What are your audiophile recordings for system evaluation and setup?

RonP asked this question in another thread: What are the discs you use as your standard for SQ when making changes/tweaks?

Great question…

For me: it changes because I get sick of the same stuff, but here goes:
1 - For imaging - Chesky Ana Caram Rio After Dark. There is a rain forest tune… cant rember the name wow… best for imaging I have… there is a jingly prcussive instrument that actually moves in an arch above your speakers… hight… pretty rare in a recording (I hate her singing… barf… flat flat flat… Astrud was OK, after her… stop it will ya?)
2 - For imaging: Dave Brubek Time Further Out, Unsquare Dance… the percussive sticks are highly localized
3 - For general musicality: Bachman Turner Overdrive, Looking OUt for Number One - Guitar sounds like its on the forward pickup… nice.
4 - Imaging, Bass, Dynamics: Jennifer Warnes - The Hunter… Rock You Gently and Way Way Down Deep (wow bass)
5 - Overall: Opus 3 sampler… I have the individual discs on vinyl, the CD sampler is darn good. I know exactly how far to the left that acoustic guitar can go on Tiden Bara Gar.

There are more, but these I know the best over the years. Only Brubeck and BTO are music that I actually listen to.

Bruce in Philly


I primarily just listen to whatever as usual and if the enjoyment is there or I find myself thinking ‘wow’ more often then it stays.

I do have a short playlist and I don’t think to play it often. All of these songs sound different. I know the change is in the right ‘direction’ if they remain sounding distinct.

  1. I wish I’d gone to Birmingham - Jemina James
  2. Temptation - Mrs. Costello
  3. Starman - Jen Chapin
  4. Violin Partita No. 1 in B minor - Chritian Tetzlaff
  5. Rolling Stone - Humble Pie
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Here’s my test playlist - I listen to short pieces of most of the following when evaluating a change in my system or the DS’s software (and if the host’s mood is right when I’m listening to someone else’s system.)

