Recommended Auditioning Music [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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03-21-2006, 11:33 AM
I know there are a lot of opinions about this, but I was wondering if it would be possible to come up with an informal list of recordings that could be used here as a benchmark / baseline for auditioning audio equipment. Some criteria:

These would have to be widely owned recordings that are available in most formats: LP, RBCD, SACD, HDCD, DVD-A.
They would have to include recordings that exhibit the kinds of details people are talking about when evaluating equipment such as wide dynamic swings, extended bass, soundstaging, lack of sibilance, etc.
Finally they would have to be a selection of recordings from the more popular music genres (classic rock, jazz, classical, pop, etc.).

This way one could refer to a specific passage in a specific piece that most other people here could relate to. I'm not sure what everyone else owns, of course, but I'll venture a few pieces that I've seen mentioned repeatedly:

Carl Orf - Carmina Burana
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
Pink Floyd - Money
Sade - Jezebel
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, Movement No. 3
Massive Attack - Risingson
Norah Jones - Seven Years

These are a little white-bread, I know, but I was just listing the more popular pieces that most poeple are likely to own. Any other suggestions?

03-21-2006, 04:41 PM
Here's a disc I burned for auditioning purposes:

Brian Bromberg..."The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers"
Eva Cassidy..."Tall Trees In Georgia"
Norah Jones..."The Nearness of You"
George Winston..."Love Me Two Times"
Bob James..."Street Smart"
Beck..."Lost Cause"
Pat Metheny Group..."Imaginary Day"
Miles Davis/John Lee Hooker..."End Credits" from the movie The Hot Spot
Michael Hedges..."Gospel"
Michael Hedges..."Tomorrow Never Comes"
Muddy Waters..."You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had"
Miles Davis..."Blue In Green"
Charlie Haden/Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau..."Alone Together"

03-21-2006, 07:38 PM
This is always a tough subject because everybody has different sets of criteria, musical preferences, definitions of "reality", etc. I concluded a while ago that it's impossible to have a universal set of demo songs.

Like you mentioned, most people's music collections will diverge considerably from what you might own. I know that a lot of the music that I listen to is quite obscure, but I use them for demo purposes because I'm very familiar with the music and how it sounds on a variety of different systems. One of the discs that I use is a live-in-studio recording done by a band that I'd seen perform live multiple times. For me, that's a great reference because of my familiarity with the music, the recording, and even the instruments used by the musicians. But, because hardly anyone else owns that CD, its value as a universal demo diminishes.

My demo set includes not only very well produced recordings, but also recordings that might not be quite as good. The reason for including the latter is simple -- a lot of recordings are optimized to play well with car audio, small sub/sat, and mini systems. It's important to hear how a system renders those types of recordings if they constitute the majority of your listening.

FWIW, my demo discs are reposted below from a similar thread. I also added some multichannel favorites.

Jazzanova - The Remixes
Very full range "nujazz" recording with a wide array of percussion instruments, electronic and acoustic instruments, and deep acoustic bass notes. Highly recommended.

The Crystal Method - Tweekend
My trip-hop reference; a lot of messing with the phase to impart spatiality and a lot of thump in the bass

Straight ahead/avant garde acoustic jazz; probably my best recording; originally done live to two-track in studio. I use this because I've seen the band live in a variety of settings and have heard the actual instruments in person up close before. CD is out of print and originally released on the Denon PCM label.

Royal Crown Revue - The Contender
modern swing recording, not especially well done multitracked recording and can sound muddy on a lot of systems; but I listen to a lot of this type of music and this band especially. I use this recording to see how well a system can differentiate the sounds.

Metallica - Load
Not their best album, but the recording is pretty typical of newer metal and alternative recordings, with a lot of kick in the midbass.

Orff - Carmina Burana (San Francisco Symphony)
The SFS's 1990 Grammy winner. Recorded at Davies Symphony Hall and I've seen the SFS perform this piece at that venue three times before. Excellent recording with some of the most startling center imaging I've ever heard.

