Which track sounds best on your speakers?

P5 and 800 Diamond series reports from CES 2010

So, you’ve bought your brand new speakers – be it our award-laden Zeppelin ipod system, the equally heavily awarded 685s or a gleaming pair of 802 Diamond – and you’re lining up your favourite music to test them on.

We want to know what you’ve found sounds the best. Which stand-out  track would you play when your friends come round and you want to really show them off, or perhaps justify why you bought them to your partner.

It might be that you hear something new in an old favourite that you’d never heard before or that suddenly it sounds as if Keith Richards is playing in front of you.

The Daily Growl from Lambchop’s Is A Woman sounds brilliant on my 684’s – there is a beautiful depth and warmth and a really immediate live feel that always makes people ask who the artist is.

We’d love to hear from you on what makes your speakers sing.


  • Jaime says:

    Only one track I ALWAYS use to test speakers…..

    HEY NINETEEN by Steely Dan – Album: Gaucho

  • Ken says:

    I always like to play various John Mayer tracks on my Arcam FMJ & b&w 804s setup.

  • Henry wotton says:

    Pink Martini: never on Sunday incredible clarity on very low bass feqs
    Azymuth: Dear Limerz….. Oh my God!

  • John 804 says:

    On my 804s

    – Bob Dylan: The Man in the Long Black Coat
    – Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms
    – Radiohead: Exit (Music for a Film)
    – U2: With or Without You
    – …

  • Joe Lubow says:

    The question perpetuates two misperceptions. First “What song sounds best on your speakers” implies that the sound of your rig is primarily only – or only, even – on speakers. Second, it implies that certain speakers will sound better for certain kinds of music – maybe you have speakers that do jazz well, or classical. Or they shine on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” but can’t do the same job with Miles Davis. These are both spurious propositions.

    I realize B&W is a speaker manufacturer (and one of the best), and that the sound of any audio rig emanates directly from the speakers. I love my (Linn Ninka) speakers, but the folks who made them would be the first to tell you “garbage in, garbage out.” The sound that comes out of them is dependent, in decreasing order, on the quality of the performance, recording, player (turntabe, disc player, iPod, etc.), preamp, amp(s), and lastly the speakers. “What song sounds best on your hi-fi?” is a far more appropriate question.

    Except that it’s not. Because if you have a good hi-fi, the answer is “every beautifully performed and recorded song.” In my collection of audiophile vinyl, 24-bit digital files, and a few well made CD-s, there are lots of amazing sounding pieces of music. (I have lot’s of bad CD’s and scratchy records too).

    A lot of the ECM records – in particular I like Steve Tibbetts – are beautifully made. Most of the stuff put out by Classic Records – whether Coltrane or Peter Gabriel or Stravinsky – are beautifully made. Likewise for Speaker’s Corner, MoFi, Simply Vinyl, and anything pressed at RTI. There isn’t one song. There are all the best recorded and most moving songs and musical pieces in my collection.

    The songs that people pick to answer this question are simply the songs they love the most, that were recorded well. And I figure if people who love music love these songs, there must be something to them. So the question, while silly in a way, does lead to an interesting list of “songs that are well recorded and that people who love music really like.” And that is worthwhile.

    So while the entire “Fine and Mellow” album by Ella Fitzgerald is incredibly performed and recorded, the title track is my favorite, so it “sounds the best” to me on my speakers. But I doubt if I bought different speakers I’d pick a different track. The same goes for, say, Richard Thompson’s “Front Parlor Ballads.” The whole thing is a masterful powerhouse of immense emotional impact, but my favorite song is the haunting “My Soul, My Soul.” I just chose a couple of records that were sitting out at the moment, but I could do the same for hundreds of marvelous recordings. And I don’t see how to choose one. There is no way to compare Ella Fitzgerald and Richard Thompson, anymore than I could choose between Chopin and David Byrne or Coltrane and Dylan.

    All I know is I am thankful to have been born into a time when civilization has advanced to the point where so many remarkable artists are able to not only create such magnificent and moving performances, but to record them in a way that I can experience them whenever I want.

