Have you been looking for some well-produced, high quality tunes to play through your new headphones? Do you like listening to a variety of genres when you break in a new pair?
We grabbed some of our favorite tracks from a few different genres. This way, if you like (or dislike) one genre more than the other, you can skip to the appropriate section. We think you’ll enjoy at least a few of the songs listed below (and hopefully more).
Most of us enjoy browsing songs that are easy to access and listen to. We find it especially helpful when they’re all in one place. Here are our picks for the Top 25 Tracks To Test Your Headphones.
Top 25 Tracks To Test Your Headphones
We decided to break up this list into 6 main categories. Each of the sections (listed below) feature a few of the best songs for testing the limits of your cans.
It’s pretty hard to hear where your ‘phones excel and where they could use some improvement if you only stick to one or two main genres. (This is why we chose to include a variety of musical styles.) Although you might not like all of the songs here, who knows – you might stumble upon a new favorite or two.
Here are the 6 categories on this list (grouped loosely by genre):
- Alternative Metal/Post Rock
Feel free to skip ahead or scroll all the way through and browse the entire collection. Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Yosi Horikawa – “Letter”
“Letter” starts off with the sound of a hand grabbing a piece (or multiple) pieces of paper. As the writer begins to scribble, you hear the lead from the pencil glide across the page.
You hear the sound effects travel from your left ear, around the back, and into the right ear. This is an awesome track for hearing how much detail and nuanced separation your headphones can handle.
As the writer continues to scribble, a quiet musical backdrop lingers in the background. After the intro, both the writing and papery sound effects fully merge with the other instruments – bringing to life an extremely unique and entertaining sonic experience.
Listen to the full audio for “Letters” below:
James Newton Howard – “Didn’t I Do Well” (Red Sparrow OST)
“Didn’t I Do Well”, taken from the Red Sparrow Official Soundtrack, is a powerful symphony that starts out slow, picks up steam, then slows back down again. It creates a sonic atmosphere that’s like the tide of the ocean washing up then back down again.
Listening to the full soundtrack proves how much a song can add to the feeling of a great movie. (It’s no surprise that some of the best-selling vinyl records are movie soundtracks.)
Listening to classical music is great for discovering tiny details in a track that might seem pointless if they stood alone. Among the sea of instruments, each note has a place that serves a specific purpose.
Listen to the full audio for “Didn’t I Do Well” below:
Fleshgod Apocalypse – “In Aeternum” (Orchestral Version)
Fleshgod Apocalypse primarily makes fast and heavy, symphonic death metal but they also created and released an entire orchestral version of their 2016 album King.
“In Aeternum” is more than soundtrack material as it’s able to create a sonic atmosphere that almost forces your brain to create vivid imagery.
This track will give you a good idea for how well your ‘phones can handle gigantic, multi-layered classical music. It’s fully-deserving of an accompanying movie to go along with it, but even without any visuals, it will feel like you’re watching a movie.
Listen to the full audio for “In Aeternum” below:
Gundelach – “Iron”
“Iron” has a classic 80s vibe with a modern twist. As the falsetto vocals enter, then fade out – the low end bass rumbles along. The fairly simple-sounding melody line accented by the bass and (left to right) panning hi hats will keep your ‘phones on their toes.
Overall, “Iron” succeeds in manufacturing an imaginary land inside your head where everyone is floating around, having a good time.
It’s a great tune for making sure your cans pan in and out correctly, but also for sitting back and enjoying an underrated solo artist with a passion for creating something unique while paying homage to a retro feel that’s missed by many.
Listen to the full audio for “Iron” below:
SZA – “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”
SZA’s music is well-known for featuring somewhat eclectic instrumental compositions along with her extremely dynamic singing style and voice.
“Garden (Say It Like Dat)” is no exception. As the bass rumbles it shouldn’t sound muddy or overpowering. This song will test the full range of frequencies (lows, mids, and highs) that your ‘phones can produce.
