God is Dead)
; Much more modern sound, not much variation in volume, but instead an incredible amount of guitar distortion. You shouldn't feel well after listening to this.


The Christmas Steps by Mogwai is a good test of resolution and ability of the system to hold it together with lots happening all at once. Peaking at around 100db on this track with a clean, extended sound takes some doing.  its slow at first but gets a kick along about half way into the track with it peaking with a loud bass crescendo.  A little hint of fripptronics at the 3/4 stage and another change to a slower pace of clean and sleep like finish


21st Schizoid Man King Crimson (court of the crimson king), the end is a total 'mash' of instruments very tough to present and image each one.

Paris by Night Curved Air....(Lovechild), it is highly repetitive and 'boring',,, almost 3 minutes is a 'repeat' of a series of notes on the high scale from a grand piano.. then at about 3 mins it changes into a different range that sort of repeats the piano but sets off into deep and I mean DEEP bass, there are three instruments to unravel an electric bass, a double bass and electronically produced bass (probably a synth)... this overlay annihilates lot of systems ability to separate deep bass instruments.


[bass] a disc Audison released in conjunction with Telarc. The live cannons in 1812 Overture are amazing: Audison Telarc - Music Expression Volume 1

Telarc's notorious recording of the 1812 Overture with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Realistic dynamic range and when the cannons fire, most cones on dynamic speakers bottom out - too bad it’s one of the most banal and insipid recordings of a lightweight classical piece...  the telarc recording of the 1812, I wouldn't play it on any old speakers it tries to rip the cones out


Yim Hok Man - Poems of Thunder  The bass drum in the first track will really make your cones jump!


low level detail retrieval? What music do you suggest then (I'd go King Crimson's Lark's Tongue in Aspic Part One for the finger cymbals


Rapture – IIO This really tests the midrange, most systems it oscillates on the mids, even my $300 headphones don't do it well.  The only speaker I have ever owned that I was happy with was customs built using the dynaudio d-52af mids

Angel - Sarah McLachlan from Surfacing, I love this track for the purity of the piano and her voice. Doesn't push the limits but shows the quality of system.


For the clarity in the treble/midrange and depth/sharpness of the bass. - Lady Ga Ga - The Fame Monster 2 - [starstruck]


the remixed Beatles Album (by George Martin and his son) LOVE... the a capella singing on the first track is fantastic. You can hear sounds faintly in the background, and a few minutes into the track if you listen very carefully, you can hear a fly go past one of the microphones


Buckethead - Sketches of Spain (For Miles)  Over the last few days I have given it a bit of a workout
Speakers love this sort of stuff.   ....  I played this track at an Audio Guild meeting through some big DIY Tannoy's and got a few approving nods from a pretty tough crowd. It's a great track for single driver speakers in general. Was the deal breaker when I decided to go down this path...

Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways. Really good recording - even on CD - his voice just hovers in the middle of the room


Sam La More remix of "Sneaky Sound Systems" Kansas City. It's an interesting track if you can look beyond the whole mainstream "doof doof" side of things.  On a decent setup the main vocalist will appear directly in front of you, and the back up vocalist's somewhere around the speakers themselves. Then there's some "clapping" sounds , some of which come from the speakers, some from just inside , and then there's some that extend waaay beyond the speakers. It's really interesting when you have the space and equipment to set up a very wide sound stage, the way so much of the sound stage is used in just once recoding.  Plus you have the on and off bass line with is very clean (again for mainstream doof") and varies in pace, with various other electronic effects added in.

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Thread includes several playlists. Emphasises the importance of emotion and feeling in how you respond to hifi.


Mumbai Theme Tune : A. R. Rahman
This is a highly emotive track for me. Beautiful strings, haunting flute all kept time by the ting ting of a triangle. If you haven’t heard it, I can really recommend it.

Time : Pink Floyd
Well, maybe the part after the clocks all go off. Although there may be merit in listening to that as well. But I really love Nick Mason's Rototoms. I find there's a lot in this track to explore the abilities of whatever I'm auditioning.

Private Investigation : Dire Straits.
The final instrumental 3 minutes or so. Wonderful acoustic guitar picking interrupted by some savage electric chord stabs, interspersed with nice little production tid-bits here and there, and some really silky vibraphones.

Edited by ThirdDrawerDown
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Mainly play lists.  Some explanations, generally brief.


Inti Illimani: Sensemay (from Leyenda Album)... great for detail and imaging

Joan Armatrading: Willow... female vocals and clear bass lines

Grace Jones: Nighclubbing... detail and imaging

The Prodigy: Voodoo People.... fun!

