Rational Acoustics

Arthur Skudra
September 5th, 2008, 10:37 PM
Seeing interest in this topic elsewhere, I thought I would start a thread here on some select music tracks that are your favourites in evaluating a sound system either before or after "tweaking" it. At least I hope you do this, your ears should be the final judge on where you're going and whether you have "arrived" or hit that "home run" with the parametric EQ.

In terms of a format to follow, please list the following:
1. Song Title:
2. Artist:
3. Name of Album:
4. Why: A brief description of what in that particular song is noteworthy for this task.

Arthur Skudra
September 5th, 2008, 11:03 PM
Ok, here's a few of my contributions in no particular order:

1. Song Title: I Can See Clearly Now
2. Artist: Holly Cole
3. Album: The Best of Holly Cole
4. Why: String Bass a good test of the low end response of the system, incredible female vocal, particularly at the bridge where it changes key and Holly's voice will reveal flaws in the response of your mid-highs.

1. Song Title: Somewhere, Somebody
2. Artist: Jennifer Warnes
3. Album: The Hunter
4. Why: Variety in vocals contrasting warmth and openness, percussion in background with good stereo effect and high frequency response.

1. Song Title: Here I Am
2. Artist: Lyle Lovett
3. Album: Lyle Lovett and his Large Band
4. Why: Spoken and sung word in one song! Incredible band, impeccable production!

1. Song Title: Sorrento Moon (I Remember)
2. Artist: Tina Arena
3. Album: Don't Ask
4. Why: If there is a song that will test the HF of a sound system, this one will with its percussion bkgd. Very clear female vocals.

1. Song Title: The Race
2. Artist: Yello
3. Album: Flag
4. Why: Incredible stereo imaging effects, heavy percussive elements, will be a good test for how tight the bottom end of your system is.

1. Song Title: On The Avenue
2. Artist: Flim & The BB's
3. Album: Vintage BB's
4. Why: Fantastic Jazz music with Sax Lead and fabulous dynamic range (unlike most of today's compressed to death nonsense). I crank it to set my limiters.

1. Song Title: Everybody Plays The Fool
2. Artist: Aaron Neville
3. Album: The Very Best of Aaron Neville
4. Why: Something in Aaron's voice that is a good test for how smooth the midrange is in your system.

1. Song Title: Drunk on love
2. Artist: Basia
3. Album: Clear Horizon-Best of Basia
4. Why: Excellent Harmonies, Drums and Bass a great test of your system's overall performance

1. Song Title: Let's Fall In Love
2. Artist: Diana Krall
3. Album: When I Look In Your Eyes
4. Why: Just love the simplicity of this song, smooth vocals vocals out front, fabulous accompaniment.

1. Song Title: Perpetual Blues Machine
2. Artist: Keb Mo
3. Album: Just Like You
4. Why: Keb's vocal is a perfect test for the midrange of your system

1. Song Title: Sixteen Tons
2. Artist: Tenessee Ernie Ford
3. Album: Vintage Collections
4. Why: Classic song, his vocal reveals things others don't.

1. Song: Columbus
2. Artist: Mary Black
3. Album: No Frontiers
4. Why: Besides Mary's great vocal, love the bass and piano in this track.

1. Song: Gaslighting Abbie
2. Artist: Steely Dan
3. Album: Two Against Nature
4. Why: Impeccable production, the snare will reveal a lot about your venue, particularly annoying reflections. Great timing reference for delays.

Arthur Skudra
September 6th, 2008, 12:01 AM
Ok, since I do a lot of optimization work in churches, often during office hours, here are a few that are "church friendly" for "sensitive" ears! ;) Something about playing Steely Dan's Cousin Dupree just isn't right in a house of worship with the pastor looking over your shoulder! :o

1. Song Title: Exodus
2. Artist: Michael W. Smith
3. Album: Exodus
4. Why: Just love this instrumental track, percussively good test of subs, some comment thinking this is a soundtrack from Star Wars or something. :rolleyes:

1. Song Title: Carol Ann
2. Artist: Michael W. Smith
3. Album: Freedom
4. Why: Great instrumental/orchestral recording, piano very accurately recorded.

