Listening Guide: The CL2 Planar Playlist

What makes a good headphone testing playlist? We collected some of our chosen CL2 Planar testing tracks and why they show what a headphone is capable of.

Proudly championing our Expert Range, the CL2 Planar houses RHA’s finest innovations in audio technology. Offering an unparalleled listening experience with powerfully accurate audio and outstanding clarity.

To judge to the quality of any headphone, you need a good playlist. This should balance several elements:

  • Firstly, the music should showcase a range of instruments and disciplines. A track which offers highs and harmonics as well as deep sub-bass with a detailed mid-range is going to save you a lot of time.
  • Test your headphones using a range of genres. There is little point in a headphone that is only good for classical, acoustic or hip-hop. Get you a headphone that can do more.
  • It really helps if the music you are listening to is well-mastered. Not only is this nicer to listen to, but a lot more likely to put equipment through its paces.
  • Tracks with quirks will uncover the true merit of any headphone. The deep sub-bass of a Massive Attack intro; a brass trill from a full orchestra; clicks and hits that seem to move around your head. All of these things are dulled or lost by lesser equipment or shabby streaming; this makes them the things to look for from good headphones and equipment.
  • It may seem obvious, but it really helps if you listen to music that you like. There are few things more tedious than testing using tracks you've heard a billion times that you don't really like. Music is made to move people; headphones are made to help with that. If something makes you happy, check if listening to it through the headphone makes you happy. The goosebump test is a cliche, but any good audio equipment has the ability to make you smile, make you tense up, or make you cry.

So, here is a selection of our favourite testing tracks:

Burn the Witch

Radiohead

A powerful and eerie song from Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. The string section defines this song: starting with energetic pizzicato, ending in a harsh, urgent screech. However, below that lies a cool, dynamic and modern electronic bass riff that can be easy to miss without headphones.

Dead & Born & Grown (Live)

The Staves

A great version of a beautiful track; there’s just acoustic guitar and harmonised female vocals here. A test on mids and trebles, of silence and impact.

I Got The… (Remastered)

Labi Siffre

A rare example of the perfect song: it starts with the stage by stage introduction of each instrument; bass, strings, percussion, guitar, organ; each playing a riff oozing with craft and funk. Then Siffre’s amazing voice cuts in, and never misses a beat. Add to that the riff from the song’s second part that delivers a powerful nostalgia hit to anyone alive during 1999. Listen again and again; focus on each individual part, and what it contributes to one of the coolest tracks of all time.

Firefly

Mura Musa, Nao

A punchy track with a lot of momentum. A good test of soundstage as the ‘snap’ that keeps time moves around your head like a fly.

Outside

Childish Gambino

From 2011’s Camp, a balanced and emotional mishmash of hiphop and gospel that doubles as Donald Glover's origin story. A catch-all track that showcases spoken word, male and choir vocals, the thump and slap of a hiphop beat, and sudden transitions from full instrumental backing to simple silence.

The Copper Top

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat

A great track from one of the Glasgow music scene's most famous sons. Stripped and simple: most of this is just piano and muttered, sullen vocals. Nowhere to hide. The hi-res recording of this is stunning.

Every1’s a Winner

Ty Segall

A crashing, triumphant cover of an iconic soul track. The high-treble guitar harmonics should almost make you wince, but each is a breath taken before a heavy guitar version of a brilliant riff. At first listen, this sounds like a fun cover, but listen again and you can pick out details that betray a clever, masterfully-produced track in its own right.

Concerto for Violin & Orchestra II: Second Movement

Philip Glass; Adela Anthony, Takuo Yuasa, Ulster Orchestra

This is a beautiful, emotional piece of music, brilliantly played and recorded. During the second and third minutes, the violin sections subtly come forward to join the soloist - it's something you'll miss if you're immersed in the sound overall, but balance and discipline are really on display.

Cup & Ring Cycle

Other Lands

A one-man operation from Edinburgh. Layered, driving electronica that experiments across the dynamic range. At 2:59 he introduces a sub-bass thump you can feel in your throat.

Ramble On

Led Zeppelin

This may be the best Led Zeppelin song. There's a lot to look for here; the percussion slap in the intro is a good test of timbre and harmonics; one of John Paul Jones’ more complex bass riffs weaves in and out of Robert Plant’s vocals; the acoustic guitar riff hidden in the right channel; the vocal track that flits around your head at the end.

Listen to the extended playlist here:

What do you listen to? What do you think of our playlist? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.