Good Bass Recordings on CD for Subwoofer Testing

After reading Vade Forrester's excellent review of the Syzygy SLF870 Subwoofer in The Absolute Sound Issue 275 I've decided to try one.

My Magnepan 1.7i loudspeakers, even with a DWM Bass Panel, have always been a bit bass-shy. The SLF870 seemed like it might be a good addition. Amazon sells them, so I figured if it doesn't integrate well with the Magnepans I can always just return it.

The subwoofer arrives this coming Thursday. In the interim I'd like to find some good CD recordings for tests.

I'm looking for recommendations.

I listen primarily to classic rock and some classical, no jazz or hip-hop or metal though.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Here's my current system configuration:

Magnepan 1.7i Loudspeakers with one DWM Bass Panel
Audio Research SP14 | Audio Research 300.2
Rega Planar 3 w/ RB 330 | Ortofon 2M Blue
Rega Apollo CD | Cambridge CXN Network Player | CXC Transport
Rotel 870 AM/FM Stereo Tuner | Terk FM-50 Powered Antenna
Pioneer RT-1050 Reel-to-Reel | Nakamichi 600



Dafos - Mickey Hart et al.

your system is a bit like mine (3.7i's with an ARC LS25 mkII)

- I'd tell you to call Wendell but I'm sure he'll say it is very hard to integrate our Maggies with cone type subs; get 2 DWMs and move them to the same plane as the speakers, then move all the speakers around and use room tmts.

You may want to investigate the freq. resp. where the maggie setup interfaces with the subs

Please post your results -- 2-5 subs may work better than 1
+1 re Dafos.

Also on Reference Recordings, the Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique."

Also, the "Sheffield Track and Drum Record."

Also, if you can find it at a reasonable price, on Telarc, the Stravinsky "Firebird Suite." It is also available for download here.  Incredible dynamic range, as well as a goodly amount of deep bass content.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Maybe think about which instruments will be in the "speaker crossing over" area and below in the sub area...

for rock music, I'd also look at Stanton Moore's work (mostly as a founding member of Galactic)
 - Stones cuts
 - Cream

Organ: Hammond B3 - but not sure what cuts would be best

Bass Guitar: ??

Your normal musical diet. To hear what a sub will do for that, and for your Maggies, is what you want to access, is it not?
Bela Fleck’s - Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (bass courtesy of Victor Wooten). Title track in particular.

Radar Men From The Moon - Intergalactic Dada & Space Trombones. Track 2 - The Wire.

Tony Levin’s work with Andy Summers (Last Dance of Mr. X) and with Steve Stevens & Terry Bozzio on Black Light Syndrome.

Donald Fagen - Morph The Cat
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Simple minds Street Fighting Years - dark brooding and lots of bass

 Note that Maggie's compress the dynamic range so getting a cone subwoofer to match at all volume levels is likely impossible. If you are looking for something mostly for Rock or large Orchestral then I would examine your choice of speaker first.
Listen to the music you enjoy regularly. You don't want to tweak your system to play someone else's favorite music. You want to tweak it to play your favorite music.......
"Listen to the music you enjoy regularly. You don't want to tweak your system to play someone else's favorite music. You want to tweak it to play your favorite music......."

Check out Robin S Luv 4 Luv - heavy bass on this track - some serious subsonic stuff going on which you can only sense from room compression. Ben Liebrand or Garage Trance mixes are the heaviest versions.
Enya - Watermark
Tracks: Orinoco Flow, Watermark, The Long Ships

The bass frequency in these tracks goes down to around 15 Hz.
Amazing Grace by Bela Fleck (Victor Wooten), actually anything by Bela Fleck, all very well recorded.
The film score to Gladiator, If I can remember the opening track.
I just picked up Bela Fleck’s Cosmic Hippo two hours ago at a thrift store. What are the odds?

Keb' Mo' Slow Down.  Good music with punchy bass drum and low bass guitar notes. 

Saint-Saens Symphony no. 3 (Organ).  The music is great  When the organ bass tones come at you, your hair will stand up on end.

Thanks Randy and others,

The reason I'm trying the Syzygy SLF870 Subwoofer is because it has onboard room equalization. When you set them up initially you just download a free app that Syzygy provides to equalize the subwoofer's frequency response based upon sound samples taken from your actual listening room.

It's then up to you to adjust the output level and crossover frequency, but that should be easy with the Octave RTA app Vade Forrester suggests.

I'm looking to add the missing lower octaves that the Magnepans simply can't reproduce. My experience with the DWM Bass Panel has been that it reinforces the 40-80 Hz. range, but simply can't go any lower. What it does, it does well, but it shares the same limitations as the Magnepans themselves, i.e. nothing much below 40 Hz.

