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Records for testing...
...are you sure that they exist?
Giorgio Pozzoli's choice
I can't understand all this talking about record for tests. Anyone talks about them, but at the end those records are just records like any other.
In my opinion records to be used in testing HiFi systems are neither peculiar nor special. The only important thing is to listen to the records you like more, in depth.
Be careful: I wrote in depth, not in any detail. A really outstanding system is not the one that has a single specific quality at an exceptional level (a beautiful mid band, a sparkling and detailed high band, outstandingly solid bass, an holographic imaging...) but the one that is able to give you strong emotions even when listening to a very well known piece.
It is not necessary the record to seem different, a brand new one and to exhibit new qualities. This can happen only if your own reference system has a (quite) lower quality level than the system under test, in the other cases you just can expect to be overwhelmed and start listening just to the music.
And if you are honest, and just love music a little, you must admit that at least once you got lost in the music even listening to systems with some relatively evident fault... why not to admit that this are quite good systems?
Anyway, to understand a system in depth and to be able to give a reasonable verdict about it there is no other solution: you must live with it quite for a while, test it with ALL your records, study it, find out which are the best operating conditions for it, and at the end, perhaps, you are able to understand which is its true value, in your environment and with your other components, that is, you cannot be definitely sure that the verdict is absolutely valid.
Then, what do we "sell", as reviewers? Nonsense?
Yes, exactly, nonsense, were you thinking anything different? :-)
But sometimes nonsense is more nonsense than other times. Sometimes there is a nonsense coming out of the effort of honestly learning all secrets of a component and report them correctly, even though with all limits a subjective opinion has (which are not so many, in the end, as the independent opinion expressed on the same object by Lucio and me are often pretty similar).
In other cases there is painted nonsense (pink, or better, en rose), just to show as positive (if not extraordinary) qualities even the less positive aspects of an audio component.
Examples? I beg your pardon, how many less than positive reviews have you read recently? Boys, it is really ridiculous: they just avoid to make any comparison, of any kind, so that in any review they can say the component is definitely and absolutely exceptional for the price!
Anyway there still is some operator in this business who appreciates a certain honesty and independence of a review, as there is someone who after reading a not completely positive review, accepted our opinion and insisted for it to be published.
Back to our records list. Apart for a few, these are not records especially suitable for critical listening, but just a list of records which I use for tests as I like them and I find them recorded in a reasonably natural way.
Just to balance my colleagues I have mainly listed classical music and contemporary classical music recordings (mmmh, I am afraid it could be a rather heavy listening for many of you, it's just heavy enough to sink a dinosaur: I have warned you, then don't ask me for refund)
With regards to availability, it is between the impossible and the extremely unprobable... is not my fault if a lot of very good recordings where published 10 or 20 years ago (it's not true: all CDs were published in the last 10 years, while LP are really rather ancient).
- Decca 448 714-2 CD The Cleveland Orchestra
STRAUSS Don Juan Op. 20
STRAUSS Eine Alpensinfonie Op.64
STRAUSS Salomes Schleiertanz
A large orchestra painted with precision and detail. Very difficult to play it back at live volume.
- DG 437 667-2 CD Pogorelich
MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an exibition
RAVEL Valses nobles et sentimentales
A very good piano recording (even though it is DG: the piano just has not a keyboard larger than the full orchestra), with great dynamics, very realistic and no euphony.
- DG 453 040-2 CD Christa Ludwig Berliner Philharmoniker von Karajan
MAHLER Symphony N.9
A rather old recording, but really excellent. A very good tonal balance, not so much dynamics.
- Decca 448 813-2 CD Royal Concertgrbouw Orchestra - Chailly
MAHLER Symphony N.1
BERG Sonata op.1
A recent recording, sparking, outstanding dynamics, an enviable tonal balance. Something like a masterpiece. The symphony is not too difficult to listen to.
- Oiseau-Lyre 430 488-2 CD (2) Nelson Kirkby The Academy of Ancient Music Hogwood
A (not very recent) reference recording of a one of the most appreciated oratorios in Music history. A wide and airy soundstage, plenty of male and female choirs and solo voices.
- Oiseau-Lyre 436 585-2 CD Kirkby Robbin Ainsley The Academy of Ancient Music Hogwood
MOZART Messa dell'incoronazione KV317
MOZART Vesperae solennes de confessore KV39
A great Mozart in a performance I really love; plenty of choirs and soloists here too. With several low price CDs sibilants were excessive and unpleasant, so that the HiFi shop assistants used to tell me that the recording was not so good. I never understood why the problem was enormously reduced with high cost players...
