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What music would YOU take to demo speakers?

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26 replies to this topic

#1 of 27 OFFLINE   Rodney G

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Posted January 14 2004 - 01:33 AM

Greetings, I'm new. Working on obtaining all of the equipment for my first HT. After lurking here for a few weeks, I decided I need to go audition speakers but have no idea what to take with me. I realize it's a subjective question, but was hoping your answers would help narrow it down for me. Thnx! So far: Epson Powerlite 7700p projector Da-lite High Contrast Da-Mat Tensioned Executive Electrol – 6’ x 8’ Denon 3803 receiver Denon 2900 dvd

#2 of 27 OFFLINE   Rick_Brown


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Posted January 14 2004 - 01:43 AM

You take music that you know intimately and have listened to 100's of times.

#3 of 27 OFFLINE   Dan_Whip



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Posted January 14 2004 - 01:47 AM

Don't let anyone tell you to take a certain CD. You need to take something you yourself are *very* familiar with. If you take music you've never heard before, you won't notice any subtle details a speaker may be missing. On the other hand, with something you are very familiar with, you will be able to pick up on these things, and hopefully hear more detail than you've ever heard before. Keeping that in mind, make sure you take both music and movies with a wide range of sounds. You will want to make sure the highs are not too bright for your taste, the mids are clear, and the bass goes low enough. Since this is for a HT, make sure the dialogue is coming out of the cc cleanly, and the voices sound natural. Hope this helps some

#4 of 27 OFFLINE   Evan M.

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Posted January 14 2004 - 02:51 AM

I agree that you should take music that you are familiar with but bring as wide a range as you can. My wife and I listen to rock, jazz, funk, classic....yes a wide range but you want to hear how the speakers handle all of them. We listen to a lot more rock and jazz then classical so we wanted a more up-front speaker. However we did not want it to color the classical music. It is also good to audition music that is vocal heavy so you can really see how smooth the tweeter is. Female voices seem to show off the smoothness very well. I also like to bring samples with a lot of hi-hat and bass....such as jazz so I can see how dynamic the speakers are. So if your musical tastes go in ranges of different types of music bring examples of all. If it is mainly in one area then bring as many different examples as possible. Good luck.

#5 of 27 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 14 2004 - 03:07 AM

Make sure that you take some movies (as Dan has already suggested) as well as music. This is because HT has at least one challenge not presented in music: distinguishing dialogue, especially when there is a lot of action. I see a reasonable number of posts where people mention that they need to turn the volume up and down in order to hear dialogue. With good speakers that are properly calibrated, this should not be necessary. Try this: get the system so that dialogue at normal speaking levels sounds normal (or as it would in a theatre). Then make sure that you can distinguish whispers and can make out what people are saying during car chases, explosions, etc. If you can’t, likely the speakers are not properly calibrated or the center speaker is not up to the job. As with music, take movies that allow for this wide range of sound, and ones with which you are quite familiar. Good luck with your choice and have fun.
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#6 of 27 OFFLINE   Manuel Delaflor

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Posted January 14 2004 - 03:14 AM

Use CDs with acoustical instruments, if you listen to classical something like Prokofiev and a big orchestra, some choral music, a small ensemble, a trio, a piano solo. You will seek then a huge soundstage for the complete orchestra, deep authoritative bass for the double bass and the percussions, ability to listen individual instruments and distinguish when there are several playing (eg violins). With choral music you will find how the voice sounds, is it nasal? is it harsh? A small ensemble should give you a smaller soundstage, you will need to be able to listen for the position of the different instrument voices, the "cellos begin here and end here". With a trio you should find a smaller presentation, and every instrument should have the particular texture and detail. Finally, the Piano solo is a very difficult instrument to reproduce, it is percussive (you need fast attack and decay in the speakers) and at the same time it can sustain the notes, leaving them in the air. You should be able to point directly to the piano as if it were right in the stage. Of course, your mileage will vary, because recordings are FAR from perfect, you would need to select them before.
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#7 of 27 OFFLINE   Doug Otte

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Posted January 14 2004 - 07:12 AM

