What are Your Favorite Test Tracks and Why?
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I like to test out the performance of new headphones (or any other part of an audio system) when I get them. I prefer to do my testing using the best instrumentation for the job that an audiophile has: My ears.
As a result I strongly prefer listening to music with contents that target a something specific rather than a rocking out to a signal generator. I am always interested to hear what other audiophiles and headphone enthusiasts like to throw at their cans and what their reasons are for doing so.
Here's a few of my favorites:
  • "Bombaclaad Star" by Liquid Stranger - Has a great stretch just after the 4:00 mark where the beat changes to claps and the bass is low. Very low. So low, in fact, that many audio systems can't produce it at an audible level. I use this track to test out bass extension and it's a fun track to listen to while you're at it.

  • "Rock n Roll Chainsaw" by Maximum the Hormone - The album this song is from is mastered a bit treble heavy so this song makes it easy for me to listen to see if cymbals sound natural (like a cymbal instead of someone saying, "ssss") which is partially how I evaluate my high treble end. It has the added benefit of being one of the funnest tunes I've ever rocked out to.

  • "Hedwig's Theme" by John Williams - Right out of the gate there's a magical combination of chimes and bells. Again I'm looking for the natural sound of the bells in particular to prove out the high end of my new pride and joy. There's also plenty of opportunity throughout the rest of the track to evaluate instrument separation. Truly a joy to listen to if you're a big enough nerd for it.

  • "Magnificat 4. Et Misericordia" by Kim Andre Arnesen - I love this whole composition but this movement in particular. I test out female voice production with it since the accompaniment is subdued to the degree that you can easily distinguish between the two.

Please share some of your favorites! Sorry about the compression on the YouTube videos but I'm not sure how else to share tracks here.
thumb_upSteven14, s2030081, and 27 others
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Heefty
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Neubrineo
24
Dec 5, 2018
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Royksopp - Happy Up There Becose I have been using it to test stuff for years and heard it hundred times on many different headphones.Its got everything,thumping sub bass kick,mud tester upper bass line,alot "plankton" micro details,many instruments positioned at different positions in very wide soundstage, high quality drum samples,male and female vocals,harmonicaly rich crisp sharp synths .This track and pink noise + 20 KHz - 20 Hz sine sweep is first thing I use to evaluate headphones.
Dec 5, 2018
Socratease
189
Dec 3, 2018
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Wailin' Jennys "Old Man" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33sUCcSOeBw Simple acoustic instrumental with 3 female vocals, but very well engineered to bring out instrument and imaging details. Every time I make a significant improvement in my sound system I hear something new in it.
Dec 3, 2018
DeiLwynnA
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Nov 4, 2018
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The symphonic metal band Epica is my main go-to, has a very nice mix of bass and treble (though in most cases, youtube compresses the audio too much and is making it clip, specially Simone's higher soprano vocals) to test the audio, specifically songs like Chasing The Dragon, Feint and Canvas Of Life. Other than that, it's a mix of other metal bands, some more bass focused, others more treble focused.
Nov 4, 2018
kimdeug
371
Oct 10, 2018
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I am using for headphone test this song from time: 22:22 Nice combination bass vs trebles and good vocals 22:22
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw3ATcB1PnU

Oct 10, 2018
iija
4
Oct 8, 2018
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This is an oddball, and I highly recommend it to everyone to check out. While this might not be the biggest indicator of performance, it's perhaps the strongest test of a headphone's quality.
The 12" version of Love is a Hurtin' Thing by Gloria Ann Taylor is one of my favourite songs of all time, but more importantly it is a really weirdly produced song. It's got crazy separation of individual elements, totally different levels of recording quality across instruments, said instruments fading in and out constantly and inconsistently, all sorts of filters randomly put on them, and a ton of sonic imperfections. It sounds almost plunderphonic at times. This makes it great for checking detail, separation and peaking among other things, but tons of tracks here do that already. What makes this track special? The worse it sounds, the better your phones/speakers are. I dream of listening to it on a multi-thousand dollar setup, hearing every mishap, every twiddle, every shift, without losing any of it. The youtube version really doesn't do it justice, check it out on spotify or whatever you use, but here is it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiEfXefmrkE
Oct 8, 2018
vegas_berto
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Sep 10, 2018
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There's always a relevant list posted somewhere on the interwebs with decent tracks to test: https://www.cnet.com/news/the-audiophiliacs-top-music-tracks-for-testing-speakers-and-headphones/
I work for an AV Systems integrator, and we do a lot of sound systems for Arenas, night clubs, lounges, bars, restaurants, churches, etc... I've complied a list of my favorites:
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Sep 10, 2018
tlovejr
1
Sep 10, 2018
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If you get a chance check out any of the Sheffield Labs recordings, esp. Harry James
Sep 10, 2018
EdinNJ
270
Sep 9, 2018
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I've used the album CSN for a long time, for both headphone listening chain and for speaker chain evaluation. Bass is really tight and musical (and very low), if the speakers or headphones and the system components are good. Goes flabby and thumpy and loses all musicality if not. Voice harmonies can get screechy or annoying if the midrange is too forward. (I get headaches from systems where the midrange is too forward.) Shadow Captain, Dark Star, Fair Game are all really hard for systems to produce with musicality from lowest bass to sizzle of cymbals.
Sep 9, 2018
LongLiveRock
139
Aug 27, 2018
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"Stay", by Hans Zimmer, from the soundtrack to Interstellar, is my favorite test track by far. It has quiet atmospherics in the beginning, transitioning to tremulo on the strings, with crazy reverberating bass, and a 7-minute build to a thunderous, emotionally satisfying conclusion. I love it. And it's a great test of detail, bass extension and control, and overall cohesion when reproducing loud symphonic music.
Aug 27, 2018
MooTaters
361
Aug 26, 2018
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Nice post, I've never gone into such specifics to test new headphones. I've just stuck to listening to the best quality of music that I own, and one which I think falls into that category for me is Ozric Tentacles. Which some of their songs have quite a lot going on, so I'd use that to at least test how well headphones can handle instrument separation and what not. I think they also just seem to do a pretty good job at recording/mastering...but I'm certainly no pro, their music just seems to have a level of clarity to it, especially noticeable in something as obvious as symbols.
Aug 26, 2018
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