Music to test speakers

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Music to test speakers
« on: 9 Aug 2016, 02:04 pm »
Specifically what music do you use to test loudspeakers?


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #1 on: 9 Aug 2016, 03:24 pm »
Female voice to determine the accuracy and absence of sibilance
Large orchestral to determine dynamic range
String quartet to listen for imagery and realism

No rock or processed music for me thanks.  I use hi-res digital files 96khz/24 bit and better

A good female voice recording is Carol Kid - Stormy Weather
Beethoven Symphony no 7, second movement with Weiner Phiharmonic and Carlos Kleiber (a DGG recording)
String quartets, there are many - Bach, the Art of the Fugue; Brahms, string quartet no 1 in C with Candida Thompson and the Amsterdam Sinfonetta


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #2 on: 9 Aug 2016, 07:24 pm »
Thanks! I'll look into those suggestions.


Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #3 on: 9 Aug 2016, 10:57 pm »
Id say, listen to what you like at home. Hell if you like metal, then play that.   :D


Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #4 on: 9 Aug 2016, 11:07 pm »
Dave Grusin - Discovered Again. Mainstream jazz recorded live in studio. Drums and percussion, bass, guitar and piano. Soundstage is incredible as well as the sound.


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #5 on: 10 Aug 2016, 12:58 am »
From my perspective, the most important for "test" material is for it to be something that you KNOW. 

Something that you've listened too hundreds of times.

For me, it's The Alan Parsons Project I Robot  (1st 4 tracks) and the Telarc recording of the Cleveland Orchestra performing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. (the Ravel arrangement - not the other one).

Dave Grusin's "Gershwin" album is also very well recorded.

For vocals,  I use Barbara Streisand's "The Broadway Album",  Holly Cole's Best of album and Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald Gershwin album.

Here's a thread from the Salk Forum of recommended demo material:



Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #6 on: 10 Aug 2016, 01:10 am »
Yup SVS is right, something that you know by heart is good. More importantly play something that you like. Don't go all 'audiophile' and play some wonderfully recorded jazz bit you'd never listen to. Play what you wanna hear.

Believe me, I've seen too many people make this mistake. Myself included.  :oops:


Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #7 on: 10 Aug 2016, 04:09 am »
I start with Clifford Brown Max Roach, from 1954 in mono. Having played trumpet for a long time and having listened to this music for decades on many different systems I know how it should sound and feel, so that tells me a lot.

Then I'll play some pop music to see if it remains musical playing bad sound tune. I like Rhianna's Only Girl in the World because it also has big scale and drama, and her amazing voice. Can I enjoy the song, or do I just think about the bad sound.

For absolute tone, dynamic presence, openness and air, stereo imaging, naturalness, all the pretty audiophile stuff I'll play Respighi's "Three Botticelli Pictures," 2nd movement, L'Adoration dei Magi.  Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is a small string, woodwind and percussion chamber group, perfectly recorded, awesome acoustic, awesome performance on a DG record I think. Flutes, double reeds, triangle, wicked!

When I'm alone with big speakers I play Shostakovich 5th, Kreizberg on Pentatone finale or Prokofiev 5th Atlanta on Telarc. They pretty much tell the tale about scale and power. If I'm with polite company Beethoven 5th 1st or 3rd movements, Vanska on BIS.

Other favorite audition tracks are Julia Fischer Bach solo violin, same objective as the trumpet above, but better recording, stereo. Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden has an accordion solo that shows off the mid/tweeter xo and then it crescendos to mighty full range climax, combines the function of Respighi and big orchestral, but it's jazz which other listeners usually prefer to classical at a show, etc. For vocals I use Aimee Mann ballads, her voice is very beautiful to me, low and lispy, usually very well recorded.

Mark Korda

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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #8 on: 10 Aug 2016, 03:27 pm »
Hi , here are my speaker testers.
   For midrange the most involving cd or record I like is the song South City Midnight  Lady by the Doobie Brothers. Listen to the strumming of the acoustic guitar and you'll swear your there. For bass testing I have a cd soundtrack that came out in 1951 , The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was rerecorded in 2002 from a superb Bernard Hermann original sound track that I have. Better than the original master recording on Mobile Fidelity's Ultradisc 2. There is a track called Gort. When playing the arrival of Gort the 10 foot robot in my last apartment thru my sub woofer 2 different neighbors came running out the hall to see if the building was ok.
    Treble. Burt Young from Rocky played Uncle Joe Shannon, a down and out trumpet player. Maynard Ferguson plays the trumpet and hits notes that can shatter glass. The movie came out in about 77 and it's hard to find a cd. The album is one of my favorites.....Mark Korda.....Sea Dog's fan.....Portland Maine


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #9 on: 12 Oct 2016, 05:54 pm »
This excellent list and description of why each album has been chosen is from the Whats Best Forum.
Quote from: APP;316446
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
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.