Janis Ian: All Roads to the River... female vocals, imaging, detail, everything

Buddy Guy: Done Got Old/Baby Please don't Leave Me.. oomph

Rossini: Stabat Mater(City of L Sinfonia, Hickox. Chandos CHAN 8780)... beauty

Beethoven: Emperor concerto (the one with Stephen Kovacevich/ Colin Davis)... sheer beauty


Haydn Cello concerto by Mischa Maisky on DG for orchestral sound stage, mid range and realism of acoustic music.

Diana Krall - Girl in the other room for female voice, piano and bass/drums - especially high hat/cymbals.

Quincy Jones - Q's Juke Joint on Qwest - two tracks - Do nothing till you hear from me - w Phil Collins - male vocal, tenor sax, ensemble band and Killer Joe - voices, flute, bass and rhythm guitar.


Wild Billy Childish - Heavens Journey (low-fi reproduction - very important!!!)

John Zorn - 50th Birthday Solo (winds)

Kelly Joe Phelps - Sky Like a Broken Clock (acoustic instruments)

Darius Milhaud - Quartets - Quatuor Parisii (strings)

Massive Attack - Mezzanine (bass)


Marc Cohn, self titled on MFSL gold CD ( vocal & piano quality) ,


Lily Was Here (nondescript compilation) ( high mid/low treble) ,


Bjork Hyperballad single CD ( bass purity),


possibly use poor quality from 70's to check noise tolerance.


Have found Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here on Mastersound gold CD to be revealing as well across the audio band.


Yim Hok Man - Poem of Chinese Drum (excerpt - very dynamic recording with HUGE bass, even the guys at VAF commented on it)


The track Fifa from Angelique Kidjo's album of the same name has spine tingling vocals - no spine tingling, no purchase.

Kashmir by Led Zeppelin is a great one for a loud complex piece of rock and roll. My main problem with this track is that at very high volume it maxes out my room's acoustics and just loses the plot.

Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who - just a great track with incredible dynamics.

Monkey Man by The Rolling Stones - is there a better riff in existence? Well maybe but this is such a clean and wonderful riff it is great to hear whether equipment makes it sing.

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 Tori Amos - Precious Things : To test how the system handles fairly harsh tracks

 Yello - The Expert : To test how the system handles bass etc.

Emiliana Torrini - Lifesaver : To test how the system handles intricate detail.

Nitin Sawhney - Anthem without a Nation : to test all over system capabilities. Intricate detail, bass handling, headroom, soundstaging, imaging, its got the lot


Piers Faccini - Sharpening the bone : tests systems transparency. Its such a raw track with lots and lots of inner detail.

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Michael Jacksons : History past, present and future part 1 - Most of Michael’s recordings are high quality full dynamics, back in the early eighties I was introduced to a person who knew people in the recording industry, the dynamics of Michael’s recordings are that it was that good that it had to be compressed to be able to distribute on normal CD. -  The History album is no exception, the dynamics on some of these tracks are a real test on your rig or any system, it's basically a point of how your system will stuff this up. Play the track "They don't care about us" and you will know what I'm talking about.


"Dangerous"! The impact of instruments & clarity are astonishing to say the least! 


Thriller's Billie Jean is one of the best tracks for testing the large horn speakers I build. That drum attack and beat amazing.

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Debate/discussion arising from the thread’s title – familiar music or not?. Also:


Leanne Rimes " Love is a Army" off Twisted Angel, song is piano, strings and her and her falsetto in the song will soon tell you if the system is a little harsh in the high end, 


Kimbra - Settle Down - combines bass, mid and high at different points with a section that is quite high and good for revealing harshness at the upper end.

Iron Maiden - Childhoods End - drum and bass bits for clarity of beats and hearing the slapping of bass strings.

Avenged Sevemfold - Blinded in Chains - there are vocals that are "covered" by the music that I use to help determine clarity.

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Includes lists of the categories of music that could be explored and what to listen for, as well as specific recommendations.


Solo female - if the system cannot do this properly then I stop listening, regardless of any of its other qualities. The midrange is where my music is at, and if the mids are not done properly I probably won't like the system.

Large orchestra - on a good recording of a well conducted work you should be able to hear what each musician is doing. A good test of soundstaging and separation. A large orchestra will also tax each driver in a speaker - in large multi-driver speakers I use this to pick out problems with coherence. On some speakers you can hear that the sound produced by separate drivers isn't "tied together" properly.

Pipe organ - I use this to test for bass.

Jazz - I use this to test for colorations in the top end, and to get a sense of the rhythm of the system. I listen for natural sounding high-hats, check that the double basses are actually audible as separate notes (and not just one bass note with a few missing), and that saxophones sound normal and not shrill.

Solo violin - test for soundstaging.


