Best tracks to test stereo imaging, tonal balance and dynamics

Reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever wondered, how Marantz sound engineers test and evaluate a new product? There are some secrets that a magician would never reveal, but here we offer you two sample tracks and the methodology on which Marantz evaluates amplifiers or CD/SACD/network players. There are three key criterias: Stereo Imaging, Tonal Balance and Dynamics. Stereo Imaging refers to the reproduction of a soundstage built up in a fine recording, meaning the location of instruments and vocals in width, depth and height. Tonal balance defines how all elements in a piece of music sound together, how the low, mid and high frequencies are balanced and put into harmony. Dynamics refer to the sonic variation in a song, from the lowest frequencies of a deep bass guitar or cello, to the clear highs of a triangle.

Check out the below recordings and test your own HiFi system upon these criteria.  

Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)

From the CD: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – The Greatest Film Classics

To make it easy to get an idea about the performance of a product this piece is a perfect example. Start your listening on a moderate volume level as it will build up over the course of the track.

It starts with just bass & cello playing the melody (positioned at the right relatively to the front) and then violin/string instruments fill the soundstage (center and left). Seconds later a tuba adds in, woodwinds and trumpets are added. Level increases and a kettledrum makes a first appearance.

This repeats several times while level increases bit by bit.

So what can you judge? First of all, can you clearly position the various instruments? How good is the separation between bass and cello at the beginning. Is the tuba behind the cello/bass? If you have a clear ‘vision’ of the orchestra in the first minute of the track, does this stay if everything gets more dynamic and levels increase? These dynamics are tough for amplifiers and work hard on a Marantz product to get you a clear well arranged orchestra until the end of this piece of music.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

SACD: Radka Toneff: Fairytales

This is an easy listening example. Usually, Marantz engineers use the SACD or the DSD stream but the CD is also a good choice. Tidal for example offers a hires stream that is also a good option to use.

Just piano and female vocals. The recording is outstanding as it gets the singer in the center of the stage with a very realistic height and the piano clearly positioned behind her. With this you can again check if positioning happens as described or if you have problems to get a sense of the space for example. Furthermore because of the female vocals high frequency content you can clearly spot if something is too soft or aggressive or harsh sounding. If these vocals sound, your system is performing according to the Marantz philosophy.

Curious how Marantz HiFi components in all categories sound? Visit the Marantz homepage to be inspired.