- RCA Classical 74321 21297 2 CD Boston Symphony Orchestra Copland Morton Gould and his Orchestra
COPLAND Appalachian Spring
COPLAND Billy The Kid: Suite
COPLAND Rodeo: Suite
Contemporary Classical Music that you can dare listening: American authors are often easier to listen to than European ones. It is a reference recording, at least as in a few pieces the director is Copland himself. The cost of the CD is very low.
- Teldec 4509-97460-2 CD Fischer-Dieskau, Reimann
SHOSTAKOVICH Suite su poesie di Michelangelo Buonarroti Op.145
REIMANN Tre Poemi di Michelangelo: "Sol io ardendo", "Che fia di me?", "L'alma inquieta e confusa"
This is a really heavy record (in one of the most important hifi shops in Milan, as I was listening to this record to test some loudspeakers, the owner run up asking "What's this?" but with a face meaning "Stop it now: my customers are running away".). The recording is absolutely outstanding, very detailed, with Fischer-Dieskau in the foreground, perfect, and the piano recorded with really commendable precision and thoroughness (I prefer this recording tho te most celebrated Pogorelich one listed above). I don't dare using the term exciting, just for it can be really heavy for the average audiophile.
- Virgin Classics 7243 5 45039 2 CD Studer, Ramey Orchestre de L'Opera de Lyon Nagamo
An opera by an American author. Very interesting obviously for voices and the cleanliness of the recording. Very high gross weight.
- Decca 448 245-2 CD Wiener Philharmoniker Kondrashin
DVORAK Sinfonia Nr.9 Op.95 "in mi minore ""Dal Nuovo Mondo"""
DVORAK Cesca suita (Czech Suite) in re maggiore
DVORAK Prazske valciky (Prague Waltzes) in re maggiore
Reference version of "From the New World" symphony. This edition seems a little coloured, but it is always exciting, with very good dynamics. For everyone.
- DG 2532 103 LP Pollini Wiener Philharmoniker Jochum
BEETHOVEN Concerto for piano and orchestra Nr.1 Op.15 in D major
A DG reference recording of excellent performance of the Concerto. Commendable, the instruments size is not even excessively wrong.
- Philips 9500 775 LP Brendel
LISZT Late Piano Works
A very good recording, with not easy pieces (not even to listen to) played with an outstanding class.
- Velut Luna CD La musica e le Arti
A set of recordings of baroque music by M. Lincetto. It was given as a present to all visitors by Miroir de la Musique [TN: Italian distributor for Etalon and Audia] at Top Audio '97. Note that their room was one of best sounding, if not the best, and I would have paid just to listen longer: instead they gave us the CD as a present. The CD is recorded in a very natural way, partially live, and allows a full test of tonal character of the system, but the variety of baroque music typologies is not so wide. It is impossible to verify, for example, the dynamical behaviour.
- WB 925 447-1 Paul Simon
Very pleasant music, a good recording, lot of contamination, what more? There also full and round bass and beautiful voices.
- SMAS 2653 The Beatles
Sgt.Peppers Lonely Heart Club band
Any comment needed? The recording perhaps is not the best, but... (the strange code depends on the fact my copy should have been printed in Canada).
- Olis OM0018 CD
A set of songs from Italian standards with Nada and two from the Avion Travel group. Commendable, independently from the songs. The recording is really good, exceptional the instruments, very good the voice which is just a little edgy. An audiophile record... to be bought at the newspaper stand. Sorry for anyone who has not been able to get it, Lucio had warned you on time.
- Telarc Super Test CD
The CD came as a supplement to the first issue of Audiophile Sound, the famous Italian review that after a few years of ghostly (dis)appearance seems to have reached stability. A very malicious CD, with not so much appealing music, but really difficult to play correctly, so that it is really a perfect tool for fast testing, but I can't bear it out of this kind of usage.
The last but one track uses surround effects, so that you can hear a few jets over your head. Exactly on top of you. A good test of system imaging capability? I would say not at all, as the effect is perfectly present even with the internal speaker of a notebook computer. But then the six channels are just necessary for make us spend three times more? Well, the doubt remains.
Copyright © 1999 Giorgio Pozzoli
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