Audio Test Mix (rev 3)When I want to audition or evaluate audio equipment or settings, I use a CD that I burned specifically for that purpose. Here's what's on that CD and what I listen for.
1. Art of Noise, "Il Pleure"from The Seduction of Claude Debussy, 1999
This is a slightly weird track, in that it mixes spoken word, acoustic piano, drum machines, opera, and of course AON synth. Looking for clear differentiation of instruments, but mostly for how the the female opera vocals are handled. Unnatural mids make this sound poor.
2. Nine Inch Nails, "Into the Void"from The Fragile (disc 2), 1999
I actually stopped in an audio shop one day on a whim, and didn't have the older version of my test mix with me, and the sales guy demo'd with this track. The important part is the intro, which starts with a high-end, well, I'm not sure what it is--almost a squeak, then something xylophone-sounding, then adds cello, then acoustic guitar, then some light percussion, then the full force kicks in. I'm listening for the clarity of the instruments in the early stuff, which is quiet, and the force when more stuff kicks in.
3. Tears for Fears, "Start of the Breakdown"from The Hurting, 1983
There's a lot of left-right panning in this track, so anything that impacts channel separation shows up immediately here. Obviously, this is not so much an issue with headphones.
4. Michael Hedges, "Breakfast in the Field"from Live on the Double Planet, 1987
This is acoustic guitar originally recorded live on digital equipment. Different guitar strings should be distinct, and some ambient sounds (e.g., foot taps) are evident on better equipment.
5. George Winston, "Spring Creek"from Summer, 1991
This is an acoustic piano piece which runs through a pretty thorough range of the 88 keys. Keys should sound distinct and be identifiable in chords when not struck perfectly in synch, which of course real human players do. Bass keys should sound natural, high keys shouldn't sound harsh, mids should not get lost.
6. Vivaldi, Summer (presto)from The Four Seasons
I have a decent recording of this. Classical makes different demands than the rock/techno/acoustic on the rest of this list, and this is a good piece, heavy on different strings. Viola should be distinct from both violin and cello, the cello bits should be moving without being overwhelming. Setups that are too bass-heavy (equalized for rock/techno) don't sound right here. Setups which are too bright can make the violins sound screechy.
7. Underworld, "Little Speaker"from A Hundred Days Off, 2002
Very bass-heavy elctronica. Weak bass really shows here, should get that dance-club "thump" here.
8. The Power Station, "Some Like It Hot"from The Power Station, 1985
Listening almost entirely to Tony Thompson's slamming drum intro to this song. If it doesn't slam, the bass needs work.
9. Thomas Newman, "Root Beer"from American Beauty Score, 2000
If you've seen the movie, the is from the bit where Kevin Spacey has one of his waking dreams about Mena Suvari, this one while he's getting her a root beer from the fridge. Lots of cymbal transients, and well as some really low bass rumbling.
10. Propaganda, "Strength to Dream"from A Secret Wish, 1985
This is a fully-digital recording which has a thunderstorm in it. If you're in a an audio shop and turn this way up, people should start looking out the windows for rain. Seriously.
11. Shadowfax, "Oasis"from The Odd Get Even, 1990
This is also a fully-digital recording with a mix of strange instruments and traditional rock instruments. I find Paiste cymbals to have slightly different sound (don't ask me to describe it) from other cymbals (not better, just different), and that should be evident as they are mixed very prominently here. The high synth-whistle (or whatever it is) should also not be shrill. There's a lot going on here, be sure all instruments sound distinct.
12. Tori Amos, "Precious Things"from Little Earthquakes, 1991
I find Tori's voice is sometimes difficult to reproduce well, and this is a good test for it. Good mix of acoustic piano, drum, and electric guitar. When the guitar kicks in on the line "I want to smash the faces", should be very involving but not overwhelming.
13. The Police, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"from Ghost in the Machine, 1981
You wouldn't think a Police track would ask much of your setup, but this one does because of Stewart Copeland does some really great cymbal work here which isn't mixed super prominently (not like the Shadowfax track). If the setup has much mid- or bass-push, they tend to get lost, which is bad. I have yet to hear this sound right through MP3 compression, either. (In general, that's where MP3-style compression bothers me the most--cymbals never sound natural.)
14. The Fixx, "In Suspense"from Phantoms, 1985
This track has a nice intro with bell-based cymbal work and high synth, then really great bass/lead guitar interaction. Jamie West-Oram has a very unique guitar style, which really comes through on this track if it sounds right. This track is mixed very balanced, so too much emphasis on any particular instrument or the vocals reveals if anything is falling off or pushing.
15. New Order, "Elegia"from Low-Life, 1985
Very quiet all-synth intro should be delivered clearly, and the guitar that comes in should have nice twang. Low synth rumble should be evident when it's going.
16. Pink Floyd, "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"from The Wall, 1977
This is in here just for fun. The first time I heard this track after I had put in new speakers and an amp in my car, I had The Wall in and had really stopped paying attention to it, then suddenly I found myself looking for a helicopter. Took me a second to realize it wasn't really a helicopter, it was my stereo. Always trying to reproduce that.
Last modified 2005.06.25, Copyright ©2003-2004 Mike Byrne