I'm about 38 and my journey began when I was a kid as soon as I discovered my dad's old LP collection could be played without a record needle using the stiffened edge of a piece of paper. I've come a long way from there and many songs I liked in my youth haven't stood the test of time. But I find myself using odd choices to test equipment and thought it might make for good conversation for everyone to share some of theirs.
1. How does a duck know - Crash Test Dummies. I've heard this track and this album so many times I can pick out coloration, phasing, and subtle changes to the sound almost instantly. The song starts with a wonderful and lively phaser effect on a drum track, it transitions suddenly from quiet to loud and generally puts my system through it's paces. This was the first CD I owned that I listened to as much for it's wonderful studio mastering as for the songs themselves.
2. Paranoid Android - Radiohead. It's like getting 3 songs for the price of one and again, it brings so much to the table and I've heard it so often, I can evaluate, and tweak quite easily with it.
3. Bridges and Baloons - Joanna Newsome. Her voice has been compared unfavorably to Lisa Simpson but it is precisely that difficulty that makes it such a great test for mid range and vocal clarity. Can it render her voice with precision and clarity without sibilance and sparklyness? She plays on a concert harp and the percussive nature of this, as well as the low range it can produce also give bass reproduction and fast transient response a run for it's money.
4. The Jaques Loussier Trio covering Vivaldi's Four Seasons. What can I say, an album of Vivaldi's music, re-imagined for a 3 piece jazz band. It's incredibly challenging material with a lot of nuance and subtlety but rapid fire passages of thunderous report and deep bass extension.
If I had to pick 1 instrument to help me audition headphones it would be the Cello. I've heard it described as the closest instrument to the range of the human voice and when it comes across with all of the thick but dry as paper timbres of a cranky old man, I find myself either in love with the cans, or looking elsewhere.