Martyn Ware chooses 21 exemplary electronic albums for headphones

To celebrate the launch of P5 Series 2, we asked synth legend and Heaven 17 founder Martyn Ware to choose his top ten electronic albums for headphone listening.

He was unable to keep it to ten, so here are 21 exemplary albums which we highly recommend you check out.

Forbidden Planets – Music from the Pioneers of Electronic Sound – Various

An amazing introduction to the abstract world of electronic music, featuring some of my all time heroes.

Snowflakes Are Dancing – Tomita

Tomita was a true pioneer and a fantastic arranger – his perception of tone colour and its relationship to electronic expression was a great influence on the early Human League


An Electric Storm – White Noise

David Vorhaus is a genius – there I’ve said it – I don’t use this word lightly – possibly my favourite all time electronic album – fantastic work with his collaborators including Delia Derbyshire. I’m proud to say that I’m working with him on new material currently.

Music for A Clockwork Orange – Wendy Carlos

What can I say – the album that made me want to do purely electronic music.
WC never really got the credit he deserved for his soundtrack work – a lot of our compositions were heavily influenced by OSTs. He was one of the best ‘futurist’ composers


Trans Europe Express – Kraftwerk

The album that made me realise that experimental electronic music could also signpost the future of electronic dance

Low – David Bowie

I’ll never forget hearing this for the first time with Ian Craig Marsh, Adi Newton and Phil Oakey – it literally changed our world – Eno’s synthetic colourist work on this is unsurpassed.

The Best Of Fad Gadget – Fad Gadget

There at the birth of raw, untamed post punk synth – we really admired this stuff and felt a genuine empathy with the approach.

OST Blade Runner – Vangelis

The film simply would not have worked without this exquisite example of lush electronic orchestration. My son Gabriel has become obsessed with electronic soundtracks, to the extent that we are making some together currently…

Before And After Science – Brian Eno

No list of this kind would be complete without Eno – it could have been any of his albums to be honest – but this album showed the way forward for hybridizing real and electronic instruments in a pop/rock format.

Number One In Heaven – Sparks/Giorgio Moroder

Giorgio Moroder was very popular with the early League, especially when everyone discarded Disco – we loved pretty much anything he did. This album is beautifully produced and sounds amazing on headphones.

Big Science – Laurie Anderson

O Superman is still a timeless and unique piece of sonic art – and her cross-disciplinary, multimedia live shows are the stuff of legend.


Travelogue – The Human League

I’m still very proud of this album to this day – we put a huge amount of effort into the production, and the remastered version still sounds fresh to me – especially on headphones…

Tin Drum – Japan

Much underrated at the time – I listen to this album a lot – the synth arrangements work and the production is pristine.

Metamatic – John Foxx

John has been at the forefront of pure electronic pop music as long as we have – this is his masterwork I think, although I equally like his more recent ambient work.

Penthouse & Pavement – Heaven 17

I had to include this, if only for ‘We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang’ – one of the fastest dance records made at that time!

I say I say I say – Erasure

Vince is a true craftsman and artist – he designs his work to appeal hugely to the public in general – and of course he (together with Andy Bell) is a consummate songwriter. As producer of this album, I put a huge amount of effort into moulding the sonic soundscape, which I hope you agree works exceptionally on your lovely Bowers &Wilkins headphones (you do have some, don’t you?)

Collected – Massive Attack

The tracks on this compilation are fantastically produced and will most definitely reward detailed listening on headphones – Teardrop in particular gives me shivers…

Melody AM – Royksopp

The album that launched a thousand adverts is also sonically detailed and lush.

Quaristice – Autechre

Autechre are a great example of experimental dance music which constantly challenges the listener.

Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

Beautiful soundscape-based electronic songs which transport the listener to another world. I love this album

Cut 4 Me – Kelela

My daughter Elena turned me onto this really exciting and daring young electronic artist – please check it out, you’ll be impressed…



  • Michael Clark says:

    Nicht Kraftwerk?

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    Hi Michael,
    Martyn emailed to say he had forgotten Kraftwerk so we are adding it now!

  • markeb23 says:

    A worthy and excellent collection of electronic greats! Some amazing music here, and Travelogue I still listen to these days.. Thanks for sharing

  • Richard says:

    Huge fan of early League and Heaven 17; but no Numan? ‘The Pleasure Principle’ paved the way for many.

  • michael rogers says:

    Nice to see Fad gadget (frank tovey) mentioned , a true pioneer and innovator .very underrated , grab any album , you will not be disappointed .

  • Gordon Croll says:

    The track played as the Tomita “Snowflakes Are Dancing” example is not on my “Snowflakes Are Dancing” CD. What was it?

  • OpziO says:

    Great selection, and half of these I am guilty of not giving a proper listen to, so the headphone idea is a good one. I find that electronic music has a right to indulge in immersive soundscapes with exotic panning and wild depth, without the constraints a traditional instrument band would have. So headphones work really well. And good headphones work better!

  • Eddie McCusker says:

    A great selection which I am enjoying right now.

    Surprised that Tonto’s Expanding Headband is missing ‘ though.

    Thanks for the list

    All the best…


  • Stuart says:

    Replicas- Tubeway Army ?
    Pleasure Principle- Gary Numan ?

  • Martin Woodgates says:

    how can Depeche Mode’s Violator be missing from this list? if you have never lain in the dark with this on your headphones you haven’t lived.

  • Rob says:

    Julia Holter is another artist that would fall under the listening umbrella of amazing music, rhythms and sounds.Headphone heaven you won’t leave!

  • Aleksandar says:

    channel orange is a good album but doesnt even come close to the other albums on the list which r in a completely diferent league, he just wanted to show he is still down with the kids

  • Kman says:

    How in the world did Tangerine Dream not make the list? DJ Sasha – Airdrawndagger, Robert Miles – Dreamland & The Crystal Method – Vegas would be great listens as well. Love Airdrawndagger on headphones and any Tangerine Dream CDs. Like the Frank Ocean selection above.

  • martin says:

    D A F been overlooked me thinks also cabaret voltaires nag nag nag. joy division love will tear us apart on headphones is truly mind blowing emotionally me thinks ,simple minds changeling

  • Bill says:

    I’ll second Gary Numan and Tangerine Dream, and add Synergy (Larry Fast).

  • Giorgio Moroder says:

    Great Selection but agrea with others No Numan P P Or Tangerine Dream ❤️ On a real train Simple Minds – New Gold Dream 81’82’83’84’ & my own 15 & a half Masterpiece ‘From Here To Eternity’ now they do sound good on pair of Quality Headphones Ask any DJ since 1977

  • Jim says:

    One word … Orbital

  • Claude says:

    So many excellent choices-too little time!To KMAN’s earlier comment The Crystal Method’s – Vegas is quite an experience in cans!

  • jules says:

    don’t need Numan when John Foxx on the list…

  • Pete K says:

    @ Gordon Croll : The video / example is mis-titled. The music you heard is Tomita’s rendition of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde from his ‘Live at Linz: The Mind of The Universe’ concert, and it is also on his ‘Back to the Earth’ compilation disc. Hope that helps!

  • ralf says:

    why do people insist on calling WENDY carlos a he? oh right… rampant, unchecked misogyny. or were you not aware that wendy is a woman? eh? the WC initials seem pretty deliberate, though. denial? i don’t get it. wendy is a she.

    i was almost interested in this post but won’t be bothered… i can find better lists. who is heaven 17 anyway? bleh. i’ll take eliane radigue.

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