Good Music for testing Audio Equipment

APP

Well-Known Member
Oct 2, 2014
335
22
68
#1
My good friend and fellow audiophile Gerald k and I have made a compilation of music files which we feel are perfect for testing new equipment.
We wanted to use music that we not only enjoy listening to but which also has the abillity to reveal flaws in the signal chain.
I listen mostly on Headphones (Sennheiser/ Audeze/ Audio Technica) while Gerald listen only on speakers (Tad, Kharma/Linn/Naim).
We have spend many an evening and several bottles of Cotes du Rhone wines arguing and eventually agreeing on this list of audio equipment test music.
This is what we came up with, please feel free to comment or post alternatives, if possible with a link as to where to purchase the music that you feel is ideal for this purpose.
We also looked for reviews that we felt agreed with what we see in the recordings.

Sound stage and definition

1. Carmen Gomes inc; '' I'm on fire'' from Thousand Shades of Blue

TSOB200.jpg

http://www.soundliaison.com/
Placement is perfect on this young audiophile classic as well as the near perfect natural recording of the voice, but the real test for audio equipment when listening to this recording is it's ability to separate the kickdrum from the upright bass.
The two instruments are playing the same pattern. On less than optimum equipment it might be difficult to separate the two, but with good setup you clearly hear the upright at 2.00 and the kick dead center with a nice decay that one generally do not hear on commercial recordings.
There are lots of speakers and headphones with ''extended lows'' but low with definition is a whole different ballgame.

HIFI;
Her warm, enormously talented and controlled voice is completely unique and she knows how to get pure emotion across to the listener ...
The sound of the album is exemplary with dynamics of an addictive quality......the drums are practically visual and one feels as if one could reach out and and actually touch the singer.
Eric de Boer - Hifi
2 Alban berg Quartet; Bartok String Quartet no.1 in a minor 1th movement. (LP,EMI)
Alban Berg 4tet.jpg
in the beginning of this movement the 4 instruments all play mainly in the same middle and upper register. Despite all that mid and high information the music should not sound harsh.
This recording has the same perfect sound stage as the Carmen Gomes recording.
We believe that this kind of sound stage with such a sense of depth and realistic placement is only attainable when you are recording the musicians in one room at the same time.
''If you can imagine Bartok played by the Vienna Phil., here it is in miniature.
Amazon

Intelligible representation

3. Frank Sinatra; ''What's New'' from Only the Lonely.
Frank is maybe a bit too prominent represented but one should still be able to notice all the different lines played by the various instruments in this incredible Nelson Riddle arrangement.
4. Me'Shell Ndegéocello; ''Levictus:Faggot'' from Peace beyond Passion.
Here we have the opposite, the voice is a bit too soft in this optimum funk piece yet you should still be able to hear every word.

Only the lonely.jpg Peace Beyond Passion.jpg
easily obtainable;http://www.amazon.com/

Depth and Space

When talking about depth and space we had to include a couple of Reference Recordings tracks. This label has allways done justice to it's name and consistently produced recordings of very high quality.

5. The Concord Chamber Music Society;''Danza del Soul'' from Brubeck and Gandolfi works.


6. Doug Macleod '' the Night of the Devils Road'' from There's a Time




Here you have two completely different pieces of music, one by The Concord Chamber Music Society and one by blues legend Doug Macleod accompanied only by guitar and kick drum. But the depth and the space of these two recordings is simply outstanding.

enjoy the music;
Pleasant" is almost always a pejorative word in a review, a classic case of damning with faint praise. But Reference Recordings' vivid-sounding new CD of contemporary chamber music would be "deeply pleasant" if such a thing could be said — we can settle on "highly pleasing
Audiophelia;
Any new Doug MacLeod release is a cause for celebration. That we have him recorded by the benchmark for audiophiles, Reference Recordings, is a double celebration
http://referencerecordings.com/

7. Andre Heuvelman; ''Oblivion'' from After Silence
8. Joni Mitchell; ''Comes Love'' from Both Sides Now
Andre Heuvelman's rendition of Astor Piazzolla's master piece have a great sense of depth. Every instrument sounds rich and full with a gorgeus natural decay. On lesser equipment the sound of each instrument can become a bit of a blur while on good equipment the sound of each instrument should be clearly defined with a clear sense of the room this recording have been recorded in.
Same goes for Joni's wonderful standards collection, it is a big hall you are listening to.



