Testing Loudspeakers: What Are Your Go-To Songs?

What songs do you listen to when you're testing loudspeakers?What songs do you listen to when you're testing loudspeakers?

One of the best parts about the holiday rush of speaker orders is reading the feedback on our message boards, Facebook page, Twitter Account or emails from new owners. The descriptions are sometimes an echo of exactly what we've felt but never been able to articulate.

When Message Board Member SocketMan got his M80s installed, he made a great post entitled "My Condolences", and posted "I have to say i truly feel bad for anyone who has not had the opportunity to hear the M80's. I have only listened a little bit,but i can say i have never heard Pink Floyd , the wall like this before. Dont even get me started on metallica,im hearing things i didn't know where there."

M80 Floorstanding Speakers

His talk of the first songs he listened to made me curious: what songs do you immediately use when testing loudspeakers?

At Axiom, it's hard to drop in for even a minute without being plopped down in the listening room and being handed a switching box and a clipboard. I always go for what I know: a little Holly Cole with beautiful high notes and the satisfying thwang of a stand-up double bass in "I Can See Clearly Now", some Bob Seger with soaring nostalgic notes, and if I've had notice that I'm going to be listening, the soundtrack for Master and Commander featuring Yo-Yo Man's incredible cello playing.

When Alan Lofft tests loudspeakers, he also starts with Holly Cole:

"I usually start with the Holly Cole CD in the listening room, Don't Smoke in Bed, and use "I Can See Clearly Now" and "Every Day Seems Like a Holiday" tracks.

Then I switch to a big orchestra/choral work, "Sea Symphony" by Vaughan Williams, a great test of choral and orchestral detail and spatial presentation.

I follow up with a one or two tracks of Harry Connick Jr trio, soundtrack of When Harry Met Sally, "Love is Here to Stay" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". Great neutral male vocal and jazz trio recording.

Sometimes I play Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, "Ride Across the River", an excellent rock recording with very deep bass."

For Brent Tombari, testing loudspeakers means cueing up "Ascent/Also Sprach Zarathustra" from Time Warp- Cincinnati Pops Orchestra; "The Panther from The Well" - Jennifer Warnes, and "Cha Cha Loco" from Focal 3 - Joe Jackson.

And for engineer Andrew Welker, it's "Hello City" from Barenaked Ladies’ Gordon, "Don’t Let the Teardrops Rust your Shining Heart" from Holly Cole’s Don’t Smoke in Bed and "Isn’t It a Little Late?" from Eleanor McEvoy’s Yola.

What are your go-to tracks when you're testing loudspeakers? Any surprise notes in a song you'd listened to hundreds of times before?

Amie Colquhoun

8 Comment(s)
  • Ron B

    Zepplin's Whole Lotta' Love...Emotiva Amp & M80Ti's....WOW!
  • Raynald Goulet

    All Pink Floyd's albums are excellent choices to test loudspeakers, particularly Atom Heart Mother and Dark Side of the Moon.
  • CV

    Emily Wells - "Symphony 5 Was a Surprise"
    Rodrigo y Gabriela - "Foc" (live version from Live in Japan)
    Regina Spektor - "My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year)"
    Louis Prima - "Sing, Sing, Sing"
    Janelle Monáe - "Sincerely, Jane"
    Matt and Kim - "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare"
    Rasputina - "Infidel Instrumental Demo"
  • Brian Lochen

    Tom Petty - "Wildflowers"
  • J. B.

    The first piece of music that i always use to check speakers (and every thing else) is Telarc's Carmina Burana with Robert Shaw cond. Atlanta Symphony Orch. and Chorus.
    The sound stage on this recording is exceedingly wide and deep, the dynamic range is very large and there are some very low and very high frequencies in it.

    Another one i use is the MSO's recording of Ravel's Bolero, Dutoît conducting. The recording is crystal clear right from the very soft start to the stunning end which hits you like a freight train.

    Pink Floyd's The Wall is also an excellent recording to use for this.

    Aside from bass heavy movies, a very good CD to have is "Roots!! African Drums" from Denon. The recording was made in Japan on what seems to be a small to medium size stage with a wooden floor. There are a variety of drums used, and in one number, the musicians jump up and down on the floor, which makes your own wooden floor move in sympathy.
  • Tom Mitchell (exlabdriver)

    Eric Clapton CLAPTON (2010 Reprise 2-525325). This album is superbly recorded with no compression evident. Strong bass & wonderful mids & highs with a variety of blues & jazzy classics encompassing many different electric & acoustic instruments. I never tire of Eric's work here & it nicely covers everything that I like to listen to. This CD highlights to me how good my vintage AX2s & Velo Sub still sound when compared to the latest fare in the local big box stores....
  • obsi

    Telarcs's The Great Fantasy Adventure Album and Time Warp usually strethes every system's legs. Then I move on to DMP's The Thom Rotella Band, and Chesky's Kenny Rankin Because Of You.
  • JC


    Here is what I liked to listen to for evaluation . . .

    Madeleine Peyroux - Dreamland - (HDCD) - Atlantic CD82946
    Norah Jones - Come Away with Me - EMI
    Testament of Freedom - HDCD Sampler - Reference Recordings - RR-S3CD
    Angele Dubeau - The Must - Analekta - ANS-2
    The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out - Columbia CK40585
    Flim & The BB'S - Tricycle - DMP - Gold 9000 - 20 Bit - 24 Karat Gold Remastered

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