Some old stuff...like: "Drive" from The cars.
Great sound for testing bass frequency and treble.
x2 for Unplugged. I like Running on Faith to test performance with accoustic instrumentation and vocals; it is simply such a well executed and well recorded performance.
To test 3D (positioning):
Elizabethan Serenade (Mantovani Orchestra - Tea for Two)
Queen B (Puscifer - "V" Is for Vagina)
Beautiful Feeling (Sounds from the Ground - High Rising)
To test punch (ie snappy drums):
Joe Slam and the Spaceship (Harry Connick Jr. - She)
Waiting On the World to Change (John Mayer - Continuum)
To test bass (depth and 3D):
Beautiful Feeling (Sounds from the Ground - High Rising)
MI-LOONY-UM (Hallucinogen - In Dub)
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
As others have said, one of the best recordings out there, and with only a sextet, instrument separation and placing is easy to pinpoint. From "So What" all the way to "Blue in Green" and "Flamenco Sketches", there's not really a bad track. It took me 5 or 6 years of owning it, and 4 years of being a Trumpet Performance Major in college to fully appreciate what people meant when they said it was one of the greatest albums of all time, and the fact that it is engineered and recorded so well, especially considering it's almost 50 years old now, is an added bonus we can all appreciate.
Coheed and Cambria: In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3
I know, I know... It's probably so commercially minded that it's compressed to hell. However, it runs the gamut from metal to blues to acoustic to electronic and just about everything in between, and it can give you an idea of what your average recording is capable of on your rig. Sadly, not everything is going to have DVD-A quality audio all the time, and I think this album is a nice bridge between crappy and good recordings. I know it may not be an audiophile recording, which is kind of the point of this thread, but it's one that I always use to test a new set up.
Thanks for the suggestions. I don't have an informed opinion as to what makes a good test track, but here are a few tracks I listened to upon receiving my new IEMs.
India - John Coltrane - Impressions Album
Babe, I'm Going To Leave You - Led Zeppelin 1
Comfortably Numb and Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd - Echoes Album
I am new, but would like to contribute:
Radka Toneff - Fairytales - The moon is a harsh mistress
Norah Jones - Come Away With me - Painter's Song - Dry Vocals, but not the best quality
Carol Kidd - The Very Best of Carol Kidd - Goergia on my mind/I'll be tired of you (Gold Lynn CD)
Michael Ruff - Sheffield Drive - That's not me
Various Artists - David Garfield and Friends - Let's stay together
Max Bennet and Freeway - Images - Fancy Pants
Paulinho Da Costa - Breakdown - Real Love (With Marsha Skidmore)
Lee Ritenour - Smoke n' Waters - Lovely Day/Forget me nots
David Pack - The Secret of Moving On - Biggest Part Of Me
Try and get FLAC or ALAC files. Or get the original CDs. the MP3 versions don't have the same magic - Not even 320kbps. Enjoy!
The order I usually go in is:
Pink Floyd - Money
I use this song for dynamics and instrument seperation.
Neil Young - Needle And The Damage Done
Air and breath of the vocals
Led Zeppelin - Since I've Been Loving You
How deep the equipment can dig into back ground noises (pedal squeaks, organ keys clacking and so on).
Slayer - Angel Of Death
Tchaikovsky - Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso - Allegro con spirito, Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op.23
Nothing critical with this one, just to make sure that the equipment actually sounds good.
The quoted post was from 2005, but I just listened to Money for Nothing after many many years on my Grado 325i. Boy, it does sound amazing and so different!!!!! I gotta listen to all my old favorites again.
Amazing how different the same songs sound through a good pair of phones.
I know I'm only supposed to name five songs, but I decided to include as many as I could think of, in the hopes of my list being as helpful to as many people as possible. I did consciously exclude most classical and jazz songs that came to mind (to keep the list from getting out of hand), but there are some of those as well.
Arvo Pärt - Kanon pokajanen - Ode III [I could have chosen pretty much any other track from this album. Somehow I chose Ode III. This track is all about human voices (the choir) and the space they were recorded in with fabulous echo. On really, really good systems (and/or with good/trained ears) you might be able to distinguish where different members of the choir are standing in the soundscape.]
