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.


I feel like some of the early Radian is good. Brandlmayr’s drum work explores a lot of extremes. Otherwise, I’d echo the previous advice of using something you know really well. I’ll test using Public Enemy “Fear of a Black Planet”, NWA “Straight Outta Compton”, Rush “Permanent Waves”/“Moving Pictures”, and Van Halen “Fair Warning”…


I never pay much attention to this, for the following reasons:

  1. The technology has advanced so much that anything above £150 each is going to be decent

  2. Reviews help eliminate any speakers to really avoid.

  3. There is always a break in time getting used to new speakers, no matter what you buy you will always have to compare and contrast on other systems and adjust your ‘hearing’ and production techniques to make up for any discrepancies. I always find this takes a couple of months at least.

  4. The speakers will behave differently at home than they do in a showroom - unless you have acoustically very similar rooms (I don’t and expect it’s unlikely)

  5. I am not that concerned about perfect representation, people listen to soundcloud (bad encoding) on their laptops (less than adequate speakers) and phones - eek! … and of course any number of other systems so it’s highly unlikely there will ever be any accurate translation anyway.

I realise this is a bit laissez faire, but following these principles I ended up with a pair of Yamaha HS7s and they are fine!

If you are going high end and or doing commercial production work, ignore me and do your thing :wink:

p.s. if you want a suggestion of some music to listen to, I always listen to autechre, I know it really well and it always challenges!


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?


You’re absolutely right, I don’t disagree at all :wink:

There’s probably a happy middle ground to be found between these two approaches.

I chose the HS7 monitors for their clinical response, they are really flat and kinda hard to work with, but I find if I can get everything sounding good on them the recordings I make seem to translate to other systems fairly well :slight_smile:


I think that is a point worth emphasizing: no matter what monitors you have/get, it’s important to spend time with them and learn the quirks so you can get better at mixing on them. No matter how high quality your monitors and room are, that takes time.


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