Best qobuz records to compare dac upgrades

I would like to upgrade my dac, from a topping 70s to something matching the quality of the rest of the system, likely in the range below 4k. To minimize the impact of interplay between different audio components (ampli, dac, speakers, power,...) I intend to use my headphone ampli and headphones (Aurium and Senn 880, resp), sourced by Qobuz and Auralic Aries2, auditioning different dacs. Comparing different hardware requires recordings of sufficient quality to avoid sort of saturation in how good the final signal could become. Some music i love, and which I would naively use for the comparisons, might fail to enhance the different quality of different dacs, since the recording itself is not good enough to reveal important differences. E.g. I noticed that some releases offered in 24 bits are not particularly better than their standard, lower rate, editions. I wonder whether you have good suggestions for tracks that in your experience  are particularly valuable in such an exercise. I mostly listen to jazz, classical and opera, but I am very open to all good music, and anyway this is sort of a technical test, so any good suggestion is welcome!


Hi there as you say you are interested in classical music may I give you a couple of suggestions. My first is a new recording of Mozart's Wind Music on Deutsche Gramophone by the Blaserphilharmonie. Very open and detailed and a superb spread of instruments which lets you hear the different segments of the ensemble with perfect clarity. The second recommendation is more general in that I would suggest nearly any recording in the BIS catalogue as their recordings are beautifully recorded by artists of the highest calibre and I think would be ideal for you.

I would recommend any of the Beethoven symphonies on the new Jordi Savall recordings.  Besides the fabulous sound, you'll love the performances.

An old testing favorite is the Varese et al percussion music on Nonesuch.

How are you going to adjust for loudness differences between them? <1dB may be audible

I wouldn’t use headphones to assess a DAC’s overall performance as they’re not capable of fully presenting things like 3D imaging and the size of the soundstage.  Patricia Barber’s Companion is a good recording to suss out fine details between DACs. 

Thanks all for the prompt and useful feedback, including the reservations by soix and fstein,highlighting aspects I clearly overlooked! I was not aware of those recordings suggested by jim and mel, these by themselves made my post worthwhile music-wise....

+1 @soix don’t use headphones to evaluate DACs unless it’s a head-fi rig only. You won’t be able to perceive differences in soundstage, imaging or the overall synergy with the rest of your system.

As far as recordings go for the evaluation, I’ll throw in a few tracks:

Diana Krall - Sway

Leonard Cohen - By The River’s Dark

Patricia Barber - Black Magic Woman

Hilary Hahn - Sibelius (first mvt)

Copland - Fanfare For The Common Man (Eiji Oue)

Helen Grimaud - The Messanger (Fantasia in D Minor)

Rodion Schedrin: Carmen Suits (Scene Allegro Moderato)

Check out Geminiani Concrti Grossi. Academy of ancient music. Harmonia  Mundi. 



Brahms Ein deutches Requiem, op 45, live, Cappella Amsterdam

the first two are on Qobuz, not sure about the third but it’s worth some searching among the many recordings of this masterpiece. Tidal has it


Ramirez: Kyrie (Vidala-Baguala) (Album Version)

this one will sound good on anything but improve as the system gets better. The others are harder to reproduce

Blake Mills “Heigh Ho” album.  Unbelievably well-recorded, mastered, etc.  and the bass is a great test for lots of things.  

I'm not a jazz fan, but I do recognise that jazz recordings are generally brilliantly engineered with only a handful of acoustic instruments.

In particular, Gershwin's World by Herbie Hancock (24-192) is spectacular, both for vocals and instruments.  The piano is the best I've experienced and will test the leading edges and dynamics of your mid-range like no other.  

For bass slam, the new Perfume Genius album, Ugly Season (24-96), is quite something.  It is also a little bright, so will expose a bright system ruthlessly.  Try the tracks Pop Song, and for an immersive experience the stupendous Eye in the Wall.

For well recorded vocal:  Always This Way by Laura Marling.

Thanks all for the fantastic suggestions. I truly appreciate the variety of inputs, which, beyond being helpful for my assessment, introduced me to authors or records I didn't know before!

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