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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll be cross-shopping the HK and BO sound systems, and wanted to bring some tracks on a flashdrive to compare each one. Does anyone have recommendations to particular ones that can be purchased/downloaded on Amazon, or downloads from elsewhere that would be useful for capturing the full capabilities of each sound system? Specific names of the recordings so I can get them would be very helpful! I listen to all kinds of music (rock, techno, old classical).
 

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I would recommend taking in several CDs or other sources of hi-def music.

1. Play songs that you know by heart and love-- songs where you know every note and every instrument-- or at least music that you know exactly what it should sound like. Sometimes the best systems can be a revelation, even for the music you know the best. That's when you know for sure that you are onto something.
2. Include at least a few songs that have some delicate instruments or passages-- especially some higher register stuff, like the chimes in Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, for example, so that you hear if/how it come through. Most good stereos sound fine mid-range-- getting clean, clear high notes is usually the sign of a higher-end system.
3. If you like different kinds of music, make sure you cover the waterfront-- for example, include some pop, some rock, some classical. But music that YOU know and enjoy. That will be the best test.
5. You can play with the sound staging, but usually just leave everything at default settings, to help make listening more comparable across systems. Once you start playing around with the sound, you lose your best point of comparison. That said, of course, you want to see how customizable the sound is for each system, but I wouldn't focus on that initially.
6. Don't worry about anyone else judging your musical tastes, and don't worry about "wasting" anyone's time listening to music in the car. If salesmen don't want to stick around, they don't have to. I was able to sit by myself in several models (Volvos and Audis) playing music as long as I wanted. And of course I played music during several long test drives. It really helped to sell me on the B&W system.

There is a long thread on here somewhere about songs to take with you to the dealer, but an updated discussion can't hurt.
 

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Try “Freaks” by Timmy Trumpet. The windows in the car seem like they are about to shatter when played through B&W. Couldn’t be any more clearer and the bass is incredible.
 

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official Bowers and Wilkins demo CD (ripped to lossless in cars that don't have CD players)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you everyone! Any specific recordings of these tracks that are made/mixed particularly well? I will look for the demo CD.
 

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These are the tracks I use when auditioning stereo components and speakers:

Jennifer Warnes: Famous Blue Raincoat.
Eric Clapton: one car one rider, Tears in Heaven
Dire Straights: Bros in Arms, Bros in Arms
Mary Black: Babe in the Woods
Trevor Pinnock: The English Concert, Vivaldi Concertos
Michael Murray, Bach, Tacotta and Fugue, (First Congregational Church Organ, LA)


I have lots more, but these are excellent recordings that reveal strengths and weaknesses of various components. Make sure all of the source tracks are lossless.

Happy listening!





2016 Magic Blue XC90 Inscription
2006 Sonic Blue V70R
 

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Like others have said - whatever songs you choose, definitely make sure to copy them in a lossless format, like .flac. That will give you the best ability to tell the difference between the systems.
 

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There was a CD put out by Disney that professional car stereo critics have used to guage a system's capabilities. The album or CD is called "Stay Awake : Various Interpretations of Music from vintage Disney films". It is a collective set of disney songs performed by moderately well known artists such as Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Aaron Neville and others. The songs vary in style and the CD has some interesting multi-instrumental bursts that are good for sorting out a speakers capabilities. I not only audition stereo equipment with it but have also come to appreciate it's musical variety and depth. It is an older CD now so not really appreciated much anymore. Give it a try for auditioning systems.
 

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I would recommend taking in several CDs or other sources of hi-def music.
If you are looking at latest models, chances are that they won't have a CD player so make sure you take lossless copies of the tracks you want to hear.
mp3 format is usually untrustworthy for test purposes because the files may be highly compressed and the details of the song may be lost.


1. Play songs that you know by heart and love-- songs where you know every note and every instrument-- or at least music that you know exactly what it should sound like. Sometimes the best systems can be a revelation, even for the music you know the best. That's when you know for sure that you are onto something.
+1 million. This is by far the best suggestion. It can't be repeated enough: play songs you know very well, the ones you listen to every day.

You can listen to other people's opinion but you won't be able to get their ears to your test so use what YOU like the most and what YOU know best. You will never know if you are missing something on a song you are mildly familiar, but you will notice it on a song that you know by heart. And like badcyclist says, you may discover details you never knew were there in the first place.

Don't be afraid to play that silly song that your kid wants to listen to all the time - it may be the right choice for you.

Finally, not every track you test must be constantly loud. That's fine to check the distortion at high volume levels, but you should also check the details as well. Someone suggested Tears in Heaven, a great example of music where you can hear every detail as Eric Clapton plucks those strings. Another example would be the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony [*], with a very large loudness range but with many tiny details along the way (for example, can you hear the cymbals, the flutes and everything else as the loudness grows?). That's where the good systems shine.


[*] an alternative is the overture to the 1812 Symphony with the cannons and bells.
 

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There was a CD put out by Disney that professional car stereo critics have used to guage a system's capabilities. The album or CD is called "Stay Awake : Various Interpretations of Music from vintage Disney films". It is a collective set of disney songs performed by moderately well known artists such as Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Aaron Neville and others. The songs vary in style and the CD has some interesting multi-instrumental bursts that are good for sorting out a speakers capabilities. I not only audition stereo equipment with it but have also come to appreciate it's musical variety and depth. It is an older CD now so not really appreciated much anymore. Give it a try for auditioning systems.
This is available on Tidal. I started listening to it last night. This is a great recording to check out. Thanks for posting this!
 

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Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and Baba O'Riley by The Who comes to mind. Both high-definition, of course.
 

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There are public playlists for high definition/high dynamic tracks on Spotify that you can use. There’s more than one that contain “Bowers & Wilkins” or “Volvo” in their titles.
 
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