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  • Favorite speaker audition/demo tracks?

    I'm hoping that Jon will see this and chime in...

    What are your favorite tracks for auditioning speakers when you're shopping for a new set, or for showing off your newly-acquired speakers to friends? More specifically, Jon, are there any tracks you tend to use when evaluating a new model or version during the prototype phase to determine if it sounds "right" to you? I know you do lots of tests and measurements, etc., but I assume you also use music to get the tuning just right.

    Some of my recent favorites:
    • Any track from Donald Fagen's "Morph the Cat" album, especially "Brite Nightgown." Gives woofers a good workout, plus the recording is about as clean as it gets. Great music, too!
    • "Windy City" by Alison Krauss. Her voice is amazing, and between that and the steel guitar sound on this track, it seems to be an excellent test of mids.

    Anyone else? I'd love recommendations, and I'd love to hear what the folks at Chane use to evaluate my new speakers. :)

    Chris
    New system: Outlaw RR2160 receiver; speakers & subs TBD!

  • #2
    Originally posted by cgramer View Post
    I'm hoping that Jon will see this and chime in...

    What are your favorite tracks for auditioning speakers when you're shopping for a new set, or for showing off your newly-acquired speakers to friends? More specifically, Jon, are there any tracks you tend to use when evaluating a new model or version during the prototype phase to determine if it sounds "right" to you? I know you do lots of tests and measurements, etc., but I assume you also use music to get the tuning just right.
    Depending on the speaker, I first tend toward well-recorded, dense pop, myself. I'm listening for lots of studio pans, acoustical separation, smooth fast transients, low coloration and clean tonality, dynamic and frequency extremes, and that general sense of palpability and in-the-space in about a dozen and a half favorites spanning the years. 'Big' recordings like these also do well in pushing a system to where it'll be used when reproducing HT program. Fagan is right in that ballpark. Recording quality differs a lot so the general genre has to be picked through.

    As designs get more sensitive to time and phase and as price rises (as it is in some of the new Chane stuff) then the emphasis shifts more to simpler acoustics, natural textures, tone colors, and believable acoustic venues - the late HP's 'acoustic instruments in a real space'. Only the very best gear gets out the classical orchestra, which is arguably the ultimate reference but takes forever to listen through while tuning. With classical musicians for parents I heard a lot of it growing up and have hundreds of recordings but they're not enough to develop the whole picture.

    There's a great deal you can tell just by assessing the weight, space, color, and texture of one repeating transient phrase from one well-miked instrument. Sometimes I'll play the same piece forty times over the course of a couple of weeks getting something to fall into place...

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    • #3
      Fantastic Dense Answer

      Originally posted by Chane M&C View Post
      Depending on the speaker, I first tend toward well-recorded, dense pop, myself. I'm listening for lots of studio pans, acoustical separation, smooth fast transients, low coloration and clean tonality, dynamic and frequency extremes, and that general sense of palpability and in-the-space in about a dozen and a half favorites spanning the years. 'Big' recordings like these also do well in pushing a system to where it'll be used when reproducing HT program. Fagan is right in that ballpark. Recording quality differs a lot so the general genre has to be picked through.

      As designs get more sensitive to time and phase and as price rises (as it is in some of the new Chane stuff) then the emphasis shifts more to simpler acoustics, natural textures, tone colors, and believable acoustic venues - the late HP's 'acoustic instruments in a real space'. Only the very best gear gets out the classical orchestra, which is arguably the ultimate reference but takes forever to listen through while tuning. With classical musicians for parents I heard a lot of it growing up and have hundreds of recordings but they're not enough to develop the whole picture.

      There's a great deal you can tell just by assessing the weight, space, color, and texture of one repeating transient phrase from one well-miked instrument. Sometimes I'll play the same piece forty times over the course of a couple of weeks getting something to fall into place...
      That's the response of a perfectionist and that is the right personality to voice a speaker.

      For me, testing a speaker, I like dynamic powerful music.... something that sounds big. Juno Reactor is a great start. After that I focus on favorite instruments and sounds. In my case number one is the female voice; since it's a sound we're all very accustomed too it's an easy starting point to hear if a speaker sounds correct/accurate. Finally I look for the 'chills down my spine' effect. That's when you choose a favourite song and see if the speaker can elicit an emotional response with the material; if it bridges the gap between the song and you, the listener.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Vance View Post
        For me, testing a speaker, I like dynamic powerful music.... something that sounds big. Juno Reactor is a great start. After that I focus on favorite instruments and sounds. In my case number one is the female voice; since it's a sound we're all very accustomed too it's an easy starting point to hear if a speaker sounds correct/accurate. Finally I look for the 'chills down my spine' effect. That's when you choose a favourite song and see if the speaker can elicit an emotional response with the material; if it bridges the gap between the song and you, the listener.
        Thanks for the reply. I'll check out Juno Reactor!

