We use Radar Love for test listening quite a lot at Vertex, to develop prototypes and analyse system faults. A track like this is important because it stresses a system considerably. And we only need to have a few faults in a system to turn this track into an unpleasant mess.

Let’s consider a few specific details. First the drums – how they are played and recorded. In particular the kick drum and cymbals. The kick drum has a fast double beat and often a system loses the feeling of the quick pulses of ‘air pressure’. These pulses are smack in the centre of the image and they give the track a much greater sense of excitement and propulsion when these beats are properly rendered. You can visualise the kick drum and the drummer’s motion as he really forces down on the pedal, kicking it hard and fast whilst giving the rest of the drum kit a serious workout at the same time. It’s a real outburst of energy and skill.

Next are the cymbals which are being played with a lot of vigour. The drummer really rides them almost continuously in parts of the track, and this sound is often totally wrecked on hi-fi systems. Rather than the strong, intense metallic sounds of the cymbals sounding sparkly and effervescent, adding the top end to the whole drum kit in an enjoyable way, they are rendered as a harsh unpleasant sound. This is not how it is on the recording.

The other significant element of the track, for hi-fi testing purposes, is the horn accompaniment. About half way through the track the music builds with intense blasts from the horns. These should sound rich and relatively smooth, yet with crisp tonal detail. But when any significant amount of systematic error is present, this horn sound is unbearable. Again, it’s not like this on the recording. The recording is ‘dense’ for sure, but it’s not badly distorted.

And that’s the point really, to use dense, complex tracks to really expose your system faults. Don’t use your smooth, easy-sounding tracks to adjust your system. Pick those recordings that are well known, have a good musical content, but don’t sound good on your system.

Get to know one or two of them very well, and be honest with yourself as things go wrong with the sound when you play them. And play them quiet and loud too. Then, when you experiment with system setup and test new Vertex parts, or indeed any new components and speakers, you will be able to go straight to the real problems with these tracks. Push the musical limits, reposition speakers and experiment with different locations with the vertex kit. Try Jayas in different sockets, Roraimas feeding different components, and play the track again. Or if you are auditioning a couple of new amps or speakers say, then do this test with them. The objective is to reduce those big faults at the busiest parts of the track, where the faults are at their worst.

Think of it like this, it’s like putting a new fighter plane through its flight testing – pushing the envelope hard until you find the weaknesses. Only then you can understand the weaknesses and take proper action to remedy them. Do this and you’ll have a far, far better hi-if system (and fighter!) in the end.

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