A great set of headphones must combine the physical attributes of comfort, build quality, and style, but the most important thing is the sound they produce. If you recently got a new pair of headphones or you’re considering a new pair, we’ve put together a great playlist of songs to test headphones below.
We’ve chosen songs that are mixed well, with a range of frequencies and dynamic qualities. This will highlight the potential strengths and flaws of the headphones so that you can assess their performance. We also have an awesome playlist of songs to test speakers here if you’re interested.
Table of Contents
1. Snow by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers released their most ambitious album to date, Stadium Arcadium, in 2006. The album was produced by industry legend Rick Rubin, who had also previously worked with the band on Blood Sugar Sex Magic, Californication, and By The Way. “Snow,” the second single released from the album, features a Hendrix-inspired guitar part by John Frusciante. The rhythm section of Chad Smith and Flea pulsates throughout the song, and the combination of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies makes this track a good tester for headphones.
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Mixed and produced by Butch Vig, Nirvana’s best-known song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” is an excellent track for testing out headphones. The clean, thumping bass line played by Krist Novoselic will provide you with an idea of how much low-end clarity the headphones possess, while the loud volume of the chorus will test their resistance to distortion. There’s something haunting about the simple guitar melody played by Kurt Cobain in this track, and he laid down one of the most emotive vocals in rock history in the chorus.
3. Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush
|Genre||New Wave, Pop|
|Album||Hounds of Love|
“Running Up That Hill” is a beautiful piece of music by British singer-songwriter Kate Bush. When it was initially released, this song enjoyed some popularity, but in 2022 it was featured in the hit TV show Stranger Things and was therefore introduced to a new generation. This has led to the song being shared widely across social media. The different instruments and sounds included in this song are sure to put headphones to the test.
4. One More Time by Daft Punk
French house duo Daft Punk is amongst the best-selling electronic music acts in history. Their second album, Discovery, was crammed with dancefloor fillers like “One More Time.” Although the single didn’t achieve widespread commercial success upon its initial release, it is frequently ranked as one of the greatest dance tracks of all time by music magazines and publications.
Featuring Daft Punk’s signature vocoder vocal style, the song is a masterpiece of dance music production. It’s a great song if you enjoy EDM or any other style of electronic music.
5. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
In 1977, Fleetwood Mac was arguably at the peak of its powers. Energized by the songwriting and vocal talents of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, the band recorded “The Chain” as part of the classic album Rumours. Every band member is credited as a songwriter on the track because it was made from a series of ideas that weren’t considered strong enough individually to make it onto the album.
6. Lose Yourself by Eminem
|Genre||Hip Hop, Rap|
|Album||8 Mile: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture|
Eminem’s 2002 track, “Lose Yourself,” was written for the film 8 Mile and featured on its soundtrack album. The song became a worldwide hit and is one of Eminem’s best-selling singles. It was written while on the set of 8 Mile, as the rapper continued to pen the lyrics about the main character, B-Rabbit, and the somewhat depressing conditions of his life at the start of the film. “Lose Yourself” is a perfect track for rap music fans to test headphones, as it includes all of the genre’s typical ingredients, including a thumping beat, boomy bass, and rhythmic vocals.
7. Back in Black by ACDC
|Genre||Hard Rock, Metal|
|Album||Back in Black|
AC/DC’s music is the epitome of rock. The 1980 classic single “Back in Black” from the album of the same name consists of a huge-sounding, straight drum beat with crunchy guitar chords coming in periodically. It’s been a staple of the band’s live shows since its release, and the warm, analog sound of the song’s mix makes it a great tester for headphones.
8. Next Episode by Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg
|Genre||Hip Hop, Rap|
Andre Young, or Dr. Dre as he is better known, is one of hip-hop’s most prolific artists. He’s enjoyed a lot of success as a rapper, but most of his best work is done behind the mixing desk. “Next Episode,” which features Snoop Dogg and a cameo from the late Nate Dogg, is masterfully mixed with all of the typical qualities of a Dr. Dre beat. Listening to this track in your headphones makes it almost impossible to resist bopping your head along with the rhythmic rhymes and percussion.
9. Flashing Lights by Kanye West
|Genre||Hip Hop, Rap|
Kanye West is one of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time, pushing the boundaries of styles and genres and expressing his individuality through art. In 2007, West released his third studio album, Graduation, to widespread acclaim. One of the standout songs from that album was “Flashing Lights.”