Listen to the intricate melodies alternate and compliment each other perfectly as they pan from left to right. You won’t want to miss this tune, especially if you need a song that will reveal any major ‘phone performance imperfections.
Watch the official video for “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” below:
Lindsey Stirling – “Transcendence”
Lindsey Stirling’s fast violin playing, accompanied by an up-beat tempo creates a sonic atmosphere that screams of urgency.
“Transcendence” will test your ‘phones bassline performance as well as how well they can handle the violin’s acoustic nuance and detail.
It’s another high quality track that will probably push the limits of your musical palette into new territory.
Watch the official video for “Transcendence” below:
MISSIO – “Kamikazee”
“Kamikazee” features a heavy synth presence and steady tempo. The high pitched vocals drizzled over the top are crystal clear and at times slightly tweaked with vocal effects.
This track is great for use as a solid mid-range reference point. If the low end or vocals drown out everything happening in between, your ‘phones might not be as mid-centric as you originally thought.
That being said, “Kamikazee” was very well-produced and it’s sonic performance proves that you don’t need $1000 headphones to fully experience the art.
Listen to the full audio for “Kamikazee” below:
Author & Punisher – “Below and Above You”
“Below and Above You” is one of the few tracks from Author & Punisher that won’t absolutely punish your ‘phones (in the best way possible).
It excels at letting you know how deep and wide your bass response really is. Without going over the top and overshadowing the minimal upper range elements, “Below and Above You” will take your headphones to places they’ve never been before.
We recommend listening to Ursus Americanus in it’s entirety (but this is a list of songs after all). For a good low end workout, this tune is an absolute essential.
Listen to the full audio for “Below and Above You” below:
Alison Wonderland – “Church”
Gliding vocals, the right amount of bass slides, an irresistible chorus, and a beat that’s so infectious it should be a disease are some of the stand out elements on “Church”.
This song is pretty accessible for most listeners since it combines elements of pop music with an EDM-style backdrop.
It would play extremely well on a pair of open back headphones since the song itself has the kind of spacious production that makes you feel like you’re driving in a car with all the windows down on a summer night.
Watch the official video for “Church” below:
Basement Jaxx – “Hip Hop Hoorah”
“Hip Hop Hoorah” features layers and layers of sonic elements that demonstrate an obvious need for extreme attention to detail.
The rattles and slight rumbles plus the eccentric mixture of other electronic elements were definitely not meant to be listened to on your smartphone speaker.
Rather than attacking your ears with grandiose melodies and heavy bass, this one is with a track that’s focused on the smallest of details – and how accurately a pair of ‘phones can reproduce them.
Listen to the full audio for “Hip Hop Hoorah” below:
SOPHIE – “Faceshopping”
The first bass drop on “Faceshopping” comes in loud and heavy. The chaotic, but controlled blend of almost awkwardly-placed vocals creates the one-of-a-kind sonic experience you’ve been looking for.
Low, crunchy bass and a sound that’s best described as sounding similar to a robot dragging it’s nails across a digital chalkboard both combine to stretch the limits of most ‘phones capabilities.
It’s a truly unique blend of electronic music that clearly doesn’t want to be put in a single box. The ups and downs plus the random bridge towards the end will let you know how much punishment those headphones can take.
Watch the official video for “Faceshopping” below:
Alternative Metal/Post Rock
Night Verses – “Growing Out Of Orbit”
Catching the smallest changes in vocal tone can prove difficult if those ‘phones aren’t warmed up. “Growing Out Of Orbit” will definitely put them to the test.
Fully grasping the overall tone and atmosphere of this song requires headphones that can accurately represent the human voice.
The melancholy singing gives wind to push the sails and a strong bass line serves as the anchor. Without each element getting it’s proper representation, it’s nearly impossible to truly capture the essence of this song.
Listen to the full audio for “Growing Out Of Orbit” below:
Deftones – “Leathers”
Don’t let the first few seconds of “Leathers” trick you. What starts out as a simple melody soon bursts into a sonic explosion.
