What music to test headphones out?
Aug 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 36

nuraman00

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I got the PSB M4U 1, SoundMagic HP 150, and the Bowers and Wilkins P7.  See the thread below for how it came to that, if you want.
 
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/729304/what-to-get-psb-m4u-1-vs-the-bowers-and-wilkins-p7/45
 
 
I'm going to test these out this weekend and pick which one I like best.
 
What songs should I test these headphones out with? Here's what I'll do so far. These aren't necessarily my favorite songs, but I'm picking some of these because I've read other headphone reviews test with these songs.
 
1. Tool - Stinkfist (especially the first 30 seconds or so).
2. Metallica - Trapped Under Ice
3. Metallica - Holier Than Thou (for the guitar talkbox solo)
4. Metallica - Until It Sleeps
5. Soundgarden - Limo Wreck
 
 
And what are some other songs I should do? Or what part of what songs? Feel free to mention a lesser known track on a lesser known album from one of these artists. I'm thinking of 1-2 more tracks. I think by then I should know how the headphones sound differently.
 
 
Are there any tracks or parts of track that have sub-bass? I've seen that term, but not sure I know what it sounds like. Please mention a what part of what track, if you know.
 
 
I'm thinking Lynyrd Skynyrd might be a good pick because of more instruments used?
 
 
Here are possible artists and albums to pick from:
 
 
 
Alice In Chains
Audioslave
Black Sabbath (first 5 albums or 13)
Cake (first 2 albums)
Chevelle
Chris Cornell (Euphoria Morning)
Clutch (Clutch; Pure Rock Fury; Earth Rocker)
Filter
Foo Fighters (debut; The Color And The Shape; Wasting Light)
Franz Ferdinand
Godsmack
Green Day
Heart
Incubus
Jane's Addiction
Korn
Joe Satriani (Flying In A Blue Dream; The Extremist)
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade (Purple Onion)
Linkin Park (first 2 albums)
Lynyrd Skynyrd (first 4 albums)
Megadeth
Metallica
Nine Inch Nails (anything but With Teeth)
Pearl Jam (first 6 albums or Lightning Bolt)
Primus
Queens Of The Stone Age (anything but Era Vulgaris)
Rob Zombie
Rush (self-titled; 2112; Moving Pictures; Clockwork Angels)
Shinedown (first 2 albums)
Smashing Pumpkins
Stone Temple Pilots
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Soundgarden
Temple Of The Dog
The Black Crowes (first 4 albums)
The Cult
The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin; Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots)
The Offspring (Ignition through Conspiracy Of One)
The Toadies
Tool
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 11:09 AM Post #2 of 36

gradofan1

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Not sure, but just make sure you listen to it in lossless (i.e. buy the CD and rip it, don't download it off itunes @256kbps). And use the same tracks every time (duh). I would recommend artists in the 90's / 2000's, since recently, 2010+, there's been a controversy about how recording studios are downgrading their audio quality to better suit/optimize the frequency response of "iPhone earbuds," which most people use. Anything earlier than the 60's recording studios didn't really record as well because of the antiquated technology back then.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 11:18 AM Post #3 of 36

SteveHiFi

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I would recommend whatever music you know well - some reviewers have a set list of tracks which they stick to and there's nothing wrong with that - I might do that myself one day.
 
I prefer to go from one genre to another and see what the headphones work best with (or not) - going through different scenarios too, maybe some close-miked studio recordings, live recordings, classical recordings, dance music made on computers/samplers, that sort of thing.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM Post #4 of 36

ProtegeManiac

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What songs should I test these headphones out with? Here's what I'll do so far. These aren't necessarily my favorite songs, but I'm picking some of these because I've read other headphone reviews test with these songs.

 
Use whatever you're really familiar with; that said, you might be familiar enough with these (or become so if you happen to like them):

Audioslave
Like a Stone - listen particularly to the beats, and details on Cornell's vocalizations
 
Foo Fighters 
Everlong - Varied range on Grohl's singing for detail and musicality; also easier to hear both guitars playing a different riff, but the tonality has to be consistent for each (neutrality - a warm bias on a system for example will have a pleasing rhythm guitar distortion but might make the lead sound nasal)

Godsmack
Whatever - a good test for frequency response and dynamics for the percussion; attack of the notes must have weight, no bass distortion, etc; if one system/headphone makes you tap your feet more, pick that one (try this on the Grado RS-2 or RS-1 if you can)
 
