We pick 5 tracks to put new audio equipment through the paces.
In association with
Over the years, the quality of music earphones and headphones has evolved to a better standard. In the past, many people were content to use the cheap earbuds that came with their devices, but this is a sound world, and having a good pair of wireless earphones that have a decent charging case and noise cancelling is a must if you care about what you’re listening to.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones or earbuds and want to support a new Irish audio earphone brand, I can recommend Onesonic’s range as I tried out the noise-cancelling MXS-HD1 earphones myself (use code Nialler15 for a discount).
Separate to that recommend, the advice below is based off my personal experiences with trying out audio gear over the years, with five tracks that I know inside out that I test gear with.
If you are following suit, then don’t use a Youtube video, Spotify or a streaming service with high-quality streaming turned on is the way to test. Youtube videos are compressed in quality to a degree where the sonic details won’t be the best.
And if in doubt, pick one of your favourite songs and add that to the mix.
Outkast – The Way You Move
For testing bass frequencies
Of course, most earbuds have a bass boost function built-in or as an option, but I always go back to this song for checking those low frequencies.
Steely Dan – Do It Again
There’s a reason the Dan are so revered. They were meticulous musicians, obsessed with detail and playing things right, without losing sight of a good vibe. The first minute of this track has the scratchyguiro sound, a crashing cymbal, piano and congas before a guitar and more percussion all add up to that treble-friendly detail.
My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow
For loud noise and midrange
Duh. My Bloody Valentine are one of the loudest bands around, and their recently remastered album of Loveless, is among the most full on guitar textured rock music and you can’t get much more wall of sound heavy rock with clarity than this. It should sound clear and not muddied not like Kevin Shields intended.
M83 – Midnight City
For wide dynamics
If you’ve ever heard this song out at a club, it sounds immense, gigantic. It’s an example of modern compression in that it’s loud but within that dynamic range it allows for a shift in the those ranges, when those first big ’80s drums hit and during the verse where the synth line drops out and creates space for the percussion.
ABBA – Lay All Your Love On Me
For overall punch and detail
The vocals of Agneta are high and distant, they should feel present but somewhat celestial, and the best earphone should be able to translate that low-end rhythmic punch to your ears without losing any detail or clarity. The song moves in its dynamic focus as the chorus hits in. A perfect song for a perfect setup.