1. Song Title: Draw Me Closer
2. Artist: The Katinas
3. Album: Exodus
4. Why: Fantastic male vocal harmonization, excellent test of the low end response of the system

1. Song Title: A Blazing Grace
2. Artist: Allen & Allen
3. Album: A Blazing Grace
4. Why: Familiar melody, great sax rendition, piano accompaniment

1. Song Title: Painted A Rainbow
2. Artist: Cindy Morgan
3. Album: Under the Waterfall
4. Why: Good mix of piano, bass, organ, ever present snare, background vocals, lots of variety in this song

1. Song Title: All About You
2. Artist: Dimestore Prophets
3. Album: Fantastic Distraction
4. Why: Great alternative rock piece, vocals up front, great guitars, drums.

1. Song Title: Divine Presence, Heaven's Bright Sun, Bi-Se I Mo Shuil- Part 2
2. Artist: Iona
3. Album: Journey Into The Morn
4. Why: Plenty of synths, bass, drums, the whole album is a classic of celtic progressive rock! Watch the volume control at the beginning of Heaven's Bright Sun, it will wake you up! :)

Harry Brill Jr.
September 6th, 2008, 12:22 AM
OK I'l bite because you just told me to on the IM.

1. Song Title: Garden Grove
2. Artist: Sublime
3. Album: Sublime
4. Why: Because it rocks and the subs will break if there aren't enough of them

1. Song Title: I Love You
2. Artist: Sarah
3. Album: Surfacing
4. Why: Use this instead of a warble tone, and to set the limiters on the subs. There are qualities in the MF and HF too.

I'll add more later.

I've been using Dianna Krall for the last couple of years. Popsicle Toes gets a look now and then.

December 3rd, 2008, 03:01 PM
No one else replied so I'll bite as my first post here.

Song Title: Good Hands Tonight
Artist: Al Jarreau
Album: Greatest Hits
Why: Its a very clean recording with nice dynamic range that gives you a good overall idea of what the PA is capable of. It will not expose one specific frequency range, but give you a general tuning idea. Plus it can be played in any setting without upsetting sensitive types or non sensitive types.

Song: Jah Comes First
Artist: Morgan Heritage
Album: Full Circle
Why: It is a well recorded reggae song. Nice crisp highs with nice low frequency representation as expected.

Song: This Is It
Artist: Kenny Loggins
Album: Outside From the Redwoods
Why: I usually get made fun of for this one. I generally only use this when the room I am in will be mainly performance based. It gives a generally good idea of what a performance will sound like. Its not the most perfect recording but it has worked for me.

Song: Angel
Artist: Sarah McLachlin
Album: Surfacing
Why: I started using it on some tours with heavy piano and vocal artists and wound up really liking it to help tune for that style of music.

There are more but some have been mentioned already and some I think have been standards at some point. Just pointing out some different ones. I like this thread and wish more people would contribute to it. I think it can help all of us.

Santtu Sipilš
September 25th, 2010, 04:49 AM
My most played songs:

Song Title: Mountains Oī Things
Artist: Tracy Chapman
Album: Tracy Chapman
Why: Great full spectrum song. Easy to check even the hi notes with the triangle

Song Title: In Front Of Me
Artist: Infected Mushroom
Album: Vicious Delicious
Why: Good low end

Song Title: The Hunter
Artist: Jennifer Warnes
Album: The Hunter
Why: Good vocals and drums

Song Title: Fall At Your Feet
Artist: Crowded House
Album: Woodface
Why: For all the Finnish soundguys that forgot their cds. Everyone knows this one over here.

Santtu Sipilš

September 25th, 2010, 04:49 PM
Good idea Arthur and great input so far. I'll sticky the thread and cull off topic posts so it remains coherent.

Joseph Pearce
September 26th, 2010, 11:58 AM
Some good tracks above!

I dont think the vocal sounds good - just my preference - but it can show some middy and upper-mid peaks or strange sibiliance. Full-range track.

Holy Water
A bit riskay...but if you can get the guitars to cut in the verse and not kill you in the chorus then the range from 2k up to 4-5k is where it should be. Great drummer and drum sound too.

Hagia Sophia
Secret Chiefs 3
Book M
Probably NOT a tuning track, but very subby and very interesting to listen to on a big system and loud- some really great stereo image stuff.

