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Critical (Best) Music Tracks for Speaker and Room EQ Testing

Hadouk Trio, live at FIP, or Baldamore live at Cabaret sauvage. Depth, width, brightness, bass, mids (despite mostly instrumental). But recording is so good it could sound nice on any system. So critical test is mostly with familiar songs/recordings I know as being flat, overly bright, dark sounding, etc.
I wanted to share some tracks I've gathered over the years and found very useful for checking the accuracy and effectiveness of digital room correction filters.

The key to effectively using these tracks for evaluation is to become intimately familiar with how they should sound. Subtle changes in sound stage depth, instrument separation, pitch definition, tonal balance, and bass response will reveal themselves when you know these songs like the back of your hand. So, take the time to develop that familiarity before using these tracks to compare digital room corrections. I recommend listening to these tracks across different systems and really training your ears on what to focus on. That way, when switching between room correction setups, you can zero in on the nuances and more accurately judge which one is dialing in your system correctly. Don't forget to align different filters for equal volume before comparing (we tend to initially favor higher volume) and minimize switching delay between different filters as much as you can.

Here are some of my go-to tracks:

Speaker toe-in angle and distance between speakers:

Track: Her Majesty (2019 mix)
Album: Abbey Road
Artist: The Beatles
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/118390458

It's only 23 seconds long and you should be grateful for that as you might regularly need to repeat it hundreds of times! It helps to adjust the speaker toe-in as well as the distance between the speakers. The vocals and guitar start off in right channel and slowly pan all the way to the left channel. If McCartney gets closer towards you as he moves to the middle, there is too much toe in. If he moves away from you during the panning, there is too little toe in. It should sound as if McCartney's vocals roll smoothly and continuously across the sound stage. If it sounds like he jumps from right - to - center - to - Left, the speakers are too far apart.

Tip: If you find it hard to detect volume differences during panning, dim the volume to the extent that you can only just hear him at one position and if you can't hear him at all in another position, you will have heard the difference.

Track: Amused to Death
Album: Amused to Death
Artist: Roger Waters
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/49160035

Although it's a tricky track recorded with the Q-sound technique, it is a good tool to check for toe-in symmetry between speakers. The song starts with a conversation coming from a TV to your rear left!

Clipping headroom and bass management:

Track: Sweet Jezebel
Album: Ghost of a Chance
Artist: Turboweekend
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/2440969

Mainly due to its suboptimal mixing (IMO), the track will clip like crazy unless you dial in the correct headroom for your filters. It's also a perfect track to check for bass control. It has a variety of bass frequencies that will reveal peaks or resonances very quickly down the line. Tip: Fast forward around 03:30 minutes into the track and A/B repeat a 3 second part to optimize clipping headroom setting for your particular filter. Once adjusted for this part of this song, you will never have clipping with any other track in your library.


Track: Billy Jean
Album: Thriller
Artist: Michael Jackson
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/1781887

If you're fiddling with low frequency phase correction, sooner or later you will meet with pre-echo, an odd artifact in which an “echo” of a sound is heard ahead of the sound itself. Many filters and usually the better sounding ones can get along with many tracks without surfacing this problem. But this track, and almost instantly into it, will reveal that "failed filter" signal which once you hear, you cannot un-hear!

Track: Bubbles
Album: Wandering
Artist: Yosi Horikawa
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/15666682

A great song to check for stereo separation but also a quick one to reveal pre-echo and pre/post ringing especially if they're happening in the higher frequencies. Many of this guy's albums are great system demos, too if you are into that kind of thing.

Bass level:

Track: Way Down Deep
Album: The Hunter
Artist: Jennifer Warnes
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/4964763

Try this track before you decide your system's bass level is too low. You might be hearing the hidden "dips" in your bass response with other tracks. In general, this track will reveal how fast, tight and not-boomy your bass response really is.

Sound stage depth:

Track: Take Five
Album: On Time
Artist: Dave Brubeck
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/1994891

A classic among audiophiles for system tests and if your speakers are not disappearing completely, you have work to do with phase equalization between your left and right speakers. The drums should come from the front left of the stage but "not" from the left speaker and same goes for the right side of the stage. Easier said than done ;)


Track: Instant Crush (feat. Julian Casablancas)
Album: Random Access Memories
Artist: Daft Punk
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/20115561

Check how loud your system will go without distortion with this one.

Center stage shift:

Track: Bird on A Wire
Album: Famous Blue Raincoat
Artist: Jennifer Warnes
Link: https://tidal.com/browse/track/8439076

Mono pink noise is a great tool for aligning center stage but if your center stage is shifting from center to a bit left or right from track to track, this is usually due to differences in the frequency response between speakers in the band covering vocals (65Hz -1000Hz centered around 250Hz). This track has good bass response and lots of central vocals in a variety of frequencies to reveal most problems.

I will keep adding tracks if I come up with better ones. Please feel free to add yours.
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@KSTR has uploaded LF test tones here: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...oom-modes-and-other-things.29310/post-1023907

It's quite useful to test for room-speaker imbalances up to 440Hz -- it's quite a revelation listening for yourself around the room compared to just looking at FR graphs alone. Also try to compare the differences you hear between headphones/IEMs (ideally EQ'd reasonably flat) and your actual speakers.

Instruction snippet:
Compare with headphones at times to re-check how it really should sound like. You will then note that some music with specific bass rhythms may sound corrupted, out of time and without any articulation, while others may sound extremly tight and punchy. But it may not be the musicians that are responsible for that perceived effect!


Additionally, in the Neumann website, search for "Test Signals and Instruction for Setting up Subwoofer-based Systems (English)". Besides testing "subwoofer-based systems" it can be used to A/B for pre-echo effects around crossover area when applying phase correcting FIR filters -- specifically, the "kick drum train" track. *If you can find it, just click on the 'Downloads' tab in any of their monitor products info page and type in the title in the searchbox.
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As general rule, I prefer live recordings (vs studio). There the reflections recorded will be mudded immediately if something is wrong. However, I have seen you can test your equipment almost with any quality recording, if you know how it should sound. The last is the most difficult part of equation.

Track: 1. Rikimaru and 9. Festival Music of Dairajuki Town
Album: Japanese Drums
Artist: Wadaiko Matsuriza
Link: https://listen.tidal.com/album/283148267

Good for testing subwoofer time alignment. The "thwack" on the skin should happen at the same time as the "boom" of the drum. These are the biggest drums you will ever hear and it is great for annoying your neighbours.


Track 25: "Passacaglia et Thema Fugatum", BWV 582
Album: J. S. Bach Triosonaten BWV 525-530, Schubler-Chorale BWV 645-650, Passacaglia BWV 582
Artist: Alessio Corti
Link: https://listen.tidal.com/album/10206632

The BWV 582 Passacaglia is a pipe organ piece that features a "basso ostenuto" ("obstinate bass"), which is a repetitive theme played on the foot pedals - i.e. featuring the longest and lowest pipes of the instrument. Over the top of this, variations are heard on the high notes. As the piece continues, the variations progressively become more complex. These go as low as 20Hz, maybe lower (I can see those low notes on JRiver's RTA as it plays!). Every bass note should be at the same volume if you have an even bass response. This particular recording has the lowest bass notes I have heard. The volume needs to be turned up to replicate the SPL's of a real pipe organ.
Are people really using these tracks to comparing speakers in a listening session? Or worse, spread across >1 session?

Comparing speakers is fraught with issues at home -- look at what Harman had to do to make it work.
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Razor blades on feet, Clubs in hands, closed rink, Real Men.

Not to be left out, slapping a hard rubber disk at each other at 90-100 mph
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