“Ola Gjeilo: North Country II” - Ola Gjeilo, Johannes Martens, Tom Barber - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Silent Night” - Franz Xaver Grüber - “Cantate Domino (Oscar’s Motet Choir, feat. conductor: Torsten Nilsson)” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“C Jam Blues” - Duke Ellington - “Blues In Orbit” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Crazy Mary” - Lorna Hunt - “All in One Day (DAD)” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Concerto Fantastico: Allegro Affetuoso (La Notte)” - Annar Folleso / Norwegian Radio Orchestra (Ole Kristian Ruud) - “OLE BULL Violin Concertos” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“Too Soon to Tell” - Bonnie Raitt - “Nick of Time (DVD Audio)” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Statesboro Blues” - The Allman Brothers Band - “At Fillmore East” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“The Magnificent Seven” - Erich Kunzel/Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Frankie Laine - “Round-Up” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” - Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov - “Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade for Orchestra Op35 - Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale (SACD)” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“Sheherazade, Op. 35: I. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” - Kirov Orchestra / Valery Gergiev - “Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“Ether Sunday” - Trey Anastasio - “Trey Anastasio (DVD Audio)” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Sinner’s Prayer” - Vivino Brothers - “Vivino Brothers Blues Band (SACD)” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“Invitation To The Blues” - Jennifer Warnes - “The Well” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Le Valse Petit” - Tiny Island, Göran Wennerbrandt - “Tiny Island” - DSD128 1 bit 5644800
“Keith Don’t Go” - Nils Lofgren - “Acoustic Live” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Misery” - Dave’s True Story - “Unauthorized” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“What’s New?” - Linda Ronstadt & The Nelson Riddle Orchestra - “What’s New?” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“Dreams” - Fleetwood Mac - “Rumours” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“Band on the Run” - Paul McCartney / Wings - “Band on the Run /Hi-Res Digital Download (Uncompressed)” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Home” - Barenaked Ladies - “Barenaked Ladies Are Me - Deluxe Edition Disk (DVD Audio)” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“I Feel Lucky” - Mary-Chapin Carpenter - “Come on Come On” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“DIPLOM - Krambupolka” - TrondheimSolistene - “TrondheimSolistene - in folk style” - FLAC 24 bit 352800
“Gymnopedie No. 1” - Eiji Oue, Minnesota Orchestra - “Reveries” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“Postmodern Blues” - Patricia Barber - “Modern Cool” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Lucia from Entre Cada Palabra” - Marta Gomez - “HDtracks 9624 Ultimate Download Experience” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Big Bad Girl from Louisiana Country Boy” - Harry “Big Daddy” Hypolite - “HDtracks 9624 Ultimate Download Experience” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Junior B” - Yello - “The Eye” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Shallow [Radio Edit]” - Porcupine Tree - “Shallow” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Grind” - Alice In Chains - “Greatest Hits” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Maestoso, Allegro” - Saint-Saëns - “Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3, Debussy: La Mer, Ibert: Escales” - DST64 1 bit 2822400
“Joseph Haydn: String Quartet In D, op. 76, No. 5 - Finale/Presto” - Engegrdkvartetten - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Violin Concerto in G major (KV 216) - Allegro from Mozart Violin Concertos” - Marianne Thorsen and the TrondheimSolistene - “HDtracks 9624 Ultimate Download Experience” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“W. A. Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major KV 218 - Allegro” - Marianne Thorsen, TrondheimSolistene - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony, op. 4 - Boisterous Bourree” - TrondheimSolistene - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“W. A. Mozart: Sonate for 2 Pianos in D Major KV 448: Allegro con spirito” - Dena Piano Trio - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Sonate Nr. 32 c-moll op. 111 sats 1” - Tor Espen Aspaas - “MIRROR CANON” - FLAC 24 bit 352800
“From Let Us Garlands Bring, Op.18: Come Away, Death” - Marianne Beate Kielland & Sergej Osadchuk - “Come Away, Death” - FLAC 24 bit 352800
“Antonio Vivaldi: Recitative and Aria from Cantata RV 679 - Che giova il sospirar, povero core” - Tone Wik, Barokkanerne - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” - California Guitar Trio - “Invitation” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Arild Sandvold: Orgelimprovisata over DEILIG ER JORDEN” - Kre Nordstoga - “2L the Nordic sound - 2L audiophile reference recordings” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Knockin’ Myself Out” - Vivino Brothers - “Vivino Brothers Blues Band (SACD)” - FLAC 24 bit 88200
“Planet Dada (Flamboyant)” - Yello - “The Eye” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Jujubes” - Jay Leonhart - “Salamander Pie” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” - Béla Fleck and The Flecktones - “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Train to Nowhere” - Charlie Musselwhite - “Sanctuary” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“She Feels Good” - Don Grusin - “The Hang (DVD Audio)” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Ravel Piano Concerto in G” - Julius Katchen Piano - “3rd movement Presto” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“The Snow Maiden - Dance of the Tumblers from Exotic Dances from the Opera” - Eiji Oue, Minnesota Orchestra - “HDtracks 9624 Ultimate Download Experience” - FLAC 24 bit 96000
“Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden” - Rimsky-Korsakov - “Exotic Dances from the Opera” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Russian Christmas Music” - Jerry Junkin - Dallas Wind Symphony - “Horns for the Holidays” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Christmas and Sousa” - Jerry Junkin - Dallas Wind Symphony - “Horns for the Holidays” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400
“Black Books” - Nils Lofgren - “Acoustic Live” - FLAC 16 bit 44100
“Black Books” - Nils Lofgren - “The Sopranos - Peppers & Eggs - Music From The HBO Original Series” - DSD64 1 bit 2822400


Yikes Ted, that is quite a list… obviously you put some time into it. Is there any one or two in your list that is an “Acid Test” for quality? For me, Brubeck’s Unsquare Dance is mine… if it doesn;t localize the images of the sticks, it is crap… not worth continuing.

I am curious what you think of this recording… Unsquare Dance and let me know of what you think of the sticks. BTW, the tune is classic Brubeck… it is in 7 time, and very accessible. There also is some compressors and or noise gates in the recording.

