6 of the best albums to test your system

And one of the best things about our pick of six is that there's certainly something to suit all tastes – from the legendary Leonard Cohen, to the enchanting Imogen Heap, for example.

All six of these albums will give your system a thorough work out and, more importantly, treat your ears to some of the best tunes around in 2014.

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Five stars

Duration: 35m 55s; Standout track: Almost Like The Blues

The demands that Popular Problems will place on your system aren't perhaps the most wide-ranging. But they're certainly stern. Cohen's voice is a subterranean rumble, dripping with texture, while his band are absolutely to the fore. So the album will require integration and resolution from your system. It also needs to swing, albeit gently.

MORE: Find Leonard Cohen's Popular Problems with Amazon

Imogen Heap – Sparks

Four stars

Duration: 59m 07s; Standout track: Propeller Seeds

Warm and organic, but busily electronic and with ample variation, the most recent album from Imogen Heap will ask much of your system. Delivered sympathetically by a skilful set-up, however, and you'll find it to be unlike any other release you've heard this year.

MORE: Find Imogen Heap's Sparks with Amazon

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Four stars

Duration: 38m 10s; Standout track: A Long Time Ago

While there's little in the way of dynamic variation, Stay Gold instead offers a tasteful peak of intensity from the outset and seldom gets much quieter or louder. It's sweet sounding, however, and is heard to best on a set-up that's sympathetic to the warm, complex tonality of fiddles, picked steel-string acoustic and pedal steel guitars.

MORE: Find First Aid Kit's Stay Gold with Amazon

St Vincent – St Vincent

Five stars

Duration: 40m 09s; Standout track: Birth In Reverse

An album that is built, origami-like, of unexpected angles and unlikely materials, St Vincent's eponymous LP is a layered, painstaking production that demands extensive tonal and textural variation from your system - even in its simplest moment. One of the albums of the year.

MORE: Find St Vincent's St Vincent with Amazon

Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Four stars

Duration: 49m 10s; Standout track: Simon Ferocious

Rave Tapes is an album that will have inferior systems in a spin: with lots of texture, instrumental and tonal variation, as well as skyscraping dynamics and prodigious levels of detail to be uncovered. If your system can cope, however, you'll find plenty of powerfully-defined structures submerged beneath the distortion and clamour.

MORE: Find Mogwai's Rave Tapes with Amazon

Nils Frahm – Spaces

Five stars

Duration: 75m 10s; Standout track: Says

Nils Frahm musters the kind of intensity that really should be beyond one man equipped only with a treated piano, keyboards and a sequencer. With Spaces, Frahm demonstrates that he can be playful, soothing or abstract and it's an album that will soon find any flaws in your system's sense of timing.

MORE: Find Nils Frahm's Spaces with Amazon

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Pete was content editor on What Hi-Fi?, overseeing production and publication of digital content. In creating and curating feature articles for web and print consumption, he provided digital and editorial expertise and support to help reposition What Hi-Fi? as a ‘digital-first’ title; reflecting the contemporary media trends. He is now a senior content strategist.