Don’t you love it when someone throws at you a bunch of technical terms and expects you to understand everything? Often in life, it’s difficult to know something without experiencing it first.
Soundstage is very much like that. I can spend hours explaining the technology and what headphones to buy, but I may as well do it in a foreign language. The best way to understand the benefits and advantages is to take them for a test run.
If you are a gamer, firing up most shooters, sims, and horror games will show you what I’m talking about. If you prefer watching movie, almost anything will do the trick. From the low atmospheric simmer of Valhalla Rising to whatever Michael Bay has decided should explode in front of our eyeballs.
As for music, soundscape is ideal for classical and jazz. Wait, don’t walk away just yet. I said ideal for, not exclusive to. Even as a casual music lover, you will enjoy the audio experience that comes with this set of headphones. You may think that a pair of headphones can’t beat your expensive surround system, but you’re wrong.
Recommended: The 5 Best Soundstage Headphones in 2022 Ranked.
You don’t believe me? Then let me make for you a playlist of amazing songs to test soundstage.
|Around the World
|Utsushiyo no Yume
|Explosions in the Sky
|The Dance of Eternity
10 Best Songs to Test Soundstage
Daft Punk – Around the World
I had to google the year of release of this song and saw that someone wrote out complete lyrics for it. I get it, it’s one of the most complex pieces of poetry from that year and must be difficult to follow while the narrative.
The French electronic duo released this catchy tune as a part of their debut album, Homework. The music will not pose much of a challenge to soundscape headphones, but the robotic voice will.
Even with a pair of regular on or over-ear headphones, the voice sounds like it’s circling your head. With a decent soundstage, the effect should be very prominent and downright hypnotic.
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Thriller ushered the era of cinematic music videos. It also worked to cement Michael Jackson’s position as a King of Pop. It’s still often mentioned when people talk about the most significant moments in music history.
However, the video is always overshadowing one interesting thing. The song has a very wide soundstage and is perfect for testing of all headphones.
For this test, pick the remastered version. Oldie is still a goodie, but better suited for listening on a cassette Walkman.
Yosi Hirokawa – Bubbles
I’ve seen someone mention that Yosi Hirokawa is more “headspace” and less soundspace. Still, I think he makes the best songs to test soundstage. His work is the reason you should own decent audio gear.
You can pick any of his song. I’ve just listed Bubbles since it appears on many “test my audio equipment” playlists. With decent headphones, the experience should be completely immersive. With a soundscape pair, it should take you on a very interesting journey.
Pink Floyd – Animals
Yes, the whole album. Remastered version, of course, vinyl.
Pink Floyd always had this unique “breezy” sound that works well on vinyl, cassette, and now digital format. It’s heavy on the treble, which translates to a very wide soundscape.
Various songs from this album pop up on many soundscape testing song recommendation lists. But let’s not fight over which song should be on this list and listen to the entire album.
Though I encourage you to listen to their other works as well, that stuff is not as suitable for our experiment today.
Nano – Utsushiyo no Yume
Maximalism at its best. There is so much happening in this song, you simply could not experience it properly without soundscape headphones. Well, you could, but you would miss out on so much.
At first, we start with your classic J-rock beats, joined by a shamisen and shakuhachi flute. So far, so good. But wait, where did this cello come from? And what’s that hidden layer beneath it all?
Listening to this song can feel like all your senses are under siege. It’s similar tot he ballad of salty and sweet, but with a lot more head-banging.
Explosions in the Sky – Wilderness
This one appears a lot when looking for the best songs to test soundstage. In fact, it’s also a brilliant song for testing many headphones.
Often manufacturers sacrifice balance for the sake of bass or whatever else they are trying to sell.
This song shows exactly where that balance became… unbalanced.
Also, this is one of the rare contemporary pieces that can compare to orchestra music in its ability to test soundscape.
Darkside – Paper Trails
You would expect pros to recommend you listen to lots of rap and hip-hop to test the bass on any equipment. Nope. They recommend Paper Trails here.
I have to agree. A rap song may show you how strong the bass is, but will not tell you much about bass control.
Think of it as eating a very spicy dish versus pouring hot sauce down your throat. With the former, you want also to tell if you’re having chicken or chickpeas, or is all that heat hiding an old boot.
John Martyn – Small Hours
What better way to test out the spaciousness of the soundscape than with a piece that was recorded in an outdoor auditorium?
John Martyn’s work is already very “spacey” and suitable for soundscape headphones. Add the auditorium into the mix, and the sound should be anything but flat.
If you didn’t take a liking to our Mr. Martyn, try any other live recording. Maybe one of those old MTV Unplugged gigs? You need to hear each instrument separated from the other, and not mushed together.
The sounds entering your ear should resemble a ballet troupe entering the stage, not people storming Walmart on Black Friday.
Dream Theater – The Dance of Eternity
I both like and dislike listening to Dream Theater. Like because it’s some of the interesting and complex music performed by true virtuosos. Dislike because it feels like homework sometimes.
You will not find that many songs that allow you to test out various aspects of audio equipment at once. Bass, treble, detail, overall soundscape, you name it. There’s a hundred things happening here.
Even if it’s not your cup of tea, stash this song somewhere. It will come in handy any time you buy a new pair of headphones, speakers, etc.
Ivoux – Rusalka
How wide can the soundscape go? When I got my first (very expensive) pair of soundscape headphones, Ivoux was the first on my playlist.
Ivoux came out with a single album in 1997. Not a single song from it was remastered since then. Still, the haunting vocals and the atmospheric background are perfect for testing the soundscape.
With regular gear, this stuff already sounds like a frozen wasteland. Each song has a unique way to freeze your soul, with Rusalka being the most outstanding.
Rusalkas are a Russian version of mermaids. They used to be young women who drowned, and now they seduce men to join them. A decent pair of soundscape headphones will at first make you feel you’re floating on frozen water and then slowly sing you down, down, down.
Recommended: Top 10 Russian Love Songs of All Time.
There are many more amazing songs to test soundstage. Anything with a more theatrical feel or strong ambiance will work.
If you don’t mind musicals, start there. Sweeney Todd is sometimes too chaotic for plain headphones, but form a dream team with a soundstage pair. Hamilton and Phantom of the Opera are my other favorites for these kinds of tests. Or simply fire up a Best of Disney compilation. Everything will be there: the theatrics, the gazillion-piece orchestras, nature sounds, etc.
Also, don’t forget to go through your favorite music as well. If you are not getting more out of it, consider the test failed.