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 ?