This probably sounds silly. I put an audition CD case together a few weeks ago, but haven't had time yet to even go to the store to start auditioning! Anyway, I tried to select the broadest range of music, BUT CDs I'M VERY FAMILIAR WITH: solo piano - Coda by Sakamoto orchestra - Beethoven's 5th by Kleiber/Vienna electronic - Underwater Sunlight & Dream Mixes 1 by Tangerine Dream female voice - Hounds of Love by Kate Bush male voice - Secrets from the Beehive by David Sylvian dance rock - Republic by New Order There are a few more I can't remember at the moment, but you can see there's a wide variety. Lew, I'm glad you suggested voice, because that is very important. My current JBL N-Center is very poor in that regard. Cheers, Doug

#8 of 27 OFFLINE   Justin_D


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Posted January 14 2004 - 07:47 AM

I find Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head to be a good demo for both vocals and piano. I know its not all I would bring, but its a start.

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Posted January 14 2004 - 07:53 AM

Usually I bring a selection of different stuff. I usually bring the following: Pines of Rome: Reference Recording Eric Dolphy "Out to Lunch" Neil Young "Harvest" DVD-A Norah Jones SACD for movies I bring: Attach of the clones Fight Club (some serious low bass) Seven (awesome ambience effects)

#10 of 27 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted January 14 2004 - 07:55 AM

Tori Amos - Under the Pink, and now the new Tales of a Librairan which are stunningly good remasters from all of her albums. Patricia Barber - Cafe Blue SACD Good transitions between hard and soft, very well recorded (MoFi). Dave Mathews Band - Crash - well recorded, variety of instruments and a lot of vocals. I also bring a variety of techno/drum & bass because I like to see how a speaker does with a variety of material, and electronic music tends to reveal quite a bit about a speaker to me - how low can it go and how clean is the midrange.
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#11 of 27 OFFLINE   DanielG



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Posted January 14 2004 - 07:59 AM

I agree with a lot of the suggestions above - most particularly that you bring music that you know well! The second most important thing is to bring music that is varied and highlights different parts of the range and both instruments and vocals. I listen to a wide variety of music and more often than not to pop/rock type stuff - however, when I was shopping for speakers and equipment the most instructive music for me in being able to discern difference between equipment and speakers was music that had clarity of voices/instruments - basically music that isn't as cluttered as most rock and pop is. I would always bring the same CDs and go through the same tracks in the same order. Just to give you an example, I brought some Bach organ music (great to focus on bass as well as identify brightness/sharpness in highs), Beethoven symphonies 7 & 8 (good for separation, soundstage and detail because of certain passages with a few instruments and certain ones with the full orchestra), the Sibelius violin concerto (solo violin particularly good when trying to identify "bright" or "harsh" qualities for highs), a Ramsey Lewis jazz piano CD and Dave Brubeck CD (small group jazz again was particularly good to assess soundstage and separation - it was amazing how different equipment/speakers made the piano sound more or less like a live piano), a Sting CD (I liked this for a varied mix of instruments and voicing), Norah Jones CD (particularly good to focus on vocals and mid-range, as well as clarity and detail of instruments) and U2 Achtung Baby (good for rock, but also nice for slower more instrumental songs). I would also make sure that you go to a store that has various separate rooms so that you can close the door and listen at varying volumes. Also, you want to make sure that you go at times when there won't be a problem with you sitting there for 45 minutes or an hour and working through your music. You will be surprised at how much difference you will hear between speakers and how some speakers will be better for certain aspects of the sound but not as good for other aspects. Just take your time and go back to listen as many times as will make you feel comfortable, of course as limited by your patience. I think I made 9-10 store visits and spent maybe 10-12 hours listening and another 15-20 hours researching reviews and online comments regarding speakers.....granted, I was spending on two bookshelf speakers more than I had previously spent combined on five speakers (two floorstanding) and a sub for my current HT so heightened diligence made sense because the amount of money was particularly more material. Good luck! --Dan

#12 of 27 OFFLINE   Andrew O'Brien

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Posted January 14 2004 - 02:27 PM

Mike Oldield Live In Berlin- Millenium Concert -- DVD Cut 11 has a large choir, lush string orchestra, two synthesizers, booming LARGE percussion sections, and heavy electrical guitar ....all in one musical piece. Cut 1, a live version of Tubular Bells, has some very low bass lines that are a good test too.

