No one buys a sound system without putting it through its sonic paces. But, which tracks provide the best way to test your speakers on your own? Well, there’s really no right answer. Of course you want them to sound good playing your favourite tracks.  However, if you want to really put your speakers through the musical gauntlet, in this article we will detail some tracks that our pros might use to bring out the various capabilities of the systems that we build.  This is by no means a definitive list, but rather some track suggestions you may not be familiar with, or hadn’t thought of.  That being said, when testing speakers using any digital track as a reference, try to find the highest resolution possible (HDTracks.com has an extensive catalogue), and use songs with strong mastering and good separation between vocals, instruments and other sounds.

First, let’s talk about tracks that are just plain well-recorded. Tracks like these often feature warm, round low ends, and clean high ends. In music, this often means bass guitars with presence, rich rhythm sections, and clear top end motifs.  It also usually means they’re from an artist known to be meticulous with his or her sound.

  • Steely Dan – “Jack of Speed”, Two Against Nature
  • Steely Dan – “Hey Nineteen”, Gaucho (yes, they’re here twice because their tracks are testing favourites of many audio engineers)
  • John Mayer – “Gravity”, Continuum
  • Beck – “Lonesome Tears”, Sea Change
  • Michael Jackson – “Baby Be Mine”, Thriller

How about some tracks with wide dynamic ranges?  These tracks will give you the separation between instruments that are the hallmarks of the best sound engineers in the business, resulting in sound that makes any system sound bigger than it is, enveloping its listeners in sound.

  • Fleetwood Mac – “You Make Loving Fun”, Rumours
  • The Police – “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, Zenyatta Mondatta
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Tin Pan Alley”, Couldn’t Stand the Weather
  • The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”, Pet Sounds

A good live album can go a long way in showcasing a sound system’s ability to handle the little nuances that come with live recordings without turning them into noisy distractions.   If you find yourself lost in the etherial soundscape that is Carnegie Hall’s acoustics, then your system is doing its job.

  • B.B. King – “The Thrill is Gone”, B.B. King Live at the Fillmore East 1971
  • Ryan Adams – “New York, New York”, Live at Carnegie Hall
  • Jeff Beck – “A Change is Gonna Come”, Live+
  • The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”, Totally Stripped (Live)

Classical and jazz albums show off your system’s high end, especially when it comes to tweeter and mid-range performance.  Testing speakers with any acoustic music provides a real test to see if they can produce natural, organic sounds.  Can your speakers trick you into thinking that the instruments are in the room?  If they can, then you’ve got something.  Here are some recordings that will put that kind of performance at the forefront.

  • Glenn Gould – “Variation 8 a 2 Clav.”, Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988
  • Miles Davis – “So What”, Kind of Blue
  • Keith Jarrett Trio – “The Song Is You”, My Foolish Heart
  • Robert Glasper – “Rise and Shine”, Canvas
  • Martin Taylor/Tommy Emmanuel – “I Won’t Last a Day Without You”, The Colonel and the Governor

Let’s face it, nothing beats a great vocal.  The human voice is an unparalleled instrument that can convey emotion of which no other instrument is capable.  The best examples will be anyone with a clear, defined voice that sits above the instrumentation in recordings with little reverb applied to the vocal track.

  • Alison Krauss & Union Station – “When You Say Nothing At All – Live”, Alison Krauss & Union Station Live
  • Adele“When We Were Young”, 25
  • Joss Stone – “Super Duper Love”, The Soul Sessions
  • Carpenters – “A Song For You”, A Song For You 

Lastly, let’s talk about bass.  Nothing brings out midrange and subwoofer capacity for handling the low end like tracks featuring modern bass.  When testing speakers with these tracks, look for warm, round tones when it comes to R&B, rock, and acoustic recordings, and tight, even sounds with electronic bass and kick drums.

  • Drake – “Controlla”, Views
  • Esperanza Spalding – “The Peacocks”, Junjo
  • Ciara  – “Body Party”, Ciara
  • The Beastie Boys – “Brass Monkey”, Licensed To Ill

For more ideas on tracks to use to test your speakers, check out this Reddit thread from r/audiophile: https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/1wadb4/what_song_do_you_use_to_test_audio_equipment/

Click here to read more about our streaming audio capabilities.

Share This

Related Posts

Ultra Blu-ray Specifications Finalized

Ultra Blu-ray Specifications Finalized

Last month, the Blu-ray Disc Association finalized the specifications on Ultra Blu-ray dis...
Doorbird WiFi Door Station

Doorbird WiFi Door Station

The DoorBird intercom is an incredible all-in-one door statio...
Adera Technologies at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament

Adera Technologies at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament

Hey everyone!  We’re very excited to be exhibiting this year at the 2015 Masters at Spr...

Leave a Comment