Cowboy Junkies - The Trinity Session - 1. "Mining for Gold": This whole track has what sounds like an air conditioner that is very prominent and easy to pick on a high resolution system. When I was at Tony C's house I could have sworn there was an actual air conditioner turned on by someone when that track was put on... quite eerie. Without being told where the airconditioner is in the recording location I cannot be certain, but at Tony C's house it sounded like it was well into the room in front of the speakers and above my head. If we knew where the air conditioner was actually situated this would be a good track to test a systems ability to resolve depth.

Nitin Sawhney - Beyond Skin - 6. "Nadia": At about the 1 minute mark (and throughout the track) there is what sounds like an electronic rolling wave of bass that digs very low. This is a great track for testing out a systems ability to handle bass. If it can handle this track it will handle most things (well maybe not woofer cooker). You should be able to hear all the bass frequencies clearly (it’s a rolling bass generation) without it sounding boomy or one noted.


Thomas Tallis Spem in Alium - the forty part motet. There are eight five part choirs beginning with a solo voice, polyphony, homophony on the crescendos and unbelievable counterpoint at the end. A system that can recover the forty parts, not fall apart on the crescendo and place the choirs in space with the reverberation from the church will do well with everything else bar thunderous bass. (Tallis Scholars Gimell 006) .... Any complex choral is a test on imaging, clarity and separation. Spem in Alium can sound muddy and terrible quite easily.


For Head bop and foot tap etc...You should feel good after hearing it.  Chesky's Ultimate Demonstration Disk. Track 19: I Love Paris - Johnny Frigo


Rodrigo Y Gabriella- Live in Manchester and Dublin - FOC- Speed and timbre. There is a bit towards the end where they are hitting the guitars that is amazing for this.

John Williams- Romance of the Guitar- Concierto De Aranjeuz: Big Orchestral wide sound stage that comes around 8mins in, alot of cd players and speakers crumble with it.

Massive Attack- Collected - Teardrop- One word, Bass. This is the ultimate test track for bass response.

Bernard Fanning- Tea & Sympathy- Watch Over Me: This is a really well recorded track. I generally look for imaging and the fine details of the strings being struck.

Dire Straits- Brothers in Arms- Latest Trick: On the right system the saxophone sounds amazing. I listen to this one just to hear that sexy saxophone smoothness.  .... The Brothers in Arms album was a frequent test disk in a lot of HiFi store years ago, don't seem to see it around much anymore but like you say Latest Trick is a great smooth track


Widor, Symphony number 5: last movement, shows me how the speakers respond to bass pedal arpeggios and move between drivers. If I use my favourite recording ('Sounds of York Minster') you should be able to hear the air in the organ stops.

The Chieftains, 'Long Black Veil': track 3, 'Foggy Dew'. I like this because there is fantastic imaging, the vocal should snap into place in the centre and the system has to tease out the layers of instruments building up through the song.

Leonard Cohen, "I'm your man", title track. Should just be foot tappingly rhythmic.

Ben Harper, Live on Mars, disc 2, track 4 'Power of the Gospel'. The scratching on the fret, the breathless playing, the pluck of the strings. Then toward the end the rhythm kicks in. This is gorgeous.


Keith Jarrett's Staircase as I like it and piano is hard to reproduce, and this is solo piano.

Ted Hawkins - The Next Hundred Years, particularly the track Biloxi - it has such emotion and if the hairs don't stand up on the back of your neck, buy better equipment.

For deep base I inflict U2's Discoteque on people. However, I must say the repressing of Aqualung goes much deeper than I've heard that album before (it's definitely a better balanced pressing, but I'm not sure if I have had a really good listen since replacing the speakers so that is probably a factor too).

Beethoven's 7th, Karajan either the '63 or the '77 tests speed and the excitement of the music should shine through. Anyway, it's my favourite piece of classical since Keith played it to me months ago.

Then find some crappily recorded bootleg to see how it copes with bad quality recordings, we all have some music which ain't recorded real well but we like so when assessing equipment it's worth putting it on.


testing a subs capability is Chemical Brothers under the influence which is track 2 on the surrender album which just took me about half hour to find cos i couldn't remember which album :biggrin: you could use just about any CB track for testing a sub but this particular track has what i could best describe as a space ship coming in to land which cycles down very very low about every 30 seconds on the track, not everyone's cup of tea but good for a bass test none the less, my old sub would basically go silent through these transients


Groove Armada's opener Suntoucher on their Goodbye Country Hello Nightclub album, it has a very funky bass line throughout which goes real deep another good tester....  'Suntoucher' has a series of magnificent descending basslines in the intro before switching into a vinyl derived sample with a fast sounding drum beat - the combination of sounds in under a minute is the test......bass and detail and speed all in one go. Beware though....if hiphop ain't your thing!