Sound Stage on Sound Liaison recordings;
And man, are they ever sweet. I've seldom heard recordings that were so successful in both performance and sound aspects
http://www.soundliaison.com/



Both Sides Now won a
Grammy Award voor Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and a Juno Award voor Vocal jazz album of the year

Separation

9. Miles Davis; ''Stella by Starlight'' from the Complete 1964 Concert
10. John Scofield; ''Just Don't Wan't to be Lonely'' from Uberjam Deux

we use these recordings to check for spill between left and right channel.
The Miles recording was done on a 3 track tape machine and therefore there is this very wide sound stage and separation between the instruments; piano complete left, horns and bass dead center, drums completely right.
drummer Tony Williams sometimes does not play at all and on those moments all one should hear on the right channel of the piano is a faint echo.


John Scofiel's cover of the old Main Ingredient hit has a complete left right separation. The organ is audible on the left channel only and the rhythm guitar is on the right. The separation is so extreme that if you were to disconnect the right channel you would not hear any rhythm guitar at all, just like on the early Beatles stereo LP's
All Music
;
this exciting set gives one the opportunity to hear this band really stretching out on older tunes, showing off the influence of the avant-garde along with the players' own individual styles. It's highly recommended transitional music
JazzTimes;
It’s worth the retail cost alone to hear him work it over his inveterate rhythm section
Imaging

11. Trevor Pinnock; Mahler symphony no. 4
this delicate chamber orchestra arrangement of the great Mahler Symphony is a real beauty.
the all music review said
;
Another advantage of choosing chamber versions of these pieces is that the instruments are heard with absolute clarity and immediacy
http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-mahler-symphonie-no-4.aspx

12. Iona Brown and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra;''the Spring'' from Grieg two Elegiac Melodies.
the Grammaphone review puts it well
;
Naim Audio’s sound is open and beautifully laid out. All in all, listening is more than a pleasure, it is a privilege

http://www.naimlabel.com/

13. Batik; '' The Bird'' from the Old Man and the Sea
just about perfect imaging, left to right evenly laid out for your eyes and ears to see, piano, bass, drums, guitar and again a one room recording. Unbelievable why so few companies do this when it can yield so very satisfactory results.

http://www.soundliaison.com/

Audio Stream;
Sound Liaison......It's like buying milk from the farmer, not pasteurized, and the quality of their recordings proves that point. It's quality above quantity
John Scofield;'' Never Turn Back'' from Piety Street
the drum intro has a small imperfection, there is a soft ringing sound on the left channel probably coused by a sympathic resonance in the drum set or in the room.
The moment the organ enters it kind of cover up the problem, although if you really listen for it you can hear it through out the track. Wonderful old fashioned sound stage.
All Music;
This is a winner all the way through




This post is a duplicate from another forum where it was much appreciated.
But I had hoped for more alternatives to the music that I and my friend are suggesting, maybe you dear reader would be so kind to post your favorites.
 

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Orb

New Member
Sep 8, 2010
3,010
0
0
#2
It may be a bit controversial but I really do think it is also worth including average and poor recordings or poorly mastered releases/some aspect of the recording-mixing-mastering "trait" that can stand out (may only be for a brief instant or persistent); these type of recordings usually are helpful as their sound traits can become exacerbated such as sibilance-reverb/phase/echo used-quashed dynamics on one channel of the performance (possibly drums),etc.
This is where I find it is easier to identify some aspects on how a product behaves, of course the very best music can help and I use a mix of both.

Cheers
Orb
 

MadFloyd

Member Sponsor
May 31, 2010
2,454
31
225
Mass
#3
It may be a bit controversial but I really do think it is also worth including average and poor recordings or poorly mastered releases/some aspect of the recording-mixing-mastering "trait" that can stand out (may only be for a brief instant or persistent); these type of recordings usually are helpful as their sound traits can become exacerbated such as sibilance-reverb/phase/echo used-quashed dynamics on one channel of the performance (possibly drums),etc.
This is where I find it is easier to identify some aspects on how a product behaves, of course the very best music can help and I use a mix of both.

Cheers
Orb
+1
 

Johnny Vinyl

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 16, 2010
8,571
11
38
Calgary, AB
#4
It may be a bit controversial but I really do think it is also worth including average and poor recordings or poorly mastered releases/some aspect of the recording-mixing-mastering "trait" that can stand out (may only be for a brief instant or persistent); these type of recordings usually are helpful as their sound traits can become exacerbated such as sibilance-reverb/phase/echo used-quashed dynamics on one channel of the performance (possibly drums),etc.
This is where I find it is easier to identify some aspects on how a product behaves, of course the very best music can help and I use a mix of both.

Cheers
Orb
+2

My collection consists of many more non-audiophile pressings that I play more often. I'd want to know how any piece of gear sounds with those.

