The Ultimate Headphone Demonstration Disc (JD361)

Genre: 
  1. When the Saints Go Marching In
  2. Don't You
  3. This Little Light of Mine
  4. Three For All
  5. Las Perlas de tu Boca
  6. Ben's Farm in Vermont
  7. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  8. Whip-poor-will
  9. Ceremony:Evening
  10. Transcendental Tripping
  11. Wa Wa Wa
  12. War
  13. Rock and Roll
  14. Test Tracks Introduction
  15. Four Surround Voices : Announcement
  16. Four Surround Voices : Test
  17. Front, Rear Voices : Announcement
  18. Front, Rear Voices : Test
  19. Drum and Bell: Walk Around the Mic : Announcement
  20. Drum and Bell: Walk around the Mic : Test
  21. Shaker: Walk Around the Mic : Announcement
  22. Shaker: Walk Around the Mic : Announcement
  23. Height: Center Shaker : Announcement
  24. Height: Center Shaker : Test
  25. Height: Left Channel Shaker : Announcement
  26. Height: Left Channel : Test
  27. Height: Right Channel Shaker : Announcement
  28. Height: Right Channel : Test
  29. Height: Center Bell : Announcement
  30. Height: Center Bell : Test
  31. Height: Left Channel Bell : Announcement
  32. Height: Left Channel Bell : Test
  33. Height: Right Channel Bell: Announcement
  34. Height: Right Channel Bell: Test
  35. Voice: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Announcement
  36. Voice: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Test
  37. Voice: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Announcement
  38. Voice: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Test
  39. Voice: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Announcement
  40. Voice: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Test
  41. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Announcement
  42. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Test
  43. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Announcement
  44. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Test
  45. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Announcement
  46. Cymbal: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Test
  47. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Announcement
  48. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Uncompressed : Test
  49. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Announcement
  50. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Mildly Compressed : Test
  51. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Announcement
  52. Drum Kit: Dynamic Range Heavily Compressed : Test
  53. Heart Beat Tracks
  54. Shake, Rattle, and Roll : Announcement
  55. Shake, Rattle, and Roll : Test
  56. Pink Noise : Announcement
  57. Pink Noise : Mono
  58. Pink Noise : Stereo
  59. Pink Noise : Mono + Stereo

There’s no doubt about it; we’re living in the Golden Age of Headphone Design. At every price category, headphones have never sounded better. I’ve heard more than a few $10 in-ears that were pretty respectable, lots of mid-priced winners, and a couple of $5,000 state of the art, full-size beauties that blew my mind. Today’s best headphones are higher resolution devices than the finest $100,000 speakers. You can hear superior detailing and clarity from headphones and typical room acoustic problems with speakers are completely eliminated. With the best headphones you hear what the microphones “heard,” and nothing else.

Of course a stellar headphone can’t make a poor quality recording sound great, so if you want to hear your headphones’ full potential you have to listen to the best recordings. Now sure, sound quality is a matter of taste, but I prefer recordings that sound as much like the real thing as possible. In other words, recordings free of compression, peak limiting, equalization, digital reverberation, Auto-Tune, or any studio processing tricks. That describes the sound of every Chesky recording ever made. They’re always pure and natural. We’ve included an assortment of the latest Chesky recordings to show off the best of what your headphones can do.

We’ve all gotten used to hearing music mixed and mastered to sound consistently loud, so a whisper quiet vocal is as loud as a scream. The uncompressed music tracks on this sampler retain their natural soft-to-loud dynamics, so you’ll probably have to turn up the volume on your phone or amplifier a notch or two from your normal listening level to enjoy the music’s full dynamic range.

Over the last few years Chesky Records has used a B&K 4100 D Binaural “head” that has microphones where the head’s “ears” would be. That one B&K is the only mic present at the sessions; no other mics are used to pick up individual instruments or voices. These Chesky Binaural+ recordings can also be enjoyed over stereo speakers.

In addition to the music tracks we have included a selection of tracks that can test your headphone’s dynamic range and imaging capabilities.Bear in mind that Binaural+’s 360 degree spatial cues will sound very different on in-ear, on-ear, and over-the-ear headphones. With the best headphones you will experience an “ear-witness” perspective; you hear what the binaural head heard at the session, exactly. There’s no after the fact mixing or alteration to the balance. There can’t be, as it’s a live to two-track recording. So if you own a bunch of headphones, check out how different they sound on the music and test tracks. You might be surprised by what you hear.

Soft-to-loud dynamic range compression is often cited as the #1 problem affecting sound quality on nearly all contemporary recordings, and I have to agree. Sadly, few music lovers have ever heard uncompressed recordings. Dynamic range compression is unrelated to lossy data compression formats like MP3 or Dolby Digital. No, I’m referring to dynamic range compression, the intentional squashing of the naturally occurring soft-to loud dynamics of voices and instruments. That’s why we’ve included a series of test tracks that demonstrate the musically disastrous effects of compression. For each group of dynamic range tests you’ll first hear the music in its natural, uncompressed state, followed by the very same track with a moderate amount of compression, and then one more time with a maximally compressed and peak limited sound mix. The differences are far from subtle; it’s a shame that few artists ever release their music in an uncompressed, or even only a mildly compressed version. Once the original sound has been compressed, it can never sound completely natural.

—Steve Guttenberg, February, 2014

Produced by David Chesky & Steve Guttenberg

Recorded, edited, and mastered by Nicholas Prout

All tracks were recorded at the Hirsch Center, Brooklyn, New York, and St. Paul’s Church, in New York, with a B&K Binaural head, MSB A/D converter, and Crystal microphone cable.

This album was made with the purest audio path, using the very best microphones, mic preamps, analog-to-digital converters, recorders, and cables with careful attention to detail to produce the most transparent and natural sound available today.

Reviews

"This is one that every headphone enthusiast needs to have, in the same way every audiophile back in the 1990's had to have Chesky's original Ultimate Demonstration Disc. I'm sure this one will be all over every headphone show for years to come, and it's certainly going to be part of my headphone testing from this point forward. This is gonna be fun ..."

—Brent Buterworth, stereos.about.com

While I really appreciate the interesting experience and will find some solid utility in the test tracks, it's the music on this disc that has me tantalized. The samples on the disc, and the albums from which they come, are remarkable headphone listening experiences. One of the great things about Chesky Records is that they've not only got the serious recording chops to be rightfully considered and audiophile quality label, they've also got the longevity and artistic wherewithal to attract superb talent. I highly recommend a rummage around Chesky's Binaural+ page to hunt out some music that you might enjoy. I think you'll find the experience quite a bit more ear opening than you might expect...I know I did.

—Tyll Hertsens, innerfidelity.com