At the surface level, this track might seem like just another metal song – which couldn’t be further from the truth. Without the dissonant, but complementary detail panning from left to right sprinkled in, that might be a fair conclusion.
“Leathers” will pull you in (by the ears) and hold you tightly until the final note is played. Before you skip over this track – listen for that slight dissonance and the way it was weaved into the fabric of the song.
Listen to the full audio for “Leathers” below:
Ihsahn – “Sámr”
“Sámr” is one of those songs that isn’t afraid to step outside of genre boundaries and expand into a form that you’ve probably never quite heard before.
The low, thudding electronic presence is perfect for setting the tone. Add some electric guitar, drums, and vocals that sound hopeful and letdown simultaneously and “Sámr” is what you get.
This song might not be everyone’s cup of tea but you won’t be able to deny it’s ability to push not only genre boundaries, but also the dynamic performance of your ‘phones.
Listen to the full audio for “Sámr” below:
Kristoff Krane – “Al7one”
“Al7one” opens up with one sound but doesn’t take long to morph into a combination of electronic-heavy instrumentation overlaid by a flurry of rhymes.
The powerful, punchy bass and synth-produced melodies that were implemented form a swirl of emotion and sonic force. Overall, it’s very cohesive while also managing to branch out and dip it’s toes into experimentation.
“Al7one” is perfect for analyzing and measuring where those headphones shine, and where they could use a little extra oomph. You’d be hard pressed to find another song like it.
Listen to the full audio for “Al7one” below:
Huey Briss & Nikobeats – “Gil Scott Never Lied” (ft. DJ Babu)
The Nikobeats production utilizes a classic hip-hop scratching technique to create an atmosphere that will bring you back to what some consider the “Golden Age of Hip Hop“.
Huey Briss’ low, almost raspy voice and clever delivery compliments the mood provided by the instrumental. Going back to the roots and relying on technique rather than vocal effect-heavy rapping allows for your ‘phones to authentically process the whole package.
This song would play perfectly on a nice, extremely well-balanced pair of cans that have the power to drive with some force.
Watch the official video for “Gil Scott Never Lied” (ft. DJ Babu) below:
Tech N9ne – “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song)” (ft. Machine Gun Kelly & Y2)
“No Reason (Most Pit Song)” features Tech N9ne’s signature spitfire vocal delivery. Tracks like this are the reason why it’s so important to have a pair of ‘phones that can keep up with the ultra-crisp, super sonic speed that the words are flying at you with.
Y2 covers the intro and also handles the hooks in between Machine Gun Kelly and Tech N9ne’s verses. The words being sung are almost slurred but manage to remain completely understandable.
“No Reason…” will give you a solid idea about how well those cans respond to a deep bass response counteracted by multiple styles of vocal delivery and tone.
Listen to the full audio for “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song)” below:
Royce Da 5’9″ – “Dumb” (ft. Boogie)
“Dumb” (ft. Boogie) starts off with an almost sinister-sounding piano melody that immediately sets the tone for what’s to come.
Royce’s articulation is world class and is perfectly supplemented by subtle tone inflections. If your ‘phones aren’t up to the task, they might not catch the strategically-placed emphasis that lingers in your ears, forcing you to hang on every word.
The vocal feature from Boogie also deserves your full attention that’s made effortless when listening with some well-balanced, dynamic ‘phones.
Listen to the full audio for “Dumb” (ft. Boogie) below:
Erick Sermon – “Maintain”
Erick Sermon delivers an old school flow with classical lyricism over knee-buckling production on “Maintain”. In order to fully capture the essence of this tune, loud volume and a pair of ‘phones that can easily juggle the various musical elements are essential.
During a time where talent took precedence over vocal effects like auto-tune – artists had to prove their chops with nothing but a microphone, their voice, and an instrumental.
