My Favorite "Music" for Testing a System
Some recordings just plain sound good. To me it seems, more so than in any of the other genre's, Jazz recordings just always sound really good. These jazz recordings mentioned seem to stand otu and even sound good on very "average" systems. It's not just jazz that sounds good, there are other styles too. Including folk, classical, rock and so on. This list is not meant to be a true audiophile list but rather a list of great music for your average person that enjoys good quality music that sounds great.
Because I am in the AV industry, I end up going to a lot of trade shows for both the residential and commercial sides of our business. One of the cool side benefits, is that I'm always hearing all the demo music other people use and then incorporating that into my own "mix." I know that's where several of these songs I'm about to mention came from. I can not necessarily remember where I first heard the music but though it may be of interest to you.
These songs are not necessarily my favorite, I usually like harder rock. I just think they sound the best. I plan a follow up article with some pics from the staff here too. Please feel free to post your comments and selections in the section at the end of the article.
So on to the list...
Holly Cole - "'Don't Smoke in Bed "
Track 1 - "I Can See Clearly Now"
I am fairly certain I read about this CD in Stereophile Magazine. After buying the CD and listening to it I was amazed. You can really hear the subtleties in her voice, every whisper, every breath, every sigh. This is one of those song's that gives you goosebumps from the amazing quality of her voice. It's a great slow cover of the 70's pop song by Johnny Nash.
Seal - "Seal"
Tracks 6 & 8 - "Future Love Paradise" & "Show Me"
A friend of mine turned me onto this CD when it first came out. The CD is fun of some great vocals as well as some great string arrangements. In addition to that the two tracks I have highlighted contain some very difficult to reproduce bass lines in them. Especially if you turn your system volume up you are likely to hear the speakers or subwoofer break up and distort. If you using a sub-sat speaker system it's likely a lot of the bass won't even be heard properly. These tracks are excellent examples of why tower speakers with large drivers are my favorite choice.
Chris Isaak - "San Francisco Days"
Track 5 - "Can't Do a Thing [to stop me]"
Many years ago I bought Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games" CD for a few reasons. The first of those being I really liked the song after hearing it on the soundtrack for the movie "Wild At Heart." I also kept seeing it on the Stereophile list of recommended listening. I had never heard of Chris Isaak before but loved his music. This song has a very dark feel to it and really sounds good to me.
Take 6 - "So Cool"
Track 6 - "I'll Fly Away"
This was first brought to my attention by a high end car stereo installer. They were using this disc as they were adjusting the system in a car. I thought the CD sounded so good that I wanted to hear on my own personal system. The clarity, definition and sense of the band being right there in the room with is what really stood out. There is also a lot of dynamic differences in that it goes from very quiet to loud, which is interesting in itself as this is mostly A capella singing with a touch of doo-wop and jazz.
Special EFX - "Global Village"
Track 1 - "Day Break"
I have no idea how or when this became a part of my collection but I've been listening to it for a long time. The song starts out with just an acoustic guitar and builds to a bigger than life jazz song with some vocals in it. It's an amazing song, you really should hear it.
Beck - "Sea Change"
Track 2 - "Paper Tiger"
This one comes from a speaker demonstration I heard at a trade show for commercial speakers. The kind that you might hear at a stadium or concert. Talk about a killer bass line. This song played loudly will destroy a cheap set of speakers if over driven it's even tough on good speakers. It's a slower big building song that really let's you hear the separation of the speakers.
Boston - "Boston"
Tracks 1,2 &3 - "More Than a Feeling," Peace of Mind," "Foreplay/Longtime"
Really every song on this CD is excellent listening. The first three songs are the ones that stand out most to me. This is just through and through a very good all around rock recording.
Madonna - "The Immaculate Collection"
All Tracks - but especially "Papa Don't Preach" and "La Isla Bonita"
I almost feel embaressed to list this one. Madonna is not exactly high on the list of "cool" stuff to listen to but it's really done well. I learned about quality of this CD at a studio recording class I took back in the 90's. There was probably other stuff but this one really stood out.
Janis Ian - "Breaking Silence"
Track 12 - "Breaking Silence"
I heard this one in a listening room in another stereo long before AVS was started. All of the songs are crystal clear but "Breaking Silence" really stands out.
Aerosmith - "Rocks"
Track 8 - "Lick and a Promise" & all most of the rest of the songs.
I have owned this recording since it came out. I stopped listening to group for a while but was recently listening to it in the car and realized just how well the raw sound of the Aerosmith's rock/blues style is captured on this CD. Equally impressive is their "Toys in the Attic."
Joe Sample - "Ashes to Ashes"
All Tracks - Especially 1 & 2
Another CD that is one of my all time favorites. I don't know where or why I first heard it but it's without question the first thing I grab to hear a new system with. This is one of the CD's that really makes our line of PSB speakers shine. You can hear how nice the percussion sounds especially in the high frequency instruments. The piano playing is stellar I love how you can hear his fingers slide off the key onto the next during the little "jazz" trills.
Ramsey Lewis - "Between the Keys"
Track 6 - "Les Fleurs"
To me a very moving song that starts slow and soft and builds. It fades and builds again with a great melody line that holds the song together throughout the recording. It's just good stuff!
Steely Dan - "A Decade of Steely Dan"
One of those CD's that's in every audiophiles collection and for a good reason. This one was done right. Every song sounds great.
Well that's my partial list. I hope you you find something on here that you might want to add to your collection or possibly you already own it and need to give it another listen. I should add, that when making these evaluations I used the original CD's. You can not expect to have anywhere near this kind of quality experience using compressed audio such as you find in MP3's.