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Best songs to test headphones

Updated: Jul 29, 2022 3:57 pm

You’ve found headphones that you like, you’ve probably checked a few reviews, and even the customer reviews check out, but how do you actually know
if the headphones are really worth the price and if the sound quality will be
fit for your needs?

Testing. It’s all about testing. But how does one actually tests
headphones? What if you don’t know a single thing about the sound quality, yet
you’re just looking to get decent audio quality?

Here is the list of 8 songs which we will briefly explain, and you can
use them & combine them with some of your favorite songs for the best
results.

1. Fleet Floxes – Fool’s Erand

This song is perfect for testing the midrange quality, and
it’s a song that has been on a quite a few lists of professionals we’ve
interviewed.

Vocal lines can easily be found in this track which is really important
when you’re testing the midrange, however, stability and warmth, along with a
support for lower frequencies & vocals can be judged by listening to this
single song.

2. Explosion in the Sky – Wilderness

For testing the overall balance, we were pretty excited and
surprised to find out that this song was on the list of one professional during
his process of headphones testing.

When we’ve questioned him about this song, he told us that this song is
perfect for overall balance because usually, it’s not easy to get the overall
balance right.

This track covers a lot of frequency ranges which makes it very possible
to determine the overall balance after a few tries.

3. Havergal Brian – Symphony No1 in D Minor

While this song might look very odd (and it is odd to some people),
there is even a reason why the D minor version is chosen for headphone testing.

It’s a song that is very suitable for testing the level of
detail 
since some headphones really lack detail, and while it can be hard
to spot it – it’s fairly easy with this track.

This song features large scale orchestral pieces which make details
stand out throughout this song.

4. Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got to Have Freedom

This song is perfect for testing the treble quality, and as
we’ve mentioned earlier, other than using a few test tracks, using a song like
this is the perfect way to determine the quality of headphones’ treble.

What’s really good about this song is the saxophone which is very loud
and clear, and that’s what you should put your focus on. You don’t want your
ears to bleed from a terrible treble quality, right? Give this song a try!

5. Darkside – Paper Trails

Bass is very famous nowadays, especially with the number of DJ’s and electronic
music – and this song is perfect for testing out the bass control. While
there is a number of songs you could come up for testing the bass, this one
seems like a touchdown.

This song won’t wobble your ears yet it will actually let you hear what’s
going on down there and depending on the quality of your headphones, you’re
either going to hear it or not. This song has a very moving bassline which is
why it’s a song #5 on our list.

6. BadBadNotGood – Speaking Gently

You might not know this by now, but some pros go even a step further to
test their headphones for rhythm and timing. Yes, you’ve heard it
right.

While this might not be really important to you, it’s definitely
important to professional musicians. And believe it or not, there’s a song that’s
perfect for such test.

This song might be simple, however, it offers a solid beat and timing
which feeds how instruments interact. If you listen closely, you’ll be able to
pick up every single instrument engaging and disengaging from the song.

You don’t want your headphones to sound loose and disorganized during
the performance, so test your rhythm and timing no matter the intended use of
your headphones.

7. Joe Goddard – Lose Your Love

While most people find this one to be crazy (even we thought the idea is
a bit silly), until the moment we’ve met with a professional who showed us the
way he tests headphones for excitement, drive & enthusiasm with
this song.

After all, you want your headphones to have a “soul”, right?

While this song can be replaced with a number of different songs, this
exact song will make you feel every beat drop, and that’s what’s so special
about it.

8. Arvo Part – Tabula Rasa

If you don’t test the headphones for a dynamic range, you
might get a flat performance which might make your headphones sound like a
rehearsal.

This song is full of large-scale dynamics which don’t stand still yet
fluctuate, and as they do, you’ll hear it in your headphones – if they’re good
ones.

We’ve found out that even this song is really good, it can be replaced,
and if you’re looking to test dynamic range with any other song – we recommend
you to look out for a song with a smaller-scale dynamic range.

Such a choice will make a greater impression and will make it easier for
you to determine the range. Pay attention to the voices & expressions,
since that’s what’s important no matter if you’re watching movies or listening
to your favorite tunes.

Aspects to Look Out For in Every Headphone Test

As mentioned earlier, sound quality is defined by the aspects and it’s
all you should look into. Once you know the most important aspects – you’ll
know exactly what to look out for.

In other words, once you know what you’re looking for, everything else
will be an easy task.

Even before going to the songs you could use to test headphones, here
are the most important aspects & factors you should look out for.

  • Frequency response
  • Spectral flatness
  • Dynamic range
  • Quality
  • Driver matching
  • Wiring

Frequency Response

As you’ve probably noticed, every headphone that are being sold state
the frequency response that they can handle.

To determine frequency response, you don’t need to have the headphones
with you. You can simply read the statistics released by the manufacturer.

However, if you already own the headphones, you can find the tracks where
the sound is being produced from 10 Hz to 200 Hz.

Some of the best headphones will go as low as 20 Hz, which you also the
lowest limit of our hearing. Keep that in mind.

Along with frequency response, testing out for treble extension is a
wise thing to do – and it can also be done with a proper audio track. Good
headphones will be able to produce a treble extension of up to 20 kHz, which is
the upper limit of the human hearing range.

Spectral Flatness

You don’t want your headphones to sound flat. Why? Because our hearing
isn’t perfect and we actually need headphones that will compensate for our
hearing curve.

Here, you will have to determine the frequencies reproduced by the
headphones and make sure they consistently fit between lower and upper limits.

You don’t want a dip or peak in a particular frequency range.  The
way to test is to use a perceptual sweep spectral flatness test that will
determine the quality of the headphones.

For some people, this might not be really important, but we believe it’s
very important for musicians.

Dynamic Range

What dynamic range represents is the difference between the loudest and
quietest signal you can hear from your headphones.

However, dynamic range isn’t officially a part of the headphone specifications
so you won’t be able to find it stated by the manufacturer, however, it can
help to determine the sound quality in a noisy environment.

The easiest way to determine the dynamic range of your headphones is
with the Dynamic test.

Quality

You might not know this before, but even when you’re simply checking the
headphones for the sound quality, you have to pay attention to the build
quality.

The reason for that is simple. Poorly assembled headphones can start to
rattle during loud or deep bass noises.

The quality of headphones build can be tested by playing a Bass Shaker
test track which will literally shake the audio drivers in your headphones. The
sweeping tone should stay clear and pure at all frequencies.

Buzzing or rattling is a sign of poorly assembled headphones and that
might affect the overall sound quality, especially with the bass.

Driver Matching

Every headphone comes with two drivers, left and right driver. The point
of paying attention to the drivers is to make sure they’re matching each other.

The left driver should match the right driver, and vice versa in order
to reproduce a faithful stereo image.

The easiest way to test whether the drivers are matching is to use a
Full Range Sweep track and make sure that the sweeping tone keeps the perfect
central position during all frequencies.

We would recommend you to do this test twice with headphones reversed,
just to make sure you don’t mistake your ears & hearing for the quality of
the headphones.

Wiring

There is much more to wiring than a simple wire that is most of the time
the biggest hassle to headphones users who aren’t ready to go wireless.

The wiring of the drivers is important and the relative polarity between
the drivers should be preserved. This means that during the input signal, both
drivers must be moving in the same direction.

If they move opposite of each other, the sound might not be symmetrical
and centered. The correct wiring can be easily tested with a few tracks
specially designed to play left/right sound and center/twisted sounds.

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