Seeking Popular Songs For Demonstrating Audiophile Systems to Non Audiophiles

Hey. I have a variety of non-audiophiles that come to my place and I am trying to find songs that are (1) popular/readily recognizable AND (2) are well recorded. I find many great artists have crappy recordings. It seems like the more popular the song the higher the likelihood of a crappy recording. For example I bought an Adele record and it just sucks with respect to dynamics and soundstage. Totally compressed.

What I am hoping to get with this thread is a list of popular songs from all eras that most non audiophiles would immediately recognize AND demonstrate how a good audio set up can raise goose bumps.

Here are a couple of examples that I find bring goosebumps to my non-audiophile friends. I am hoping you can help me compile a list of songs like these.

Queen - Somebody to Love
Led Zeppelin - Going to California


Daft Punk: Random Access Memories

A good number of Michael Jackson songs are well recorded.


Maybe someone can type this up for easy retrieval, but I began looking for hits that have this criteria… here are some 90s hits.


This is a fascinating concept. Perhaps mostly because…it is a fascinating concept.:man_shrugging:t2:


I would suggest something mastered well, with full dynamics. Sadly, almost all stuff is compressed these days. So I seek out earlier masterings and audiophile masterings. Some examples:


Jeff Buckley - Grace - ORG
Rage Against The Machine - S/T - AF
Bread - Best of - AF
James Taylor - JT - MFSL
Supertramp - Bfast in America - MFSL
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde - MFSL
The Cars - Heartbeat City - MFSL
Sinatra - Where Are You? - MFSL
Pixies - Surfer Rosa - MFSL
Doobies - Takin It The Streets - MFSL
Pretenders - Learning To Crawl - MFSL
Carly Simon - No Secrets - MFSL
Rickie Lee Jones - Pirates - MFSL
Joe Jackson - Body And Soul - IR
Run DMC - Raising Hell - MFSL
Billy Joel - An Innocent Man - MFSL


Anita Baker - Rapture - Diament
Depeche Mode - Violator - Sire/Reprise
Steely Dan - Aja - Japan for USA, MCA
Steely Dan - Gaucho - Japan for USA, MCA
Bill Evans - Waltz for Debbie - Gold - Sax remaster
Joni Mitchell - Blue - DCC
Gerry Rafferty - City To City - DCC
Heart - Dreamboat Annie - DCC
Madonna - Madonna - 32XD
Van Halen - Van Halen - DCC
AC/DC - Back In Black - Diament
Jethro Tull - Original Masters - DCC
Queen - The Game - CP32
Run DMC - Run DMC - Japan for USA
Michael Jackson - Thriller - ESCA 5408
Bob Marley - Legend - Diament
Gary Wright - The Dream Weaver - AF
Suzanne Vega - Solitude Standing
Steve Winwood - Back In The High Life - Japan for USA
Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross - Japan Sanyo
Simply Red - Picture Book - WG
Phil Collins - Hello I Must Be Going - AF
Phil Collins - No Jacket Required - AF
Phil Collins - Face Value - AF
Lionel Ritchie - Can’t Slow Down - DADC
The Cure - Mixed Up (original mastering)
Jackson Browne - Late For The Sky - DCC
Jackson Browne - The Pretender - DCC
The Police - Synchronicity - DADC
Bonnie Raitt - Nick Of Time - DCC
Bonnie Raitt - Luck Of The Draw - DCC
Eagles - Hotel California - DCC
Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle - DCC
Steve Miller Band - Book of Dreams - DCC
Prince - Prince - SRC
Billy Idol - Rebel Yell - AF
Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman - SRC
Pink Floyd - The Wall


I usually let my friends pick whatever music they like.


Something to be said for that approach, but had a friend over recently from another state who wanted to hear a favorite song that he thought would sound awesome, and it fell flat, audiophile-wise.

But music is the first criteria.:cowboy_hat_face:


agreed. it is amazing how many people go blank when I ask them what their favorite song/artist is. I find that once I play a few tunes that they start thinking of some.


Early releases of any Clash albums are good, as well as, early releases of REM and Prince (e.g. Purple Rain). Unfortunately many of these have been re-released and are highly compressed.


The audiophile who invited a buddy and I to our first high end listening experience told us to bring at least 5 CDs each.

We began the evening with him playing a track or two from each of the 10 discs. After that, he briefly and efficiently spoke about how recording and mastering practices produced vastly different listening experiences. Then he played hours of tracks from his best sounding CDs.

I only liked about 25% of the music but I was completely engrossed in the sound. I could not believe what I was hearing.

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A few sleepers–Take A Walk On The Wild Side, Lou Reed; Magnificent Seven, The Clash; Creep, Radiohead…


Given the two songs you listed, I’d give Boston a go. Pretty much any track on their (his) first album should be immediately recognizable to those of a certain generation. :wink:

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Actually, I find a simple (few instruments) old jazz like Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance a great demo for anyone regardless of the style they like. I found it you play something they like, they start thinking about that time in their life, and old friend, or start bopping. When showing off a system, I want them to hear the quality, not recall their memories.

Once they hear the quality, then I move to stuff they like… and then point out how bad the recording is.

The epiphany is in the delta.

Bruce in Philly

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My system has been built from the ground up for the genres of music I prefer. As reflected by my collection. Demos to non-audiophiles have consisted of them bringing whatever they like with them, as long as it’s on a medium my system supports (vinyl, digital files). My view is my taste in music isn’t relevant. Doesn’t matter with what fidelity my system reproduces it if the listener isn’t interested. Either they like what they hear when they play the music they prefer on my system or they don’t. Remember in the end reproduction of music in the home comes down to whether you like the artist and album on artistic grounds first, not necessarily the system it’s played back on. The one concession I make to this rule, looking at my collection, is the Eagles: Hell Freezes Over on vinyl. Hotel California is reference quality and if that cut doesn’t do it for my listener nothing will.

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“Old” Stuff:

Mark Cohn, Walking in Memphis - Mark Cohn

Billy Joel, New York State of Mind - Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Vols. I and II

Dire Straits, Money for Nothing - Brothers in Arms

Supertramp, Bloody Well Right - The Very Best of Supertramp

Michael Jackson, Bad - Number Ones

“Newer” Stuff:

Christina Aguilera, Something’s Got a Hold on Me - Burlesque Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Daft Punk, Lucky - Random Access Memories

Nora Jones, Turn Me On - Come Away With Me

The Black Keys, Lonely Boy - El Camino

Billie Eilish, Getting Older - Happier than Ever



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I get what you are saying, but I find it compressed compared to the original CD (or the DCC CD.) DR is under 10.

I have never heard the referenced vinyl recording. However, I am a big fan of the CD. The recording quality is way above the average, mass-produced fare, in my experience.

The overall quality and musicality of the Hell Freezes Over CD makes me wonder what could have been (on CD and other formats) back when the Eagles were making new music.

A lot of my favorite CDs from the 80’s featuring 80’s and older music are almost unlistenable “at volume” on the Big Rig.

Still, the music matters most – most of the time.


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Dire Straits
Steely Dan Aja
Tom petty
Neil Young

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