The Stereophile Test CD Track 13
 George Gershwin: "Summertime" (the "Lesley Test") (DDD) 1:51
(Lyrics by DuBose Heyward & Ira Gershwin)
Lesley Olsher (soprano)
Recording Venue: Stereophile's dedicated listening room, Santa Fe, NM
Recording Date: November 3, 1989
Recording Engineers: Robert Harley, Dick Olsher
Microphones: two EAR The Mics, set to cardioid pattern, in ORTF configuration
Microphone preamplifier: EAR 824M
Recorder: Nakamichi 1000 R-DAT
As regular readers of Stereophile will be aware, the "Lesley Test" is an essential part of Senior Contributing Editor Dick Olsher's reviews: he listens for how the component he is writing about changes the sound of the voice of his wife Lesley (who is a professional singer). The philosophical problem with this test is that only those of us who live in Northern New Mexico are familiar with Lesley's singing voice. For this track, therefore, Robert Harley and Dick recorded her singing acappella in a reasonably dead acoustic with two very neutral microphones and the minimum of processing. As DO is familiar with the recording acoustic—it is actually his listening room—and is also familiar with the sound of the mike feed, it is easy for him to get a handle on the coloration introduced by the playback chain.
For an artist to sing acappella is a difficult task, but it does give DO a clear and focused view of Lesley's timbre and intonation without the potential for masking. Now when Dick writes about how a component renders Lesley's soprano as "plummy," or "oversibilant," you'll also have a sonic reference point for your own listening to the same component.
The dynamic range of Lesley's voice on this track is large—DO has a difficult time playing it at a realistic level on his Quad US Monitors—and it will reveal midrange power-handing problems, as well as system distortion problems. (Incidentally, if Lesley's image appears to move from side to side slightly, this is due to the relatively close—42"—placement of the microphone array.)