My Top Ten Reference CDs

The following are my Top Ten reference CDs I use while reviewing. And why. The word reference is a favourite among audiophiles. Reference points, gear, LPs, CDs, criteria. Of course, it’s a good and healthy set of ears in balance, a tasteful aesthetic and a fair approach that are the important tenets of any review.

The list should change as new audiophile CDs are being released with wonderful regularity in addition to the ingenious way record companies keep repackaging (and remastering) famous CDs from their libraries. I’m not complaining.

So, with the idea that these CDs work for me and are used only as musical source comfort food, use the list as a starting point to begin a solid review collection or discard as more reviewer noise. The choice is yours. Of course, you’ll have your own. I’d love to read what you use in the comments section.

In no particular order.


1. Burmester CD 3 SamplerThe late Dieter Burmester had great ears. It shows in his choices. Every track is a gem and will test your equipment in ways you never dreamed.

2. Stereophile Test CD 3used in conjunction with a Radio Shack meter to test balance, driver extension, etc.

3. American BeautyTrack 1. The greatest audiophile Track 1. Played once, and never forgotten. A perfect balance of synthesized and acoustic instruments. My Desert Island reviewer disc.

4. The English Songbookvoice. And a gorgeous one. Balance between piano and voice, chest tone, head tone, emotion, piano touch, instrument placement. A great, musical disc.

5. Power of Three natural clapping (sounds odd, but very important) , back to front recording, stunning Wayne Shorter, Jim Hall and Michel Petruccianni.

6. The Reiner Soundorchestral playing at its pinnacle. Can the equipment unravel Rachmaninov’s murky 5/8 bass line?

7. Swingphonic Incredible woodwind blends. I’m on it. I know my playing. Pretty good reference for me.

8. Waltz for Debbysmoky atmosphere, talking guests, clinking glasses, Paul Motion’s brush work, and then there’s the incredible genius of Bill Evans.


9. You Can’t Take my Bluessubtlety of inner guitar lines. Touch and speed as played by the amazing Doug MacLeod.


10. The Yellow SharkLive. Can your ‘hear’ excitement? Frank Zappa’s huge musical personality eludes the limitation of electrons. 


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