Magnepan says that the DWM is not to be thought of as a subwoofer, but as an improvement to the lower range of their full range panels. Their specs show a lower frequency response essentially the same as their full range panels.

I've had one form or another of Magnepans for over thirty years, and over that same time I've accumulated hundreds of CDs. Unfortunately I wouldn't know what deep bass may be encoded on them that the Magnepans couldn't reveal.

As it turns out, I already have many of the recordings suggested by others here. So I am looking forward to hearing them anew. The Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 is one I didn't have though, so I ordered the Reference Recordings CD from Amazon earlier today.


DSP is the future and those subs should work well - I'd really want at least 2 tho

I agree re the DWMs 

I used to have a long list of test tracks from CDs but can't find it now; will post if I do

Good Luck & Post your results

Good one stringreen. I have three versions of Saint-Saens 3rd Symphony on LP, perhaps they are also available on CD: Marek Janowski on Harmonia Mundi France, Jean Martinon on Angel, and Georges Pretre, also on Angel. It is indeed hair raising music, even without a sub. But with one, you are in a cathedral in France!

There is also a version by Michael Murray on Telarc CD I'm sure I use to possess, but it's gone missing. 

Of course the best 3rd symphony is the one on Mercury by Paul Paray. With ah hem, Marcel Dupre at the organ. The one used in the finale of Babe wasn’t too bad, either, the 4th movement thereof.

I think the 3rd Symphony from the Boston is great as well.  The Telarc is ok, but loaded with digititus (to me).

The Syzygy Acoustics SLF 870 Wireless Subwoofer arrived today. After work this evening I set it up in my system. Installation was straight forward and easily accomplished in under 20 minutes.

Syzygy uses a small wireless transceiver to both configure and send music signals to the subwoofer. You can optionally run an unbalanced RCA interconnect directly from your preamp to the subwoofer instead of connecting wirelessly, but I think the wireless aspect is a real benefit.

The subwoofer is "paired" to the transceiver as you would any Bluetooth device. The signals transmitted and received are proprietary, Bluetooth is simply the transport protocol used.

The only snag I encountered was the Syzygy App's passcode needed to run the calibration tests. This is not covered in the user's manual, nor online at either the Syzygy website or the Apple Store where the software was downloaded from.

 After a several failed attempts I found 0000 (four zeros) did the trick.

The calibration sequence itself is quite simple. Holding my iPad with the microphone facing the subwoofer at a one foot distance a 30 second low frequency sweep is performed and the results recorded.

Then, seated in my normal listening position, the same frequency sweep is run a second time. The software then compares these two sets of data points and computes an equalization curve to accommodate the listening room.

Once the calibration and equalization phase is completed the subwoofer is ready to use.

The Syzygy App provides settings to remotely set the overall volume level, phase and crossover frequency to your liking. These settings along with all equalization data is stored in non-volatile memory in the subwoofer itself.

One of the reasons I wanted to try this particular subwoofer was Vade Forrester's review in TAS. His system also required a fast subwoofer. I own a Sunfire sub, but have never gotten it to work well with Magnepan loudspeakers. Based upon Vade's experience with the Syzygy I thought it might also work for me.

It does. Initial impressions are much more favorable than the Sunfire. The Syzygy adds a foundation to the music without sounding like a separate driver. It blends with the Magnepans and augments the lower octaves that the Maggies are reticent to produce.

It took a bit of tweaking, but the Syzygy App allows you to adjust playback volume and crossover frequency slope while sitting in the sweet spot. This is a really big improvement over having to get up, fiddle with controls and then return to your seat.

I've settled on about 80-90 Hz as the crossover point, and no phase adjustment because the subwoofer fires directly into the room from the same plane the Magnepans are in.

Originally I had asked for suggestions for CD recordings with bass, but I realize now that my entire CD collection has bass, the Maggies just never presented it fully.

So as 'The Dude' in the Big Lebowski would say "That Syzygy really tied the room together."


As Swingreen says, for classical use the Saint-Saens 3rd Symphony.  But not any recording.  The RCA Living Series recording with Munch/Boston Symphony includes very clean and smooth bass, right down to the 16HZ bass notes.   Some organ records may also help, although many don't go that low.

Electronic bass varies all over the place.  There is no "accurate" sound, since this varies with how it is recorded/integrated.  For acoustic bass, a Telarc SACD recording called "SuperBass" features three well known and highly accomplished bassists playing jazz in an unusual arrangement and can serve well to demonstrate lower acoustic bass.
Try listening to Let My Love Open The Door (E. Cola Mix) from 
The Best Of Pete Townshend: Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking

Best and most powerful bass I've heard (with the right speakers and associated equipment) 

Took me by surprise when I really paid attention to what's going on.
Also would be curious to other opinions on this one, kinda kept it to myself until now :)

Good luck 

Pink Floyd- DSOTM and The Wall
The Police- any titles in catalog
The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper

Second "Morph the Cat" (astounding for demo of entire bass range...not just extension, but explosive dynamics).

