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    What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Bob Latino

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    What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Bob Latino on Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:10 pm

    So what are your favorite CD's or LP's that you usually test out a new piece of gear in your system ? You know the drill > you have a new preamp, amp, CD player etc. and you bring out a piece of music that you are familiar with and want to know how "different" (good or bad) it sounds with the new piece of gear. Below are a few of mine which tend more towards vocals, acoustic jazz and some classic rock ...

    1. Karrin Allyson "In Blue" (Concord CD) - A great album, well recorded with very clear vocals. Check out track 4 "The Meaning of Blues" - great bass lines, excellent cymbals, clear vocals and nice sense of space.

    2. "Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton" (Verve CD) - Doc was 91 when this was recorded in 1997. He died a few months later in June of 1997. Doc is half way between center and left and Nicholas Payton is halfway between center and right in the soundstage. Doc's voice is dead center. Track 1 "How Deep is the Ocean" gives a good interplay between the two muted trumpets which have slighly different tones. Track 3 "Stardust" on a good system will let you hear a lot of "air" coming from the trumpets in addition to the trumpet tone.

    3. Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" - (Warner Brothers CD and LP) - I have both LP and CD. Listen to the last track "Gold Dust Woman". On a bad system Stevie Nicks voice will be excessively siblant and the drums at the end of the track on the right channel will be overy "crisp" and lacking body.

    4. Steely Dan "Aja" - (Warner Brothers CD and LP) - I have the LP. Steely Dan was one of the best recorded of the classic rock groups. "Black Cow" the first track has a great sense of space but the whole album is well recorded.

    5. "John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman" (Verve CD and LP) I have both and the LP is better. Recorded in 1963 this is one of the finest jazz vocal records of all time. Hartman's voice is clear and mellow and when Coltrane comes in on the left channel, his sax is so real that it startled me the first time I played track 1 "They Say It's Wonderful"

    6. "The Raven" Rebecca Pidgeon (Chesky records CD) - Well recorded. The track "Spanish Harlem" on a good system will give a huge sense of space that should have good depth and width. The bass, guitar and piano are very clear and the "shaker" is set back into the soundstage.

    So what are your favorite recordings that you use to "test" that new piece of audio gear ?



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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by LEVLHED on Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:46 pm

    I haven't been using whole albums as much as a few different tracks. I'm still getting started with all of this so I'm making a lot of changes, then changes back/etc. It's quicker when I can listen to just a few tracks and get a good idea of what has changed.

    All of these I listen to as FLAC off of a server

    "Lazy Bones" by Soul Coughing, the album Irresistible Bliss
    -Stand up bass, a kick drum that rolls all the way to the bottom, a defined snare that varies in dynamics throughout the track, swirly kind of rhodes-esque sound and some noisier keyboard effects. A bit of persistent guitar and his characteristic vocal sound. This track kind of lets me hear across the whole frequency range but especially the midrange and bass.

    "Don't Follow" by Alice in Chains, the album Jar of Flies
    -Acoustic guitars and vocals, harmonica comes in the middle, break down then a bit of drums/bass. Layne's vocals go from subdued to wail. Cantrel's backups, his voice sounds a lot like Layne's so listening to how well they get defined. The loud guitar strum when they come back in from the breakdown can tell me a lot too.

    "Valley" by The Orb, the album Orbus Terrarum
    -I use this one as my bass torture test. Lots of electronic low bass energy with a bit of dissonance that makes subs do a little dance. It really helped me figure out how to get my subs coupled and tight so they don't go skidding and jumping across the floor. There's also a lot of density to the mix. It's electronic with lots of bits and rhythms and swirly atmosphere sounds that take quite a few listens to realize they are there and know when to expect them. Since this has been one of my favorite albums for years it's a good one for me to listen to which parts stand out more in the mix. But mostly it's the bass that I listen to on this one.

