The songs sound engineers use to tune your stereo


Illustration by Alexander WellsCar and driver

Extract from the November 2021 issue of Car and driver.

What are your car speakers making and, more importantly, how does it sound? For the sound engineers at audio equipment maker Bose, a playlist is more than banging songs. To test stereos, they need songs representing a variety of sounds and recording techniques to ensure that new systems can recreate a song with the depth of the original recording.

To have a common point of reference, Bose engineers around the world share a master playlist. “Every systems engineer knows these leads inside and out,” says Mark Armitage, team leader for acoustics engineering at the company’s local Michigan office. “It creates a universal language that we can use when testing and tuning.”

Armitage says the 54-track Bose playlist is updated periodically, and engineers can use it with a handful of their personal favorites or recent Grammy winners. He walked us through a few selections from his list of tests.

Mono pink noise

“The least fun trail [Literally noise—Ed.] and also the one we use the most. It shows you where your central image [the imaginary center stage of the recording] is, and that’s the full bandwidth, so you can hear frequencies that aren’t aligned properly. “

Holly Cole Trio, “I Can See Clearly Now”

“This track is pretty centered and the first part is very mono. The deep male voice equivalent is Johnny Cash’s ‘Bird on a Wire’.”

Bruno Mars, “The magic 24K”

“Features a lot of instruments that are spread widely across the soundstage, from high notes on the tweeter to low. It is very comprehensive. “

Winter game, “Billie Jean”

“It’s a simple, clear female voice accompanied by a double bass. Often the simpler things show details of the soundstage that are more difficult to hear in something very busy.”

Tom Petty, “Learning to Fly (Live)”

“The crowd starts to sing, Petty’s voice drops, and if the system is done right, you get a real idea of ​​the size of this auditorium. Otherwise, it tends to collapse and you lose this giant space.”

Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Take Five”

“Listen to the hi-hat and cymbals in the intro. The cymbals are difficult to record and play, and it sounds nice and natural with excellent instrument spacing.”

Steely Dan, “Hey nineteen”

“Has lots of detail and crisp, crisp hits that show how well the music’s time alignment gets to you. With each speaker at a different distance from the listener, tuning a system involves making sure that all sounds reach the ears at the same time for clear, natural sound. “

Straight No Chaser, “Homeward Bound”

“Everything a cappella, the voices spread across the stage and you can hear each person singing independently. “

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