2 others that also have a ton of bass:

-- Little Roy, "Battle in Seattle," extremely well recorded & produced reggae covers of Kurt Cobain tunes. Easily my favorite versions of these tunes, and very implactful throughout the bass range.

-- Fats Waller tunes played on a very good theater organ (not a vintage recording): "Fats at the Organ." Some of the lowest notes will shake your house & possessions. But best of all, the music is swinging and wonderful, in the best Fats Waller manner.

I have both recordings. If you can't find them, I could help.

Bela Fleck-Sinister Minister
Jackson Browne-Sergio Leone
Steve Hunter-222 w 23rd
Holly Cole: Temptation

The audio store where I bought my Mirage M5si's used this CD to demonstrate the speakers. It made it easy to hear the differences among various amps, especially for bass extension and control, but also natural midrange and transparency. Candidates included a high powered Sunfire (it was 20 years ago) and a pair of those massive, metered, McIntosh monoblocks. On its own, the Sunfire sounded pretty good, but those Macs made the Sunfire sound like a toy.

I just remembered a good tool that helped me integrate a pair of small subs with my Maggie 1.7s.

I have a pair of small subwoofers to add some depth and slam to the Maggie 1.7s. The self-canceling nature of the 1.7s minimizes the upper bass hump that’s so pervasive in room matching, and why many audiophiles have bass traps.

Another advantage, however, is that it also makes it *easier* to match subs with Maggies. I have a pair of Mirage MM8s. These now-discontinued mini-subs were little gems--long-throw 8" drivers with twin passive radiators for each sub. The active driver occupied the entire sub enclosure except for the plate amp, which packed 1400 watts peak (340 rms) power. Controls were granular--continuous knobs for crossover (50-200 Hz), phase (0-180deg.) and volume.

To dial in the phase, I put on "With a Little Help from My Friends" from the recent Beatles Mono reissue. I know the bass line from this song note for note and it dances frequently across that 50Hz crossover line. I played it one channel at a time and twisted the phase knob until it sounded right. Then I did the same thing with the other channel. At that point I had excellent-to-perfect (sounds perfect to me) integration between Maggie panels and subwoofers.

You might say I dialed in perfect subwoofer integration with "A Little Help from My Friends."

BTW, it's time to drop the dogma that you can't integrate dynamic subs with Maggie panels. True, subs used to be universally slow and lacked the controls to get a good integration, and some still are. But there are many subs today with insanely powerful amps, well-anchored high excursion drivers with nearly weightless diaphgragms driven my megawatts of power, with the controls you need for integration--crossover points, phase (continuous, not a couple of toggle positions), With aluminum diaphragms, 1400w peak, patented high excursion ribbed surrounds, and continuous 0-360 deg. phase control, transient response is not a problem for me subs, even when matched with Maggies. I'm intrigued by the Syzygy 12" sub that has a smart phone app that does a complete 3D profile of the listening room (including ceiling height and furniture positions) and creates a digital filter to match. 

"Reference Recordings, the Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique."

+1 @almarg ~ Fabulous recording, thank you! 
Go to Bass tune?......Not even close ""Come and Go Blues" Greg Almann  (Rumor has it inspired by His time with Cher!)
The Power & the Glory - M&K Real Time (not sure if you can get on CD)
Interstellar movie Soundtrack
Star Trek (the movie) Soundtrack
Marcus Miller (bass player) has a killer song heavy on bass.

Album - Renaissance
Song - Detroit
I used Pink Floyd Money with that great bass line when I was shopping for subwoofers.
The fourth movement of Saint Saens 3rd Symphony, the one with Marcel Dupre on organ, Mercury Living Presence with Paul Paray and Detroit Symphony. I heard it yesterday on a super sysystem with a 50 cubic feet subwoofer and all high power tube electronics. That’s what I’m talikng about! 😳

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In addition to Saint-Saens Third Symphony, Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. 
For Jazz, I'd add Zoot Sims' album At Ease, particularly "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me". It's also just a great album.
+1 on the Keb Mo Slow Down album.  It has exceptional separation of instruments and fantastic low-end bass lines.  This is absolutely one of the best recordings for bass I've ever heard.  Check out the cut "Soon as I get Paid".  This album is one of those magic recordings all the way around.

The American Beauty soundtrack "Dead Already" and "Root Beer" (Thomas Newman).