@APP -Thank you for compiling the list however. Much appreciated. :D
 

Orb

New Member
Sep 8, 2010
3,010
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#6
App,
my recommendation would be to use ones that you still enjoy from a musical perspective as it can be a bit monotonous, so by all means consider any suggested music but I would think you already have a fair few in your collection that would be good for such a purpose; as I briefly touched upon consider recordings that may be a bit hot, voices and percussion drums/cymbals that may be influenced by similar trait of sibilance or crushed a bit dynamically, the voice of the singer can sound a bit mumbled/garbled and on better systems sound more eligible,reverb-echo that sounds unnatural, recordings that has a notable noise floor with the instrument-singer and how this sounds or separated from the performance (sometimes it will be too noticeable-without separation to the voice and instruments-etc), etc (just a basic list of some aspects but it gets the idea across).
In some cases this may only be noticeable in brief segments of a track, or even at the beginning or end of a sung word/played note.

Which genres do you like or can live with and enjoy while auditioning?
Your more likely to notice these traits that are stimulated/exacerbated on a component with more complex recording-mixing-mastering setups and this usually points more to some (again the more complex ones) modern jazz/blues-rnb/classic rock/country-folk, and of course pop but here it is a minefield as you still want ones that are pretty good rather than the awful because that is a nightmare if into quality music and not a fan of mainstream pop music.
So pretty difficult to identify with classical music in general due to the way it is setup for recording-mixing-mastering in comparison; IMO anyway but there will be those in this genre as well.
Cheers
Orb
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,135
253
283
#7
Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (solo piano, up close)
Hans Zimmer, Sherlock Holmes Soundtrack (dynamic, explosive soundtrack with electronics overlayed on top of orchestra)
Eric Clapton, Unplugged (acoustic concert)
John Tejada, Parabolas (deep house)
Dr. Dre, Dre 2001 (Rap, Best of...)
Celtic Harp, A Tribue to Edward Bunting (Live recording of celtic harp orchestra)
Norah Jones, Come Away with Me (recording studio jazz)
Nirvana Unplugged (Acoustic rock, live)
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,135
253
283
#9
Enjoy!
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
560
120
195
Jersey Shore- waterside
#11
APP,

Thank you so much for your time and generosity in generating and sharing this compilation with us. After a recent trip to to Seattle with Steve and Marty, my interest in vinyl and expanding my listening repertoire, I am now upgrading my recently dormant analog front end with a Vibraplane and new tonearm cables. Your list and comments sound like they will provide a wonderful path to help me reacquaint myself with vinyl.
 

Joe Whip

Well-Known Member
Feb 8, 2014
1,171
57
118
Wayne, PA
#12
I take with me several discs and files but my favorite is Duke's Big Four on XRCD. Great bass and dynamics. Most rooms at shows and otherwise fail the test of Duke, Ray Brown, Joe pass and Louis Bellson. Especially Louis Bellson.
 

APP

Well-Known Member
Oct 2, 2014
335
22
68
#13
APP,

Thank you so much for your time and generosity in generating and sharing this compilation with us. After a recent trip to to Seattle with Steve and Marty, my interest in vinyl and expanding my listening repertoire, I am now upgrading my recently dormant analog front end with a Vibraplane and new tonearm cables. Your list and comments sound like they will provide a wonderful path to help me reacquaint myself with vinyl.
at your service:)
 

Orb

New Member
Sep 8, 2010
3,010
0
0
#14
APP,
here are a few suggestions regarding traits that can be thrown up and exacerbated by all audio components from DACs to amplifiers or speakers, touching upon what I posted earlier:
1. Queen and releases such as Under Pressure, Barcelona, Invisible Man.
Listening here to the high energy-fast transient consonants such as "t"/"s"/"f",etc.
Compared to heard naturally, these may seem unnatural, too forced, too "hot",etc.
In a very good system these releases sound very good and natural.

2. Church/hall choir/single performer singing Pie Jesu, Misa Criolla - Kyrie (both male and female performances as each has subtly different challenges), Ave Maria.
Aspects such as the echo-reverb-atmosphere, and also for the first two again trait as described for the Queen releases.

3. Johny Cash Hurt.
In this release focus is on a point where it peaks/crescendo in terms of his voice and piano where it can sound "crushed-distorted"/peak limits maybe.
Best systems handle this better where it sounds more natural IMO and less exacerbated.
This is an extreme example and can be found more subtly on various music releases.

4. Goldfrapp Seventh Tree.
Again an extreme version of showing off a trait and this time relating to analogue noise associated with the singing (due to how it was recorded).
A good system manages to separate-differentiate her singing vocals and that of the analogue noise better, rather than emphasising the noise or finding the voice and noise seem more "compressed" or integrated.
I cannot remember who between Diana Krall and Norah Jones but one of their more recent albums also has this albeit not as forced (in ones face as they say).
Anyway an extreme example and can be found more subtly on various music releases.

