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Test tracks

6and8

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Jan 20, 2014
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How do you select test music for putting equipment through its paces when you’re auditioning a potential purchase?
In order to test different areas of how the equipment performs do you cover certain genres, eg orchestral, vocals, piano solos, rock and folk?
Or do you use albums you would normally listen to?
Any favourite or suggested tracks?
 

Dom

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Aug 6, 2011
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For me, its my favourite tracks that have a sections I love.
Maybe its something bassy, or has an amazing vocal section. When I listen, my brain concentrates on them.
Try Running Outta Love by Jacob Collier.
 

Al ears

Moderator
Anyway you are really familiar with will do. Me I tend to use piano music because I am familiar with this instrument and anything that involves a decent Tenor.
Any speakers that can't do these realistically is dismissed out of hand.
 

6and8

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Jan 20, 2014
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I'm always intrigued by the music reviewers say they've used. A lot of it is stuff I've not heard or am unlikely to play. I have a couple of favourites - Santana's Caravanserai, an old favourite, because there are so many layers to the music and any solo piano by Alfred Brendel.
 
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Al ears

Moderator
I'm always intrigued by the music reviewers say they've used. A lot of it is stuff I've not heard or am unlikely to play. I have a couple of favourites - Santana's Caravanserai, an old favourite, because there are so many layers to the music and any solo piano by Alfred Brendel.
This is exactly my point, many reviewers use obscure tracks that they are familiar with. Having said that you only have to Google best test tracks to see how diverse these can be.
My advice is to take along music you are going to play and are familiar with.
The actual genre is irrelevant.
 
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Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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My advice is to take along music you are going to play and are familiar with.
That's what I've done - taken 5or 6 CDs along to dealers, playing 1 or 2 tracks off each - listening to ensure I miss none of the mid / HF detail that is so important to me.

PMC regard plain speech tests as an essential part of their monitor designs - with good reason.
In addition to your music, you could do a lot worse than take a good quality recording of someone you know well, speaking naturally (not your own voice). You'd soon be able to tell where a speaker might be going wrong on vocal reproduction.
 
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Al ears

Moderator
That's what I've done - taken 5or 6 CDs along to dealers, playing 1 or 2 tracks off each - listening to ensure I miss none of the mid / HF detail that is so important to me.

PMC regard plain speech tests as an essential part of their monitor designs - with good reason.
In addition to your music, you could do a lot worse than take a good quality recording of someone you know well, speaking naturally (not your own voice). You'd soon be able to tell where a speaker might be going wrong on vocal reproduction.
I think I would agree to a point, the human voice is somewhat limited in frequency response and you need something you are familiar with that covers a very wide range.
However, each to their own.
 

Paul Clarke

Well-known member
Oct 12, 2007
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As others have mentioned, use tracks you are familiar with and trust your ears.
My love of hifi is only beaten by my love of music. My collection is full of stuff I like and want to listen to. My investment in hifi over the years has always been to ensure the music I like sounds as good as it can.
All too often hifi is demonstrated with fantastically recorded but, to my ears, unlistenable music.
It's all very well saying "You can really hear the room in this choral piece", but if choral music isn't your thing, you can't connect to it.
Also remember you get off days when your hifi just doesn't do it for you that day. Wait until the next day when it all clicks again.
 
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Gray

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I think I would agree to a point, the human voice is somewhat limited in frequency response and you need something you are familiar with that covers a very wide range.
However, each to their own.
Yes, I'm certainly not saying that it should replace music for testing.
The theory being though, that our brains are more tuned to speech than anything else.
Some say that, unless a speaker can do speech correctly, it's got little chance with music.......they can rule it out as quickly as you can rule out one that made a hash of piano or Tenor.
I think chesty / nasal speech can tell you a lot about a speaker's overall balance. I've rejected a home loan due to its adverse effect on speech - which was then, all the more noticeable on music.
But, as you say, each to their own. (I know I listen to too much Radio 4 :cautious: When they play music on there, they get complaints).
 
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12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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Agree entirely about stuff you know inside out and that typifies what you'll listen to, but if you have broad tastes (as I do) I find these reliably strong indicators:

Alexandra Leaving from Live in Dublin by Leonard Cohen - a beautiful, spacious and defined recording with a variety of instrumentation (violin is a good test) and a superb vocal by Sharon Robinson.

Cry by Ray Charles - a perfect example of 'recording the room', rather than most of today's cut-and-paste mixing. Not my typical listening material, but possibly my favourite male voice.

Los Ageless and Happy Birthday Johnny from MasSeduction by St. Vincent. Listening to it a lot at present.

Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, as guitar-based music has to work as I listen to more of that than anything else.

Bits from Suzanne Vega's last album and from Michelle Shocked's Captain Swing - if you don't get any goosebumps on the neck the system is not 'working' for me.

One Love by Bob Marley and the Wailers.
Try a Little Tenderness from The Commitments OST.
Something orchestral and something operatic.
 
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millennia_one

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Sep 1, 2014
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I actually listen to a wide variety of music, anything short of true hip hop, reggae and hardcore nu-metal. Picking test music is troublesome or me.

It can be quite an interesting morning for the dealers when I visit, one min i'm listening to Freya Ridings and London Grammer then swing to listening to death from above 1979, Nothing but thieves and korn (old school korn).

With many other artists thrown in for good measure with some of my favs lately being Lilly Moore, Robert Glasper (covered being the album i like), fieh, Portico Quartet, Clare-Maguire and many more.

Speakers to me have to play everything well, and dynamics are the single most important thing to me I've found, sacrificing a little bass to do, so be it. Hence my chosen speakers Klipsch heresy 3's

I don't believe you have to intermit knowledge of music to use it as a test, You know a good sounding album when you hear it. But that same music needs to be used across all the speakers during that audition. Listening to one type of music through an audition is a little silly to me.

For instance, I liked the brand Russel K and the speakers sound lovely and they really do deliver on bass and mid-range and have lovely sweet treble. Fine for the most part but certain music will bring unwanted characteristics. So while listening to Korn freak on a leash brought out some unwanted port turbulence that didn't show its self while listening to less demanding music, and this happened at any volume. Switching gears to something that really pushes bass response Dj shadow three ralphs, rendered that track unlistenable through the Russel k.

Now i would have never of found that out if I was just listening to acoustic singers and in this day and age port noise just shouldn't exist.

BUT I also go out of my way to listen to badly recorded music, music with mistakes not just quite sounding albums but albums with loose bass and strange phase issues and the sort. to see how the speakers handle this sort of thing.

Just my thoughts
 
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Good Ear

Member
Aug 24, 2020
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Ideally I use different genres to test an audio system. Very well suited are the test CD of the German magazine "STEREO".
My current favorite album is by Ane Brun and is called "It All Starts With One". It has a great sound and is musically very appealing. This CD is always included in a test!
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
163
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As well as some favourites, I think a couple of dodgy sounding CDs are good for testing how scrawny or palatable the new kit makes them sound.
I have a couple of old CBS discs - one of Simon & Garfunkel (lovely tunes but scratchy sound) and a Mozart Piano Concerto (Great playing but strings can sound weak).

Imo, the best kit seems to extract maximum music and minimises the weaknesses. But you don’t want bland or excruciating!
 

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