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


Apr 3, 2010
Seattle, WA
I post the list of tracks Harman uses after literally decades of research to detect fidelity of speakers and room Auto Equalizers in another thread but thought it deserves its own thread. I have had the fortunate luck of sitting through a couple of their blind tests and can attest to the efficacy of the tracks used:


AES Paper, The Subjective and Objective Evaluation of Room Correction Products
Sean E. Olive, John Jackson, Allan Devantier, David Hunt, and Sean M. Hess

JW - Jennifer Warnes, “Bird on a Wire”
TC - Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car”
JW - James Taylor, “That’s Why I’m Here”

AES Paper, A New Listener Training Software Application
Sean Olive, AES Fellow
Harman International Industries

· Tracy Chapman, "Fast Car", Tracy Chapman
· Jennifer Warnes, "Bird on a Wire", Famous Blue Rain Coat
· James Taylor "That's Why I'm Here", “That’s Why I’m Here”
· Steely Dan “Cousin Dupree”, “ Two Against Nature”
· Paula Cole, “Tiger”,” This Fire”
· “Toy Soldier March”, Reference Recording
· Pink Noise (uncorrelated)

AES Paper, Differences in Performance and Preference of Trained versus Untrained Listeners in Loudspeaker Tests: A Case Study*
Sean E. Olive, AES Fellow

James Taylor, “That’s Why I’m Here” from “That’s Why I’m Here,” Sony Records.
Little Feat, “Hangin’ on to the Good Times” from “Let It Roll,” Warner Brothers.
Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car” from “Tracy Chapman,” Elektra/Asylum Records.
Jennifer Warnes, “Bird on a Wire” from “Famous Blue Rain Coat,” Attic Records.

And this from a 1992 research at NRC on genre of music and its revealing nature in this regard:

A bit about the science, the suitability of track is a matter of statistics. Colorations in speakers are only revealing if there is significant content/energy in that part of hearing spectrum. Rock music tends to have such rich spectrum. Classical music as a general rule does not. Hence the domination of rock/pop music in the top most critical list.

In both this space and audio compression with which I am intimately familiar with, high fidelity of the music recording is not an aid and if anything a distraction. A "pretty" sounding track sounds pretty on many systems because we are drawn to it by its good substance. Critical test clips on the other hand tend to be uninteresting and force you to pay attention to the task which is to analyze equipment with your ear.


Member Sponsor
Apr 12, 2011
Dallas, Texas
It's no wonder the Jazz trio is so popular at demos and audiophile conventions. IME, the better a system gets, the more it will sound really good with non-audiophile music, like EDM music.


Well-Known Member
Oct 1, 2010
Cleveland Ohio
I would make a quick guess that almost everyone of those recordings used a multi-mic, pan-pot technique.
If I read Siegfried Linkwitz correctly, concert hall recordings using a minimum number of mics and no pan-pots is a better test for great speakers.


WBF Technical Expert (Speakers & Audio Equipment)
Sep 6, 2010
Seattle, WA
I agree with Kevin (and Siegfried).

In my opinion and my opinion only, the best recordings I have to assess fidelity in systems are some of the ones Todd Garfinkle make - two mics direct into a stereo recorder direct to you.

Try his Ito Ema Bach for piano and hall acoustics, LLama for percussion (a hang), Sera Una Noche is spectacular to hear reverb, any number of his other recordings for voice, for strings, etc. If a recording is mixed and mastered, it is difficult to use as an assessment tool. Are you hearing an artifact of the production or are you hearing your system. When you use such a recording, you are using it as a reference to the last system you heard (designed).

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