Album details: CD "Denon Hi-Fi check CD" Audiophile series - 1992 - CO 75046 by Denon - Japan
Sample under test: Made in Japan
Genre: test CD
Approx. price: 10-15$ (YMMV)
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: February, 2010
It may sound odd to review - in 2010 - a test CD which dates back to 1992 but there are several reasons why it might make sense.
First of all, basic and useful test signals aren't changed much during the last years so what was good in '92 might prove to be good enough today.
Secondly, many modern test CDs usually contain just Music excerpts and very few technical test tracks. This CD by Denon is divided into two parts: signals and music. And the signals part is a beefy one! Moreover, it contains signals that I haven't been able to find anywhere else (more on this later).
Thirdly, this CD has become easily available almost everywhere, from Amazon to Walmart, from Ebay to CDUniverse, just put "Denon Hi-Fi test CD" on Google and find the lowest price :-)
Finally, its price: for more or less 10$ you get an excellent tool made by professionals (not just mere audiophiles :-)) that contains precious test tracks and very good musical pieces as well.
This Denon CD contains 61 tracks: from 1 to 49 you have test signals (this is called Audio check part) and from 50 to 61 excerpts from fine recordings (this is the General sound check part). Total playing time is 66:53. This CD is entirely of the DDD kind.
The Audio check part contains almost everything you might ever need to test HiFi equipment. Besides the ubiquitous channel and phase checks you have a frequency band level and phase check, for the right channel, the left channel and both channels. Frequencies are 125 Hz, 1 kHz and 8 kHz. These tracks help, possibly with the aid of a sound level meter, to check whether the stereo system (and the room) possesses flat playback energy properties or not (let's call it coherence). Track 7-8-9 contain operational reference level signals (1 kHz @ -20 dB, 1 kHz @ -16 dB, 1 kHz @ -15 dB). In the case of studio recordings, these points are used as standard recording levels (0 dB being the maximum).
Tracks from 10 to 24 are spot frequency signals, from 8 Hz (!!!) to 20 kHz. Each one is recorded at -20 dB and can be extremely useful to check frequency response and linearity. 16, 32 and 63 Hz can be a handy and quick guide to test real bass frequency response of loudspeakers.
Then you have the usual logarithmic frequency sweep (to test equipment and room response across the whole audio band) and test signals to evaluate wow & flutter on CD players and tape decks. Now, if you are a cassette deck fan you might find track 31 and 32 extremely useful (and hard to find elsewhere): they are meant to check azimuth and bias/tape equalization. The extremely detailed booklet tells you how to proceed step by step in order to get professionally reliable adjustments and settings on your tape deck.
Tracks from 33 to 49 can be used to test CD players (noise, for example) and D/A linearity in many different ways: a track contains the so-called digital zero signal, which is needed to test CD players and DACs residual noise (or S/N ratio); square wave signal (22 kHz at 1 LSB) can be used to check the noise state of a CD player. Some of these signals can seriously damage your equipment if used the wrong way, be sure to read the booklet and follow the instructions carefully! Since the signal tracks do not contain any audio explaination please refer to the booklet while performing the tests.
The General sound check part contains 12 tracks and for each one of these the booklet explains where the recording had been made so that the listener can get an idea on how the soundstage should be (hall, church etc.). The music selection is extremely interesting and ranges from Classical Music to Contemporary and jazz. More precisely, Classical pieces range from Bartok, Bruch, Handel, Debussy, Liszt, contemporary ranges from Xenakis to Takemitsu while the jazz part consists of three tracks from Bob Berg, Count Basie/Jon Hendricks and Neal Hefti. These 12 tracks let you evaluate almost every HiFi parameter and instrument: piano, clarinet, percussions, traditional instruments, besides vocals, large orchestras and jazz bands.
All excerpts are taken from Denon recordings and precise references to the correspondent catalogue number are given.
In my opinion some of the most interesting tracks are:
For 10$ this CD is a hard-to-beat tool to measure and test HiFi equipment. If you are a professional or just a hobbyist willing to measure HiFi component or your own DIY designs you can't miss this powerful tool. The sound check part is a welcomed gift that can be useful even for standard audiophiles with zero technical skills (though this CD can teach you the basic things about test signals).
Definitely worth a try!
© Copyright 2010 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com