Heart
Alone - more for testing a speaker system, especially a car's, since time severe alignment issues can make the vocals sibilant
Nothin' at all - musicality, again for he percussion, but overall a very pleasing listen
What about love - only because it's one of my favorite songs to sing when we get plastered in a karaoke bar (private room bars, not the one with the machine on the floor - that's how you get shot around here aside from My Way)
 
Korn
Freak on a Leash - good test for PRAT for percussion and bass guitar, also for vocal detail, particularly before and during the gibberish part (when the bullet is at their faces on the video); and I also do a mean performance of this when we're doing karaoke (and in the right places, frighten the ones we're paying to do a lap dance on the groom)
System - bassy headphones make the drum beats on this sound too boomy; verse lyrics need a balanced response as there are two vocal tracks of Davis playing simultaneously and softly
Forsaken - slower song, more melodic than their (and Disturbed's) usually rhythm-driven style (more of a goth ballad); more intricate vocalizations from the movie version (try the DVD of Queen of the Damned) than the CD OST

Metallica
Of Wold and Man - musicality and PRAT, again if one system makes you tap your feet more, get that one
One - epic work on this one, starts with an acoustic guitar then the bass drum comes in (where some lesser headphones or system can sound hollow or loose); in a speaker set-up, that has to have a real "kick" to it but the decay has to be natural (meaning you either have a really good quality subwoofer that is well integrated in the system, or you're not relying on one and don't need to for the most part)
 
Pearl Jam
Black - Vedder's vocalizations for a system that needs to be both musical and detailed (or actually, neutral and adequately powered)
 
Smashing Pumpkins
Adore - Yes, Adore; it's actually a good track (in a boring album); interesting how Corgan incorporated techno-inspired beats, which needs to be smoothly delivered; nice vocalizations from him too
 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
 
A few suggestions from similar artists. I'll add a few more obscure ones from the local scene here (they're on YouTube so you can try them there, but of course quality isn't that good, although for all I know the CDs might be available somewhere online); again, best you get familiar with the tracks before "testing" them on a bunch of other gear.
 
A Perfect Circle
Brena, also Orestes to a lesser extent - any headphone that does certain things too much or too little will easily have something wrong with this track; I'm listening to it right now through my laptop, and it sounds drastically different from when I'm using my phone, where I've corrected (not completely, of course) the response using NeutronMP's EQ; nimble in terms of musicality/PRAT particularly with bass as well as subtlety with finer details (like Keenan's vocalizations)
Judith - aside from musicality of the track, check the detail on the vocal blending, particularly at the climax just before the fading outro solo - you must be able to hear Paz join in, without straining to hear her voice or separate it from the guitars, nor should she overpower Billy
 
Deftones
Digital Bath - bass drum must have nice PRAT, enough kick on the attack (within reason for headphones)
 
Greyhoundz
Your Pupper and Clown - fullrange from treble to bass, varied vocal styles employed, rhythmic bass guitar and percussion during the verses (personally, I think this is one of the best, more mature Nu Metal songs ever)

Mudvayne 
The Patient Mental and Mercy, Severity - fast beats, really shows the versatility of Chad's voice (I don't care what the "hardcore" fans want, which is basically just growling from start to finish) as he goes from a rap-like style to very melodic, subtle singing then swings to a growl in rapid succession; again, you need neutrality and PRAT for these 
(practically all of The End of All Things to Come)
 
Sevendust
Licking Cream - also a PRAT track, but you get two vocal ranges to also test for neutrality 
 
Slapshock
My Skar - similar to Sevendust's Licking Cream, but with techno-indsutrial riffs, and death grunts along with a female ska singer; lyrics are a little emo for my tastes but I really love the beat on this (and some schmuck tossed a tear gas grenade during the album debut and I hightailed it out of the moshpit just before this song)
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM Post #5 of 36

nuraman00

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  Not sure, but just make sure you listen to it in lossless (i.e. buy the CD and rip it, don't download it off itunes @256kbps). And use the same tracks every time (duh). I would recommend artists in the 90's / 2000's, since recently, 2010+, there's been a controversy about how recording studios are downgrading their audio quality to better suit/optimize the frequency response of "iPhone earbuds," which most people use. Anything earlier than the 60's recording studios didn't really record as well because of the antiquated technology back then.

Yeah, thanks.  I'm going to listen to the tracks on my desktop's CD player.
 
If anyone's interested, my sound card is a Realtek ALC892.
 
