​Welcome to a musical introduction to the Art of Listening. It is a playlist compiled by HARMAN’s acoustic experts. These are the songs our sound masters use to test the sound quality of our loudspeakers, headphones and automotive audio systems from brands like JBL, Harman Kardon, AKG, Mark Levinson and Lexicon.

The 25 tracks were chosen to enable listeners to discriminate and rate different sound quality attributes of audio systems as well as overall sound quality—at home, in the car, or on the go. While no single song is sufficient to fully evaluate a loudspeaker or headphone, certain tracks are particularly well-suited for the evaluation of specific attributes. For example, tracks with broadband, spectrally dense instrumentation are used for spectral judgements, while dynamic tracks with percussion and low bass are used for testing dynamic range and distortion.

Interestingly, listeners’ preferences for a particular headphone or loudspeaker can often be predicted based on their frequency response. The best signals for hearing frequency response differences are broadband, continuous signals such as “pink noise”, but since listeners generally don’t want to listen to noise, we choose tracks that are well recorded.

Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is a favorite of ours. This track is not only one of the most beloved ballads of the 1980s, but also has a fair amount of bass that will often cause modulations to her voice on a system where the woofer is driven beyond its limits. It produces a high quality ‘musical’ signal. Likewise, a Jazz trio’s song with acoustic bass/piano/vocal like Holly Cole’s “I can see clearly now” is excellent for hearing buzzes, rattles, and resonances in rooms and automobiles. Finally, it should be borne in mind that although the selected songs are entertaining, the purpose of this playlist is its effectiveness in helping listeners in their quest to listen more critically and more efficiently.

Are you ready to listen?