The truth is, everyone has their own favorites when it comes to testing their speakers. So, there is no right or wrong.
You can use this list as a starting point and go onto to test your own favorite songs, since most of the time, you’re probably going to be listening to songs in the style of your favorites anyway.
But if you’d like to push your speakers to their limits, we do recommend giving these songs a try.
Pop certainly has its moments when it comes to testing your speakers. You’ve just got to know where to look, since cookie-cutter pop is in unlimited supply.
Because playing through the myriad of drum-and-synth hits is going to prove unsatisfying after a while (and by a while, we mean a couple of tracks tops), you'd better have your hands on a properly curated list.
There are some pop songs out there with layers and dynamics, as well as unique production. Those are the ones to lean towards. Let’s have a look.
“A Public Affair” by Jessica Simpson
Song year: 2006
“A Public Affair” features slick, pop production. The 70s disco-influenced tune features more layers of vocals and instruments than you’ll hear in an average pop song. Which is a big part of what makes it worth listening to and testing your speakers with.
It doesn’t hurt that the song makes you want to get up and dance, regardless of how bad you’re feeling.
Either way, put this song on and listen carefully to see if you can hear all the layers.
“In The Air Tonight” By Phil Collins
Song year: 1981
“In The Air Tonight” is quite possibly one of Collins’ most recognized songs and it was his first hit as a solo artist to boot. It builds from a quiet, spare beat to the unforgettable drum fill. Along with the vocoded vocals, this song is pure genius.
For tests concerning dynamics and spare instrumentation, it’s hard to think of a better song to crank up than “In The Air Tonight.”
Rock is an obvious genre to turn to for speaker tests. Although rock songs usually aren’t all that dynamic, they will give you a good sense of how electric guitars are going to sound on your system, and let’s face it – guitar has been a massive part of music in the last 70 years or so, even if it’s heyday is over.
Here are a couple of songs we think are worth pumping through your system.
“The National Anthem” by Radiohead
Song year: 2000
This song has got a bit of everything – raunchy bass, compressed drums and piercing cymbals, organic and electronic sounds filling the stereo spectrum, Thom Yorke’s apathetic vocals, and a surprisingly catchy horns section.
The song itself is quite abstract, as you would expect from alternative experimental music in general. Because it’s Radiohead, rarely does it sound cheery (though not entirely unsettling), but it is creative, no doubt.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
Song year: 1975
So far as we’re concerned, it’s a sin to skip over Queen on a list like this, as they took multi-tracking to a level most bands hadn’t tried or imagined possible in their time.
How does a four-piece rock band sound like an entire choir? By layering, and layering, and layering their vocals over and over. And with Queen songs, it wasn’t just the vocals that received this treatment either. It was also the guitars.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the greatest songs of all time, and the dynamic changes throughout the song make it great for sound system tests as well.
“Africa” by Toto
Song year: 1982
It’s hard to resist the appeal of Toto when it comes to speaker tests. “Africa” is a great choice because of its tight bass groove, layered synth parts, pitch-perfect vocal harmonies, scorching guitars, and more.
Put this number on and see if you can hear all the little nuances in the mix – the instruments and vocal parts that come and go – things you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t listening for them.
“Leave That Thing Alone” by Rush
Song year: 1993
For decades and decades, Rush stunned audiences with their technical proficiency and ability to sound infinitely bigger than most power trios. If you ever asked yourself what would happen if you threw three virtuosos in a room together to create music and what that would sound like, you’ve basically got your answer in the form or Rush.
Except most virtuosos probably wouldn’t play well together and would create incoherent nonsense, entirely separate from the tight, emotionally potent prog-rock masterpiece that is “Leave That Thing Alone”, where the character of each musician comes through the speakers loud and clear.
The album to which it belongs, Counterparts, is a fan favorite when it comes to speaker tests, and the remastered version is even better overall.
Electronica crept into mainstream music in the 70s and 80s and has basically only gained momentum since. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say today’s pop music owes a great deal to electronica, and some of it isn't just inspired by it – it's electronica plain and simple.
Here are some interesting song picks worth testing your speakers with.
“Das Spiegel” by The Chemical Brothers
Song year: 2007
You shouldn’t have to put “Das Spiegel” on for long to know why it’s on this list. There are so many interesting sounds layered in through the mix, some high-pitched and obnoxious, some retro, and some pleasing. These sounds simply come and go, as if there was no start and no end.
To test the clarity of each sound, and to see how your speakers handle the sounds that come and go, this tune is a great option.
Rap & Hip-Hop
Rap and hip-hop is known for its intense bass and that’s going to give it some instant magnetism when it comes to sound tests.
We feel bass is just one dimension among many, but of course, audiophiles often like to test their system’s limits.
