I’m sure most of you have checked out my Quality Test Playlist. If you haven’t yet checked it out, I recommend looking at it. There are a lot of songs in my playlist that can really test your system. In this post however, I’m going to be going over 15 of the best songs to test your speakers, amplifiers, headphones, DACs, and the overall sound quality of your system. I will be explaining what to listen for in each of these songs. As I’ve previously stated, your system should be able to “sing”. By “sing”, I mean bring out the emotions, details, and placement of those details within the sound stage, and even the tempo hidden within your music. You know your system is good when you can pick up on the tempo in music that has a lot of other details covering it up. Enjoy putting your system through it’s paces as I teach you how to be a picky audiophile.
(Be sure that you are listening through Tidal or another source of lossless streaming with exclusive mode turned on)
Axel F – Harold Faltermeyer
Starting off with the first song, Axel F by Harold Faltermoeyer has it all. This song is one of the best songs to test the high end production of your system. Start by listening to that treble filled sound. Not only should you hear it clearly, you should be able to hear the tone of that sound. It will have sort of a metallic sound. If you can hear that, then you know your tweeters are doing their job good. Also, throughout the whole song, you should also hear that squeaky “clicking” like sound. That sound should be clearly audible even during the peak of Axel F. Now for the low end, Axel F really tests your speakers lower mid range and low end production. Listen to how the bass follows that lower pitched sound. This sound should follow the bass within Axel F as one sound. In other words, this sound should not sound separate from the bass. This song is also good for tuning subwoofers if you’re using any within your system. You should aim to adjust your crossover and gain settings so that this sound sounds as if it were from the same source.
Jane Says – Jane’s Addiction
Jane Says is a guitar masterpiece that will surround you in it’s sound stage. Deep within all of these guitar sounds is a ton of details however. To start off, your should listen closely on the left side. This song’s tempo is easily picked out on a good system. Also, the bass beat also is hiding something. On a really good system, you should be able to hear a sound that is offset a little to the right from right in front of you as if a drummer his hitting a bass drum very silently in background. This sound is very tough to hear. Even on some of my relatively good gear, it’s hard to make this sound out. My Electrohomes however do not struggle at all.
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Get Lucky by Daft Punk really is a special song. It has an awesome beat that just never get’s old. This bass beat however really can test how your speakers and your amplifier or receiver is handling bursts of bass power. This bass beat should literally sound almost like a bass drum. You should be able to turn Get Lucky up and still be able to hear this along with the pianos in the background. Your system should not sound muddy. Also, Get Lucky also tests how your tweeters image. Just listen to that tapping like treble that follows the distant clapping. On my Electrohomes, this sound is coming from the exact same spot as this clapping on both sides. This is a rigorous test that most 3-way or more speakers will have trouble with.
Roadhouses & Automobiles – Chris Jones
Now there are two different versions of this song. Both of them are very good tests. The original song is within the album “Roadhouses & Automobiles”. In this version, you will want to listen for crickets. If your system is good enough, you should be able to hear crickets especially on the left side. They will be very subtle but on a good system, you’ll be aware that they’re there. The version within the album “Smoke and Noise, Roadhouses & Automobiles sounds like a completely different song. I prefer this version for many reasons. Your entire system get’s a workout from imaging to clarity, transience and frequency response. You should hear Chris Jones himself firmly off to the right side. You should also hear every little strum of the guitar. Chris Jones was a very professional Musician. As such, I highly recommend the entire album “Roadhouses & Automobiles”. Every song in this album is very well mixed. A good HiFi system will make you forget your listening to speakers in your home; Instead, you’ll feel like your listening to a live performance. This album is recorded absolutely perfectly.
Hotel California (Live On MTV, 1994) – Eagles
Now this is an interesting song that when played on a good system will put a smile on your face and make you turn it up. Everything from the bass to the treble on this song is mixed so well that most sound engineers use this to test their systems. Take a listen to that bass beat. No song gives you that sub to mid bass transition so smoothly. On good speakers, this bass boom should hit deep but echo in a higher pitched mid bass sound. This transition should be produced with good balance. This will aid in low frequency imaging and the overall realism of the sound. In the end, I find Hotel California (Live on MTV, 1994) good for tuning my set-ups. Tuning my desktop HiFi system was tough enough due to the placement of subs under my desk and the harmonics produced from the Electrohomes flinging mid-bass above my desk (Yes, bass is heavily effected by surroundings).