And yeah, I'm going to use the same tracks, or parts of tracks, for all 3 headphones.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 11:04 PM Post #6 of 36

nuraman00

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Use whatever you're really familiar with; that said, you might be familiar enough with these (or become so if you happen to like them):

Audioslave
Like a Stone - listen particularly to the beats, and details on Cornell's vocalizations
 
Foo Fighters 
Everlong - Varied range on Grohl's singing for detail and musicality; also easier to hear both guitars playing a different riff, but the tonality has to be consistent for each (neutrality - a warm bias on a system for example will have a pleasing rhythm guitar distortion but might make the lead sound nasal)

Godsmack
Whatever - a good test for frequency response and dynamics for the percussion; attack of the notes must have weight, no bass distortion, etc; if one system/headphone makes you tap your feet more, pick that one (try this on the Grado RS-2 or RS-1 if you can)
 
Heart
Alone - more for testing a speaker system, especially a car's, since time severe alignment issues can make the vocals sibilant
Nothin' at all - musicality, again for he percussion, but overall a very pleasing listen
What about love - only because it's one of my favorite songs to sing when we get plastered in a karaoke bar (private room bars, not the one with the machine on the floor - that's how you get shot around here aside from My Way)
 
Korn
Freak on a Leash - good test for PRAT for percussion and bass guitar, also for vocal detail, particularly before and during the gibberish part (when the bullet is at their faces on the video); and I also do a mean performance of this when we're doing karaoke (and in the right places, frighten the ones we're paying to do a lap dance on the groom)
System - bassy headphones make the drum beats on this sound too boomy; verse lyrics need a balanced response as there are two vocal tracks of Davis playing simultaneously and softly
Forsaken - slower song, more melodic than their (and Disturbed's) usually rhythm-driven style (more of a goth ballad); more intricate vocalizations from the movie version (try the DVD of Queen of the Damned) than the CD OST

Metallica
Of Wold and Man - musicality and PRAT, again if one system makes you tap your feet more, get that one
One - epic work on this one, starts with an acoustic guitar then the bass drum comes in (where some lesser headphones or system can sound hollow or loose); in a speaker set-up, that has to have a real "kick" to it but the decay has to be natural (meaning you either have a really good quality subwoofer that is well integrated in the system, or you're not relying on one and don't need to for the most part)
 
Pearl Jam
Black - Vedder's vocalizations for a system that needs to be both musical and detailed (or actually, neutral and adequately powered)
 
Smashing Pumpkins
Adore - Yes, Adore; it's actually a good track (in a boring album); interesting how Corgan incorporated techno-inspired beats, which needs to be smoothly delivered; nice vocalizations from him too
 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
 
A few suggestions from similar artists. I'll add a few more obscure ones from the local scene here (they're on YouTube so you can try them there, but of course quality isn't that good, although for all I know the CDs might be available somewhere online); again, best you get familiar with the tracks before "testing" them on a bunch of other gear.
 
A Perfect Circle
Brena, also Orestes to a lesser extent - any headphone that does certain things too much or too little will easily have something wrong with this track; I'm listening to it right now through my laptop, and it sounds drastically different from when I'm using my phone, where I've corrected (not completely, of course) the response using NeutronMP's EQ; nimble in terms of musicality/PRAT particularly with bass as well as subtlety with finer details (like Keenan's vocalizations)
Judith - aside from musicality of the track, check the detail on the vocal blending, particularly at the climax just before the fading outro solo - you must be able to hear Paz join in, without straining to hear her voice or separate it from the guitars, nor should she overpower Billy
 
Deftones
Digital Bath - bass drum must have nice PRAT, enough kick on the attack (within reason for headphones)
 
Greyhoundz
Your Pupper and Clown - fullrange from treble to bass, varied vocal styles employed, rhythmic bass guitar and percussion during the verses (personally, I think this is one of the best, more mature Nu Metal songs ever)

Mudvayne 
The Patient Mental and Mercy, Severity - fast beats, really shows the versatility of Chad's voice (I don't care what the "hardcore" fans want, which is basically just growling from start to finish) as he goes from a rap-like style to very melodic, subtle singing then swings to a growl in rapid succession; again, you need neutrality and PRAT for these 
(practically all of The End of All Things to Come)
 
Sevendust
Licking Cream - also a PRAT track, but you get two vocal ranges to also test for neutrality 
 
Slapshock
My Skar - similar to Sevendust's Licking Cream, but with techno-indsutrial riffs, and death grunts along with a female ska singer; lyrics are a little emo for my tastes but I really love the beat on this (and some schmuck tossed a tear gas grenade during the album debut and I hightailed it out of the moshpit just before this song)

 
 
Thanks for this.  I'll definitely use a few from these.
 