    I haven't found a track I like yet for staging. Though the other night I finally got an Alice in Chains MTV Unplugged CD back in my collection and found it's spread out pretty well. I may have to switch to one of those tracks for my acoustic+vocals kind of test. Jerry's guitar is on the left, Layne is just right of center. Second guitar is on the right. Jerry's vocal is on the left.


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by scott6058 on Fri Nov 20, 2009 11:23 pm

    Great topic

    Bob James has a nice album called Restless, not much a fan of Bob James but track 5 Storm Warning with Hilary James with the vocals was always a test bench for me.
    Sweet delicate vocals.
    I'm a bigger fan of Grover Washington and D. Sanborn for the rest but enjoy most anything decent.
    Awesome help from Bob and this forum.
    Regards Scott

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    test music

    Post by kevinmi on Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:31 am

    I also use different tracks instead of whole Cd's or LP's. Feist-The Reminder Cd: Her voice can sound shrill on the wrong set-up. Also very good sound staging with the acoustic instruments and backing vocals.
    Lenny Kravitz- Are You Gonna Go My Way? CD. Track 10 Sister. Lenny's guitarist uses tube amps or other vintage devices that have a lot of hiss clearly audible when he's at idle. When he kicks in his wah wah pedal and whatever else he uses, the tone of the hiss clearly changes. If it sounds like you are sitting in front of his amp, you have the sound right. The distortion of his guitar through the tubes is reason enough to listen.
    Robin Trower; Essential Cd. Daydreams- this song is well recorded with some quiet pauses between Trower's riffs, good for decay. I also like Bridge of Sighs for it's little tingly upper end percussion, especially since I have upper frequency hearing loss. the more I hear, the more I know my system is working properly.
    Heart: Dog and Butterfly, original LP. Same reason- between Dog and Butterfly and the next song is the little tingly percussion I can barely hear on a good system, and is non-existent on a bad system.
    Blood, Sweat, and Tears--If you run tube amplification through Horn-loaded speakers, I need to say no more. For you who are less fortunate, let me say that nothing reproduces horns better than horn speakers driven by tubes. period.


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Reid on Sat Nov 21, 2009 9:11 am

    I have a couple of tracks I like for reference:
    (1) Tracy Chapman: Title Tracy Chapman track 6 Mountains O' Things. Great for voice, staging,and low end.
    (2) Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room, track 3 Temptation. Great for Diana's voice, depth of stage, and placement of artist. Actually the whole album is great.
    (3)Bela Fleck: Acoustic Planet track 4 Circus of Regrets. For Bela's banjo and Victors bass, good for testing how well your speakers handle highs and lows.

    Enjoy the hobby.
    Bob Latino

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Bob Latino on Sat Nov 21, 2009 10:16 am

    LEVLHED wrote ...

    "All of these I listen to as FLAC off of a server"

    Some readers may not know what "FLAC" is so a brief explanation is below ..

    FLAC stands for Free Lossles Audio Codec and is a method of lossless audio compression unlike mp3 which compresses files but throws away some information in the process. You can take your CD's and run them through the FLAC encoder and then store them on the hard drive of your computer or a music server. Typically a FLAC file will be about half to maybe 60% of the size of the original file yet when decompressed will retain all the audio information that original music file had.

    Most music playing programs cannot play FLAC files directly. The Winamp program, however, CAN play FLAC files directly. I use Winamp and have a folder on my computer of my favorite music in FLAC format.

    You can read more about the FLAC program here > Free Lossless Audio Codec



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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by GP49 on Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:46 pm

    Winamp can play and convert just about any audio format there is; FLAC support began somewhere around v5.3.1. Recent versions of Winamp also burns audio CDs from just about any audio format there is. I still prefer physical media; I often take downloads from private sources, more and more of which are FLACs, and burn CDs from them. That way I can play them in the car if I wish. The original FLACs are stored on a big hard drive from which I can burn more CDs, or convert to the inferior mp3 format for those portable players that can't play FLACs.