I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
How do you think your system will sound with the warm sound of the 1960s? I know my 1960 Electrohome speakers love it. In this song, there is a lot to listen for. The drum beat on the left should be perfectly audible (You should be able to hear the beat enough to tap to it with your fingers). On the right, there is a very well mixed mid-bass sound that should sound as if it is floating out of your speakers, not coming from it. Marvin Gaye’s voice should also not seam to come from the center but float slightly above as if you were sitting in front row with him on stage. Also, listen to the crackling analog imperfections of this 60s recording. If you can hear all of these imperfections, then your system has good transient response.
Apache – The Ventures
Now this song has an interesting way of imaging. With a good system, you should feel like your listening to a live performance. On the right, you should hear a distant drummer along with a “ticking” treble-like sound that echos into the left side. On the left side, you’ll hear a lower mid-range instrument that produces some upper mid-bass. This transition should be smooth. In other words, you should hear one instrument.
High Cotton – Alabama
This is a rather interesting country song that provides you with a bass kick, excellent sound stage, and tons of well mixed detail. Alabama themselves should like they’re singing in a concert. You’ll should be surrounded by the sound of banjos making you feel like you’re in the middle of a western. High Cotton also gives your speakers a mid range production test with that boot-stepping sound on the right. This sound should be literally sound like it’s coming from farther away then your speakers are as it echos toward you.
Don’t Let It Go To Your Head – Black Harmony
Now this is an interesting song. The bass line in this song really tests how your speakers are capable of producing many different bass frequencies with even loudness. Any flaws in the low end will manifest themselves with this song. Right around the 4-minute mark, “Don’t Let It Got To Your Head” really shines on systems with good imaging. Just listen to all the sounds coming from many different positions between your speakers. Your system should really give you the sense of depth.
No SANCTUARY Here – Chris Jones
Chris Jones has earned himself another spot on this post. In this very well mixed song, your system will be pushed through it’s paces. Not only does this song call for a lot of deep thunderous bass, it also tests just how your system is capable of bring the live performance to your house. When listening to No Sanctuary Here, you should literally be able to close your eyes and feel as if you’re actually there. If you do, then your system is very good at reproducing good recordings like this.
Nightshift – The Commodores
Nightshift by The Commodores really has an interesting tone. This song is full of emotions that will just pull you in on a good system. Your system’s low end will also get a nice work out as well. During the intro, you should hear some nice details on both sides clearly over the humming-like sound. For example, on the left, you should hear the metal dinging sound clearly. When the song starts. you notice the deep drum-like beat right away. Listen however at how this beat co-exists in the mid range. This shows that your speakers are capable blending the low end with the mid range in such a perfect harmony that you actually perceive this sound as one. Nightshift really is a masterpiece in of itself. When played on a good system, Nighshift is a great example of how emotions can be stored within our music and be experienced upon playback.
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynrd Skynrd
Now Sweet Home Alabama is a song that makes you just want to crank it up. On a good system however, you’ll want to turn it up even more. This is due to the fact that Sweet Home Alabama is filled with all sorts of different very lifelike sounds. Right as you hear clearly on the right side “1-2-3”, you shift feel as if a live performance is going to begin. During Sweet Home Alabama, you should be able to hear the tempo of the song on the right. Focus on this tempo and you’ll hear how it subtly changes with the rest of the sounds. The better your system is at producing upper mid-range, the clearer this sound will be. Good speakers matched with a clear receiver should make this sound clearly audible. Your DAC believe it or not will also play a big roll on the production of this sound. Sweet Home Alabama will always be an excellent test song.
Good Times Roll – The Cars
Good Times Roll by The Cars is mixed in such a warm way that when played back on warm gear really drowns you in it’s clear but warm sound. Most songs by The Cars are mixed like this. But Good Times Roll is just the best of them all. Not only should your speakers be able to remain clear, they should also be able to actually image very well with this warm sound. This song really will test your speakers on their ability to image in the lower mid-range area.
Pets – Porno For Pyros
Besides the fact that Pets is a song that get’s it point across very well, it actually makes a great test song. There is a bass drum that starts off the song greatly. On the right side, you’ll hear someone hitting a smaller drum to the tempo. This tempo follows the whole song itself. On a good system, all of these sounds that are following each other perfectly should be able to be separated. This song really teaches you how to listen like a picky audiophile A good system should allow you to pick each of these sounds out very easily. There aren’t many songs that you can listen to many times in a row. Pets is one of those songs. This is crucial when comparing gear.
Now you know.
Now you have an idea of what to listen for in order to determine whether your gear is up to the task. I hope these songs help you get an idea of how your system really performs. If you need more great quality music, check out my Quality Test Playlist on Tidal. I use these songs to test gear as I acquire it. This playlist is updated regularly. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment down below and thanks for stopping by!