Best Music to Evaluate Headphones
Mar 25, 2006 at 11:47 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 27

Frip

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What are some good songs or bands to test headphones out on? Something with rich dynamics. If you can, try and recommend music that there's a half-way decent chance that a lot of people have in their cd collection.

And is there an ultimate song for this?

(Just ignore me if this topic has been done a million times before.)
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 12:07 AM Post #2 of 27

Wildsurfer

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Just take songs that you know very well. If you're testing something with music you do not usually listen to, what's the interest ?
I like rock, and I have my playlist test with clapton and pink floyd. But soul lovers wouldn't get a good idea of a headphone with this playlist
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Mar 26, 2006 at 12:24 AM Post #4 of 27

NotJeffBuckley

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I evaluate for a few different things in any given pair of headphones.

First, I look for resolution and clarity (the intangibles, in other words, that make a difference) by playing the Pain of Salvation live album 12:5. It's recorded to incredibly exacting standards and will really show off your gear's capabilities (and, by the same token, show problems in new gear). Very dynamic in every sense of the word, and thus a good starter test.

Then, I check how well the headphone handles layers of sound upon layers of sound by playing some Devin Townsend Band or Strapping Young Lad, usually DTB's Accelerated Evolution and SYL's City. If it can't keep up, it won't stay in my collection. This is a taxing test for the speed and bass resolution of the headphone.

Finally, I just listen to a bunch of songs I love for their various qualities:

Dream Theater's "6:00" for great drum placement aiding the detection of soundstage differences (same with Pink Floyd's "Time");

Lynch Mob's "Wicked Sensation" for its incredibly tight, crunchy guitar riffs to see how well the headphone handles tight, overdriven guitar;

Porcupine Tree's "Halo" because it's primarily drum and bass led but has great, countermelodic piano playing and heavily expanded chorus dynamics - you can examine the headphone's capabilities in the low and the high end in addition to seeing how well it can render the shift from a comparatively compressed rhythmline into a spacious, saturated chorus;

Opeth's "Moonlight Vertigo" because it's a beautifully recorded song and can tell you right away whether or not the headphones are any good for melodic death metal;

and a host of others. I put them through the paces, basically.
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 12:45 AM Post #5 of 27

Frip

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Thanks.

I do understand that music that you know is best, because you know what the various elements are supposed to sound like.

However there certainly are songs that are best to test dynamic range, or a more full spectrum of sound.

NotJeffBuckley, thanks I will try out some of those songs, very helpful.

And Wildsurfer, I'd forgotten about Pink Floyd, thanks. I think Floyd is better to test than the oft preferred Radiohead, because Radiohead's vocals are so often processed, it isn't good for getting a good vocal read-out.

For ballsy rock I like to test on the harder songs from Zepp's "Physical Graffiti" cd. Especially The Wanton Song. Plant sounds like some crazed hoar.

For heavy metal, Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance" cd is well produced, (and not complete crap like most metal.)

For folk, Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" is excellent because his vocals are miked real close, and you get to see how detailed your phones can be.

Frip
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 3:42 AM Post #6 of 27

Frip

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(bump)

C'mon people, any handouts for a fellow American who's down on his luck?

I'm making a mix cd of the best songs to test out headphone's on, and am sincerely interested in your suggestions.

(I do hope they're available on Napster...).

Thanks!
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 4:16 AM Post #9 of 27

fewtch

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Believe it or not, I like the soundtrack from the movie "Titanic" for evaluations. Particularly track #7 (pretty sure that was the one, either that or #5). Very, very dynamic soundtrack.
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 4:22 AM Post #10 of 27

Scotty757

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Right now, I use:

Massive Attack: Angel (bass bigger than life)
Josh Groban: All'improviso Amore (male voice)
Wicked: Defying Gravity (female voice)
Meshuggah: I (heavy metal)
Rent: Finale B (harmonized voices)
The Fellowship of the Ring (choral/orchestral)
Verdi: Requiem (Atlanta/Shaw): Symphony/choral


Hope that helps...
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 4:50 AM Post #11 of 27

darkninja67

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Vivaldi- The Four Seasons especially if you are trying out DT880s/
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 5:03 AM Post #12 of 27

toastmaster

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Try hitting up the soundtrack to The Rock. It has mixed orchestral and synth and is very dynamic. That and I just love it in general.

I like to use Buying Time by Great Big Sea as well, since it has really well recorded congas.

I totally second 6:00 by Dream Theater for drum placement. I also hit up Prodigy's album The Fat Of The Land to test out punchy bass, especially Diesel Power. Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile is another good album to test with.
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 5:25 AM Post #13 of 27

CMasten

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Really depends on your taste and what your used to. I like a mix of many genres of music and with 25 years of audio engineering behind me, I tend to lean towards those works that are really crafted well, so your not auditioning bad quality source material.

Some of my favorites for dynamic range and full character music pieces would be

Frankie goes to Hollywood, Welcome to the Pleasuredome
Michael Hedges, Aerial Boundries
Dire Straights, Brothers in Arms
Winton Marsalis, Hot House Flowers
Andreas Vollenweider, Down to the Moon, Dancing with the Lion, Caverna Magica, Cosmology (Stella is a wonderful dynamic piece)
Animal Logic, Animal Logic
The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over
Mannheim Steamroller, The Music of Yellowstone

.. there is a lot of great music out there that was recorded well and is very good source material, these are but a few that I know well and have used over the years for testing audio gear. Hopefully you find some of them useful also.
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 5:26 AM Post #14 of 27

Rayman2k2

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I'm trying to find a good version of Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer" a.k.a. "Street Song", the song featured in the last scene of "Finding Forrester".


The middle of the song is great - particularly because of the many instruments playing at one time, great for trying to hear detail and what not.
 
Mar 26, 2006 at 6:32 AM Post #15 of 27

angler31337

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You want to listen to music that suits your tastes in general, but I'd say that personal preferences are a pretty low priority when I'm evaluating headphones. There is a lot of really great music out there that has been recorded really poorly--using this stuff to listen critically to headphones is pretty indefensible (unless you specifically want to know how the cans treat poorly recorded music, I suppose). The old "garbage in garbage out" adage, etc...

It seems to be a kind of gospel that one should evaluate audio equipment by listening to music one is familiar with. I suppose that makes sense if you plan on listening to an entire track/CD, since you'll know what to focus on and when. With that said, if you plan on doing actual A/B testing, you should only be listening to one short loop of music at a time, so I don't really see where it would matter.

As a final thought, most tracts on a good stereo test CD are applicable to headphone evaluation as well. That's a nice--reasonably objective--way to start.

-Angler
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