West’s talents as a beatmaker are well known, and the production of “Flashing Lights” is exceptional. The soaring strings melody coupled with electronic synth sounds and lo-fi drums makes this track an excellent option for listening in headphones.
10. Billie Jean by Michael Jackson
Produced by the legendary Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, was way ahead of its time. “Billie Jean” is one of the standout tracks from the album, and it sounds as fresh and innovative today as it did when it was initially released. Upon release, this song reached rank one on the Billboard Hot 100.
The iconic bassline and unmistakable kick, hi-hat, and snare drum pattern that begin the song will test the low-end capabilities of headphones, and Jackson’s signature high-pitched vocals will test the clarity of the treble end.
11. Day N’ Night by Kid Cudi
|Genre||Hip Hop, R&B|
|Album||A Kid Named Cudi|
Written about his struggles with introversion, social anxiety, and loneliness, Kid Cudi’s 2008 single “Day N’ Night” is a must-listen for hip-hop and R & B fans. The song was later remixed by Crookers, adding dance elements, and both versions are well worth a listen if you’re trying to decide whether a set of headphones suit your needs.
12. White Iverson by Post Malone
|Genre||Hip Hop, Rap|
Post Malone burst onto the hip-hop scene seemingly overnight with the release of his 2015 hit single, “White Iverson.” After making the song in his home studio, Malone uploaded it to the internet and literally awoke the next day to find that many popular artists and influencers had come across it and shared it. The track is a great headphone tester for trap and modern rap enthusiasts.
13. Money by Pink Floyd
|Album||The Dark Side of the Moon|
“Money” features one of the most iconic basslines in rock history. Released by British prog-rockers Pink Floyd at the height of their popularity, the song is predominantly in 7/4 time but switches back to the more conventional 4/4 time for the guitar solo.
The Dark Side of the Moon is considered a classic album due to its blend of excellent songwriting and immersive soundscapes. The entire album is great for testing headphones, but “Money” stands out for this purpose due to the diverse instrumentation and range of effects.
14. Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
After the success of his first two albums, Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd released Blinding Lights in 2019. The album’s title track was released as the second single and reached the top of the charts in several countries around the world. With its 80’s style synthesizer melody, smooth Michael Jackson-like vocals, and fast-paced rhythm, this track is a great headphone tester.
15. Texas Sun by Khruangbin ft. Leon Bridges
American three-piece band Khruangbin has enjoyed a quick rise to popularity in recent years, and their fanbase grew considerably with the release of the 2020 album Texas Sun. A collaboration project with vocalist Leon Bridges, the album’s lead single of the same name is an excellent listen on a high-quality pair of headphones. Khruangbin’s signature tight grooves are present throughout the track, and Bridges’ soulful vocals complement the laid-back instrumental.
16. Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed
After embarking on a solo career following the success of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed quickly became a prominent figure in the glam rock genre. His 1972 album, Transformer, included the song “Walk on the Wild Side.” The track was produced by Reed’s good friend, David Bowie, and his longtime collaborator Mick Ronson. The production is very primitive, with an acoustic guitar, fretless bass, and a female vocal ensemble which increases gradually in volume.
17. War Pigs by Black Sabbath
|Genre||Heavy Metal, Rock|
Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath are renowned for their powerful sound and rock n’ roll antics, but “War Pigs” is a song that shows the band’s deeper side. Written about the topic of war, this 1970 track is mixed to perfection. It includes everything you could possibly want from a rock song – crunchy guitar chords, crashing drums, rumbling bass lines, and catchy vocals. The immersive panning of the guitars and drums makes this song an enthralling listen in headphones.
18. Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai
|Genre||Acid Jazz, Funk|
|Album||Traveling Without Moving|
With its iconic music video, Jamiroquai’s 1996 track “Virtual Insanity” put the band on the map. The funky rhythm coupled with the syncopated vocals gives this song a unique, fresh sound, which was heavily inspired by the Acid Jazz movement, which originated in London in the 80s. Lead singer Jay Kay wrote the track with his then-bandmate, Toby Smith. The music video was filmed in one single shot and accompanied the energetic sound perfectly.
19. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
Queen’s timeless back catalog is filled with incredible songwriting and musical invention. The classic 12-bar blues rock song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is great for testing a set of headphones due to its tight, refined mix.
The song features an energetically strummed acoustic guitar part, which is joined by a thumping rhythm section. Singer Freddie Mercury glides over the instruments in his lower register, demonstrating his undeniable vocal versatility. This song became the band’s first number-one single in the US. and has sold millions of copies worldwide.
