The December 2022 issue of What Hi-Fi? is out now, and this month we take an in-depth look at the very best decks for your vinyl, while also looking ahead to this year's World Cup with our pick of the best TVs for enjoying sports.
As usual, we also have reviews of the very latest hi-fi and AV products in our First Tests section, as well as our Buyer’s Guide, filled with recommendations of top-quality kit for every budget.
Every time we publish a new issue, we also like to revamp our long-term playlists with a genre-spanning sample of some of the music we've been listening to and testing with over the previous month. Available on Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz (opens in new tab), it's all ready for you to stream while you browse through the magazine or put your latest hi-fi purchase through its paces.
There are no rules when it comes to what makes a great test track, and here at What Hi-Fi? we believe that nothing beats the music you already know and love, whether it was recorded at Rockfield or in a field.
Every so often though, though, we come across a song that helps to highlight the finest attributes (or fatal flaws) of a system, and when that happens, we like to share it. So if you're looking for a few high-quality music suggestions to test your hi-fi, we’ve got 20 songs that we’ve been using across our reviews recently, including the personal favourites of some of our editorial team, suggested below.
To listen to the playlist via the streaming service of your choice, just click on the relevant link, or to sample all of our favourites from the entire year so far, head to the Spotify player to start listening to 17 hours' worth of test track gems.
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Spotify playlist 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Tidal playlist December 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Deezer playlist December 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Qobuz playlist December 2022 (opens in new tab)
- 15 of the best-produced recordings of all time to test your speakers
- 7 of the best-produced albums of the 21st Century to test your system
Tyler, The Creator - I THINK
Rebecca Roberts, Managing Editor (Australia)
One of my favourite tests of rhythm and timing from the past few years is this upbeat cocktail of musical strands and samples from one of rap's most colourful characters.
Above vinyl crackles, various beats, piano melodies and synth lines and jingles layer up to form a musically dense yet coherent creation that, if your system times well, should make musical sense throughout. If it sounds like a random collection of disconnected ideas, something's not right.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Helplessly Hoping
Jonathan Evans, Magazine Editor
A great test of a system's dynamics and timing; get it right, and it's mesmerising. And those harmonies...
David Bowie - Five Years
Mary Stone - Staff writer
One of the most famous album openers of all time, Five Years starts off so quietly that you barely notice the deadpan drums creeping in before they're quickly met with celestial guitar chords and Bowie's reverb-smudged impassive vocal drifting in and out of ethereal fantasy and dry realism.
From this sparse beginning, the track's monumental climb begins. This increasingly cinematic waltz adds an orchestra and choral backing to its arsenal as it ascends to a dizzying, wailing climax, underpinned by that relentlessly plaintive percussion.
According to Bowie biographer Peter Doggett: "by the finale, the orchestral players were fighting for air against amplified guitar static, scraping despairingly at their own instruments while the last of the human race screamed around them.” That vigour is palpable in the density and richness of the final chorus, with the track’s rise and fall producing an excellent test of your system's dynamic insight.