What to listen for?

This is aside to the obvious ones such as does a piano sound like a piano, the singer's voice sound close to them live, etc.

So, what I am trying to put together a list of songs where there is something specific to listen for. For instance, in the song Guinevere (CS&N) I have read that Crosby should sound as if he's standing in your room, front and center. On the acoustic Hot Tuna Album, they are playing in a bar and a beer bottle breaks landing on the floor  - it should be sharp and sound like it's in the room with you. On Babylon Sisters there are some cymbal crashes on the left that should be crisp and not smeared. On a Beatles song (I forget which), a chair squeaks and a door opens and closes in the studio. 

A good system will revel these little things. Any other that you have heard of? 




This is an interesting thread to me, to give me ideas on how to judge my system and any changes that I might make.  One thing I would add, is that clearly hearing the words on a vocal recording would be a good way to judge the quality of a system.



I would Rebecca Pidgeon’s recording of Spanish Harlem. I have listened to this cut on a dozen high end systems… in some, her voice makes it sound like she is naked… it sounds like she is thin and almost 2 dimensional… in great systems she has an incredible fully fleshed out alto voice. With only two or three instruments playing, you really get an idea of how the system is rendering what you are hearing. This is a great cut to evaluate systems or components. 

@ghdprentice Thx for the tip!  I had never heard of her before, but she is good.  I’ll take your suggestion to use that song as a test.

It’s great that you take the time to share your knowledge on this site.  It’s been a big help for me!  


I don’t go out of my way to focus on such details-- it’s not "what I listen for" -- but whatever floats your boat...


For me, if a system is able to reproduce these types of details (chair squeaks, papers moving, etc), it is also able to reproduce fine details of instruments themselves.

So, it may not be about hearing the chair squeak itself, but what that sort of detail tells you about the the resolving ability of the system on the whole.

I would just like to caution folks about detail.

I recently auditioned three integrated Amps. The first highlighted detail (Luxman), the second had the detail, but made my foot tap… I couldn’t help but sway with the music (Pass), the third… my eyes closed and I just fell into the music… while the detail was there… I just got lost in the music (Audio Research I-50).


It completely depends on what you are after. For me, it is the musical / emotional experience. Long ago it was analytical perfection… now it is emotional connection with the music.