Ok, I looked up what PRAT was.  Pace, Rhythm, and Timing.
 
I will definitely try the A Perfect Circle tracks.
 
For Mudvayne, is there anything you recommend off of L.D. 50?  That's the only one of theirs I have for now.
 
Do you think it's ok if I get to a 10-15 part of a song (say during the gibberish part of Freak On A Leash), then rewind those 15 seconds, and swap in another headphone?
 
Or, should I listen to whole songs at a time only? 
 
I want to listen to whole songs as much as possible, but also due to time (and for me not to get exhausted and lose focus), I might get to a point where I only listen to certain portions.
 
Digital Bath is always one of my favorites, nice call.
 
Also, thanks for mentioning exact parts of some songs, or what to listen for.
 
  Godsmack
Whatever - a good test for frequency response and dynamics for the percussion; attack of the notes must have weight, no bass distortion, etc; if one system/headphone makes you tap your feet more, pick that one (try this on the Grado RS-2 or RS-1 if you can)
 

 
 
 
Nice advice, I'll keep that in mind.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 11:39 PM Post #9 of 36

ProtegeManiac

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Ok, I looked up what PRAT was.  Pace, Rhythm, and Timing.

 
Actually, it's Pace, Rhythm, Attack(/decay), Timing. There was a couple of threads already where I mentioned that and the other people I was conversing with couldn't pin down exactly when "Attack" essentially turned into an ampersand. In any case those terms in some ways overlap, but basically the beat notes - predominantly bass and low midrange - need to have a solid attack when necessary (like the kick on a bass drum, or a hard impact on the toms), sounds "deep" response-wise when needed (ie if it's a bass drum or bass guitar), and yet remain controlled. On the aforementioned instruments, the sound should generally be more like a "THUD!" than, for example if you have distortion due to excessy bass from the source or headphone and the amp can't provide current, it will sound like "thu-bwoooom." If the headphone driver is already hitting its excursion limit, it will sound like a "thu-THWACK!" Similarly, the cymbals and snare need to have a good attack without scratching your ears. Ideally, all of these shouldn't be up front with the vocalist - they should be a little bit behind (don't expect headphones to do what speakers can do, even with these tracks, that aren't recorded with the same attention to soundstage as audiophile CDs).

Note some tracks may have been recorded wrong in the first place so avoid those, but would be pretty well known. I can't recall any for the cymbals and snare, but for the lower notes, off the bat I always think of "Angels Fall First" by Nightwish. I've been debating with my friends that the percussion had sh***y mastering on that (heck even some guitar notes sound like they're distorting, and it's not about what pedals they were using), especially how much better the redux of Astral Romance was, and then I was finally vindicated when the box set came out with the entire first album with a "Remastered" label right next to it.
 
 
For Mudvayne, is there anything you recommend off of L.D. 50?  That's the only one of theirs I have for now.

 
The first four tracks; however on that entire album Death Blooms and -1 are the only tracks that show off Chad's versatility, and even then not as much as with the much criticized follow-up for being too commercial. Hardcore listeners dismiss his versatility as selling out and no doubt that being used for a movie soundtrack (that wasn't directed by, say, Rob Zombie or Guillermo Del Toro; or based on an Anne Rice novel) helped push that idea.
 
 
Do you think it's ok if I get to a 10-15 part of a song (say during the gibberish part of Freak On A Leash), then rewind those 15 seconds, and swap in another headphone?
 
Or, should I listen to whole songs at a time only? 
 
I want to listen to whole songs as much as possible, but also due to time (and for me not to get exhausted and lose focus), I might get to a point where I only listen to certain portions.

 
It should be OK but better if you just spliced parts into a single track; if you're using a touch screen or a mouse you can easily go back by pointing at the progress bar. In any case, in most of the songs I mentioned, it's more of the whole song or entire sections of the song. Despite listening primarily to heavy metal I also mind PRAT a lot as I listen to jazz, even though not as much nu metal nowadays save for the ones I posted. You can have a folder of those edited tracks and use them for tests.
 
Aug 15, 2014 at 3:17 AM Post #10 of 36

nuraman00

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It should be OK but better if you just spliced parts into a single track; if you're using a touch screen or a mouse you can easily go back by pointing at the progress bar. In any case, in most of the songs I mentioned, it's more of the whole song or entire sections of the song. Despite listening primarily to heavy metal I also mind PRAT a lot as I listen to jazz, even though not as much nu metal nowadays save for the ones I posted. You can have a folder of those edited tracks and use them for tests.

