The September 2022 issue of What Hi-Fi? has just gone on sale, and this month we've got a compact systems special featuring some of the very best kit for smaller living spaces alongside reviews of all the latest gear and our Buyer’s Guide filled with recommendations of top-quality home entertainment equipment at every budget.
Each time we publish a new issue, we also like to update our long-term playlists with a genre-spanning selection of some of the music we've been listening to and testing with over the previous month. This means it's all ready for you to stream while you peruse the magazine or put your latest purchase through its sonic 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.
Sometimes, though, you come across a song that helps to highlight the finest attributes (or fatal flaws) of a system, and when we do, 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 18 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.
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Spotify playlist 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Tidal playlist September 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Deezer playlist September 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Qobuz playlist September 2022 (opens in new tab)
Won’t Be A Thing to Become - Colin Stetson, Sarah Neufeld
Ketan Bharadia, Technical Editor
This instrumental collaboration between Canadian violinist Sarah Neufeld and saxophonist Colin Stetson is one of the oddest but most intriguing pieces of music we’ve heard in a while. Give it a few listens, and we have no doubt it’ll worm its way into your brain the same way it did to us. This is a rhythmic and wonderfully dynamic piece and a stern test of your system’s ability to resolve detail and organise that information into a cohesive and musical whole. The recording quality is excellent, being full-bodied, crisp and packed with a real sense of power.
Jason Isbell - Cover Me Up
By Ruben Circelli, Staff Writer (US)
Country (or Americana) has an unfairly bad rep among music fans, but these folks probably haven’t had the chance to listen to Jason Isbell’s Cover Me Up. This stunningly soft, emotive, nuanced track is an excellent choice for sussing out how well a piece of kit handles the textured detail of a complex vocal performance. With its relatively sparse production, the slightest muddiness can upset the balance of the guitar, while without a spacious soundstage and solid separation, subtler background elements get lost. Never simple, Cover Me Up is a decidedly minimalist ballad that straddles the line between hard rock banger and classic folk song, offering up a rich, dynamic test track where every component is essential.
Rozi - Eva B
Kashfia Kabir, Hi-fi and Audio Editor
Closing out the first episode of the new Disney+ show Ms Marvel is this standout new single from Pakistani rapper Eva B. The lyrics are entirely in Urdu, but the defiant tone is easy to discern. It's a slick hip-hop track about empowerment, with a propulsive tune that crackles along with a slow-burning intensity and is a great test of your system's ability to handle timing, dynamics and snappy rhythm. It's a great head bop, too.
Mercedes Sosa - Ramírez: Gloria (Carnavalito Yaravi)
Becky Roberts, Managing Editor
One of the joys of being part of this industry is meeting fellow melomaniacs – and benefiting from the music sharing that naturally comes from it. Very recently I was introduced to the legendary late Mercedes Sosa (thank you, Phil Sawyer), who, upon hearing her 1999 rendition of Ariel Ramírez's famous 1964 Misa Criolla, I couldn't add to personal (and What Hi-Fi?) playlists quick enough. The Argentinian folk singer's vocal is as stirring as the material demands – dramatic in one utterance and delicate in the next, as if she were born to deliver the labyrinthian folk composition, which is almost as instrumentally compelling as it is vocally. The album demands a listen in full, but Gloria exemplifies its eclecticism in just over eight minutes. Only systems talented in both dynamic subtlety and scale will do it justice.
Venetian Snares - Öngyilkos Vasárnap
Jonathan Evans, Magazine Editor
A strange, compelling track with a tricky time signature from Canadian electronic musician Aaron Funk, sampling Billie Holiday. It's a proper test of your kit's timing and dynamics - and always has us coming back for more when it comes to comparative testing.
Jazz Corner Of The Word - Quincy Jones
Ketan Bharadia, Technical Editor
This track is taken from Quincy Jones’s 1989 extravaganza Back on the Block. It’s the introduction to ‘Birdland’ and takes the form of multiple snippets of recordings linked by Rap legends Big Daddy Kane and Kool Moe Dee. It’s all expertly done, we’d expect no less from Quincy Jones, and it has a wonderful momentum that continues to build to the end. This is a stern test of system timing as well as its ability to resolve low-level detail and express dynamics. It’s fun to hear the contrast in sound from the earliest snippets, some of which are decades old, to the most modern ones. Anything that features the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan and George Benson, among many others, has got to be worth a listen.
Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective
By Mary Stone, Staff Writer
No artist has better conveyed the shared sense of delirium that descends in a heatwave than Animal Collective, whose irresistible electro-bucolic Summertime Clothes is the 21st century's answer to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and a popular fixture on playlists at this time of year. The deceptively complex arrangement comprises layers of syncopated synths that build into tripping cross-rhythms sweeping across one another, while the watery vocal floats just on top, tiptoeing the fine line of being bedded into the music but still declarative. This track can feel overly dense on a flawed system. But on one with great timing and separation, its pulsating beat and propulsive rhythms should brim with fluidity and psychedelic vibrancy.