Setup Discs in the Age of Streaming
I recently rearranged my audio system and replaced some cables, etc. While not terribly complicated, there is always the chance of misconnecting a cable and reversing Left and Right or even worse connecting speakers out of phase.
It’s always nice at the end of an overhaul like this to be able to quickly test things for peace of mind. For many years you could grab a CD or even an LP that had a series of tracks that would walk you through basic channel tests, phase tests and even frequency sweeps.
But what to do if you have embraced streaming music exclusively? I pondered this question and happily found an answer. I did a search of Tidal via the Roon interface and discovered a system setup disc for streamers!
The Ultimate Headphones Test is available on Tidal and has all of the basic tests one needs to do a check of a system’s setup. While the title implies it is for headphones, all of the tests can be used with speaker based systems as well. The test stream allowed me to quickly confirm that I had my channel settings correct and in phase. I could also check my speaker/room frequency response and even the state of my audiophile hearing. More on that in a moment.
I found each track professionally created with the narrator (presumably the creator), Stéphane Pigeon, offering concise information about each test. I found his French accent added an exotic touch to the proceedings.
While I was going through the tracks I also played the frequency sweeps for both and high and low ranges. Given the myriad of room and speaker combinations this test will be highly variable. In this case, I decided to actually listen to these tests on headphones as intended. Being brutally honest I can say I can easily hear from 30 hz in the low end up to 14 Khz in the high end. From what I have read, this is probably about average for someone like me who is a male nearing his 6th decade. So much for my Golden Ears!
My limited hearing test did drive home the reality that while many in the industry are striving for ever higher sampling rates (e.g. 768 Khz), many if not most of the end listeners cannot even hear all of the frequencies of the original CD created decades ago.
If you subscribe to Tidal, be sure to add this audio test stream to your collection for future use. The next time you are unsure if your system is performing properly you can easily run these basic tests and confirm your setup.