20. Englishman in New York by Sting
|Album||Nothing Like the Sun|
British singer-songwriter Sting enjoyed worldwide success as the lead singer of The Police before embarking on a solo career. In 1987, he released the song “Englishman in New York” as the third single from his sophomore album, Nothing Like the Sun. The track describes the singer’s feeling of alienation being in the foreign land of New York as an English native. With influences from reggae, the song is a very enjoyable listen, especially in a great-sounding pair of headphones.
21. Come Together by The Beatles
|Genre||Alternative Rock, Blues Rock|
The Beatles pioneered many recording and mixing techniques, so the band’s music is a great option for testing headphones. “Come Together” is a unique track that was written by John Lennon. The panning of Ringo Starr’s drum fills and breaks sound incredible in headphones, as does the iconic Paul McCartney bassline.
22. Hey Boy Hey Girl by the Chemical Brothers
To test headphones accurately, listening to music with varying dynamics is necessary. “Hey Boy Hey Girl” by U.K. dance music duo the Chemical Brothers includes a range of different tones, fluctuating between quiet breakdowns and bass-heavy drops. The Chemical Brothers are renowned for their excellent mixes and use of different sounds, making songs like this ideal for testing the performance of headphones.
23. Just Like a Woman by Bob Dylan
|Album||Blonde on Blonde|
With each album that Bob Dylan released during the 1960s, his sound evolved dramatically. Blonde on Blonde showcased Dylan’s lyrical talents, and the album was heavily influenced by the stream-of-consciousness style writings of the “Beat” poets in the 1950s.
“Just Like a Woman” is alleged to be written about Dylan’s relationship with the singer Joan Baez, although he has never confirmed or denied this. The song features a stunning array of instrumentation, with Dylan’s almost spoken-word vocals interviewing with the strummed acoustic guitar and softly played harmonica.
24. Oblivion by Grimes
Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes may be better known to some people as the mother of Tesla owner Elon Musk’s children, but she’s also released an impressive back catalog of diverse music. 2012’s “Oblivion” is one of Grime’s best-known tracks, and it’s also a great track for testing headphones. The bass-heavy beat contrasts the bright vocal tone, and as different synths come in and out, you’ll be able to gauge whether the headphones are good enough. It’s a really good bass-testing song.
25. This Charming Man by The Smiths
Recorded in 1983, “This Charming Man” is a classic track by the English rock band, The Smiths. The song begins with Johnny Marr playing a jangly guitar melody before the ultra-tight rhythm section kicks in. This song has a unique sound, with some classic 80’s production. If you’re a fan of indie rock, this track will provide the perfect test for a potential set of headphones.
26. The Payback by James Brown
Funk legend James Brown’s music is timeless. Along with his band, Brown redefined funk and soul music, creating some of the tastiest grooves and catchiest hooks you’ll ever hear. “The Payback,” which was released in 1973, is an excellent display of tight musicianship, melodic improvisation, and lyrical prowess. If this song doesn’t sound great through headphones, then you know there’s a problem with them!
27. Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones
|Album||Start Me Up / No Use in Crying|
When The Rolling Stones released “Start Me Up” in 1981, many music critics were questioning whether the band was on the decline. After enjoying unprecedented success in the 60s and 70s, the British group needed to reinvent itself again. This song, with its blend of disco, rock, and blues, showed that The Stones still had plenty of gas left in the tank. Its irresistible groove should sound excellent through a good set of headphones.
28. Supermassive Black Hole by Muse
|Album||Black Holes and Revelations|
British rock outfit Muse has a massive sound for a three-piece band. Vocalist Matt Bellamy blends an operatic singing style with rock, as is evident on the 2006 track “Supermassive Black Hole.” This song instantly became a fan favorite, and listening to the studio recording is a perfect way to gauge headphone capabilities. In my opinion, this is easily one of the best songs to test headphones.
29. Come Down by Anderson Paak
|Genre||R&B, Hip hop|
Anderson Paak and his band, The Free Nationals, rose to prominence with the 2016 album Malibu. One of the most innovative tracks on the album was “Come Down,” which demonstrated Paak’s rapping, singing, and drumming abilities. This song features a catchy walking bassline, which is mimicked by a 16th note hi-hat rhythm and a funky guitar part, so it will test each main area of your headphones’ sonic performance.
