What is your favorite track to test on?


Standard Member
Hey y'all. when you set up a new system, or are out shopping for parts, what are your favorite tracks to play?
I usually play some classical,
then something with a broad range of sounds, (He Mele No Lilo from lilo and stitch is pretty good.)
Then some of my favorite jam bands. the dead or allman brothers.


Distinguished Member
Ian Anderson , Divinities , first track , In a Stone Circle.

I bring a lot of music , but if this track does not sound good , no money will change hands. The highs and lows of this track tell me all I need to know about a system.


Zero7 - Simple Things - End Theme. Can either sound a mess or be beautifully defined depending on what your playing it.

phil t

Well-known Member
I don’t have just one test track, but Born Slippy - Underworld usually makes an appearance at auditions.



Standard Member
All of those are really fantastic tracks. Spent the afternoon listening to them... I just wish my receiver wasn't messed up. I will find out how much the cost of repair is in the next few days... <fingers crossed.>


Distinguished Member
Actually, I just discovered Santana - Forever Gold - Live, an excellent master with very detailed and distinct instruments, and also a wide and complex range of instruments.

Keep in mind that what you want as a test or audition track is very different than your favorite CD. Certainly you have a high degree of familiarity with your favorite music. But, I think you need music that makes evaluating the equipment easier. The instruments on the Santana CD are very distinct and separate from each other, and that makes it very easy to shift your focus from instrument to instrument. You can focus on the bass, the sizzle of the cymbals, the crispness of the drum beats, the purity of the guitars, etc....

This album is primarily instrumental, so if vocals are important to you, the a good vocal track is necessary.

Personally, I find female vocalist the hardest to reproduce effectively. If your speakers can do that, then they are very good indeed.



Active Member
Eye In The Sky - Alan Parsons Project - any track on the album. Sublime production on this album. Nothing's over-emphasized and every instrument has it's place. Utterly superb and my favourite album.

Tigerlily - Natalie Merchant - again, any track but in particular My Beloved Wife. The vocal on this track is stunning. Listen for Natalie's voice breaking up towards the end. On poor systems it's not audible at all. But it's there.

Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean - Monkeys Uptown. The complexity of the mix is good for judging the resolution of the system.


Distinguished Member
I've often used Pat Metheny's Beyond the Missouri Sky.

Superb recording,but also some very deep bass transients that tax many amps and speakers.

Ian Dudley

Active Member
Nine Inch Nails - Closer . Trent produces his music to a high standard, so there is detail in there to be found on a good system. Two particular parts I listen out for. In the intro the bassline is a very deep and powerful crunching noise, but if you listen carefully there is a delicate melody playing behind it. On a poor quality system this is pretty much inaudible, but as your system quality improves, and in particular it's abbility to service the mid and high while still pumping out bass, this melody comes up in the mix to the point where it's almost more prominent than the bassline. Really good way to hear how agile the system is. Later on in the middle of the song there is an instrumental break with the same crunching bass overlaid with loud guitar sounds and synth. But again, if you listen carefully there is a quieter track going on in the background. In this case it's spoken vocals played at a lower level, almost like a whisper behind the music. As with the intro, on a poor quality system you won't hear this at all as the grinding bass absorbs all the power, but as your system gets better the vocals become clearer and clearer. You need a pretty good system to be able to make out what he's actually saying, but when a system can do it you hear it so clearly its hard to understand how you could have missed it before. I love using this track for testing as these two parts make it really easy to empirically assess the clarity of a system by whether you can hear the background tracks or not.

The other track I frequently use is Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The opening sequence is quite quiet and with a good system you can hear his fingers moving on the strings and body of his guitar, good way to assess detail. Then later on you have the whole band playing loudly with a chior behind them, so there is lots going on at fairly high volume to test the range.

I've also occationally used some stuff by Rob Zombie on his solo album Hellbilly Deluxe. e.g. Superbeast or Dragula (original version on the album, not the compressed one on the Matrix soundtrack which sounds flat). Might seem an odd choice, but like Trent he produces his music to a migh standard, so as the system improves you can hear more and more going on in the track. As with closer, there is huge powerful bass being fired out here, with lots of other stuff going on in the background. A system lacking in power will run out of oomph pushing out the bass and lose all the detail of the other sounds. First time I auditioned an active sub system I used this and it was like listening to a new song!


