Whether it’s a classic Hi-Fi test track, or the song you recognise in the first millisecond it’s as familiar to you as your own heartbeat, everyone’s got an opinion on which tracks help you check the quality of any audio equipment. And quite simply, no one is wrong. The best test will always be a song you are familiar with and have heard in as high a resolution format as possible so you’ll hear where the performance excels and/or misses a trick.
The pressure builds somewhat, when the reputation of a 50 year old Hi-Fi company rests on your shoulders, or more accurately – your ears. So what tracks are spinning on the Cambridge Audio engineering floor and why?
So, let’s start with the easy stuff – pristine, well-recorded tracks. Simply put - if this doesn’t sound good, nothing will. These tracks have been recorded to such a high standard that, excuse the blasphemy, playing them through some Apple Ear pods would verge on acceptable, so pass it through some decent Hi-Fi and they’ll knock your socks off.
Steely Dan – Jack Of Speed
Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Crooked Still – Little Sadie
Up next, tracks with wide dynamic range and excellent sound stages. Listen out for spatial separation between individual instruments and vocals and feeling like your living room just turned into the Royal Albert Hall and you’re on the right track.
Radiohead/Noordpool Orchestra – Weird Fishes
English Chamber Orchestra - Dido & Aeneas, Act 3: But Death, Alas!
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Tin Pan Alley
The Rolling Stones - Melody
A hugely important but often less observed category: Foot-tap-ability. Ever listened to one of your favourite ever tracks on a speaker but your foot remains mysteriously unmoved by it? If these tunes don’t make you twitch, run in the opposite direction. They’re just not going to keep up.
Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side
Winterplay – Billie Jean
The Big One – Bass. Irritating if there’s too much, crushingly disappointing if there’s too little. Definitely the category that turns us all into the Goldilocks of the audio testing world. The following will test your subs on long droney background bass and fast punchy bass.
Beck – Morning
The Weeknd – The Hills
Bela Fleck – Flight of the Cosmic Hippo
Bass test, part deux. Can it keep up with these without getting muddy or rumbling in the low end?
Cee Lo Green – Bright Lights Bigger City
Beastie Boys – Brass Monkey
And lastly, our favourite category, the ‘if you can listen to these tracks all the way through without switching them off you’re on to a winner’ test. These songs pack a lot in to each track and without capable audio equipment can sound, quite frankly, a mess. So when you get them right, that’s a whole heap of audio satisfaction (and a few smug engineers).
Foo Fighters – These Days
Moloko – I Want You
Alabama Shakes – Don’t Wanna Fight
AC/DC – It’s a Long Way to the Top (WARNING! Contains Bagpipes, proceed with caution)
And if your speakers pass all of these tests, then stick on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (as if that was going to go unmentioned) kick back and ENJOY!
At Cambridge Audio, we’re not swayed by the sudden upsurge in EDM or the predominance of Dre in the charts. We’re still faithfully chasing the holy grail of honest, balanced sound. By testing our sound against a highly diverse and challenging track list we make sure all those with schizophrenic music tastes, i.e. most humans, are well catered for. So when it comes to testing any new kit (and we’re understanding creatures, it might not all be from us *sobs quietly*) we want to make sure you have some good test tracks at your fingertips so you can invite only the best possible sound quality into your life.
Next time you’re comparing the sound of some magnificent new floorstanders, an up sampling network streamer or even a new portable Bluetooth speaker, test it like a Cambridge Audio Engineer.
We’d love to know your thoughts on these and what your test tracks are so add your comments below and in the meantime – Happy Listening.