30. All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix
Originally written by Bob Dylan, “All Along The Watchtower” was covered by legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix for his 1968 album, Electric Ladyland. The song features one of the most innovative and iconic guitar performances in recorded music history, with Hendrix’s exceptional sense of rhythm, melody, and feel on full display throughout. With its rich, full sound, this song is a great option for testing headphones.
31. Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
|Genre||Hard Rock, Blues|
|Album||Led Zeppelin II|
With its instantly recognizable distorted guitar riff played by Jimmy Page, thumping rhythm section played by John Bonham and John Paul Jones, and Robert Plant’s soaring vocals, “Whole Lotta Love ” is arguably the perfect rock n’ roll track. The breakdown section is made up of atmospheric sounds, which will test the dynamic response of your headphones.
32. Rehab by Amy Winehouse
|Album||Back to Black|
The late Amy Winehouse made some brilliant music before her untimely death at the age of 27. Her 2006 album, Back to Black, was made in collaboration with producer Mark Ronson, who gathered a selection of capable musicians to carry out their vision. The song “Rehab” was the lead single from the album and documents Winehouse’s struggle with addiction.
The production and mixing of “Rehab” are impeccable, with horns, drums, guitars, and piano all perfectly placed within the stereo field. That’s why this song is a must-listen if you love R&B music and want to test out your headphones for this style.
33. Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley
|Album||From Elvis in Memphis|
“Suspicious Minds” was written by Mark James, but his version failed to achieve commercial success. A year later, rock n’ roll legend Elvis Presley released the track, and it went on to become one of his best-known songs. Recorded in American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, “Suspicious Minds” has a warm, vintage sound and includes everything from clean electric guitar tones to gospel-style backing vocals. This song won many awards, including the RIAA Single Gold Record Award.
34. Riders On The Storm by The Doors
|Genre||Psychedelic Rock, Alternative Rock|
Released shortly before the tragic death of frontman Jim Morrison, “Riders On The Storm” is a haunting rock track that features a range of different tones and sounds. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek plays a captivating part throughout the song, and listening through headphones will allow you to enjoy the full scope of the different instruments. Morrison recorded a very quiet whisper track which is layered over the vocals, and if you can hear this in your headphones, it proves that they have good attention to detail.
35. On The Road Again by Willie Nelson
Country singer Willie Nelson released “On The Road Again” in 1980. The song is written about the singer’s love of touring, traveling, and the life of a musician. Its production is quite understated and stripped back, with drums played with brushes and a jangly guitar tone. If you’re a fan of country and blues music, this track will indicate how good your headphones are for these genres.
36. Ms. Jackson by OutKast
Hip-hop duo OutKast enjoyed worldwide popularity in the early 2000s thanks to hits like “Ms. Jackson.” Featured on the album Stankonia, this song is an excellent composition that blends comedic lyrics, catchy melodies, and captivating production. OutKast pushed the boundaries of hip-hop and R&B, and their unique sound is perfect for testing out some headphones.
37. On The Road Again by Canned Heat
|Genre||Rock, Folk Rock|
|Album||Boogie with Canned Heat|
Canned Heat had one of the most recognizable sounds of any ’60s rock band. Alan Wison’s signature falsetto vocal style is displayed in the 1968 track “On The Road Again,” and the psychedelic mix of instruments provides an immersive listening experience that should sound fantastic in a quality pair of headphones.
38. Vitamin C by Can
“Vitamin C” by psych-rock band Can is a masterpiece in musicianship, music production, and songwriting. Jaki Liebezeit, who started out as an accomplished jazz drummer and then switched to rock when the band formed, plays an amazingly complex groove, constantly altering the dynamics. The drums sound so tight that one could be forgiven for believing they are sampled, and you can really hear the slight nuances of the recording in a great set of headphones.
39. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala
You could use basically any Tame Impala track to test your headphones, as they are so well produced and mixed. The unique psychedelic sound of the 2014 album, Lonerism, catapulted the artist to a new level of fame. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” was one of the singles from the album, and after it was covered by Arctic Monkeys’ lead singer Alex Turner, the song became a fan favorite. Parker’s use of phasers and flangers makes the song an immersive listen, and it is sure to put your headphones to the test.
40. Moondance by Van Morrison
Northern Irish artist Van Morrison released the album Moondance in 1970, and the title track became one of his biggest hits to date. The production of the entire album is exceptional, but this song, in particular, sounds fantastic in headphones. The way the instruments glide in and out of prominence and the rhythmic nature of the vocals are a joy to listen to.