The Knife 'Silent Shout' - The title track to this album is an electro stunner. All created on computer and impossible to 'play' this tests out bass (as you'd expect) with what seems (feels?) like single digit frequencies at high levels in the closing 30 seconds. It also demonstrates speed as the harmony (?) is delivered using a clear rounded tone played at guitar like speed but each note starts and stops very fast. This is counterpointed by a sharp stopped bass beat throughout. Then there is the detail in the background - little drum fills and the like. Outstanding track from an outstanding album - electro equivalent of Van Halen's 'Jump'

KCRW Rare on Air Volume 1 - a compilation with many great tracks, all done live with no overdubs . The test track I most often use is Lindsay Buckingham's revisit of the Fleetwood Mac track 'Never Going Back Again' which he does solo on twelve string acoustic...everyone knows how a good guitar should sound

Steve Vai 'The Ultra Zone' - a loony guitar album but the opening track is a hard rock hoot and brilliantly produced - very high and hard sounding....detail and midrange tests are here in spades. Multi-tracked to within an inch of its life this is a tough track to play without sounding muddy and lost........but the best thing is that it TOTALLY annoys the hifi salespeople because it is just so bogan


For speed of recovery on deep bass notes while playing finely/delicate upper mids and high frequencies-Theme track to American Beauty

For female vocals and sound staging [smallish sound stage]-The Patsy Cline Story-American double LP.

For opera [large sound stage] Callas-Pavarotti 1972 covent gardens " Lucia Di Lammemoor" LP

For phase coherence and staging [medium] Sting-Dream of the Blue Turtles.

For staging [small] and midrange/bass timing-Tom Waits -Heart attack and Vine.[one of the best recordings EVER]American Asylum LP pressing.

For checking Cartridge/tonearm tracking ability-Tears for Fears- 'Songs from the big chair"LP, they foolishly put the highest modulated cut on the innermost track of this LP, if your TT can master this it can track anything.
Original 45 Single of "Live and Let Die"-James Bond theme-can be true horror of a disc to get tracking correctly,but when you do.....wow!  I would love to see this disc as a 12" 45rpm,it would be far easier to track. [sound engineers in this present time of over compression/loudness wars should listen to how it CAN be done without squashing the dynamics,"Live and Let Die" proves the point]

For checking everything,a one disc does it all, well it would have to be this.  "Mellow Mood"-Oscar Peterson,I've got it on LP and it is sublime,you can get it on SACD This is the baby to KNOW if anything is amiss with your system,you only have to play "Who can I turn to"-Truly amazing.  The power of this recording is brilliant,so is the finesse,It has the soundstaging really second to none and the piano is not in the room with you, you are in the room with him. Even if your not a Peterson fan.you owe it to yourself to at least listen to the brilliant disc.


"Starlovers" by Gus Gus (from "This Is Normal" CD) for testing that the subsonic bass is handled correctly (in most cases, it is missing or horribly smeared, and can also reduce some valve amps to a quivering mess).


 "It's A Hard World" by Supertramp (from "Some Things Never Change") for its bass and rim shots, and sound stage with all the special effects in the opening 1:30 minutes.


 "Spanish Harlem" by Rebecca Pidgeon or any number of Diana Krall tracks for femme vocals


 "The Golden Age" by Beck (from "Sea Change") for warm guitars and male vocals


 "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels" by David Sylvian (from "Secrets Of The Beehive") for acoustic guitar


 "Private Investigations" by Dire Straits (from "Love Over Gold") for dynamics (especially the electric guitar attack and the kick drums in the second half)


 "Be Where Now" by Padmasana to test that the ring of a bell can still be heard with clarity over thumping dubby bass

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Discussion of categories (styles of music to listen to) as well as specific audition track recommendations


Ben Liebrand - Styles. The usual result is that the shop says they are going to get a copy. It is very well produced  and certainly gives any equipment a really good workout.


Sinead O'Connor - The Last Day of Our Acquaintance - great stand alone vocals but not very challenging on many other levels - although very hard to get the best out of the bass when the drum kicks in (partly the recording methinks)





Contains a few lists for compiling your own mix tape of  audition tracks with general reasons.

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Threads – gear reviews


The idea here was to capture the auditioning value of particular tracks from some equipment reviews on SNA.  Much the same as can be done with the stereophile reviews, above.




Sound Imaging: Test track: March F The King of Laois by the Chieftains, PCM WAV format, uncompressed.  Live recording is always the best for sound imaging test. The track started with a round of applause, and due to rich lows and lower mids, the clapping sounds real. Next, the soundstage is ok, not very wide, sounds like in a theater or a hall, definitely not stadium. Throughout the track, the Chieftains are crazy and shout here and there, “ohh†here and “woh†there. That is the best time to catch the positioning. Instrument separation is good; I can hear the violin, the pipes, and the drums in rather accurate positioning and depth.





