Tone Audio’s test tracks for speaker evaluation

JD records bw

Part of my day job at TONEAudio Magazine deals with evaluating equipment from numerous manufacturers. The Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamonds happen to be one of my reference tools of choice to get the job done.

Here are some tracks that I always use when “at work” to pass judgement on others speakers. Precious few are audiophile standards, because I feel that a great speaker performs well with any kind of music – not just the stuff they play at hifi shows.

Pink Floyd:  Time (from Dark Side of the Moon)

Sure this has been on the charts since I was in the 9th grade, but rather than going
for the bass grunt via the opening heartbeat, I prefer the myriad layers of alarm clocks
in this track.  A mediocre crossover will muffle the overtones in the alarms, making
them sound brittle.  This track is also rather good to determine if your room is sorted
acoustically.  Listen closely for things bouncing around the room more than they should.

 

Snoop Dogg:  Gin and Juice (from DoggyStyle)

Hip Hop to judge speaker performance?  You bet.  If your speakers have high resolution
and great dispersion, when the fly girls in the background coo, “Oh yeaaaah” they should
be sounding like they are giving you a lap dance.  If they are back in the same plane as
your speakers, something is not quite right.

 

Thomas Dolby:  Pulp Culture (from Aliens Ate My Buick)

The synth bass at the beginning of this track is a little loose to begin with, so crank
it up and see if your speakers pass muster.  The riff should grab you straight in the gut,
with plenty of foundations and overtone without getting too boomy.  Secure the fine
china before getting too crazy with the volume control.  For a similar effect, try
“Moments in Love” from Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise?

 

Audioslave:  Gasoline (from Audioslave)

A somewhat compressed recording, this one is easy to dismiss as a victim of the “loudness wars,” but a highly resolving speaker will unravel the wall of sound present here, revealing the distinct layers between lead singer Chris Cornell’s screams and Tom Morello’s screaming guitar.

 

Tosca:  Me & Yoko Ono (from Delhi 9)

While this is also another great bass record, it has so many layers of texture, with sounds floating all around the soundstage, it should sound like your listening chair is in the middle of a gigantic pair of headphones.  Very trippy.

 

 

 

Johnny Cash:  Delia’s Gone (from American Recordings)

This sparsely recorded track is all midrange.  Forget about Diana Krall in Paris, playing this back on the Diamonds sounds so real, it feels like Cash is right there in the room, fussing over his six shooter, getting ready to kill you – as it should.  This track also works well to fine tune speaker placement.  Go for the biggest, baddest Johnny Cash you can achieve.

 

Lee Morgan:  Riggarmortis (from Tom Cat)

This is bop at its best – and perfect for checking dynamics.  The horns should be in your face, the drums shouldn’t have to work to fight their way through the mix and the piano should hold its own.

 


The Jung Trio:  Allegro ma non Troppo (from Dvorak Trio in F Minor Op.65)   

You didn’t think I just listened to metal and Snoop Dogg, did you?  I find the piano one of the most difficult instruments to get right and the violin even tougher.  When it’s wrong, it’s usually really wrong – i.e. screechy and harsh.  The closer your speakers get to sounding like a real violin the better you are.  Exquisitely recorded.

 

Edgar Winter:  Frankenstein (from They Only Come Out at Night)

Just turn this up as loud as it can go.  You’ll see why this track is awesome.

 

 

Jeff Dorgay, Editor Tone Audio

6 Comments

  • Mark L says:

    Interesting list, I would never have suspected a Snoop Dogg track would be on any reviewers list. Thanks for the tip on the Tosca and Johnny Cash tracks.

  • tommy says:

    Testing as we speak on my Harman/kardon set with B&W p6 x4 (quad sterio )

  • Edwin zwerver says:

    I’m gonna try this list on my set.

    Denon pma 735r
    B&W cdm 7nt
    QED silver xt speakercable

  • Things That Occur In Nature says:

    Nice List! If you are looking for the Lee Morgan track, try the spelling as “Riggarmortes”.

  • JRock says:

    IPad to MOG to Sonos to McIntosh C2300 to two McIntosh MC275′s mono each to B&W 803′s and DB1. Having fun going through each song.

  • Nizar El majdoubi El idrissi says:

    Thank you real good , real bass
    You make me aware how much i’m lucky to have a pair of B&W at home

    salam.

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