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Test your music system with these great rock tracks

Best rock tracks to test your music system

Alt-J – Relaxer

Dead Can Dance – Into the Labyrinth

Iron & Wine/Calexico – In The Reins

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Let Love In

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Ben Harper – The Will to Live

Arctic Monkeys – AM

Okkervil River – Away

Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues

The Beta Band – Hot Shots II

Led Zeppelin – II

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree

Pixies – Surfer Rosa

The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Andrew Bird – Are You Serious

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Whether you’re looking for some new music to listen to or something that will put a pair of headphones through its paces, you have come to the right place.

At CNET we test a lot of audio gear, and rock music is essential for hearing what a speaker, soundbar or amp can do. Here’s you’ll find some of my favorite songs for testing audio devices. From singer songwriter confessions to dance floor jams to music for your 3 a.m. listening session, there’s something for every music fan.

And every music system. And while you flip through the slides, I encourage you to listen to the matching playlist on Tidal or Spotify. This roundup is an adjunct to The Audiophiliac’s top music tracks for testing speakers and headphones which lists mainly classical, vocal and blues recordings.

Test track: 3WW

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Test track: Yulunga (Spirit Dance)

Australian “world music” aficionados Dead Can Dance crafted one of the best songs of their careers in Yulunga (Spirit Dance). It’s no pop song — more a seven-minute vocal drone — but it’s so lovely that you’ll want to listen to the very end. The best-sounding systems can deliver a massive sense of space and ensure the various drums boom and shake without losing control.

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Test track: He Lays in the Reins Like most Iron and Wine records He Lays in the Reins is impeccably recorded. You can almost imagine Sam Beam confessing into a sea shell at the Grand Ole Opry while the band plays behind him.

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Test track: Red Right Hand If you can only use one song to test a new stereo system or pair of headphones, let it be this Nick Cave track.

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Test track: You Got Yr.

Cherry Bomb This song is not only catchy and good fun, but it’s also our go-to treble response test here at CNET. It features prominent left and right tambourines which, on a well-balanced system, sit in the middle of the mix while on a bright system will sound like a percussion solo.

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Test track: Widow of a Living Man One of the simplest songs on this list — just Ben Harper and his acoustic guitar. With a good pair of speakers, it sounds like Harper is in the room with you, and it’s kind of eerie.

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Test track: Do I Wanna Know? Not an audiophile recording by any stretch — it’s straight rock ‘n’ roll record — but what you’re listening for are the titular vocals in the chorus.

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Test track: Comes Indiana Through the Smoke

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Test track: Girlfriend is Better

The live version of this song was a staple of FM radio, but the studio cut is tighter and arguably funkier. That bass drum is the real tester here, deep and yet punchy at the same time. It will sort out flabby-sounding speakers and wireless subs pretty quickly.

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Test track: Life This funky song kicks along amiably for its first two-and-a-half minutes but after that the real test begins — a descending bass synth scale ending on low D (37Hz). Listen here for the vocals and percussion effects; are they clear, or is the bass overtaking everything else?

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Test track: Ramble On

What is that percussion effect in the left channel? Is it a pair of tapped knees, Buddy Holly-style? Or is it, as is the popular theory, an instrument case?

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Test track: Get Lucky Audiophile pop recordings are still alive and well even if Random Access Memories feels a little out of time.

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Test track: Disco Infiltrator Bass sweeps and a tight, funky rhythm section will really test your system’s dynamics.

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Test track: Pale Green Things Another sparse recording, Pale Green Things ruminates on mortality and, of all things, horse racing.

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Test track: Gigantic One of the most intimate vocal recordings in the whole of the Pixies’ seven-album catalog.

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Test track: A Day In The Life

Volumes have already been written about this album and its final track. Nevertheless, this is arguably one of the best songs ever written, and the 2017 remix by Giles Martin presents it in the best light possible. Come for John Lennon’s snarky lyrics and stay for the squeaky chair at the end.

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Test track: Puma Is this Andrew Bird’s most poppy song yet? With tight production and typically oblique lyrics Puma is a great test of your system’s ability to produce punchy bass while keeping the rest of the frequency range in check.

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Test track: First Regret / 3 Years Older Bohemian Rhapsody, Stairway to Heaven, Thick as a Brick. Ever wonder why “they don’t make ’em like they used to?” Well, they do, they just don’t get on the radio anymore.

Super Furry Animals’ Receptacle For The Respectable, Mastodon’s The Czar and The Decemberists’ The Island are just three more modern examples.

Steven Wilson’s 12-minute song cycle neatly bridges both the new and old prog epics with ultracrisp production and tight musicianship.

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