Audition track on the Bella Fleck album was track 11, 'Sunset Road' which has a good mixture of banjo, bass guitar, drums and piano. Everything sounded so vibrant at the start of the track but when the piano started playing midway through shivers were sent down my spine. Track no 3, 'Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo' is just a flat out bass guitar extravaganza. On full range speakers such as my Crescendos it is a scintillating experience. But you don't quite reach the levels of excitement on a standmounter. [Later the 802Ds gave]some of the deepest, cleanest and hardest hitting bass I have ever experienced with the Bela Fleck bass guitar track.



Diana Krall - A Case Of You - there are some coughs the clarity of which is a good test of any system - with this device I have never heard them so clearly - it was almost like a smack in the face - amazing.



This next lot I edited to take out most comments about the speakers’ performance, instead just listing what to listen for in the music:




Ten New Songs - Leonard CohenIt is a well produced and superbly recorded album with a few sensational lyrics as one can expect from Leonard Cohen. The first track opens with a sensational sound of a kick drum, which was reproduced very convincingly to make it feel that you are next to the real thing. Then comes Cohen, his powerful voice coming out of the ADAM sounded frighteningly real. As always Cohen plays and sings cool, takes his own time and space to tell the story which was portrayed to the nth degree thru GAMMAS. The ability of these speakers to project the multi dimensional soundstage and positioning of the images is breathtaking.

Next track was from Stanley Clark’s Album, Track-1  The album is of the fusion jazz genere. Its has a very unique 1980 s sounds with a touch of disco and techno flavour.Stanley on the first trck rips thru his electric bass guitar with energy and enthusiasm. This is faithfully transfered thru Gammas overwhelming the listener to make them feel like getting up and dancing.It shows this speaker can handle speed and attack.

Charles Mingus at Antibes "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting – 1st track This very well recorded live track features Mingus’s exploding double bass work followed by Booker Ervin’s extended Sax solo, Curson’s trumpet and Dolphy’s exiting work. The texture of Mingus’s double bass and the Dolphy making his sax speak are conveyed with the emotion and conviction it deserved. It is interesting to note that GAMMA gets real with different textures of BASS like Double Bass, Electric bass guitar, Hammond organ, kick drum etc. Every note is distinct and produced without any strain to project the emotion the musicians were trying to convey.

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Threads – media manufacturers


On SNA there’s repeated discussion of the virtues of the MFSL productions.  Click this link to get all references to MFSL:



MFSL threads link


Linn inspires enthusiasm from fewer people, I mention them here even so.  They do some fine remastering, but from the (single session) that I’ve heard, they might not be above shaping the “before†examples of their work, so they sound subdued and maybe poorer overall, making the “after†seem even better.





Here’s a thread on particular pressings and their auditioning virtues:




I really found my copy of Nick Cave The Good Son (1990 UK pressing) to stand out amongst a host of other records. It was incredibly warm, almost lush, with exceptional depth & finely detailed. Not something you might automatically think when considering Nick Cave. Highly recommended!


One of the best vinyl mixes of all time is Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax" extended mix on 45rpm 12"er..................it's a bit infamous as our standard vinyl test track.  Mine happens to be a Canadian pressing.


Andy Baylor - blues is poetry released and only available from the artist and web site, almost uncompressed so rare CD quality these days.

High End Society - Blues Sampler produced by the German High End Society.


Willie Dixon - Hidden Charms.(Capitol) This is an undiscovered classic (except by me)! Fantastic dynamics, good imaging, quiet surface, incredible performance by the master just before his death.


The White Stripes - Elephant. Double LP of great dynamics, extended frequencies, good imaging and stands in stark contrast to the utterly appalling CD that masquerades as the same album but that fails on each of these categories.


Ella Fitzgerald- Lullaby of Birdland. It's a 'Music for Pleasure' pressing, Astor recording. Remarkable dynamics.


And I dropped the link to this comment, oops, search for "Focal Labs":


For dynamic range ability the Focal Labs demo disks are great.  Seek one with Ron Tutt and called Improvisation. It's a drum kit only track. For dynamic range.

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Threads – bass audition track recommendations


From here are threads wholly devoted to bass.  If you’ve read this far you’ll know that bass performance is also mentioned in many of the threads already referenced above.


Subwoofer and low bass auditioning in this thread.  Includes a link to a web site “how low can it go†with a list of 25 CDs that have  low bass performance:




Thread includes link to:


found this download on the real traps website. 10hz to 300hz in 1hz increments.





Meshell Ndegeocello - Peace Beyond Passion - most tracks have some nice bass in them

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Thread has individual lists for mix tapes/compilations/whatever. Thread includes 1812 Overture discussion and frequency plots for these songs:

            Boston Acoustics - Woofer Cooker (often cited as an excellent bass audition track, so I am told).
            Basstronics - Bass I Love you
            Opus Dei



Woofer Cooker is an old fave for both subwoofer and full freq floorstander speaker testing

I just played it through the AU-717 and VAF's ... fark, it actually began to make me feel sick, the windows and floor were shaking. There is some very low bass through the entire track that you can feel and just hear, surely this would not be healthy for speakers to play for extended periods?