  • Joe Lubow says:

    I regret the typo in the second sentence above. It should read:

    First “What song sounds best on your speakers” implies that the sound of your rig is dependent primarily – or even only – on speakers.

  • Barry says:

    My Top 5 DVD’s include:

    Alison Krause & Union Station “Live”
    Leonard Cohen “Live in London”
    Roger Waters “The Wall, Live in Berlin”
    Bryan Ferry “Dylanesque Live”
    Roy Orbison “Black & White”

    Actually can’t think of any album that is decently produced that doesn’t play well on B & W speakers.

  • Barry says:

    Make it Top 6

    I have to add: Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Revisited”

  • Stuart says:

    This is for Jonziebal.
    You are not on your own, the 802 diamond series 2 are in short supply in Canada too, I placed an order for a pair in rosenut only to be told there is a 3 month delivery. On the bright side I did manage to get a pair of 805 diamonds which I use for surrounds

  • Joe says:

    I’m a bit obsessed with Florence and The Machine’s new album, Lungs. An absolutely stunning production, and a stunning speaker system to play it on.

    One of my favourites for testing speakers, is Robbie Williams, You Know Me.

    Of course, it’s always in ALAC (FLAC)

  • WANGJUNBO says:

    i need the photograph of the drive unit of the CT 8.4 LCRS and CT 7.0 LCRS Speakers .

    Thank you!

  • Stuart says:

    I have been a B&W man for over 40 years. Over the past 3 years I been upgrading my home theatre and audio system, this year was time to replace my 703s there is nothing wrong with them and have given exellent performance over the years but I wanted some thing to compliment my new Krell equipment the 505 SACD player, S1200 processor and S1500 7 channel amp. I have listened to the 800 series speakers many times since they were introduced and could never on with them so at the start of 2010 it looked as though I was going to have to defect to another manufactorer. In March I got a phone call from my audio store to say they have a pair of 802D series2 on demonstration and would I like to audition them so armed with a hand full of SACDs and an open mind I went to the store. They looked the same , using the same size speakers so how could they sound any different to the earlier models?
    It was’nt many minutes into the session that I realised just how wrong I could be , they were far more open across the frequency range than the previous models better sound staging and equally as good as speakers at a much higher price in short I was sold. I placed an order only to be told there would be a 3 month wait as it tuned out it was nearer to 4 months they finally arrived on 6 August 2010.
    Now to my play list all the following are SACDs
    Jacques Loussier plays Bach Pastorale in C minor
    Yo-Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone The mission and Lady caliph
    Marin Marais Bells of St. Genevieve.
    Deve Brubeck Take five
    Steely Dan Gaucho

  • Tony says:

    Supertramp – No inbetween

  • Benny says:

    Ben Webster Meets Gerry Mullighan. 1959.
    Fantastic recording.
    Nautilus 803

  • DaveC says:

    What an incredible list to help make a Friday or Saturday evening listening session all the more exciting. Rather than my own “go to” favs, I get to now try some of the many great recordings listed here.

    I’ll toss in mine. Yes, I agree female vocal will win over people every time, and Fields of Gold is one incredible piece to impress with. But… my all time go-to fav for sound* is Rickie Lee Jones’ album “It’s Like This”, specifically Steely Dan track “Show Biz Kids”.

    And for fun, who can hate tossing on a “45” (okay, modern 12″ version ) of Louis Armstrong doing I Ain’t Got Nobody (on the flip side of St. James Infirmary, another sonic knock out).

    And lastly, lest I forget the CD crowd, I always go to Ana Caram’s “Solidao, off Chesky’s “Best of Chesky Jazz & More Audiophile Tests, Vol. 2”. I even had the rep from YG Acoustics ask to borrow the CD from me at one of the Rocky Mountain Audio Festival shows to better show off his gear.

    Can’t wait to start pouring through the many fab suggestions given in the list. And if the question was out Top 10, I’m sure I’d have a Joan Baez in there, ……..

