We select 10 tracks we are listening to right now and which sound great on headphones.
Here at Bowers & Wilkins we are always listening to music; it plays a large part in what we do. As music lovers, we are also constantly changing the music we listen to, and searching out new music. So, while we always have a selection of demo tracks that provide a base-line and reference for our work, there is also a constantly shifting collection of music that we listen to – because after all, that is what great sound is all about! Some of this is new music, but much of it is a rotating selection of classic tunes that we keep on coming back to.
So, while the 10 tracks here are not the definitive ‘best headphone demo tracks ever’, they represent some of the great sounding music we are listening to on headphones right now. They all offer something a little bit special when you are in that magical place, free of distractions that headphone listening offers you.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Radiohead – Idioteque (Live)
This is a track that really comes into its own on the live album I Might Be Wrong. There’s just something about the recording of the excited crowd in this version that sets our world alight – particularly when sitting back, closing your eyes and listening on a pair of headphones.
Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar
To be honest, we could have chosen any track on Wish You Were Here, so great is the album on a pair of headphones and so often do we come back to it. However, this piece stands out for us because of the sensational performance of the band’s rhythm section; the Waters and Mason combination drives the track and provides the perfect platform for the rest of the band. The many layers of this recording are separate and distinct, and the whole experience is breath-taking.
Slint – Good Morning, Captain
One of the standout tracks from the excellent Spiderland, this track delivers amazing depth and detail when listening on headphones. The quietLOUDquiet approach is delivered with aplomb, with the quieter sections full of subtle instrumentation and breathy detail. And when things really kick in – just wow!
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
This beautifully recorded track opens the latest Father John Misty album and immediately provides a superb ‘headphone moment’. John Tillman’s voice is full and characterful, while the opening piano sounds natural and realistic. This is a completely engrossing track on a pair of P9 Signature headphones, and proof that you should always be on the lookout for new test tracks.
Kate Bush – And Dream Of Sheep
This is a beautiful, completely engaging piece of music when heard through headphones. And that is true of both the original from Hounds of Love or the recent live recording we have on constant rotation at the moment. Both are special in their own ways, but the thing that links them is Bush’s incredibly powerful, beautifully emotional lead vocal.
Joy Division – Atmosphere
There are just so many layers and so much depth to this recording, and from the moment the tom toms kick in at the start you know you are in for a special ride. And it just gets better, mainly thanks to the exceptional bass line and Curtis’ increasingly impassioned vocals – which err towards desperation as the track draws to an end.
Miles Davis – On The Corner
There is just so much going on here! The opening piece on an under-rated masterpiece of an album is breath-taking in its scale and complexity. You can listen again and again, choosing to follow different threads each time, and headphones allow you to do that even more closely. This is an intensely rewarding listening experience.
John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
This track has the lot on a pair of high-performance headphones! Powerful bass, subtle details, clear, well-recorded vocals and a tune that drives it on throughout. The highlight for us when listening on headphones are the small details, such as the rhythmic sound made by natural-sounding wooden blocks which cut beautifully through the lush, synthesised keyboards.
Rage Against The Machine – Fistful of Steel
This track could have been made for headphones. Yes, it sounds great on a seriously good Hi-Fi system, but the excellent channel separation, deep, soulful bass, and guitar pyrotechnics come together superbly on a pair of cans. We particularly like listening to this while on the move – it certainly makes you stride with attitude!
Steve Reich – Different Trains
This is the perfect commuting music; If you are sitting on a train, why not listen to incredible train music. This wonderful piece – we enjoy the recording by the Kronos Quartet – is written for a string quartet with pre-recorded elements. It is these elements that make it such a standout headphone recording, because the vocal interjections and recordings of trains cut through the strings in an amazingly powerful way.