41. Unreachable by John Frusciante
After departing from the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the second time, lead guitarist John Frusciante added to his impressive solo work with the release of The Empyrean. This entire album is expertly produced and recorded, but “Unreachable” provides the listener with an unforgettable experience, particularly with a good set of headphones. The song’s wide dynamic range and the use of automated panning make it perfect for testing headphones.
42. Firestarter by The Prodigy
|Album||The Fat of the Land|
British dance music band The Prodigy was an expert at mixing and producing EDM hits. One of the group’s most iconic songs is “Firestarter.” With its chaotic, fast-paced rhythm section, spoken word vocal lines, and fluid dynamics, the track will test every aspect of a new set of headphones.
43. Doesn’t Remind Me by Audioslave
|Album||Out of Exile|
Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine were two of the most influential rock bands of the 1990s, so when the members combined to form Soundgarden, rock fans knew they were in for a treat. “Doesn’t Remind Me” is a brilliant track that showcases all of the band’s best attributes. Guitarist Tom Morello dazzles with his explosive wah-pedal solo, and the late Chris Cornell’s vocals are as passionate sounding as ever. The chorus of this track sounds huge, so it is bound to push your headphones to their limits.
44. Tighten Up by The Black Keys
|Genre||Alternative Rock, Blues|
Released as a single from the 2010 album Brothers, “Tighten Up” was produced by Danger Mouse and became the song that finally allowed two-piece blues rockers The Black Keys to break into the mainstream. The drum sound on this song is immense and is sure to test whether a set of headphones can handle compressed loud percussion. There’s also a lot of high-end in the track, with the main melody whistled rather than played by an instrument.
45. right Lights by Gary Clark Jr.
|Genre||Alternative Rock, Blues|
|Album||Blak and Blu|
In just a few short years, Gary Clark Jr. went from playing in small clubs and bars to playing at the biggest blues and rock festivals in the world. The blues singer and guitarist released his breakthrough album Blak and Blu in 2012. “Bright Lights” is a classic, fuzz-draped blues rock tune that sounds like a blend between Cream and Jimi Hendrix. The guitar tone on this track should sound amazing through some capable headphones.
46. Emerald Rush by Jon Hopkins
British music producer Jon Hopkins is one of the most underrated artists in the electronic music scene. A classical pianist by trade, Hopkins developed a deep love for dance music and has released an impeccable body of work combining his two main influences. “Emerald Rush” evokes somewhat of a spiritual experience for many people who listen to it, and it’s made for good headphones. Most of the sounds are organically recorded by Hopkins, giving the song a unique sound that cannot be replicated.
47. White Room by Cream
|Album||Wheels of Fire|
“White Room” by Cream was introduced to a new generation when it was featured in a scene from the blockbuster movie, “The Joker.” This classic psych-rock track has a dramatic intro, with a groovy, wah-draped guitar line played by Eric Clapton. Ginger Baker’s sporadic drums lock in with the rumbling bass tone of Jack Bruce to create the perfect rock sound to test your headphones with.
48. The Barrell by Aldous Harding
New Zealand-born singer-songwriter Aldous Harding often uses minimalist instrumentation in her songs so that her poetic lyrics and versatile vocal style can shine through. 2019’s “The Barrell” is a beautiful composition that allows the piano, bass, and guitar to have their own space within the mix. The natural sound of the song makes it suitable for testing headphones if you enjoy listening to pop and indie rock.
49. Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang
|Genre||Hip Hop, Disco|
|Album||The Sugarhill Gang|
The Sugarhill Gang were early pioneers of hip-hop music, and their influence is still felt today. “Rapper’s Delight” introduced many people to the art form of emceeing and inspired a generation of rappers. The iconic bassline fits perfectly with the smooth verses of each member of the group, and for any old-school hip-hop lovers out there, this track is the ultimate headphone tester.
50. Starman by David Bowie
|Album||The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars|
David Bowie is widely considered one of the most innovative artists in popular music history. His fearless approach to creating art is evident in the diversity of the music he released throughout his decorated career. 1969’s “Starman” was a single from the iconic album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It features a tight drum sound, beautifully blended backing vocals, and a red-hot electric guitar tone that is a joy to listen to through good-quality headphones.
That does it for this article. Let us know if there are any great songs that we should add to this list in the comments below.
Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m from Butler, Pennsylvania. I’ve been obsessed with music and audio gear for as long as I can remember. I started this website to help people find professional advice related to a wide range of audio topics. We have a number of Audio Engineers on our team who have been designing and fixing audio gear for decades.