RHA's UPDATED Testing Playlist


A few years ago we published some highlights from our testing playlists. Now it’s 2020 and we’ve been spending even more time plugged in than ever before. This week we gathered together the testing team, and asked them to tell us what they’re looking for.

We’ve tried to highlight some of the 2020 additions to the playlist, showcasing up and coming artists like *checks notes* Samuel Barber. And, uh, Hugh Jackman.

The Greatest Show – Cast of The Greatest Showman

NO, WAIT, COME BACK! The Greatest Showman title theme is really dynamic, okay? Despite being classed as a ‘musical’ track, its production is really similar to modern pop music - with a strong emphasis on bass – so is very useful for getting a general feel. Also the prominent female vocals (from Keala Settle) can overwhelm and highlight distortion in some headphones (not ours), so look for that!

This is a very inspiring song that makes you feel great - don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

Adagio for Strings, Op 11a – London Philharmonic

It’s always useful to use familiar tracks to test audio equipment because you’ll just know if there’s something up. Given that you’re alive (presumably), you’ll have heard Adagio for Strings a lot already; but if you concentrate and listen to it a few times more, you’ll very quickly pick up what you’re looking for in the way the melody builds and flows.

I Got The… (2006 Remaster) – Labi Siffre

Bill Gates once said that he likes hiring lazy people because they’ll work out the most efficient way to get a job done. Bill Gates would hire I Got The… because it layers instrument upon instrument, basically providing an excellent audio test for a ton of different characteristics.

It’s also one of the coolest, funkiest jams every concocted. The latter half is a nostalgia-bomb for anyone who grew up with Slim Shady.

I Know You Are But What Am I? – Mogwai

GLASGOW! One of the best things to come out of Glasgow since antibiotics, Mogwai’s music builds and builds and builds. This means that the start of a Mogwai track is often as useful for testing headphones – in sub-bass, subtlety and silence – as the end is good for testing layering, space and just… a wall of noise.

Also listen to Remurdered, both to test headphones, and to learn that music can tell amazing stories without uttering a single word.

Burn – Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding has a very particular way of producing ‘s’ and ‘c’ that makes her tracks ideal for testing for ‘sibilance’. What does that mean? If those ‘s’, ‘f’, ‘c’ sounds, and other high instruments, are A Bit Much, then you’re finding your headphones a bit sibilant. Another good test for sibilance is listening to someone say the word ‘sibilance’.

Pneuma – Tool

Pneuma balances the more typical guitar/electric pop and rock that bulks out a lot of testing playlists. Having Tool on our testing playlist was one of our engineers’ contractual demands. They say ‘Danny Carey is one of the greatest drummers and has some epic drum lines which pack a lot of punch. Adam Jones has an iconic guitar sound as well so we can check for clarity and consistency. "I WAITED 13 YEARS FOR THIS ALBUM." Thanks, Cameron.

Leave A Trace (Four Tet Remix) – Chvrches

GLASGOW! A very electronic-based version of a smart and cutting Chvrches song; this track is mastered in a way that exercises a headphone’s bass, sub-bass and space. ‘Space’ in audio is worthy of its own blog: with good mastering – and good headphones – you can shut your eyes and listen as effects and musical layers pop and sizzle all around your head. Four Tet are generally good for this; and this track is a shining example.

You've read about it, now test it out:

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