The always-present low end and subtle melody is a persistent reminder that finding the right pair of ‘phones for listening to a wide range of genres isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Listen to the full audio for “Maintain” below:
Lord Huron – “Wait By The River”
As “Wait By The River” lazily drifts into existence, a slight reverb effect on the vocals instantly pulls you in. The minimal ambient guitar riffs and other musical additions all want (and need) to be heard.
This track is far from sounding overtly dissonant but uses the subtle hints of being as such to it’s advantage. Are your ‘phones equipped to handle an extremely spacious sonic profile?
This song would be best listened to on a quality pair of open back headphones that specialize in accurately recreating the mid to upper range.
Listen to the full audio for “Wait By The River” below:
Exitmusic – “Criminal”
“Criminal” pulls influence from multiple genres including shoegaze, dream pop, electronic, and indie. The experimental (and cohesive) blend of musical styles creates an all-encompassing wave of sound that requires decent detail separation.
On the other hand, some listeners might prefer less clarity on a track like this since it’s purposeful distortion does add to the sonic atmosphere.
Even distortion effects can be made clear and pristine, which is why “Criminal” is perfect for observing just how broad a soundscape those ‘phones really have.
Listen to the full audio for “Criminal” below:
Typhoon – “Rorschach”
“Rorschach” by Typhoon utilizes minimal and slight vocal distortion reminiscent of a Cage The Elephant song.
There is so much going on (sonically) that you might need to make some EQ adjustments (or plug in your amp). As each new layer of instruments is added, “Rorschach” ebbs and flows, then picks up momentum and trails off over the horizon.
As the track plays, you’ll start to notice whether or not your ‘phones have very much detail separation.
Watch the official video for “Rorschach” below:
Apache Relay – “Forest For The Trees”
“Forest For The Trees” is a reminder of how important acoustic clarity really is. Even though the instrumentation is fairly straightforward and simple-sounding, capturing the nuanced guitar slides (and slight picking sounds) makes it feel like you’re sitting at a campfire.
This song is best experienced on a well-balanced pair of cans that succeed in accurately representing what the artist intended for you to hear.
Acoustic songs are one of the most timeless forms of music and the right pair of headphones can make it seem like you’re sitting in the same room as the musicians.
Listen to the full audio for “Forest For The Trees” below:
Amber Rubarth – “Novocaine”
The unpredictable back-and-forth vocal delivery on “Novocaine” is perfect for gauging how well your ‘phones handle those highs. Her quiet vocal tone in the intro is intermittently offset by accented high notes that would hit the sky (if they weren’t trapped inside your head).
Amber Rubarth’s impressively agile voice dancing over an entirely acoustic cast of instruments makes for an all natural track where nuance and detail are absolutely essential.
After you listen to this one, you’ll probably want to browse through the rest of her discography and try a few of the others.
Listen to the full audio for “Novocaine” below:
Chelsea Wolfe – “The Warden”
“The Warden” incorporates minor electronic production overcast by the gloomy vocals of Chelsea Wolfe. The final product is a multi-layered sonic experience to remember.
In the background you can hear what sounds like a harpsichord which only adds to the various layers at play. The ambient vocal distortion echoes and rings while staying well-balanced at the same time.
This song is perfect for gauging how well those ‘phones can separate an electronic beat, acoustic notes, and ambient vocals at the same time.
Listen to the full audio for “The Warden” below:
How Did Your Headphones Respond?
Did you have a good time testing the limits of your ‘phones? Hopefully you were able to enjoy a few of the songs from each genre section.
Which section was your favorite? Did you discover a newfound love for a style of music you didn’t think you would like?
Which one of them top 25 tracks to test your headphones was your favorite? Can you think of any songs you would you add to this list? If you have a suggestion leave a comment below and let us know!
If you enjoyed browsing through this collection, you’ll also enjoy taking a look at 25 Of The Best Audiophile Albums here.
You can also browse 10 of the Absolute Best Headphone Albums here. Thanks for dropping by to listen to some new music, we hope to see you here again soon!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.