Most of us weren’t present when recordings were made. We listen to the work of bands, performers, recording and mastering engineers without reference to what it sounded like in the first place. When we play these recordings back, how should we know whether they are correctly reproduced?
Commonality and consistency.
If there’s a consistent bass hump in most recordings—or a problem in other areas of tonality or imaging—you can be confident it’s the equipment or the room rather than the recording. That’s the basis we use to ferret out problems in recordings or equipment.
I have posted partial lists of the tracks I use to determine problems, like this one. I’ll post more as time and inspiration happen.
Once you develop your personal baker’s dozen tracks, be rigorous in their use when auditioning a new component.
We can’t know how recordings sounded live because we weren’t there. But we do know a dozen tracks from different artists can’t all be the same.
Takes a bit of effort, but the results are worth it.