Songs you use when auditioning gear

What are some of your favorite songs to play when auditioning gear?  I often listen to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac.  Just about anything off of Gaucho or Aja by Steely Dan or Joni Mitchell’s Hejira or Hissing of Summer Lawns usually gets spun up too.  Dreams, in particular, is such a great song and is recorded with the balance I really like as well as a full and wide soundstage.  Wondering what some of yours are to see what I’m missing.


I have three. School/Bloody Well Right from Crime of the Century by Supertramp on MoFi vinyl to check for inner detail and turntable isolation, Temptation from Girl in the Other Room by Diana Krall on vinyl to check for small group ensemble cleanliness, soundstaging, upright bass, female vocals, and turntable speed, and Sexy M.F. by Prince on CD to check the digital side, instrument separation, and funk level.   :-)

GREAT post. Got a bunch of recommendations for music to listen to. Loved the thoughts of Simonmoon. Interesting some mentioned a good system would calm some recordings. I thought a good system would reveal recordings, with all it’s warts. 
For me, original vinyl recordings by Cat Stevens… particularly 18th avenue, with its both dynamic and soft passages, was one of my go to’s. Then Maynard Ferguson’s MacArther Park. And as several mentioned Aja. 

Since I previously talked about what I look for in a good recording, and why; here are a few examples.

These first few are mid to late 20th and 21st century classical, and tend to be atonal, angular, and kind of "thorny" sounding, so musically, YMMV. But the recordings have a soundstage that you can easily imagine, you can walk into among the musicians. 

Ernst Krenek - Static and Ecstatic (there is also a fairly recent digital recording of this piece by the Cleveland Chamber orchestra, that is also great). 


Charles Wuorinen and Donald Martino



Einar Torfi Einarsson - Quanta

But I could list almost anything on the Kairos classical label. Everything I've bought on Kairos has been great sounding. Quite avant-garde stuff.

Here are some great recordings on the ECM jazz label. 

ECM has always been known for their great sounding jazz recordings, from their dead quiet vinyl, to their current releases on CD.

Expect to hear each musician occupying their own space in the acoustic space, and the air around them.

Some people say ECM's 80's output had too much echo on percussion. 

The nice thing is, that since they've always had the reputation among audio enthusiasts of good sound, their albums tended to be collected by people who took care of them, so finding good sounding copies in used stores is not that tough. 

Gallery - S/T / wonderful chamber-jazz, with open 3d soundstage.


Azimuth with ralph Towner - Depart

Great ensemble playing, with the wonderful wordless vocals by Norma Winstone.


Craig Taborn - Daylight Ghosts


The songs below are from the band Yello.

These songs will test your speaker setup and gear. I have tried a lot of songs and haven't found anything to top these. Turn it up and be prepared for awesomeness. In case you're wondering, it's not jazz or classical. More electronic. 

Band: Yello

Album: Toy

Songs: Electrified II, Kiss The Cloud, Pacific AM


Album: Point

Song: Rush for Joe


Let me know what you think

Last ones: He’s a bassist, and oh such a good one.

Artist: Marcus Miller

Album: M2

Song: Cousin John


Album: Laid Black

Song: Trip Trap