best songs to discern a good system

I have been building an arsenal of music to test certain aspects of speakers for some time. Below is a list of what I use and why. I am interested to find out what others use and what they listen for in each selection.

Jennifer Warnes "Way down deep" off the cd "the Hunter". This is a great song and the lower bass is an african drum that is actually squeezed in order to get a unique sound. It is very tough for a subwoofer (the one note only kind) to reproduce this.

Vital Tech tones "VTT" this is a fantastic example of musical bass not just earth shattering low notes. Victor Wooten plays amazingly, even though this track is just to introduce the band it is one of my favorites.

Nine Inch Nails "into the void" I have heard this sound incredibly convincing on a pair of revel ultima studios. I use this track once I have found a system that has great imaging and soundstaging to test to make sure the kick drum sounds like a skin being struck and not a speaker.

Greg Brown "who killed **** Robin" great male vocals. The breathieness of the track is very lifelike on the correct system.

Diana Krall "Frim Fram Sauce" I use this track to see how liquid the system is. To determine if the instruments sound smooth and fluid from top to bottom.

Patricia Barber "Touch of trash" Mobile fidelity original master version. This is a great track to here image and sound stage of a small band and vocals.

The Eagles "Hotel California" from the JVC XRCD reissue. Great guitar to test the smoothness of the midrange.

The Sheffield Lab Drum and track Disc (JVC XRCD2 reissue). I try not to listen to test tracks even when auditioning new speakers, but tracks 1 and 2 speak volumes to how a good system can recreate a drum kit in your room.

Please let me know what you use. Thanks.
I use 3 cds when I evaluate a system:

1. Eva Cassidy "American Tune": I use this to test midrange and texture

2. Bliss "Quiet Letters": the first track to test for bass response

3. Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd "Jazz Samba": second track to test highs.
The Greg Brown track is track 3 on "Honey in the Lions head". Even if your not a fan of Greg Brown you should definetly check that track out. On the right system it is "spooky real" how his sonorous voice resonates as if he is in the room right next to you.
fish, welcome to the 'gon. If you're wondering why you're not getting the feedback you desire, it's because there are oodles, and oodles of this in the archives. Been there done that so many times, it hurts. You'll find tons of listening references to help you out. YOu got some good ones there, but there as so many more your ears will ring. Happy listening...peace, warren:),

I checked your list and agree with your selection (apart from D Krall) is what you might add;

Dave Grusin Homage to Duke (the entire album is filled with great music and great test tracks)

Rebecca Pidgeon, The Raven, "Spanish Harlem", useful to check out room acoustics in the bass...bass notes should be nice and even and none should disappear due to suck out.
There are three reference discs for me:

for piano, Billy Taylor's "Ten Fingers One Voice", a superb, bare piano solo that includes both soft resonant tones and fast paced runs of the keyboard

for voice, Joni Mitchell's "Blue"

and for ensemble music, the second movement of COltrane's "A Love Supreme", "Acknowledgement."
Just ordered "Honey In the Lion's Head" from That one isn't listed on the Red House Records sight. Thanks for the info.
The Billy Taylor is a good selection. I haven't heard of him before. I have been thinking about adding more piano to my aresonal. Someone was telling me a story about how they were at a big audio convention and they listened to some of the best speakers in the world. They went back to their rooms and then came back down to meet in the lobby. When the elevator door opened there was a live piano playing and everyone knew at an instant that it was a paiano and not a recording played through speakers. Regardless of how good the speakers are they typically loose some of the timber of a piano. With this story in mind, I was visiting in Montreal and went to a high end store where they sell Rockport speakers. They set up a demo for me and when they were tweaking the system beforeI entered the room I could already tell it would be hard to guess if it was a real piano in the next room or a recording. So far those are the only speakers I can say that about. I think this disk will be a great addition to the repritoir. Thanks for the post.
I guess I ought to answer the question as you've been so gracious.
For male vocal I like the "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack. Johnny Cash, Tom Waits and Steve Earle are few of the contributors with distinctively different vocal attributes.
For female vocals Jane Siberry -- "When I Was a Boy" has a track in which Siberry shares vocal with kd lang. When a system demonstrates a distinct space between the two singers, (a rarity) then I figure things are right. There's another track on this cd with Holly Cole singing a couple of lines. I think it was a pair of Meadowlark Audio Shearwater hot rods I had that sent me to the liner notes to verify the singer.
An old stand by is "Joshua Judges Ruth" by Lyle Lovett. This is good for bass reproduction. It's a well recorded cd all around.

Thanks for the response. I will check into these tracks to see if I can hear what you describe. Let me know how you like the Greg Brown track.
The short answer is you need to listen to recordings that have very little to no added reverb or prossesing added. You need to listen to a variety of music that uses the entire range of ALL instruments, from their lowest notes to their highest. You especially want music that covers the frequencies of the crossover points of the speakers your auditioning, to hear how phase related distortions change the sound of the instruments. It's a good idea to know what these instruments sound like live before you begin auditioning speakers. A trip to your local music store or attending un-amplified live shows will help there. Many audiophiles are somewhat suprised to hear the power and dynamic's of live instruments, even a flute can be powerfull. It's also VERY helpfull to know what recording engineers do to the music once it's recorded. While the best engineers would never reveal all the trade secrets, reading a magazine like "Tape-Op" or "Mix" will help. Buying a speaker based upon your preferences in sound may prove satisfactory short term, but in the long run, you'll likely be unsatisfied, unless of course your preference of sound is based upon years of hearing the sound of live, anamplified instruments. Good luck
Hey Fish, I've listened to "Honey in the Lion's Head" twice now. You sold me on the "Who Killed Cock Robin?" track. The sonics are terrific on this, thanks.
If you don't own it, his "Covenant" cd is a good one also. I first heard him on a Red House Records compilation disc titled "A Nod To Bob." This HDCD disc, featuring the label's artists performing Dylan songs in a tribute to Bob's 60th birthday, is one of my favorites.

Glad to hear you liked it.
I just listened to "a nod to Bob" samples on Amazon. Sounds like they have some great artists on that one!
What I've done is to use Audacity (free software) to cut specific excerpts from my favorite tracks, and create my own 15 min CD for auditioning speakers/components.

Besides the usual music, other recommended tracks include the Phase Check and LEDR Test tracks from the Chesky Audiophile Test CD Vol. 1

As mentioned elsewhere, the most important thing is listening to tracks/excerpts that you know VERY WELL.
I received a speaker set up disc with a copy of Ballad of a Runaway Horse by Emmylou Harris from a local shop. Truly an amazing recording.