Jun 2, 20166284 views

What are Your Favorite Test Tracks and Why?

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.
QWERTYOZO, vegas_berto, and 23 others

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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:
If you get a chance check out any of the Sheffield Labs recordings, esp. Harry James
Uninvited - Alanis Morissette (instriument separation, soundstage, clarity)
Stay Coloured - I Know The Chief (overall sound)
What Love Is - Outbound (bass)

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.
"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.
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.
My favorite one to use for a couple years now has been Starlight by Muse. It has rumbling bassline throughout and the vocals can be very shrill on bad systems.
My current lists by category:

Bass and Sub Bass checkout:
"Interlude" by Yosi Horikawa
"Sail ( Unlimited Gravity Remix) AWOLNATION from the Megalithic Sympony Deluxe album
"Around the World" by Christina Aguilera
"Evil Dub" by Trentemoller
"Why So Serious?" Hans Simmer on The Dark Knight soundtrack

Treble / sibilant checkout:
"They All Laughed" Bing Crosby
"Miserere" by Gregorio Allegri on Tenebrae's album
"Rhapsody" in Blue by Duke Ellington
"You must Believe in Spring" by Bill Evans
"Mr. Jukebox" by Joshua Headley
I know this is about test tracks but... Quick question-- do you burn in any of your dynamic driver headphones or IEMs/ or believe it makes a difference? I'm on the fence about whether I think it changes the sound (subjectively to my ears I haven't heard it)

I ran the TH-X00 mahogany through many hours using a burn in track on loop and didn't notice a difference, yet I can't help but think headphones especially may settle in over years (not just 100 hrs) of use?
I also acknowledge that my hearing isn't what it used to be so even if there is a difference, I'm not experienced enough or or in tune enough to notice. I love warm, musical, bassy sound sigs (think JVC fx850 woodies, Fidelio x1, Senn 6xx) and I'm very treble sensitive. Still hoping to find a BA based IEM that can do musical and bass the way a well-done DD can!

And thanks for posting the sibilant test tracks, going to give them a listen on my favorite gear.
I don't really make a big deal out of burn-in (or driver seating or breaking in, or any of the numerous other terms used to desribe it).

I really haven't had a pair of dynamic drivers make huge gains with extended play times with only one exception.

The graphene drivers in the Vsonic GR07 37th Anniversary Special edition IEMs definitely did change sound signature with time. New they sounded decent only with a separate IEM amp, but after several months of listening they have a much more balanced tone and sound much better straight out of my LG V30+.
Maputo by Bob James and David Sanborn-whenever I play this in a store testing audio equipment, several people will come over and ask me who this is. It starts out low and builds to a crescendo. Love and Happiness by David Sanborn. When they start wailing on the sax it really tests the equipment.
I have a few aspects that I usually test.

Strings and female vocals reproduction at the same time: I Talk to the Rain by Kajiura Yuki

Bass extension and control - 迷子のPolaris (Extended Mix) by Kirin

Sax/Jazz - too many but notable examples are Break It Down Again by Kajiura Yuki and Boogie Woogie Wonder Cat by Swing Holic Band

Guitars and drums (easy song to test bad trebble too) - Innocent Eyes by FELT

And then a selection of stuff that I listen to virtually on a weekly basis if not daily for years. This is honestly just confirmation on what my opinion on the setup already is from the other tests.
As others will say the best is one that you know well, for me personally I always use "Wouldn't it be nice" by the Beach Boys. I wouldn't even say its a great test track but for me it seems to always give me a feeling to how they sound. Besides that I use "Zealots of Stockholm" by Gambino because that bass-ey part gave away a bad pair of speakers I got a year ago roughly so now I always use it to hear for any distortion, but again its really personal preference I think.
Aja - Steely Dan
One of my favorites as of late has been Sledgehammer (from one of the Star Trek movie soundtracks apparently). It's a very busy song that does a good job testing treble, mids, bass, and overall coherence and instrument separation. Also, Rihanna's voice in the song sounds strident, harsh, and artificial on > 95% of headphone setups, so it's an EXCELLENT test of upper mids, treble, and the transition between them. Even the Sennheiser HD 6XX / HD 600 sounds a bit harsh/strident here. If a piece of equipment fails this test, I don't want it.
Jack Loussier Play Bach ;)

There you will find everything: jazz, classical, treble, medium, bass, stage, emotion, etc. ufff #enjoy
"Euro-Trash Girl" by Cracker (Kerosene Hat album, hidden track #69) - Eight minutes of addictive grunge-rock. Characterized by a lack of chords, the continuous riffs, defined vocals, and minimal instruments provide a decent test for a defined soundstage. The somewhat technical 45-sec run from the 5:40 mark is a good place to twist the pot up for an isolated test of distortion or clipping.
The band plays with a clear separation of instruments and a nice dac will put you in an intimate setting with this performance rather than out in the crowd. It lends better as a test for dac & headphone combination more-so than an amp. The eight minute length also allows time for dac adjustments during play.
Favourite tracks are tracks that I always listen to. Coz:
1. They are my favourite
2. I've been hearing them A LOT over many headphones, so I can easily discern any deviations
3. I will continue listening to them, so if they sound good on a new pair of phones, even better!
Whenever I am testing out a subwoofer setup (or new headphones) for bass extension I always play Burial (feat. Pusha T, Moody Good, and TrollPhace) by Yogi, Skrillex. I bothered listing all that because this specific version of the song has a fantastic bass line starting right around the 3 minute mark (just a bit past that in the video). On most systems all you can really hear is the kick drum and some vague bass tones, but if you have yourself a good setup it will shake your soul. you can still hear it on youtube, but try and find a better version if you can (it's on spotify). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ13nr6urIo