Bear McCreary - Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 - Storming New Caprica [Dynamics, the precision of the rhythmic elements, and just the huge sound this track should produce.]
Chisu - Vapaa ja yksin - Lähtö [The vocals sounded breathtaking when I listened to this track for the first time with my reasonably new B&W 803 Diamonds.]
Diana Krall - Live in Paris - Devil May Care [Both the sound quality and the performance are astonishing. Need I say more?]
Dire Straits - Love Over Gold - Telegraph Road [Very well recorded rock and an epic song. Listen to how good Mark Knopfler's guitar sounds.]
Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard - The Dark Knight OST - Why So Serious? [There are some very low frequencies about 3.5 minutes into the track.]
Harry Gregson-Williams - Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots OST - Old Snake [This album is one of my favorites when it comes to sound quality. The production is just so close to perfect. This opening track, like most of the album, features both acoustic and electronic instruments and should sound phenomenal on a good system.]
Isis - Oceanic - Carry [This is metal that has been compressed a bit more that I'd prefer, but something about the sound of this entire album captured by ear when I first heard it through good speakers. Try it out.]
Kenji Kawai - Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence OST - The Ballade of Puppets: The Ghost Awaits in the World Beyond [Everything about the track really. It has dynamics and it's good for testing bass, midrange and highs. There's rhythm, singing and all kinds of sounds you don't often hear on other albums. And on top of all that the track is just epic. It always takes my breath away.]
Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine - Spacelab [One could almost drown in those wonderfully round analog synth sounds.]
Linda Ronstadt - What's New - What's New [I have the recent version released by Lasting Impression Music. Linda's voice is amazing and this CD was mastered in the analogue realm before the AD-conversion. The result is pure bliss.]
Nat "King" Cole - The Very Thought of You - The Very Thought of You [I have the SACD released by Analogue Productions. Nat's vocals sound almost perfect when we talk about sound quality, which is impressive considering this was recorded in 1958. If you believe that recording technology back in the 50's was primitive at best, listen to this and think again.]
Patricia Barber - Modern Cool - She's a Lady [The finger snaps on this track should sound really natural coming out of your speakers/headphones.]
Pekka Kuusisto & Iiro Rantala - Subterráneo - Adios Muchahos [A 21st century recording which was recorded using only vintage analogue equipment. The musicianship is just superb.]
The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die - Invaders Must Die [Huge sound is what you should be getting. Good for testing impact/slam for example.]
Radiohead - Hail to the Thief - Sit down. Stand up. (Snakes & Ladders.) [When you're listening to this track on a really good system, you can really hear what's going on with all the beats when you come to the part that begins around the 3 minute mark.]
Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine - Take the Power Back [This is a wonderful track for testing how much impact/slam your system has when you listen to the kick drum at the beginning.]
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Live in Japan - Foc [This is an amazing live album with lots of energy in it. It sounds really natural, detailed and dynamic. If you don't feel even close to actually being in a concert, then there's probably room for improvement in your audio chain.]
Shpongle - Ineffable Mysteries from Shpongleland - Electroplasm [The sound quality is excellent, but there's a lot happening at once on this track, so it's really useful for testing how well a system can reproduce all the different tracks so, that they can all be clearly heard without being 'blurred' by the other tracks. This might not be the best track for testing, but I'm not familiar enough with the album at this point to pick a better track off the top of my head.]
Sigur Rós - Ágætis byrjun - Svefn-g-englar [The rapid bass sounds at the very end of the track.]
Steve Vai - Passion & Warfare - For the Love of God [It's nice to hear good rock music that hasn't been compressed to hell. This is because this album was released before the loudness war started to damage the sound quality of CDs.]
Tenacious D - Tenacious D - Tribute [I've always loved both this album and how it was recorded.]
Tool - Lateralus - The Grudge [Pretty much every track from this album would be equally good. Well recorded and really good metal with lots of dynamics. Should sound excellent.]
Trio Töykeät - Jazzlantis - Banana Republic [I've always liked the way this album was recorded. Very clear and crisp. The drums are probably the highlight of this track, especially the drum solo at the end. Very good for testing highs and how well your system reproduces transients.]