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Here's an initial playlist selection I'll use as standard to compare headphones.

  • Neighborhood #1 Tunnels (Arcade Fire, Funeral) - Just because I love it, and the first few piano twinkles usually give me the shivers.
  • Angel (Massive Attack, Mezzanine) - Bass heavy/boosted... though I think the cymbals are intentionally distorted?
  • Blow Out (Radiohead, Pablo Honey) - Lots of complex treble, testing separation/attack/PRaT/sibilance.
  • Gold Digger (Kanye West, Def-Jam Recordings) - I don't like this song, but it's a good test for headphone distress
  • Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead, The Bends) - I just like the song (Air/Detail/Echo/Involvement). 1411 kbps AIFF for some reason
  • The Only Hand to Hold (Prefuse 73, The Only She Chapters) - Female vocals, micro texture (a static that changes character easily)
  • Dreamer (Elizaveta , Dreamer - Single) - More female vocals. How obvious is the autotune machine?
  • Knights of Cydonia (Muse, Black Holes and Revalations) - Male vocals
  • Undisclosed Desires (Muse, The Resistance) - More male vocals, also the bass "buzz" at the beginning is addictive
  • Patience (Guns N' Roses, G N' R Lies) - Acoustic Guitar, Male vocals
  • I Know It's Over (Jeff Buckley, So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley) - Better mastering than 10th Anniversary "Grace"
  • Tiger, My Friend (Psapp, "Tiger, My Friend") - Ambient? Some parts used to make me feel like something happened in the room with me.
  • Fuge for Solo Guitar, BWV 1000 in A Minor (Klaus Jackle, The 50 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music)
  • The Planets, Suite for Large Orchestra, Op. 32: IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jolity (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra & Markus Stenz, The 50 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music)
  • Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ (London Festival Orchestra & Alberto Lizzio, The 50 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music) - Tonal Coherence, Buried Detail.

I also use files (5 mins pink noise, 20 second 20-20000 freq sweep, 51 seconds silence, all repeated 5 hours a day when I'm not using the headphones otherwise ) to burn in my cans, as well as a holophonic sound to test imaging/directional accuracy as well as limited depth/distance perception.

Before I listen to this, I try to get acquainted with the signature of the headphones with random music (Why bother changing the name to iTunes DJ?) over the course of several days. Currently I don't have an amp, but then plugging straight into a Macbook Pro's Digital Out might be beneficial because more people might be able to have the same source/system to compare to. All encoded AAC @ 256 (VBR when ripped from CD), except where noted.

I would've used the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" if all the iTunes versions didn't sound remarkably recessed and low resolution. The first three are ripped from CD, the rest are from the iTunes music store.


Edit 2/12/13: I swapped my female vocals test track, so now I have 2 female voice samples, plus I've found a new thing for "texture" of very small details present in headphones with very tight control. Also added another muse track, put back in "Gold Digger" -even though I hate the song- because it's a good test if a headphone will get distressed or keep it under control. Mostly however, this playlist has remained unchanged over the years, and I've auditioned all my audio gear and several borrowed headphones with this same music.

Edited by Evshrug - 2/12/13 at 9:55pm