#13 of 27 OFFLINE   glenn.arsenault


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Posted January 14 2004 - 04:37 PM

I ususally arrange an in home demo and use a variety of music I am familiar with. But, some of the pieces, I use are: Sarah McLachlan, Surfacing, track #7: A multi-track studio recording that shows imaging but also shows the capability of putting up a huge soundstage. Toto, Tambu, track #1: This cut has very deep bass and a lot of attack. Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, tracks 2, 6 & 8: Overall a great recording and one of the first digital recordings to do the format justice. Excellent bass extension and imaging as well as lush vocals. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman (first album), tracks 1, 4, and others: Another great recording, with beautifully miked vocals, clean and simple imaging and excellent bass extension and attack. Billy Idol, Charmed Life, track #3 (Prodigal Son): This track will give any system a workout when it comes to bass extension and attack. Good upfront imaging and crisp sound overall. Lyle Lovett, Joshua Judges Ruth , track 2. Imaging and bass attack. Muddy Waters, Folk Singer, various tracks: a great overall recording Harry James, The King James Version: Recorded, direct to disc in a chapel, imaging and soundstage like you wouldn't believe, there's a big orchestra bound between (and beyond) the speakers, and reaching both way back and slightly in front of them. Mickey Hart, Planet Drum Paul Simon, Graceland There are a few pieces on the Roger Waters, Amused to Death CD that a great for imaging

#14 of 27 OFFLINE   Mike_Skeway


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Posted January 14 2004 - 08:17 PM

I agree, take what you listen to the most and know the best. Auditioning speakers with something you don't or won't listen to will not help much.
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#15 of 27 OFFLINE   DavidLW


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Posted January 15 2004 - 01:10 AM

A few other pointers when auditioning speakers. Listen to the speakers with all tone controls bypassed or in the neutral position. This way you have a reference point for all speakers. Don't let a sale person demo how much bass or highs a speaker have by using the tone controls. Also try to listen to the speakers hooked up to equipment that closely matches what you have. It doesn't do you any good to hear speakers hooked up to Krell amps at the store and then bring them home to have them hooked up to a JVC receiver. And lastly, demo your music first and then your HT stuff. Once your ears get a blast of gunshots, car crashes and explosions they become less effective in hearing minute detail in music.

#16 of 27 OFFLINE   Rodney G

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Posted January 15 2004 - 05:56 AM

Thnx folks! Your answers are awesome. You've given me ideas I would have never thought of on my own. I really appreciate your responses. Now it's time to round up my music and movies and head out. I've got my eye on a couple different speakers. Thnx again.

#17 of 27 OFFLINE   JohnnyG



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Posted January 15 2004 - 06:16 AM

Christina Aguilera's Stripped is a very clean recording if you want to test pop material. The Very Best of Crowded House is also nice and clean with good 'warmth'.

#18 of 27 OFFLINE   Angelo.M



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Posted January 15 2004 - 06:22 AM

I strongly agree that it should be something that you are intimately familiar with. A mix CD of different tracks, as has already been suggested, is a great tool to keep in your pocket on your speaker-shopping trips. For grins, you might want to familiarize yourself with and include the track "Protection" by Massive Attack, featuring Tracey Thorn on vocals. It's well-recorded, dynamic, and her voice is one of the most stunning around. Very useful for demoing.

#19 of 27 OFFLINE   WayneO


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Posted January 15 2004 - 07:28 AM

Dianna Krall - Live In Paris, vocal jazz, is a DVD concert disk that is a great test disk and considered a reference disc for that format by many. But of course, bring what you know and listen to every day, thats what matters.
If the best advice is "listen for yourself", then why offer your opinion?

#20 of 27 OFFLINE   Joe Mihok

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Posted January 15 2004 - 07:56 AM

I couldn't disagree more. While I love to listen to the CD almost every day, I can't help but notice how colorized her voice is. It's very noticable on my Paradigm Monitor 7's. You notice this especially in the song "Beautiful". It sounds like she's singing into a hollow metal tube Posted Image. While the CD is great to listen to, I wouldn't use it to audition speakers. If you want female vocals then I highly suggest Sheryl Crow and Fleetwood Mac. Actually, I highly recommend the 2-Disc "Best of" Fleetwood Mac audio CD. It's got everything from breathtaking acoutics to gorgeous female vocals.

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