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What are Your Favorite Test Tracks and Why?
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Please, people. Listing things like "Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata"...
That's about as meaningful listing "Happy Birthday To You" or "Jingle Bells."
Beethoven was a composer. Moonlight Sonata was one of his pieces. This was from a time and in a world of music where the name of a piece was not synonymous with a specific recording of that piece. Otherwise, you could be referring to your nephew Jimmy playing it at his elementary school talent show that you recorded on your old camcorder.
When someone says "Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here", unless they state some live version or demo, we know they mean Track #4 on the 1975 eponymous album, recorded at Abbey Road Studios with Brian Humphries as Engineer or whoever/wherever/whatever.
If you're recommending a piece of classical music you like, you should also add some kind of details as to which performance/recording you're referring to.
Even if you say "Glenn Gould's performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations" there's more than one recording, performance, and mix of that.
Jazz Standards/Music/Performances work the same way too. If you just say "Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight" that really doesn't mean anything. Jazz Standards are played and performed hundreds, thousands of times over or even more and recorded just as many.
Anyways... sorry for getting off topic! In answer to the topic, Pink Floyd is definitely a great one for test tracks. Maybe it's because I listened to them so much when I was younger and still know them inside out, but there's a lot of work put into the mix. Echoes, Shine on You Crazy Diamond, ... even their post-Roger Waters stuff was mixed with a lot of care (though definitely sound like the eras they were mixed in. -- 1 second into "Learning to Fly" and you know it's the early 90s/late 80s for sure.)
Portishead's albums will forever be wonderful test tracks for me too. Glory Box and Roads off of Dummy.
Someone above mentioned Massive Attack - "Tears" (Teardrop), which is totally a great track too... but off of Mezzanine, Angel is the ultimate test track... huge dynamic range, bleeding distorted guitars at its peak, deep penetrating sub bass, snares that slap you in the face, and a sultry vocal track over the top.
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls or Sleep.
Sigur Ros - Vidrar Vel Til Loftarasa or Track #1 from ( )
So many good test tracks. But really, even if you have a track that doesn't have a huge dynamic range, great spatialization, and etc... as long as you know that mix really well, it's gonna be a good test track. If you're not getting to test in the comfort of your own home, bring some tracks where you know the mixes inside and out. Those will tell you more about what you're listening to than just an unrelative "This sounds really good!"
Not off topic at all. Very important points!