La Cienega Just Smiled
Ryan Adams
One of the best sounding albums. Inoffensive music, full-range, piano can reveal mid-range peaks and, of course, great vocals.

September 26th, 2010, 05:34 PM
Hi there,

I recently found myself using Bob James' "Angela" (Theme from "Taxi") a lot for setting up subs. Because it has a really good equally loud chromatic bass line in it. Which is the only good thing about it, besides being a groovy theme to a funny series. I also use tracks based on their dynamic range (http://www.pleasurizemusic.com and http://dr.loudness-war.info) i.e. Michael Jackon "Rock with you", George Benson "Give me the night" and Sting "Englishman in New York". All IMHO very good produced tracks. Thanks to Dave Rat's thorough investigation (see his blog) I now also own a pair of Denon AD-2000ís. Which I use for fine-tuning the system. I delay my headphones and match levels to the system and make extensive comparisons by alternating between them. Maybe I end up making the system sound like my headphones, but as far as Iím concerned these headphones are the closest to a linear flat response. In practice it results in some emphasis of the lows and a little attenuation of the highs. Which I probably ended up doing anyway. For the first time in my career I feel confident mixing on my headphones. Maybe even more important, it helps me diagnose if certain artifacts are a product of the system, the venue or a combination of both.



Dr. J
September 27th, 2010, 12:55 PM
Arthur -- That is awesome! Thanks a bunch.

Dr. J
September 27th, 2010, 12:59 PM
Merlijnv -- I looked at the Dr. Loudness site. How did they evaluate that? Just one guy or through a poll?

Ok -- I think I see what you are getting at. Studios just compress the tar out of everything now & it keeps getting louder.

September 27th, 2010, 02:19 PM
Hi Dr. J,

They've used a downloadable stand alone program and or plug-in developed by algorithmix, to measure what they call a DR value. It's basicly the difference between the average level of a track and the peaks. More detailed info at www.pleasurizemusic.com. Since then, various ever growing databases have been created. What I've found helpfull is to hear the system with i.e. a track with a DR of 20 (MJ "Rock With You") compared to a track with a DR of 3 (Red Hot Chili Peppers "Californication"). I've been to a Blink-182 concert, where the system-tech told me that the soundengineer ended up having a dynamic range of 3 dB's around 106 dBA. A track like i.e. the Chilli Peppers might give some insight in the system performance under those circumstances.



Dr. J
September 27th, 2010, 03:47 PM
I see. Thanks for the info! The more you learn the less you know I guess.

Kip Conner
December 9th, 2010, 07:27 AM
I tend to stay away from music that participates in the loudness wars due to compression settings. Also, I'M weary of the compressed formats that appear on our iPods. I use the same computer to tune and playback music but set-up the files on the laptop to be in their raw state (.wav) not AAC, MP3, M4A etc...

1. The Trawlerman's Song
2. Mark Knopfler
3. Private Investigations
4. The track has a lot of space so it gives drivers adequate time to react, especially in the bass category. The slower tempo lets the sub's react and develop before another note walks on top of it. The vocal is also in the lower range so it fits with main artist. The warmth of the track seems to really bring out the issues in a room that occur around the rooms modal tendencies.

1. Two
2. Ryan Adams
3. Easy Tiger
4. Helps me keep the sound sharp in the high frequencies without make it sound "crisp". I always go for the warm sounding PA (but not one that is pinking) so this helps me seek out the freqs that drive me nuts.

January 9th, 2011, 06:56 PM
I am not that fussed or fussy about what music I listen to on the listens I align, sort of. There are a handful of tracks I make a habit of listening to, for particular reasons, but when I am unable to (often because of time), I don't think it really makes my life much harder. The two most important things I listen to on music recordings are vocal quality and bass, but specifically double bass/string bass lines (I want every note, in every octave to be even and musically balanced).

The three songs I will normally turn to are:

Song: Heaven is of Honey
Artist: Einsturzende Neubauten
Album: Silence is Sexy
Why: It is a delicate song with a very substantial bass line that can easily overpower the song if the subs have been set hot. A very sparse arrangement where each sound is in stark relief.

Song: Anyone Can Whistle
Artist: Stephen Sondheim
Album: Anyone Can Whistle 1996 Live Recording
Why: Actually any and all songs from this recording. Bernadette Peters' voice(!) and string bass. Some amazing and complex arrangements to check the clarity of a system.