2 Alban berg Quartet; Bartok String Quartet no.1 in a minor 1th movement. (LP,EMI)

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.

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.

easily obtainable;

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;

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;

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


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


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

12. Iona Brown and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra;''the Spring'' from Grieg two Elegiac Melodies.
the Grammaphone review puts it well

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.

Audio Stream;
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 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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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #10 on: 6 Jan 2017, 02:29 pm »
The Sound Liaison albums from that list is on sale at the moment.


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #11 on: 8 Jan 2017, 02:09 pm »
for female vocals. {sibilance}
 tracks from Annie Lennox 'Medusa' album, including no more I love you's.
 Sinead  O'connor nothing compares and, fire on babylon.
Patricia Barber.. too rich for my blood.

overall sonic performance...
 Curved air track from Lovechild, Paris by night. It's not a 'great track to listen to' but it has a very repetitive music line that lets you really listen to what's going on.... a couple of minutes {or so} of high piano notes which are REALLY ear bending if the speakers/system are overbright or sibilant.  then goes into a similar repetition series with much lower notes which scale down to VERY low hertz, and combine more than one instrument to achieve this... Poor systems/speakers can really confuse the instrument separation.
 for separation soundstage etc depending on mood either
ELP Tarkus or Pictures at an Exhibition, albums.


Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #12 on: 8 Jan 2017, 02:14 pm »
I agree with the concept of using something you are very familiar with.


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #13 on: 12 Feb 2017, 03:19 am »
I've always brought this along with me when auditioning. 


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #14 on: 12 Feb 2017, 01:11 pm »
Frank Zappa - Apostrophe'

It has a little bit of everything on it and I know it note for note.

Russell Dawkins

Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #15 on: 13 Feb 2017, 02:46 am »
I like the upright bass sound here:

I like the general bass sound here:

and here, and the mix, too:

I like the kick sound on this and the general balance (plus it's killer blues):

Phil A

Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #16 on: 13 Feb 2017, 03:37 am »
This is one of my favorite tracks -


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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #17 on: 13 Feb 2017, 11:35 am »
Id say, listen to what you like at home. Hell if you like metal, then play that.   :D

Use a wide variety of the genres you listen to, selections that seem well recorded and that you are familiar with.  I also bring a "guilty pleasure" album (music I like but is poorly recorded) because I don't want the speaker to make a portion of my library unlistenable.  And take notes (forces to really concentrate and helps you to recall each speaker afterwards).

It's just as important to know what to listen for.  To help sort them out I'd start with your toughest criteria first.  Everyone has their priorities, but for me #1 is musicality (does it sound like real live unamplified music - the majority don't).  After that I listen for:

1.)  Coherence (many speakers sound like an assortment of separate drivers that don't integrate into a single sound source, this is critical if you listen closer than 10 feet);
2.)  Imaging/soundstage (specific images with large soundstage, this is the entry point to high-end sound);
3.)  Midrange (the heart of music - voice);
4.)  Tight/deep bass (very room dependent);
5.)  Dynamics (macro and micro);
6.)  Treble (clear but not fatiguing);
7.)  Are they placement fussy (you and/or the speakers, you may be changing placement/rooms before replacing speakers).

After 40 years at this my advice is to go with a pair of monitors with 5 - 7 inch mid/woofer and add subwoofer(s) as needed.  By their nature monitors are coherent, image well, are placement friendly, and are easier to resell.  Bass is best generated from near corners (at opposite ends of the room).  Wood veneering represents half of the cost of speakers, so invest in smaller amounts in monitors and save money on the subs that are less in sight.

Take care.

Douglas Schmidt

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Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #18 on: 4 Jun 2017, 01:48 pm »
I'm relatively new to the circle.  I'm a recovering audiophile.  I ran down that rabbit hole years ago and decided it was bottomless. However, I still enjoy listening to music an a decent system.  So bear with me.

The albums I used to demo my system and I also enjoy are"

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter  by Joni Joni Mitchell. It has her voice plus Jaco Pastorius detuned his bass and hits an insane bass note.
"I Got the Music in Me" by Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker.  Again for female voice.
"Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez particularly Medley: I Dream Of Jeannie/Danny Boy.
"Blood, Sweat and Tears"

Of course if you want to blow out your woofers, there is always Telarc's "1812 Overture"

Wind Chaser

Re: Music to test speakers
« Reply #19 on: 4 Jun 2017, 02:20 pm »
Id say, listen to what you like at home. Hell if you like metal, then play that.   :D

This is absolutely correct. Anything else is a waste of time and could lead to disappointment. The music you like is the music you listen to. Nothing else matters.

And while we are on the subject of testing speakers, do it in your own home with your own gear. Any other place or gear is a waste of time.

Your music, your room, your gear. Why? Because that is your point of reference. Outside of that you are on unfamiliar ground with no point of reference. Why roll the dice? That ain't no way to buy speakers.