1812 Overture (oh, the cannons on the good version.... STUNNING).

The 1812 digital cannons cooked my rear 2x15 Tempests one day ... take care

"I know personally of five people whose seemingly unflappable monster loudspeakers were reduced to smoking rubble by the first cannon blast of Telarc's legendary 1812 CD" with link to:



"Bass Boom Bottom" by Power Supply is insane when it comes to bass, has an excursion test on it that gives the sub a good workout.


Bass Mekanik is good for bass tracks.  He has a few cd's out which have some tunes and different low Hz test tones at the end.


Bass Boy, titled "I love Big Speakers"


Nitin Sawhney: The Pilgrim, etc (Album: Beyond Skin)

Bass Hit: Woofercooker, etc. (Album: The Greatest Hits)

Bass Mekaniks: many examples (Album: Boom Style)

Muki: many examples (Albums: Cabin Fever; Quiet Riot)


The Beatles Come Together is alright for a bit of bass in normal listening... McCartney's bass in Something is also fairly prominent. Neither ridiculous but both good .   I was actually quite surprised by the bass in Come Together. There is a deep sustained bass note which goes for a couple of seconds each time before it stops suddenly, presumably as Mr McCartney stops the strings vibrating with his hand.


The Chris Rea album "Hofner Blue Notes" http://www.chrisrea....x?dataid=388237 because it's full of that weird plonking bass sound that Macartney made famous in his work with The Beatles


REM Murmur (MFSL) - Massive bass drum sound, I can't think of any bigger that I've heard.


David Gray - Sail Away  From the album White Ladder  Last track I’d have expected to have low bass rumbling away... what a surprise.


My current test track for kick drum and electric bass guitar is Ray LaMontagne - Til the Sun Turns Black - You Can Bring Me Flowers. While certainly not a ridiculous bass track to compare with Woofer Cooker it is an excellent test for non-synth bass from real world instruments.

If its impact and dynamic range your after rather that just a lot of LFE, I remember the Kodo Heartbeat Drummers of Japan being hellufa impressive.


Harmonic 33, Album Extraordinary People, the song Kaleidoscopic in particular has some great lows in it.

Shapeshifter, From their Soulstuce album the songs One
and Summer Haze have amazing basslines.

Ravin, Buddha Bar III, the track On Walks The Night by Jesse Cook has amazing bass with some sweeps that drop very low, the opening and closing sweep drop right down into infrasonic range.


The track I refer to for lots of bass (and a great piece too) is Manic Depression as played by Larry Coryell, Victor Bailey & Lenny White on a disc called Traffic. Chesky Recording on SACD. Awesome track, no lyrics, just brilliant drumming and bass playing.


Brian Bromberg - Wood. Japanese recording of that year and the version of the Beatles Come together on it is just stunning.


Scared the crap out of myself (again!!) playing track 12, Three Wishes, of Roger Waters' Amused to Death CD.  Called the missus in for a listen in the hot seat but she gave up saying it was too scary; The back of the Lounge chair was really giving the back a work-out and I wasn't even trying with the volume level  If you have this disc go and play it loud and see how you go

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This bass-related thread includes comments about listening to more than just bass when auditioning.


The first track of kd lang's All You Can Eat album, to listen to drum and bass notes especially separation and tightness. Speakers can sound different on this track although it's harder to tell if only listening to one speaker pair at a time.  It has some revealing treble too.


Very deep bass, there is a Naxos CD of some Chinese drumming that you might want to try. Its called "Poems of Thunder: The Master Chinese Percussionist" by Yim Hok-Man. This would have to be one of the most dynamic sounding recordings I have ever heard.  The "Poems Of Thunder" CD that I mentioned actually has a wide range of percussion sounds, as well as other (Chinese) instruments. As well as some very deep bass drum sounds on the first track, there are also cymbals, woodblocks and various other percussion sounds. Its also a very clean recording, with very low noise levels and excellent clarity. Despite the high quality, its also a Naxos cheapie. I paid $10 for my copy. Even if you are not keen on Chinese music, its a disc worth getting just for its sound quality.


The most truly astonishing bass I have heard was when Tubular Bells 3 was played (things in the kitchen fell off tables)


My reference CD for the bass region is the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon soundtrack well recorded and includes natural drums of different sizes. Other tracks on the CD test detail with subtle stick percussion and the midrange with Yo Yo Ma on the cello


acapella vocals, Emmylou Harris, Spyboy, Calling My Children Home.


