This is a Test: Music For Appreciating and Evaluating Headphones or Hi-fi

A quick intro: Scott Eastlick has been writing for AudioStream on many things music-related, creating original sonic mixes for our readers there to enjoy and to explore, and moving forward may even scribble the odd hardware review. Please welcome him here to InnerFidelity, as I thought some of the mixes he's been doing for AudioStream would be a great fit here too. His bio is at the bottom of this article. – Rafe Arnott


While my love for music is as preternatural as my love for sugar, oxygen, and affection, I’ve never considered myself to be a bonafide audiophile.

Even if I have the ear, I don’t have the income; so me wanting to be an audiophile is a bit like a greeter at Walmart having a penchant for single malt scotch.

Though my recent experiences evaluating high-end gear and writing glossaries of audiophile terminology have taught me to truly understand the flaws of my own equipment. It leaves me feeling how Madonna must when she sees an un-airbrushed photograph of her arms.

Reading countless hi-fi reviews and forum threads, I’ve also come to realize the extent to which people use undeniably great equipment to listen to unbelievably bad music.

The refrain is that top-tier equipment reveals details in the music that inferior gear would leave unexposed, and to that gospel I have converted, but a pair of $1,200 headphones isn’t going to make me appreciate Taylor Swift any more than the disposable earbuds they give out on the plane.

This is a Test represents an attempt to cull some of the most impeccably-produced music ever recorded with consideration for those who test, review, or strive to better appreciate audio gear, while also working as a listenable playlist for those who do not.  

Track Listing

  • Circlesquare – All Sleepers (prod by Konrad Black)
  • Massive Attack – Angel
  • The Knife – Silent Shout
  • Isolee – Beau Mot Plage
  • Aphex Twin – Minipops 67 (Source Field Mix)
  • Skee Mask feat. Jonas Yamer - Fanta Ocean
  • A$AP Rocky - Hun3rd
  • Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts
  • Atom TM – I Love U (Like I Love My Drum Machine)
  • Alvo Noto – U_08-1
  • Air – Don’t Be Light
  • Daft Punk - Beyond
  • Perfume Genius - Queen
  • James Blake - Don’t Miss It
  • Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle
  • Steely Dan – Hey Nineteen
  • Can – Vitamin C
  • Kraftwerk – Antenne
  • Grace Jones - Nightclubbing
  • Tommy Jones & the Shondells - Cellophane Symphony
  • Radiohead – Nude
  • Brian Eno – Bottomliners
  • Sigur Ros – Staralfur
  • Max Richter – On the Nature of Daylight
  • Ella Fitzgerald – Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker – Harry and Dolly
  • Donald Byrd - Cristo Redentor
  • Nils Frahm – Fa
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Hand Covers Bruise
  • Boston Acoustics Bass Test
  • Subwoofer Bass Test
  • Plastikman – Disconnect
  • Oneohtrix Point Never – I Only Have Eyes for You
  • The Field – From Here We Go Sublime
  • The Flamingos – I Only Have Eyes for You

Scott Eastlick is best known as the mind behind the Electric Adolescence website and radio show, as well as some other writing both for and about the music industry. While his love for music predates his ability to speak, his induction into audiophile culture is more recent.

Scott has been converted to the benefits of high-quality gear, but also believes that while it is essential for an astronomer to use the best possible equipment, their appreciation of the telescope should never supersede their love for the stars.

Electric Adolescence

bitonio's picture

I adjusted my Test Playlist I always carry with me with some tracks listed here. Very appreciated and warm welcome.

DugHerb's picture

Thanks for posting this. I'm interested in more of your recommendations. I Converted to an Apple Playlist... (what I could find and added Holy Arp by Crystal Method)

wemist's picture

I don't believe for a second you can measure high frequency response half as easily as when you can pay attention to hall ambiance in a recording where none of the instruments are electrically amplified. These are also recordings where there is also an objective sense of what an instrument should sound like. I get it, though: that's not your interest here. But it's a central question to how you judge hardware with test tracks that don't do this. Why you consider all these "impeccably-produced" is an important question. I personally know why I would want a Steve Albini-produced album on my test menu. This article would be way more valuable if you could offer a reason, even a sentence, why each of these tracks matter to you.

It might be fair to suggest that these "impeccably-produced" songs were "right" straight out of the can. There's no Rudy van Gelder edition of Steely Dan where the old (and I mean so old his ears probably didn't fully work any more) producer went back and did strange things to the sound, messing with stereo spreads, high-frequency rendering and whatnot, so yeah, maybe they are fine tracks to reach to. But where you go to jazz, it's a fair question what release of Byrd's "A New Perspective" we should look for. Some of those Rudy redos sound like crap.

So anyway, I wish there was a whole lot more here. And I'm not an audiophile. I just believe that "testing", if you're going to bother, can be more or less methodical, and that being more methodical helps.

sszorin's picture

Right. One can not evaluate headphones without piping the sound of acoustic instruments through them - a good baroque ensemble of chamber music would do or a good real American music band playing Country, Folk, Americana, Roots. The accuracy of tonality matters.

bgilly's picture

Thanks Scott! In case it's helpful for anybody, I've found as many of these songs on Spotify as I could and made a public playlist.

spivechild's picture

Very enjoyable. Hope we see more!

fastguitars's picture

Need music to check out your headphones, or just music to fly you away on Golden Wings of Sound???

There is a place you can go..... where you can listen for hours, and its all in high rez, and its all free, as its created by me just for the headphone us.

Go do youtube.
In the search box type or paste..........Fastguitars.

Press enter.
You'll see it.

Listen at will to all my created Video, or to the Playlist.
Try the Videos first.


Brahmsian's picture

These tracks made my HE-560 come alive in ways I didn't know were possible. Fantastic headphones. Very crisp sound, and that low end has both depth and texture. Thanks for the playlist. Already followed you at Mixcloud as a result of this.

Joe the Lion's picture

Great list! In case it's helpful for anybody, I've found as many of these songs on Tidal as I could and made a public playlist.