        Some other recent faves of mine:
        • Mark Knopfler's "Golden Heart" album, especially the title track. Deep bass, his amazing guitars, his rumbly voice, snappy snare drum, and some nice subtle keyboards in the background... One of my reference tracks for sure.
        • Rebecca Pidgeon's album "The Raven." Heard about it from a list of great audiophile recordings, and sure enough, excellent recording! Great for testing the female voice, as you mentioned, and good test of transients with some of the drums/percussion throughout. Favorite tracks for me are "Heart and Mind" and "Seven Hours." "Grandmother" has some neat dynamics in terms of her singing.
        • Ana Caram's "Blue Bossa" album from Chesky Records. Good test of acoustic instruments (i.e., guitar) and female voice at a slightly deeper register... The classic "Desafinado" is especially nice, with instruments spaced across the soundstage.
        • The soundtrack for "TRON: Legacy" by Daft Punk will give your woofers a workout. Even better with a sub or subs. Enough said. :)
        • For live rock, I think "Pulse" by Pink Floyd is probably the reference standard. Let me know if you think there's something better.


        Looking forward to more replies. Honestly, I thought this thread would blow up. :)

        Chris
        New system: Outlaw RR2160 receiver; speakers & subs TBD!

        Comment


        • #5
          We're all on the same page... ;) Here are some more older pieces.
          • Seal's first. Dry but a nice big studio work, with lots of dense layering. Sounds like a lot of mastering went on with a lot of mics. A few cuts are useful to determine vocal centers, depth, grain and stridency, and size of scope.
          • Dive, Sarah Brightman. A fair amount of variance between tracks, but another good test for vocal centers and depth, plus some tone colors, at least from an otherwise modestly good recording.
          • Love Over Gold, Dire Straits. A clear, direct, ambient piece with decent tone colors for a work of its type. Some tracks just dissolve into space, which has to be hard to pull off.
          • Rites, Jan Garbarek. On a few of the tracks, get that little sax right in the mix, and boom. Enormous depth too, although not an all-out reference there. Surprisingly good for ECM.
          • Drive, Jan Hammer. Very good, very direct percussive electric keyboards. Really dynamic for a commercial recording. Not terribly useful for voicing but a place to check in now and again.
          • The Wall. Speaking of Pink Floyd, and while I haven't used it in years, maybe the best, most consistent judge of proper bite (Gimour's lead) and studio scale from any pop-rock work. Depth and ambience all over the room. Heads and shoulders above the usual. Maybe the ultimate studio recording of its era and then some.
          • Avalon, Roxy Music. Lovely ethereal work while not particularly dynamic or wideband, at least has a great sense of layering and finesse. Sweet, musical, spacious.
          • Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm, Joni Mitchell. Recorded at Peter Gabriel's studio and has a completely wrecked treble, but in the Avalon class for complex studio layering and nearly so for space. Musical, with good decays. Could have been excellent but something seems to have gone wrong.
          • Stardust, Willie Nelson. Get the lower registers of his voice right and you've got a nice balance.


          There are scores more, and while with the exception of the Garbarek none of these are on any personal playlists, these sorts of recordings can help gauge what's going on in the system. I've also got the Chesky and RR catalogs but don't use them all that much. A definite yes to Knopfler, the Pidgeon piece, and Fagan. Notable exceptions are the Peter Gabriel catalog - hard and electronic although reasonably dense - with the exception of the live tour double from 1994, which is rich and luxurious with nice layering and decays.

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          • #6
            The Long Way Home - Norah Jones (Female Voice)
            Sixteen tons - Ernie Ford (Male Voice)
            Master of Tides - Lindsey Sterling (Violin)







            will keep on adding

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            • #7
              Best of Fleetwood Mac - Silver Springs, Never Going Back Again with wonderful acoustic guitar work.
              Holly Cole - Train Song, deep female vocal with wild percussion sounds.
              Michael Jackson recordings pop nicely - Man in the Mirror, She's out of My Life.
              Freedom Fry - 1979, acoustic guitar, vocals sounds a bit distorted maybe for a Smashing Pumpkins feel.
              Santana- Put Your Lights On (with Everlast), deep male vocals with both electric and acoustic guitars.

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              • #8
                Although not a big fan of polynesian slack key guitar, Dennis Kamakahi's Ohana album is about as close to live as I have heard any recorded music. Ulili E and Ka Opae specifically. Dead Already from the American Beauty soundtrack is a good one. Peter Gabriel's live version of Solsbury Hill has quickly become my favorite live track, thanks to the 5.4's.

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