So, let’s look at some songs in this category.
Warning: These songs may contain explicit language.
“Restraints” by Kamiyada
Song year: 2016
With a list like this, we know there’s always at least one person who says, “wait, wasn’t the whole point of this to test the bass of my speakers?”
Well, no. But that might be part of what you wish to test on your new system. So, try cranking the bass on Kamiyada’s “Restraints”, as you’re sure to feel those frequencies shake in your bones.
This body rattling bass line was paired with Kamiyada’s shouted vocals, which will take you to new levels of uncomfortable – especially with your bass frequencies turned up.
“A Milli” by Lil Wayne
Song year: 2008
The big kick drum on “A Milli” allows you to test just how deep your bass frequencies can go, and that certainly makes it worth a mention.
Overall, there isn’t much to the song at all, besides Lil Wayne’s rapping and a sampled vocal sound. “A Milli” is all about the bass.
Metal is basically considered a more aggressive form of rock. So, we probably don’t need to explain why it might be apt for your sound tests.
Here are some songs to put on immediately.
“Polyrhythm” by Marty Friedman
Song year: 2009
This is another personal favorite, but I don’t think you’ll regret the recommendation.
On Tokyo Jukebox Vols. 1 & 2, Friedman covered the soundscape of Japanese music, and interpreted it all on his guitar. Perfume’s “Polyrhythm” is one of my favorite moments, as it’s basically a Japanese girl group pop song made about as heavy as it can be on the guitar.
Friedman said this was no easy feat, as he recorded multiple, multiple layers of rhythm and lead guitar parts that all come together like a chorus of axes. Check it out.
“Swerve City” by Deftones
Song year: 2012
You could probably find any number of Deftones songs that would blow your speakers (not literally). “Swerve City” just happens to be one of my favorites.
Kicking off with a solid, heavy, obnoxious riff, the song goes through dynamic and harmonic changes, from dissonant to consonant, unsettled to pleasing.
And, for an alt-metal band, you might be surprised to hear more layers than you’d expect to.
Two words – Bob Marley.
At the top of the list of “music everyone can agree on”, we have Marley. The low-key, groovy vibes are just too much.
Here, we’ve chosen a Marley song worthy of a speaker test, but truly, feel free to put any of your favorites on.
“Turn Your Lights Down Low” by Bob Marley & The Wailers
Song year: 1977
“Turn Your Lights Down Low” is a highly polished (for its time), slow, layered reggae tune. The song is masterfully mixed, with each instrument sitting in its pocket across the stereo spectrum.
If you’re interested in testing the blend of different instruments and hearing how well they separate in your speakers, this is not a bad tune to call upon.
Funk is sometimes ignored when it comes to speaker tests, and there’s just no reason for it. As you’re about to see, there are some great reasons to pump up some funk. Let’s get to those songs.
“Living In America” by James Brown
Song year: 1985
In my opinion, the best song to test your speakers with is this – the Godfather of Soul’s “Living In America.”
It may not have occurred to you before just how impossibly masterfully mixed this song is. Some modern engineers struggle getting the mix of a four-piece band right, never mind having to deal with multiple layers of vocals, guitars, and horns as this song features.
“Living In America” is mastered with plenty of punchy clarity, so you if you listen carefully, you can easily hear every layer. Try it out!
“Virtual Insanity“ by Jamiroquai
Song year: 1996
Again, if you don’t have a Jamiroquai song on your “speaker test” list, you might as well call it quits. Either you don’t know sound, or don’t know Jamiroquai.
Put this song on and listen carefully. Very carefully. There’s more depth to this hit than you ever gave it credit for. And that’s because Jamiroquai is not a solo act. It’s a band. And at times it’s been a rather big band.
“Virtual Insanity” kicks off with a simple beat and piano riff, but as the song builds, you can hear violins, guitars, bass, and more. Every time you listen to it, you’ll hear more. That’s the brilliance of Jamiroquai.
Jazz certainly has its moments, especially contemporary jazz, which is sometimes played by large ensembles.
Here are a couple of songs to run your tests with.
“Lingus” by Snarky Puppy
Song year: 2014
Just watch the video to see the sheer size of this instrumental ensemble, and how the instruments enter and exit.
This contemporary jazz number is sure to appeal to more than jazz fans, and again, let me point out how masterfully mixed this number is.
Have some fun turning this one up and listening for all the layers as the song unfolds and evolves.
Top Songs To Test Your Speakers Range, Final Thoughts
The above is but a starting point, as there are so many other great songs to test your speakers with. It’s just a matter of what you’re testing.
Do you want to test the stereo imaging/spectrum, specific frequencies (treble or bass), instrument separation, dynamics, or otherwise? These are all good things to test!
We hope you enjoyed our picks and have lots of fun testing!