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CDs that are ideal for testing speakers

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

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CDs that are ideal for testing speakers 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1989, The Syracuse Newspapers

It's time to put away the beach blanket and turn up the stereo. Home hi-fi listening is back now that school is open, vacations are over and the nip of fall is in the air.

That means it's a perfect time to give those tired old loudspeakers to Uncle Dave in St. Cloud. To help you upgrade your hi-fi, here are three CDs that are perfect for testing speakers in the audio salon's listening room. Just ask the sales people to play any of the CDs in this list: For instrumental sound

"Beethoven: Piano Sonatas 13, 14, 2 and 15," Bruno-Leonard Gelber, piano.

This CD is from Denon (number CO-72539) and is one of the most natural-sounding piano recordings you can buy.

This compact disc lacks a lot of things. It doesn't have any discernible noise, it doesn't have a smidgeon of harshness and it comes to us without the knob-twiddling that some engineers have inflicted on CD piano recordings in the past.

The result: An ideal disc to show off real piano sound. Turn up the volume when you play this baby. If the Steinway that Gelber is playing starts to sound like it came from Fisher-Price, you'll never be happy with the speakers. For the human voice

"Marni Nixon Sings Classic Kern," Marni Nixon, soprano, Lincoln Mayorga, piano.

This CD comes from the amazing duo of Keith Johnson and Tam Henderson, the gurus of Reference Recordings. (The CD is RR-28CD.)

Nixon is famous around Hollywood for her off-camera singing (she's dubbed the voices of many actresses in blockbuster musicals), but she's becoming known these days for her own stand-up-and-salute-me recordings, too. In this one, she shows what a silvery voice can do with some of the best songs that ever came out of America's innocent era.

If you play this CD and don't hear that silvery sheen, the speakers are playing possum in the mid-range. Stay away from anything that turns Marni Nixon into Monty Python. For killer bass notes

"The Power and the Majesty, Vol. II."

This is a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab recording (MFCD 812) originally issued as a specially pressed LP disc. The first half of this CD will shock you with thundering steam locomotives, and the second half will lull you with a gentle rainstorm.

Cue up a train when you want to hear what a pair of good loudspeakers can do to your blood pressure. Make sure the folks at your local stereo shop have insurance, because any of the locomotives on this disc could turn woofers into wimpers if you play this too loud.

How loud is too loud? Well, you keep turning up the knob until something breaks, and then you back off a bit. That's just a joke, guys.

All of these discs can be ordered from retail and mail-order record shops. Make sure you give them the catalog number when ordering. Prices vary, but figure on $15 or so, since these are premium CDs.

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