Liquid Soul - Make Some Noise
Chicago funk/jazz/rock jam band. Combination of live and studio recordings that are variable in quality, but nothing outstanding. Another band that I've seen live at the venue where the recording was done.

Hank Mobley - Roll Call (96/24 DAD)
The 96/24 DADs have to be played back through a DVD player, but the ones I've heard can sound astonishingly good. Mobley's 1961 jazz recording has some incredible playing and the playback quality with the 96/24 audio disc is very clean. Not the best recording for piano or drum sounds, but great with horns and bass.

Gershwin - Works for Orchestra and Piano (Porgy & Bess Suite/American In Paris) - St. Louis Symphony (96/24 DAD and SACD)
Excellent classical recording with great range and imaging. Recorded with minimal overdubbing. The SACD version is even better because the multichannel track captures the hall ambiance very effectively.

Mahler - Symphony No. 1 - San Francisco Symphony (SACD/CD hybrid)
As good as the CD layer sounds, the multichannel SACD track is where it's at. Another recording done at Davies Symphony Hall that very much captures how the orchestra sounds coming off the stage. This is a 5.0 recording with no LFE track and the five main channels at full range.

Pat Metheny Group - Imaginary Day (DVD-A)
Excellent multichannel demo that uses a variety of instruments and imaging cues.

Steely Dan - Everything Must Go (DVD-A)
Probably the best multichannel demo that I've heard for creating deliberately mixed surround imaging. A lot of depth perception and range in the recording. Excellent test for 5.1 speaker positioning and timbre matching.

03-22-2006, 11:39 AM
Well, I do want to plow ahead with this. My goal is to come up with a reference point where someone can say, for example:

listen to "In Taberna" on your Orff CD for..."

Actually, Carmina Burana is probably one of the best known and most owned pieces out there, available in LP, RBCD, SACD that I know of, and probably also in HDCD and DVD-A (?). Maybe we should simplify the list:

- Carl Orff
- Norah Jones
- Metalica

All of which are popular and available in multiple formats. So the next question is which edition/album/track could we settle on?

03-22-2006, 06:07 PM
Norah Jones??-I think her recordings are quite dull sounding with an obvious rolled off treble-probably mastered on very bright sounding monitors.
For me midrange purity and imaging are important so I use something like Trio 1 or 2-Dolly Parton,Emmylou Harris,Linda Ronstadt.This will show up imaging through voice location and precision .Many speakers can't reveal the vibrato in their voices and this is a sure sign that they will not transmit emotional content or timbral content like violin harmonics.

03-23-2006, 04:59 PM
Any specific tracks from Parton, Harris, or Ronstadt?

03-23-2006, 09:39 PM
See the problem with such an idea is simple: of all the discs listed above I have only one - Tweekend. The last time I did some auditioning I went to three shops looking in the $4-8k range for a pair of towers (not quite there yet, but starting to do the foot work). I took a mix CD that included stuff like: Dandy Warhols, Lush, Ash, Avril Levigne, Jesus & Mary Chain, Groovie Ghoulies, Gadjits, Hanson (no kidding), The Qu33rs (had to spell with numbers to defeat autoblocker), Stiff Little Fingers, Naked Raygun, Kid Rock, Simple Plan, Yaz, Tool, Marilyn Manson, and, finally some local bands. Not a single salesman failed to lable me a goofball and probably wouldn't have indulged me if I wasn't wearing a suit.

Not alot of cross over on that list. :D I think many of us have very eclectic and esoteric tastes.

But, there are records that the majority of us would have in common. I would vote for (at least in pop music)

Floyd - DSOTM
Queen - Can't decide which
Everyones got a copy of Rush 2112 floating around.
AC/DC - Back in Black

All mainstream and in a plethora of formats.

03-27-2006, 02:57 PM

I was a rocker in few decades back too, but Floyd, Queen, Rush, AC/DC, might be a bit over the top. I cut my hair, outgrew my concert shirts, and got most of my hearing back, I think.

There should probably be at least one of each of these: Classic Rock, Symphonic Classical, Female Vocal, Jazz. Each of these styles have particular qualities which I think are important.