    * we’re listening on Signature 800s with mostly Levinson ref gear, with Oracle/Basis/Koetsu/Acoustic Research for the analog front-end.

  • Ian says:

    Maybe an unusual choice, but when I played “Paul Van Dyk – Another Way” to a friend through B&W804’s, the friend (manager of a local Sevnoaks store) went out and bought a pair too!

  • Ed says:

    Derek Trucks Band Songlines

    the whole album

  • Phélan Ségur says:

    I always get goose bumps when I hear Cassandra Wilson’s “Fragile” from the album “Glamoured” …

  • gabriel says:

    I have a Nautilus 805, Lin Classik receiver (Pre), Creek 5350 SE (Amp), Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects and Van den Hul CS-122 speaker cable (biware).
    The sound is very good for the total of my music.
    The best:
    Vangelis-Voices (come to me)
    Pink Floyd-Meddle (a pillow of winds and echoes)
    Neil Diamond-Hot August Night (canta libre)
    Depeche Mode-The singles 8698 (enjoy the silence)
    Pink Floyd-The Wall (complete)

  • Ole says:

    Was to a demo on Rega Planar 9 and an Exon 3 which is a mono power amp (required then 2 Exon 3 for stereo listening), and we selected speaker B & W’s New 700 Series Loudspeakers. Vinyl 33 joker Mann, it sounded as though Bob Dyland stood seven meters from us alive am god BW

  • Ole says:

    Can anyone tell me Who makes the best speaker in the U.S., surely there is no better than BW I doubt what with JBL or Jensen

  • Loriaux says:

    What about Pink Floyd’s Echoes?
    Being alone in the living room late in the evening and listening to the Zeppelin is sumply perfect!

  • SM says:

    i have two set-ups, and i find that i enjoy specific types of music depending on which one is being used…

    On my 685s (part of HT package) I enjoy rock music or something with more tempo – Lenny Kravitz (Are You Gonna Go My Way), Kings of Leon (Crawl), U2 (Mysterious Ways)

    On my CDM1 NTs i prefer jazz or acoustic recordings – Miles Davis (Pan Piper, Summertime), Seether (One Cold Night [Live]), Julianna Rayes (Dominoes), John Mayer (Neon/Belief [live]), Ernest Ranglin (Below the Bassline)

  • nella says:

    As I can do the correct choise …everything is so amazing…..

  • Jody says:

    There are many of course, but two that come to mind are:

    Sonic Youth – Hits of Sunshine
    SADE – Flow

    Both are brilliant tracks for testing any audio gear

  • Aramis says:

    Chicago 17 in analog (Vinyl-LP) – every track sounds great because the recording is excellent – and B&W does justice to it!

  • justin says:

    Yanni Live! The Concert Event Bluray !!

  • Nico says:

    After getting my Nautilus 805’s and a Krell for my 50th birthday five years ago, my tastes changed due to the sound quality.

    I now can’t stand all the reverb that goes into most classical recordings, because if the recording is good, like most of the Telarc recordings, it sounds like the instruments are actually there in the living room. I don’t have a cavernous room, so reverb sounds phony now.

    Biggest surprise… Madonna albums are so well recorded that I actually like some of them now. Yeah, I’m shocked too.

  • Yashovardhan Sdohani says:

    when testing my speakers and showing the acoustic quality i don’t prefer bass-tracks at all
    So Electronic , Trance or any other sub genre aren’t of any use.
    I listen to more of Instrumental or live songs to do justice with my setup.
    my favorite track

    Stephane De Lucia – Trippin (a must try for all the audiophiles here )
    Dire Straits – Sultans Of the Swing
    Simon And Garfunkel – Scarborough Fair Canticle
    Pink Floyd – High Hopes

  • Rein says:

    One of the things you tend to do when buying a more expensive set is listening to music that you normally would not. The differences between recording techniques and production styles becomes so more evident on better systems.