Novice Member
I've often used Pat Metheny's Beyond the Missouri Sky.

Superb recording,but also some very deep bass transients that tax many amps and speakers.

Not heard that track, but I also use a Pat Metheny recording - Are You Going With Me? from the album Offramp.


Standard Member
I use a range of tracks, usually starting with something like Paramore: hallelujah so I can rule out muddyness which is my most hated characteristic. Then a good recording of Schubert: Death and the maiden because there's so much texture in a string quartet and I like a system that can put me in the room with them. Piano and vocal stuff comes next, to catch out overly clinical systems that might have otherwise done well in the last two tracks, there's a ton of examples - Leona Lewis: Run is an easy choice though it generally sounds good on a lot of systems so perhaps something else would be better. Then some all rounder stuff like Britten: War requiem in particular the sanctus, which tests high ends, lows, solo and ensembl vocals and goes right from gentle bell to full orchestra and chorus at full volume, Evanesence which is kind of heavy metal + vocal, and if I'm feeling bored some dance stuff from David Guetta perhaps, though again I find that kind of thing sounds good on most systems so it's not much of a differentiator (within the kind of setups I'm looking at/within budget!).

As the wiser ones have no doubt already said, different people have different priorities. For me testing is mainly about ruling out characteristics that I don't like. Once I've done that I can sit back and enjoy back to back comparisons of my type of music to find which I enjoy more.

Case in point (though this may result in me no longer being taken seriously on these forums) I've just bought an Arcam rCube. Perhaps I should have auditioned more stereo hi-fi's + bookshelf speakers, but there wasn't a lot of availability and the main competition from the local specialists recommendations ended up being a Zepplin Air. Perhaps judging me on my appearance rather than track list he was pretty adamant the Air would be the best one for my requirements. But it murdered the bass, and not in a good way, for the paramore. All very cinematic maybe, but not to my liking. Some other tracks came out well, but the rCube was just so much nicer on the driving tracks, and had great texture for the string quartet. Ah-ha, I thought - it'll be too clinical for the vocals and piano.. but it wasn't.. (that surprised me the most actually - I did an actual double take). The big stuff and dance stuff revealed a weakness in low-end presence though (not surprisingly).

Having detailed the feedback to the assistant the honest answer was that I wasn't going to find a system that matched my preferences until I possibly tripled my budget. So as with everything in life, it's a compromise, and the test tracks helped me compromise in the way that maximised my enjoyment. Which is quite likely to be different from someone else's enjoyment - I know some people who are more likely to go 'wow' when they hear something like the Air pump out some loud bass than they are hearing the texture of a string quartet. But that's their loss ;)


Standard Member
Zero7 - Simple Things - End Theme. Can either sound a mess or be beautifully defined depending on what your playing it.

Holy smokes.... I had this streaming, mind you so obvious problems with that, and it was one of the most audibally stimulating tracks I have ever heard. Thank you for the recomendation! I can't wait for it to come into rotation again. If they have a SACD/DVD-A I may have to buy it!


Distinguished Member
I use this one just to see the expression on the guys face in the hifi store after he has set up the 8 boxes of Naim.
I get them to stay after hours so the room is silent, then turn the lights down and I hit play....

Timmy Mallet - Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

A classic!! :)


Well-known Member
As mentioned before Santana the double album Viva Santana it includes tracks from Woodstock thsy are live and I think they are very difficult to reproduce a solid sound on the other hand with it being a compilatin of his hits upto 1988 listen to track 11 on the first disc another live cut I love it and it will test your system.Another good album is Roots by Gregg rolie ex keyboard player lead vocals Santana and Journey ( before Steve Parry ) this will also test your system he goes back to his Santana roots


Standard Member
Miles Davis - Flamenco Sketches. Not a demanding track by any means but a good bench mark for me. I particularly listen out for John Coltrane's solo.

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