Madonna - Die Another Day - a lot down in the low end.


for deep bass  Perfect Circle, Lullaby - 'go back to sleep' (the only lyrics in the song!) album is the thirteenth step (check the album title)


Pretty much any Patricia Barber CD/LP/XRCD will give you deep well recorded bass tracks. For drum I usually go for the track 9 "Whiteworld" on "Mythologies" CD: fasten your seatbelts before listening! "Modern Cool" CD has some exceptionally recorded double bass on pretty much all tracks: it is really good for checking not only sound but also how good your speaker cabinets are. I have dismissed a couple of speakers as they would produce resonance and non-musical sounds on this cd.


Johnny Adams "Good Morning Heartache". This CD is exceptionally well recorded and has some serious kick drum moments that go REALLY low.


Female vocal, plus a bit of bass: Blossom Dearie, "they say it's spring". I found that although a pure bass track(like the Poems of thunder) allowed an easy comparison between bass responses(with different ports), one needs to relate the bass to the rest of the music, hoping to find a balance.For example, with the Blossom Dearie, her magical voice is balanced by a double bass. When the bass started to dominate and become too defined, I backed it off.  With the double bass lines on the Blossom Dearie track, that defined taut sound initially appeared attractive, until I pulled back from that "frequency" and suddenly the music became more harmonious.


I was reading the review on Jim Smith's new book "Get Better Sound" on TNT AUDIO http://www.tnt-audio...er_sound_e.html and there is a comment on bass calibration that seems to go in your direction: "...In order to get the bass done right, DO NOT use tracks with lots of bass frequencies! Use some simple tracks with female voices, for example. Find the correct level of bass by monitoring how the voice is affected by bass frequencies: too much and it'll become chesty, not enough bass and the voice will sound thin..." and "...Moreover, he is strongly against the audiophile paranoia of getting "tight" bass! Quoting Jim "This "tightness" is a drying - a shriveling - of the very foundation of Music" and then adds "Listen for realistic sounding bass, not artificially "tight" bass"

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Thanks, I appreciate the appreciation, let me bounce it back because the listening behind this topic is everyone else's work.


Please add to it - with the details!




Artist - wiggles

Track -

Album pressing, format -

What to listen for -

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  • 3 weeks later...

Phew! That was comprehensive, I think that would cover music from all of our collections. Thanks for posting and for doing all the hard work for us  :thumb:  :)

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A detour into stereophile

Stereophile advertises itself as having the largest repository of reviews of hi-fi gear on the interweb.  they usually mention details about their audition tracks, this is just one of the things I like about their speaker reviews.  Usually the mention is on page 2.  An example is below.


Stereophile’s reviews are searchable by artist and by musical effect.  You can go to your favourite search engine and type in the relevant string:


"dead can dance" host:www.stereophile.com

"sneeze" host:www.stereophile.com


Example review:




“[regarding] the contrast between silence and sound that characterizes loudspeakers that are built with fanatical attention paid to the elimination of cabinet resonances. Whether it was a voice, a bass-drum thwack, or an exposed triangle, sounds just appeared, naturally faded, then disappeared, leaving nary a trace. "Yulunga (Spirit Dancer)," from Dead Can Dance's Into the Labyrinth (CD, 4AD 45384-2), is my standard test for contrast ...


Even better, because of its unique venue and perspective for a rock recording is the Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Session (CD, RCA 8568-2-R), in which voices and instruments seem to just hang in space.


But I felt the strongest frisson from listening to "Finale," from producer-engineer Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast Collection: The E. S. E. Sessions (SACD/CD, Blue Coast BCRCD 1012). Following Glen Moore's bowed solo on his rich and gritty double bass, there's a long pause that makes many think the show is over—though not those who can hear the continuing soft ambience. Hang in for a bit and be startled by a brief, nonsensical monologue that seems whispered almost in your ear. This first fascinated me when I listened to it in multichannel.

Thought id have a read to get some ideas, but had to laugh - very first recommended track Yulunga by Dead Can Dance - the exact track I am listening to while reading the post!

Great effort by the way. One of my faves for bass - Atmosphere by Joy Division.

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  • 1 month later...

Talking of lou Reed,have you heard the Martin Plaza album Andys Chest fom the 90's ? Its an album of Lou Reed songs.

Wonderful rich resonant vocals, vibrant guitar, and fabulous bass lines.

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Yes  Terrific posting there ole chap--hearty thank you for the effort


Wot?-- No Bela Fleck Flight of the Cosmic Hippo-- great bass lines



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Yesterday I spent most of it working on the best placement for my new CX4F speakers.    This thread became invaluable so kudos to the TDD for putting it together.


Some of the tracks I had previously placed on a disk before I had seen this thread.  I used the Cd to test the speakers when I bought them from SNA member Arrow.


Those that I used from the lists to tweak the speakers at home included .....  