    I really don’t like steely dan. I dislike Fagens voice and the music sounds uninspiring to me. But boy does it sound good on my trusty N800’s married to a Krell FPB400. So well produced. That super tight bass response, the energy, the uncolored sound. Hats off.

    Another CD that is in my top five (sound wise): Neck and neck from Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins. Detail beyond comparison.

  • Manjul Saxena says:

    I have an 802D, Krell-450MCX and Esoteric -X03SE combo. I have to say that “Jazz at the Pawn Shop” on CD and “Brotthers in Arms” on SACD are the BEST sound I have heard to date. The sound has redefined my expectations (raised them beyond what I could possibly have imagined). I look forward to the sound of vinyl because I honestly feel that the “clicks and pops” would somehow be “sweeter” coming out of the diamond tweeters.

  • DAVID says:

    Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab: SACD:Doobie Brothers:Toulouse Street:”Cotton Mouth”

  • DAVID says:

    Forgot to mention: B&W 683/Esoteric X-03SE/Audio Quest Cheetah/Pioneer Elite SC-09TX/Transparent Audio MusicWave Super Bi-Wire/Transparent Audio Super power cords.

  • JACK says:

    I have not had the chance to listen to much on my Zeppelin as i have only had it a fortnight but it must be said what i have heard has raised the bar considerably compared to the Technics 7series seperates i own. I have quite a diverse taste in music everything from Dylan and Lennon through to the Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and everything in between, but the likes of Supertramp Dire Straits The Black Keys Mumford & Sons and those mentioned above have all sounded absolutely brilliant blasting through the Zeppelin. But a point worth noting is if you want your music to have the best quality you need to create Apple Lossless versions of all your tracks as this doubles the bit rate and your tracks jump from 320kbps to more like 1000kbps depending on the length of the track and you really notice the difference when you play them through the Zeppelin although tracks at 320kbps still sound awesome.

  • Tom says:

    These are my reference tracks for whenever I am testing speakers or HiFi gear. Sublime on a good system.

    Talk Talk – The Rainbow
    Autechre – Second bad Vilbel
    Wilco – Pot Kettle Black
    The Necks – Piano Bass Drums
    Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass – Offering

  • Tom says:

    I just checked my collection and my reference Autechre track is actually 902 Quarter.

  • Fredric says:

    I don’t know why but the Pink Floyd album Delicate sound of thunder has been with me for many years now and is still a great listening experience.
    The complete live performance never gets old for me, it’s still as fresh today as it was 22 years ago. ;)

  • Randall Stroud says:

    Right now, my favorites are the two Keith Greeninger and Dayan Kai tracks from the Blue Coast Collection, plus a few cuts from their new CD “Make It Rain” which was produced by Cookie Marenco from the Blue Coast album.

  • Callum says:

    Surely it depends on the individual, each have their own preference on what “the perfect sound” is – ignoring particular musical tastes. Also if you have listened to a song a lot then you know its detail that others wouldn’t notice on first or even several listens.
    I think a good set up should be capable of outstanding quality in all genres:

    My usual repertoire is something similar to:

    Light Rock: Dire Straits, Muse
    Heavy Rocky/Metal: Metallica, Guns’n’Roses, Avenged Sevenfold
    Guitar: Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmtseen
    R&B/Rap: Eminem, 50 Cent
    Classical: Canon in D, Air on the G String, Adagio in G Minor, Scott D. Davis (he is pianist who has done covers of rock/metal songs, very good)

    Obviously the appropriate songs for the rock, heavy metal, guitar and r&b/rap genres must be selected, i.e. those I know well and that contain intricate sounds and/or a range of frequency.

  • Christian says:

    There are so many noteworthy tracks, so this is but a small choice:

    Sting: On A Winter’s Night – the whole CD
    Sting: Soul Cages – the whole CD
    Marillion – Ocean Cloud (Marbles (Disc 1))
    Yes – Cinema
    Yes – Dreamtime

    If you are into bass:
    Cultured Pearls – Sentimental Mood
    Marillion – The Invisible Man


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