Auditioning/testing speakers

A bit of a tangent to the quite helpful Speaker Preferences thread

I’m shopping around for some new monitors, and putting together a little playlist for auditioning them while shopping around.

What are some of your favorite tracks for testing out new speakers or new rooms?

My advice here would be:

Choose something you have listened to plenty on various systems, which covers a wide range of frequencies.

My personal go-to for this task would probably be “Immunity” by Jon Hopkins.


Any track i worked on a lot in the recent times and know the many details of.
If changing monitors swallow those details or make very unintended ones stand out, either the monitor is really bad, or i need to rework my track.

Other than that, i listen for signs of things that i hate: “limp” low-medium, hyped highs.
I think i’m actually answering the “what are your favorite monitors for testing a track” question.

This is true, but to a point. IMO, there are definitely price bracket jumps that give you more for your $. Much like mics and how there are both quantitative and qualitative differences as you move up the price ranges.

I do also think it’s worth trying monitors in person, if only to get a sense of preference in terms of what you like. For example: I was very nearly convinced into buying genelecs. Really beautiful monitors, on paper, nothing wrong with them. To me, in the showroom I was in, I really found them to be dull / muddy as compared to Adams, Hedds, and Focals. Similarly, I found that the ribbon / x-art thing on Adams and Hedd’s was really far too bright and exciting for my liking, and ultimately settled on a pair of Focal Shapes.

Everyone’s ear is shaped differently, and different monitors are going to cater to it differently, which will inevitably shape your perspective on the music you’re making and listening to. Of course, your ears can get used to things, and generally speaking you’re going to be pretty well taken care of above a certain price no matter what, but why not try to make the most of it if you can?


I recently bought a new set of large monitors and a set of custom IEMs (I sold off a significant portion of my modular and invested it into improving my listening stations). Before pulling the trigger on either, I made a long playlist for testing them. Here are some of my picks, along with explanations:

  • Wilco - “Hell is Chrome” and “Sky Blue Sky”: Full band, wide dynamic range.
  • Grischa Lichtenberger - Various tracks from And IV (Inertia): An extremely well-mastered album, in my opinion. Everything on this hits hard in just about every frequency range.
  • Mark Fell and Gabor Lazar - Untitled 1 from The Neurobiology of Moral Decision Making: Very sparse, harsh, repetitive. Lots of details to pick out over time.
  • Dave Holland Quintet - “Prime Directive”: Very well recorded jazz album. This is the opening track.
  • Belief Defect - “The Conduit”: Heavy distortion and bass. There’s a montaged granular hit on top of the deep bass kick. For some speakers, this turns into a lost detail.
  • Shuttle358 - “caudex”
  • Kangding Ray - “Dark Barker”: Extremely heavy bass. Many headphones suck at dealing with this track.
  • Various tracks that I previously mixed and was familiar with.
  • Robert Wyatt - “Just As You Are”: Male and female vocals, brass, etc. Fantastic track.
  • Shellac - “All the Surveyors”: Pretty much any Shellac track would work. They’re a great way to test the treble response on your system. They use aluminum-body guitars.
  • Andrew Bird - “Scythian Empires”: A pleasant, warm recording that I like a lot.
  • Emptyset - Various tracks from Recur and Borders: Like Grischa above, these are two of the best electronic mixes I’ve found.
  • Raime - “Soil and Colts”: Dark, heavy reverb.
  • Ryoji Ikeda - “data.superhelix”: The ultimate album for punishing your speakers. Any track off of Dataplex will do it. This album is my gold standard for finding how well a speaker works across the spectrum and for dealing with rapid transients.

As many above have pointed out, these tracks don’t mean anything if you’re not already very familiar with them on different pieces of equipment.


Thanks for this. This is exactly the sort of response I was hoping for. Jots my memory on a few things to add to my playlist, and gives some insight.

Hell is Chrome, for example, isn’t the first Wilco song I’d think to pick, but upon relistening, it does have a super wide dynamic range, and is familiar enough for me to not really have to think about the music when listening analytically.

The points about price brackets and my room not sounding like a store’s listening room are valid and well taken, but not quite what I was hoping to focus on in this thread

van gelder

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