Bruce in Philly

It all depends on what I’m looking for. I do like the “Time Out” album - the first time I heard it was on a killer system and I’m pretty well calibrated for the walking bass, where the echo’s of the drum kit is (e.g. off of the piano in places…), the tone of the piano, the detail in the percussion… One of the problems with it is that various releases have things in slightly different places. I’m most used to the (first release of the) multichannel SACD.

I use pieces of many of them for many different things. But if I don’t just want to get up and move with “I Feel Lucky”, don’t hear the separate spaces and details in the Alice In Chains or Porcupine Tree, don’t feel the space, dynamics or hear the detail in “The Magnificent Seven”, get chills with “What’s New” or …

The first cut: “North Country II” often can help me figure out what other things I need to play.

I like to make sure the DVD cuts sound like DVD’s should and the SACDs like SACDs…

Apparently I hadn’t listened to that for about 5 years :slight_smile: Before I played it I couldn’t recall it. I like believing that I can tell what’s being hit by the various sticks (tho I know I can’t really.) I can’t quite imagine myself staying on tempo if I were playing it.

For some reason my ability to feel timing has been getting better in the last decade. For most of my life the subtleties (and not so subtleties) of expression in timing was lost on me. I heard the world pretty squarely. The same for subtleties in pitch. I’ve almost always heard the differences between, say, equal temperament and just temperament and cringe when singers can’t get the intervals right depending on what they are singing and with what accompaniment (most singers get it right even if they don’t have any idea what I’m talking about), but I didn’t hear pitch bending, even in, say country music. The world is a much more interesting place these days.


Here’s a good one for percussion and placement. Very well recorded Redbook.

Tony Minasian - Drums & Bells

A few. When I’m ready to make any change, I’ll listen over and over, sometimes to one track until it’s as thoroughly familiar as possible.


Sometimes Miles’ muted horn can rip a hole in your eardrum. I look to remove the unnatural glare, retaining the texture. Horns are very textured instruments. My speakers are great at that.

I don’t use any audiophile recordings. Just music I know well.
Crash Test Dummies “Superman” detail, and on a good system you should be able able to hear the individual background vocals, rather than it blending into one. There is also a wooden block that you might not hear on a less revealing system.
Chet Baker “Chet” the bonus track on the CD, acoustic bass
Leonard Cohen “Live In London” song “The Future” soundstage and depth, the three back up singers should be to the left and further back from Leonard, who is front and center.

I guess both “Chet” and the next one might qualify as audiophile recordings as both are the K2 version and with Jennifer the 20th anniversary of the “Famous Blue Raincoat” CD the version of the song sounds terrible.
Rob Wasserman “Duets” w/Jennifer Warnes “Ballad Of The Runaway Horse”. Our local dealer uses it for speaker set up, good for bass, imaging, overall sound.
Huston Persons and Ron Carter “Nows The Time” bass, whole CD
The last two are mostly to verify I have the set up right. It is the first three I use for both evaluation and set up. So besides certain aspects they should sound really good. I know it when I hear it.

I never thought to seek out an “audiophile” recording. Who says it is? But I also never read the “measurements” section of a review.
I just have stuff that sounds really good, that reminds me of how it sounds to play it or stand next to on a stage.
That Chet Baker redbook cd up there is playing again and that’s to me, what a trumpet and flute and tenor sound like, especially at around 47 on the ol’ BHK.

Casino Royale… c’mon guys…! Casino Royale for goodness sake!

Burt Bacharach/Phil Ramone/Herb Alpert/Dusty Springfield Casino Royal… this got me thinking about this record… there was so much mystery and conspiracy about it…

New Your TImes Commentary on this audiophile recording: https://nyti.ms/2luA7tw
“this album has come closest to achieving the potential of a vanishing medium. It represent “the paradigm”…”

Check out the reviewer comments… “This is a great album to listen to on a very good sound system…The fact that the engineers used an experimental tape to record it and left the levels going at +2, 3 or even 4 makes it a very detailed and loud recording, without the expected distortion. This recording is legenday among audiophiles. Just listening to Dusty Springfield sing ‘‘The Look of Love’’ is worth the price of the album.”