    The free version of Winamp can only burn CDs at a rather slow problem if you're sitting at the computer doing other stuff in the meantime. It seems less buggy than many other CD burning programs, and is more versatile than Windows Media Player, which can't handle FLACs without an add-on "Band-Aid®️" and has problems with burning CDs from some formats...even WAV ("play the file first, them WMP might be able to burn it....fat chance I'm going to take THAT much time!). There is an upgrade "pro" version of Winamp at an extra cost of about $20 that can burn CDs as fast as your CD recording drive can run, and which can rip CDs directly to mp3...just about the only thing that the free Winamp CAN'T do; though since I store files as FLACs I can always use Winamp to CONVERT the FLACs to mp3 if I REALLY want something lossy.

    However, Winamp has one major operating system compatibility issue, and it's explained in the first three letters of its name...

    Note that this applies to my experience with the version of Winamp that is on my computer. They've made some major changes lately and like anything else, the program has had its teething troubles. For instance, when the major revisions of October 2009 came out, the program detected Windows 7 as "Windows XP." I'm running v.5.5.2 on XP with no issues; the current, new redesigned version is v.5.56.

    Mark Korda

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    Sammy Davis

    Post by Mark Korda on Wed Dec 30, 2009 7:15 pm

    I have some test cd's like Telarcs,but the best sounding cd I have ever heard is Sammy Davis Live at the Sands,1963 before Kennedy was assinated.You can hear people ordering drinks in the back ground,Sammy scuffing up some nicotine and frequent drags on a number of cigarettes,and it's just fun to listen to...Mark Korda

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Jhoman on Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:05 pm

    I have a mint copy of Steely Dan "Aja", sweet, I have some Adele, and Keb' Mo', all three stretch my ears and senses!


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by SUNNFRK on Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:40 pm

    Aja is awesome but the title track Gaucho and Gaslighting Abbie from two against nature are my fav steely tunes for checking out changes or just enjoying my system. I've even heard Gaslighting used by touring soundmen to checkout how a venues sound system responds. ( and this was a thrash metal bands sound man)


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by j4570 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:25 pm

    I have a good number of Telarc's that I enjoy. I usually use them to test out gear because of the dynamic range they offer which challenges the power supply (ie, capacitors) and are clean. Of course, the 1812 overture has a lot of range with the cannons, but it doesn't really offer me a good reference point-I generally don't use it. It tests more what the system can stand. Also, I don't use the sythesized Telarc's. They were popular when I did car stereo (Bachbusters, Beethoven or Bust), but I never felt they were what I liked to test a system with. I think Telarc Sampler No.4 is my favorite, the one with "The Magnificant Seven" among other things.

    Since it's the season, I need to go find my Telarc Christmas with the Pops.......always play it in the changer along with a few others when decorating the tree.


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Luddite on Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:36 pm

    j4570 wrote:
    Since it's the season, I need to go find my Telarc Christmas with the Pops.......always play it in the changer along with a few others when decorating the tree.

    You too, huh! Smile

    I usually begin with the Stereophile (Vol. 2) test disc. I likewise will use some Telarc (especially the Kunzel/Cincinatti Pops), but my favorites are the Capitol Records, Ultra-Lounge discs. "Wild, Cool. & Swingin'" has several good cuts, particularly Peggy Lee's "Fever".

    Best Regards,


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by j4570 on Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:12 pm

    I think I have the Stereophile Disc too, hmm wonder where that is.....

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Greg_M on Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:21 pm

    Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66

    Their first album, on both CD and Vinyl

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by baddog1946 on Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:46 pm

    "Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio" on "Three blind Mice" label incredible soundstage.
    Most of the three blind mice recordings are excellent quality.
    Avishai Cohen
    Richard Bona
    Stan Getz "Live in Montmartre"
    These are all excellent quality recordings
    The newest "Buddy Guy" recording is also a good one.