 
If it's not too much trouble, can you explain how I can splice parts of multiple tracks into a single track, while playing CD tracks on a desk top? 
 
You don't have to do this though, I think I have enough things to listen for to get me through this weekend.  I can see where I'm at then, and if I need to evaluate more.
 
Aug 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM Post #11 of 36

gradofan1

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  Yeah, thanks.  I'm going to listen to the tracks on my desktop's CD player.
 
If anyone's interested, my sound card is a Realtek ALC892.
 
And yeah, I'm going to use the same tracks, or parts of tracks, for all 3 headphones.

Sound card? Bypass that and get a decent DAC or something, connected via USB or Toslink. Even a cheap dragonfly would help. 
 
Aug 15, 2014 at 12:54 PM Post #12 of 36

gradofan1

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If it's not too much trouble, can you explain how I can splice parts of multiple tracks into a single track, while playing CD tracks on a desk top? 
 
You don't have to do this though, I think I have enough things to listen for to get me through this weekend.  I can see where I'm at then, and if I need to evaluate more.

You use garageband, it's pretty easy if you have a mac. Otherwise multiple applications on a PC can do it for you, with free editing software. Then combine the tracks into a single track as stated above. That's pretty smart actually, never really thought of that myself.
 
What you do is you rip it from the CD into a .wav file (uncompressed, lossless), the original file you have on the physical CD. Then you splice that using software and combine. It's kinda like recombinant DNA (yes I'm a bio geek).
 
EDIT: not rip, but just drag the files from the CD directly to your desktop. In mac it's right click, "show package contents" -- pretty sure its the same on a PC.
 
Aug 15, 2014 at 2:20 PM Post #13 of 36

ProtegeManiac

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rip th 
If it's not too much trouble, can you explain how I can splice parts of multiple tracks into a single track, while playing CD tracks on a desk top? 

 
In addition to what gradofan1 posted, what I'd do with that if I need to (haven't since sophomore year in college) is go to CNET and search for "free audio editor/editing software" - this is a pretty basic feature that should be present in most freeware, unlike actual mastering tools for audio engineers (basically this is just school presentation-level stuff). You basically rip the tracks at the compression rate/s you want to use, including lossless (and compare one compression level vs another if you want to), then cut 'em up and put the sections you need into one track. It's kind of like editing video, like when you edit one for a class presentation by cutting up the entire video (back when we used tapes) or cutting out the clapper at the start and then when you say "Cut!" at the end) except digital cams usually come with their own software that can do that. 
 
Aug 16, 2014 at 9:09 AM Post #14 of 36

nuraman00

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  Sound card? Bypass that and get a decent DAC or something, connected via USB or Toslink. Even a cheap dragonfly would help. 

Yeah, maybe at some point I will, I've thought about that.
 
I just wanted to mention the setup that I have right now, though.
 
Do you think it's going to be a problem in being able to differentiate and test the headphones, or can I still use the setup I have for now?
 
I don't want to purchase new things right now if I don't have to, as one of these headphones that I'll keep should be it for now.  It's a significant enough purchase for now IMO.
 
Aug 18, 2014 at 4:37 AM Post #15 of 36

nuraman00

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Thoughts so far:
 
1.  Tool - Stinkfist:  The SoundMagic and Bowers sounded the best for this.  I liked how the bass sounded with the SoundMagic.
 
Also listened to the beginning of 46 & 2, and the light cymbal during -5:00 remaining sounded the most fun with the Bowers.
 
2.  Metallica - Trapped Under Ice:  All 3 sounded good and similar.
 
3.  Metallica - Holier Than Thou:  All 3 sounded good, but the SoundMagic seemed to pick up on a background hiss throughout the song the most, and it slightly annoyed me.
 
4.  Metallica - Until It Sleeps:  The PSB and Bowers sounded the best.
 
5.  Soundgarden - Limo Wreck:  This is the first song that each headphone had a distinct experience. 
 
The SoundMagic was fun, but perhaps a little too dark/bass?
 
The PSB was brighter.
 
The Bowers sounded the funnest.
 
 
Other thoughts:
 
* The SoundMagic are super comfortable.  I wish every headphone was as comfortable as these, there's the most comfortable full size headphones I've worn.
 
* I feel that the PSB presses against the head the most.  And I'm constantly afraid that I'm going to break the plastic part of the headphones.
 
At times, these also feel like they're not as full as the Bowers.  Could be my preference.
 
* None of these headphones fold as easily as my existing Sony MDR-V6.  I loved how those folded.
 
* So far, I don't think there's a song I haven't liked with the Bowers, but I have many more to try.
 

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