Harry Pearson’s list… Weavers and Casino on it of course:

From Stereophile - they hate the music… so do I!! (except for The Look of Love)… but it is on the list of course.

(I must be the oldest audio nerd here…)

Bruce in Phill

Any music from Andrew Bird or Lyle Lovett cover my vocal and instrumental range of critical listening.

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More and more I just listen to the material I am going to listen to and can tell changes. I think I have a fairly good audio memory if others’ is as bad as many claim.

If I am gong to get really technical and put on my analyst’s lab coat I generally use both recordings I made of (garage to small club) bands I was in in the 'eighties, and material I have listened to for decades such as Miles Davis, Ellington, Coltrane, Mingus, Jobim, Parker recordings.

Interesting… I share(d) your belief that I was insensitive to nuances of timing… particularly since I grew up on rock which is pounded like a metronome in four time. But I found for some more sophisticated music like Brubeck, literally counting the music in your head can make the nuances appear like magic. For example… from Time Out, put on THree To Get Ready… (Four to go is the next line in the rhyme and a hint of the tunes time.

The tune starts out in 3 time… 1,2,3,1,2,3,etc. then at exactly 0:13 starts a new pattern that continues throughout the tune: 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4, and on. He repeats these four measures throughout…two measures of three, two measures of 4…repeat. The tempo is the same so tap your foot while you count.

This tune was blah to me until I figured out the count and then actively counted while it plays.

If you count this in your head as they play, you can hear the nuance of the drummer… and thus appreciate his genius… when I count it, the tune pops totally into focus and Morello’s drum phrasing really appear like out of nowhere. Without counting it, it just doesn;t sound right to me. (Today I have it so memorized I don’t need to count it).

Give it a try.

Bruce in Philly

I was more talking about artistic deviations from perfect timing (or perfect pitch.) Once upon a time I’d hear swing as straight, etc. and since I heard things straight I couldn’t really play or sing anything but straight (boring). The subtleties of purposefully being a little early or late either now and then or more regularly were lost on me. Somehow the fact that I also couldn’t feel/hear subtle pitch bending (tho I could easily hear changes in beat tones, wavering, offkey playing or singing) escaped me longer than timing artistry. After hearing things better it’s hard to remember not hearing them that way.

I guess an analogy might be our vision: we see straight lines for door frames, edges of buildings, etc. when demonstrably that’s not what’s going into the eye. For example eye glasses can cause more bending nearer to the edges, but most of us (most of the time) don’t perceive the changing pincushion with every movement of our head or eyes. By default the brain corrects our perception of reality to match our expectations/past experience. When we see the similar effect from panning a camera we often see more accurately what’s going into our eyes. Once when I was upside down under a shelf with my eyes only about 3" away from the bottom of a shelf I noticed that I was seeing a bent edge on the shelf. It was amazing to me that I didn’t have to get much further away to see it as straight - then I remember my (now ex) wife complaining about the curved door frames, etc. each time she changed prescriptions for her glasses, something that never seemed to affect me.

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Actually I was referring to hearing the speed up, slow down and delay too (and some pitch)… by counting and driving the time in your head while a tune plays, you now have something to compare and you will hear the nuance. For singing in front or behind the beat, play any Chris Conner albums… she was famous for this. (Zoot Sims on sax).

Tune below has it all in her singing. Tap your foot to the drums… then try tapping your foot to her voice…whoa… can;t do it.

Bruce in Philly

Good catch. :slight_smile:

Shifting time signatures, hemiola , etc. has oft been used in music since at least the 1500’s renaissance, if not earlier. It is great fun to understand what is going on.

An effective and gorgeous 16c. example is Claude Le Jeune’s Revecy venir du printemps (Here again comes the Spring) with its alternation of compound-duple and simple-triple metres.

Bach, Corelli, Handel, Weber, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Robert Schumann, Brahms, many others utilized used such devices regularly. A contemporary example is Bernstein’s America.

This is a superb example of “You cannot play what you cannot hear.” One of the many things that separates truly gifted musicians from the rest of us is what they can hear.

I will listen to this when I get home… I love figuring out what is going on… once you get it, the music just makes sense.


Bruce in philly