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    Favorite "Tests"

    Post by Dingojazz on Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:13 am

    D. Fagen; Morph the Cat (CD)

    " " ; Nightfly (vinyl)
    Dire Straits: On Every Street (vinyl)
    Chris Isaacs: Heart Shaped World (vinyl)
    Basia: London, Warsaw, NY (vinyl)
    Shawn Colvin: Steady On (vinyl)
    Milt Jackson: Tribute to Monk (vinyl) bass solo "round midnite"
    Ry Cooder: Jazz (vinyl)
    " " : Chicken Skin Music (vinyl)
    Muddy Waters; Folk Singer (vinyl)


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by thevic24 on Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:33 pm

    I have a few songs that I like to use.

    1. The live version of Hotel California
    2. I wouldnt wanna be like you(Alan Parsons)
    and the opening track to Alan Parson's "Tales of Mystery ad Imagination" album.

    There are a few others but these are my main go to tracks.



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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by VikeMan on Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:00 pm

    My typical test CDs...

    1) Alan Parsons: Tales of Mystery and Imagination
    2) Pink Floyd: DSOtM
    3) Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun

    I do really like the music, but mainly I use these because I know them inside out. In fact I used all three tonight to audition my newly arrived Bob-built ST70/VTA70.

    Bob Latino

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by Bob Latino on Wed Nov 24, 2010 5:55 pm

    Vic and VikeMan,

    It's funny that both of you should mention Alan Parsons. I recently acquired a DVD-A copy of Alan Parsons' "Eye In The Sky" and now use the title track as a test track. Any of Parsons' tracks on virtually any album are very well engineered.



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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by thevic24 on Wed Nov 24, 2010 9:57 pm

    Hey Bob,

    If you get the chance to, check out Alan Parson's "Tales of mystery and imagination".

    The whole album is excellent. The opening track along with Cask of Amontillado are very good "demo" tracks.
    IMO, he put together a good crew for this album.


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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by baddog1946 on Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:17 pm

    Try Pierre Bensusan "Intuite" best acoustic recording I have heard for a long time. Music is great too.


    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by baddog19 on Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:50 pm

    Greg Brown "Slant Six Mind"

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by frank on Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:10 am

    Laurie Anderson "Strange Angels"
    Dead can Dance "Into the Labyrinth" and "Aion"
    All of these for great recordings and wide variety of sounds, from tympani to all sorts of tinkly things. Good for vocals.

    Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride "Superbass 2"
    A friend of mine runs a high-end stereo store and uses this when setting up customers systems to check bass balance. GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.

    Alison Krauss and Union Station "Live"
    Joe Jackson "Big World"
    One for female vocals the other for male vocals. Both because they can get really irritating if you have treble problems.

    The THX tests found on some DVDs such as "Monsters Inc."
    I use the sweep tone for subwoofer integration.
    j beede

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by j beede on Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:45 am

    Flying Fish 701 might be THE highest quality recording of acoustic bass (Dave Holland). Also Vassar Clements on "fiddle"
    Reference Recordings RR57 "Requiem" track 7 or frankly any track
    Dean Peer "Lord's Tundra" virtuoso electric bass (that isn't Jaco Pastorius) also on Stereophile test CD #3
    O Brother Where Art Thou? Sound track. Dislike blue grass? Try this. John Hartford's last recordings?
    Roger Waters Amused to Death. Insane stereo effects. Ignore the politics
    M&K RealTime RT1001 "For Duke". Say no more.
    Jaco Pastorius on Joni Mitchell's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. Open "E" string electric bass is not for the squeamish or weak power supplies

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

    Post by mantha3 on Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:53 am

    Great ideas on this thread.

    Some others to add...

    Radiohead "Amnesiac".. The whole album is a good audiophile piece.. Great production.

    I like to Jam loud with my ST120 amp:
    Incubus - "Monuments and Melodies" Album - Song Stellar... This may be more a song I just like.
    Tool - Album "10,000 days" - song - Intension
    I may be removed from this forum for adding this:
    For tornado like wind from your speaker ports:
    50 Cent (rapper) - Album = "The Massacre" - Song = "Candy Shop" Probably the most pure bass I've heard.

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    Re: What are your favorite "test" CD's or LP's ?

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