Buddy Guy: Done Got Old/Baby Please Don't Leave Me.   -  Stunning vocal start where you can here the spit in his mouth and the inhale of breath.   Then the droning bass in the 2nd track just sneaks up on the listener.

Steve Vai 'The Ultra Zone'  -  Wow sound stage climbing along my side walls and floor to ceiling stuff.   Sounded like I had never heard it before.

Roger Waters “Three Wishes†  -   The lady's voice was about 3 feet off my right ear.   Spooky stuff.   The Genie's booming voice crept along the walls and along the floor.
Phil Collins Saturday night and Sunday morning.
  -  Snappy huge soundstage.

Infected Mushroom - Legend Of The Black Shawarma  -  Some oomph there.

Tom Waits - Heartattack and Vine - The soundstage was actually inside, between the speakers.    Strange to hear but great vocals.   Dead set centre pinpoint of Tom.

Michael Jackson - Thriller - Billie Jean -  Dynamics up the Wazzooo!  So much more in that Track that I had never heard before.


Other tracks I used that blew me away.


Renee Geyer - Sweet Life - Killer Love.   Awesome vocals and pristine production.   Each instrument is so precise in the soundstage.

Porcupine Tree - In Absentia - Blackest Eyes.    After the slow start when the drums crash in you get a great soundstage and a grin from ear to ear.   Well I do :P .

Tom Jones - Praise and Blame - What good am I - This was one of the days highlights.   Starts with a drum in the left speaker and then Tom comes in with his deep baritone.  His voice is about 3 metres wide and 2 metres high.   Rich and full of sheer visceral impact.  :thumb:

Silverchair - Frogstomp - Israel's Son - The droning bass was great then the bigger bass over the top then the guitars just smash in way out wide and it sounds truly stupendous.    Speakers handled it with ease.

Pink Floyd - DSOTM - Great Gig in the Sky.    Really interesting placement of the 3 sets of female vocals in the soundstage. 

Ian Moss - Lets all get together - Janelle.  So pure the vocals.  Pin point placement of vocals and crystal guitar sounds

Nils Petter Molvaer - Khmer - Khmer - Stunning trumpet surrounded by a soundscape of swirling music.  Right channel has an amazing droning bass that holds the track to the floor.  Huge dynamics from the production at ECM.


Hope this helps others with some extra tracks to use in future set ups.  


Regards Cazzesman

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had today off and for a few hours this arvo I tried some more track on the CX4F.


Paul McCartney - Kiss on the Bottom - I'm Gunna sit right down and write Myself a Letter.   Such pristine production it just sparkles.  Paul's voice is pure as driven snow.   Wonderfull band he has put together including Alison Krauss in piano.


Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Funeral for a Friend/Loves lies Bleeding.         Holy Cow Batman this is so Awesome turned up loud.  :party  :party     I'm think 95db but who knows.   Elton has thrown the kitchen sink into these tracks.   I loved the way the CX4F handled it all with the bass line just rolling along clear as a bell throughout the OTT moments.  Glorious track.


Chris Cornell - Songbook - Fell on Black Days - Chris alone with just his vocals and acoustic guitar.    Mesmerising, the entire CD. 


I love my CX4F :love :love


Regards Cazzesman

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I love my CX4F  :love  :love


Mate, can't agree more. I played around with positioning tonight, all I could be bothered to do after xmas lunch, much more equilateral now, further into the room, and seat was brought closer. Wow. From this thread, I obtained the tracks from the artist Ott. Something different for me, but the mastering and production is perfect, speakers completely disappeared. There was sounds on the OUTSIDE of the speakers!! Fantastic. 


Also found Infected Mushroom in my brother's collection, also something different for me and brilliantly produced, makes me appreciate the music more, especially when I can use the system to enjoy a wider variety of material than what I'd usually put on.

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  • 2 months later...

On the topic of music I enjoy that happens to be good for auditioning purposes also:

- Pink Floyd's Mother and Goodbye Blue Sky both taken off the recent remaster of The Wall (Discovery or Immersion Editions).  This is remastering as it should be, clean, clear and detailed with dynamics preserved.  Mother allows you to evaluate soundstage, vocals, tonality and visceral impact as the kick drum and guitar solo come in around 2:30.  If it doesn't grab you check you've got a pulse.  The guitar strumming in Goodbye Blue Sky is warm and engaging - a good opportunity to gauge tonality of playback.  Again, unless guitar's not your thing you cannot help but be sucked in.  These remasters have breathed new life into Pink Floyd's catalogue


- Emily Jane White - Oh, Katherine. There's a lot going on in this melodic track.  The melody builds as additional instruments join the fray building a rich complex soundstage that has lots of detail but retains a wonderful melody.  Hard not to get sucked in for the ride.  I suspect some systems will struggle to resolve and keep up with the detail and its likely to sound quite muddled in a listening environment with poor acoustic properties.

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