Song: For The Turnstiles
Artist: Neil Young
Album: On the Beach
Why: Great recording. I know it very well. I the clarity of the vocal harmonies in the chorus can get muddied easily if the system isnt performing well.

There are plenty of excellent vocal recordings you could use. Gillian Welch's Time (The Revelator) is a standout.

January 31st, 2011, 03:06 PM
What song did you guys use on your youtube, comb filter video? I liked it.

January 31st, 2011, 03:49 PM
What song did you guys use on your youtube, comb filter video? I liked it.

It's Mandelbrot Set by Jonathan Coulton (http://www.jonathancoulton.com/).

April 6th, 2011, 11:04 AM
Forgive my ignorance Harry, but do you mind sharing the process by which you setup your sub limiters using this track? In regards to the Sarah track.


Franz Francis
April 7th, 2011, 04:54 PM
Song Title:Tracks 1-8
Artist: Alpha Blondy
Album: ALPHA BLONDY and the WAILERS, Jerusalem
Why: Recording is not crowded allows one to hear what is reproduced by the drivers in a multi way system effortlessly. Lots of open space in all the tracks.

Johan Milet
May 25th, 2013, 04:33 AM
Song: Don't cry it's only the Rhythm
Artist: Grace Jones
Album:Slave to the Rhythm
Why: Great dynamic in this song… As well as hard panning, I mean really hard panning! Definition in the HF is fabulous!

Song: Assassin Of Love
Artist: Willy Deville
Album: Miracle
Why: Nice production from Mark Knopfler… Tight mix, low end definition… Vocal and snare stand out of the mix…

Song: Everybody here wants you
Artist: Jeff Buckley
Album:Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
Why: It's a classic, Big low end… If I don't hear the Snare Verb, something's not right!

Song: It's probably me
Artists: Eric Clapton & Sting
Album:Ten Summoner's Tales
Why: Dynamic growing song, subtle songwriting, becomes fuller as the song goes…

Song: Hush, Hush, Hush.
Artists: Herbie Hancock Feat. Annie Lennox
Album: Possibilities
Why: Piano at first, a bit mid-ish, usually use this song to check problems on the mid range… Nice song…

July 20th, 2013, 01:19 PM
Thanks guys for the list, I just bought a few of them. Wish I had the wav files, but alas, mp3's are easier to get.

A few I use

Back Cow
Steely Dan
Nice tight punchy, dynamic recording, lows and highs

The Way you Make Me Feel
Michael Jackson

Stomping Grounds
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Live Art (I wish it was a studio recording)
Kick, some nice low bass, harsh-taming banjo and sax, lots of harmonics on instruments for a live recording, rocking bluegrass like most people have never heard.

Yinnin' and Yangin'
Victor Wooten
Ying Yang:Yin
Full spectrum, punchy,

Hormones in the Headphones
Victor Wooten
Ying Yang: (Disc 2)
A lot of subtle stuff going on in the high end, Full spectrum punch fest.

Don C
August 25th, 2013, 09:54 AM
Songs: War Pigs, Ruby

Artist: Cake

Album: B Sides and Rarities

Reasoning: both have very tight low end, distinctive instruments in the mixes, and relatively dry vocals. Siren in War Pigs is great for checking crispness of high mid-highs, Ruby is just really well put together.

April 5th, 2018, 05:45 PM
Some of my system setups.

Bass checks

1. Song Title: Low Life
2. Artist: Future The Weeknd
3. Name of Album:EVOL
4. Why: A ultimate sub and infra bass test, modern recording but good energy in the lower octaves. Subs max over 93hz

1. Song Title: Shortline
2. Artist:RY-X
3. Name of Album:DAWN
4. Why: A fantastic track that really allows a system to demonstrate effortless bass energy.

1. Song Title:Berlin
2. Artist:RY-X
3. Name of Album:Berlin
4. Why: Few systems can deal with the upper bass tones this awesome song can demonstrate, mid bass drivers seem to reproduce this with the best clarity. It takes a great speaker system to capture this song properly.

1. Song Title: Behind the veil
2. Artist: Jeff Beck
3. Name of Album: Guitar Garage
4. Why: A great all round song with a great driving bass track.Get this right and you have a great around system.