It is interesting how these traits can be subtly exacerbated or affected by different component and systems (including DACs but IMO more related to the filters and architecture-resources implemented).
The list is not complete because there are no examples relating to percussion,etc that I also touched on earlier.
Cheers
Orb
 
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Atmasphere

[Industry Expert]
May 4, 2010
875
94
180
St. Paul, MN
www.atma-sphere.com
#15
Depth and dynamic range: The Wand of Youth, EMI ASD 2356 LP; also Verdi Requiem, RCA Soria Edition LP set

Bass: Global Communication, Remotion, Dedicated LP

Ability of a system to hold up under pressure without editorial nor being drawn to its knees: Village Music of Bulgaria, Nonesuch LP; Black Sabboth Paranoid, German Vertigo 'white label' LP
(in the latter cases the system should be played at a life-like level).


[h=1][/h]
 

APP

Well-Known Member
Oct 2, 2014
335
22
68
#16
Depth and dynamic range: The Wand of Youth, EMI ASD 2356 LP; also Verdi Requiem, RCA Soria Edition LP set

Bass: Global Communication, Remotion, Dedicated LP

Ability of a system to hold up under pressure without editorial nor being drawn to its knees: Village Music of Bulgaria, Nonesuch LP; Black Sabboth Paranoid, German Vertigo 'white label' LP
(in the latter cases the system should be played at a life-like level).


[h=1][/h]
thank you for your contribution.
what do you mean without editorial?
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,135
253
283
#18
Depth and dynamic range: The Wand of Youth, EMI ASD 2356 LP; also Verdi Requiem, RCA Soria Edition LP set

Bass: Global Communication, Remotion, Dedicated LP

Ability of a system to hold up under pressure without editorial nor being drawn to its knees: Village Music of Bulgaria, Nonesuch LP; Black Sabboth Paranoid, German Vertigo 'white label' LP
(in the latter cases the system should be played at a life-like level).


[h=1][/h]
Got the CD versions of Remotion and Elgar (Wand of Youth)...and then looked up a bit more Elgar in Penguin and added 2 CDs with conducting by Sir Neville Marriner and Andrew Davis...both of which have received a Penguin Rosette Award...thanks!
 

Simon Moon

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2015
152
47
60
#19
For 3d imaging and accurate timbre of acoustic instruments , it's tough to beat the early seventies 20th century and avant-garde classical recordings on the Nonesuch label. What is really amazing is that these were budget label recordings, but the sound quality is really exceptional.

The series was called "Spectrum New American Music". I'm not entirely sure how many were in the series. The music on most of these is pretty 'prickly' and atonal, so, YMMV.

All the covers had a similar look, like this:


R-3156432-1318346255.jpeg.jpg



A few months ago, after a meeting of the LA and OC Audio Society, I asked Peter McGrath about this series of recordings, and his eyes lit up. Before I even finished, he interjected that he owns every one, and they are prized in his collection.

As it turns out, the recording engineer on these was Peter McGrath's mentor. After talking a bit about these recordings, and how they are just simply 'right', no audiophile fireworks, not crowded with too many mics, or close mic'd for super detail. Peter made a comment like, "Yeah, these recordings are a real indictment on modern recording methods".

I also really like most of the ECM jazz recordings, the 70's release on vinyl (that ECM vinyl was super quiet), and the newer releases.

They seem to understand that their audience, while maybe not all audiophiles, still want great sound quality.

They are loaded with natural dynamics. They sound intimate, yet with still a lot of space around the instruments. They really excelled at recording drums and percussion. Again, no audiophile fireworks. just real musicians, recorded in a real space.

Some of the standouts are: Eberhard Weber - Colours of Chloe, Kenny Wheeler - Gnu High, Ralph Towner - Old Friends, New Friends, Art Lande and Rubisa Patrol - Desert Patrol, Art Ensemble of Chicago - Full Force, and of course, Keith Jarrett, Metheny, Dave Holland, Bare Philips, and many more.

I also like Reference Recordings quite a bit. As already mentioned, the The Concord Chamber Music Society:''Danza del Soul'' is very good.

Their Stravinsky recording with the Minnesota Orchestra is really good. Not only is it a great recording, it's a testament to the quality of less than big city orchestras.

Same with their "Pictures at an Exhibition".
 

Kefas

Well-Known Member
May 21, 2014
159
12
68
#20
Some systems will freak out when you throw high energy signals at them. So while they might sound fine with simple material when things get complex or with a less than perfect recording, they begin to editorialize (which is usually unpleasant).
Do you mean compress?
I don't understand editorialize in audio terms.
The free dictionary:
editorialize
1. To express an opinion in or as if in an editorial.
2. To present an opinion in the guise of an objective report.
 

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