The August 2022 issue of What Hi-Fi? has just gone on sale, and this month we've got a high-end hi-fi special featuring some of the very best equipment money can buy alongside reviews of all the latest gear and our Buyer’s Guide packed with recommendations of top-quality home entertainment kit at every budget.
Every time we publish a new issue, we also like to update our playlists with a diverse selection of the music we've been listening to and testing with over the past 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 you just have to share it. So if you're looking for some 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 below.
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Spotify playlist 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Tidal playlist August 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Deezer playlist August 2022 (opens in new tab)
Listen: What Hi-Fi? Qobuz playlist August 2022 (opens in new tab)
Toro Y Moi - Ordinary Pleasure
By Lewis Empson, Staff Writer
If you’re after an upbeat summer banger to take for a spin on your hi-fi setup, then Toro Y Moi is an artist with an outstanding repertoire for bouncy and fun-sounding tracks. While his tunes are ideal to kick back to and soak up some sun with, they are also hidden gems when it comes to testing the capabilities of your system. Ordinary Pleasure is a great example of this, with a ticking rhythm that runs alongside drum taps and a rich, funky bassline. And, Toro Y Moi’s sparkling vocals still find a way to shine through all of these powerful instruments and rhythms. Balancing all of these bold and individual aspects creates a toe-tapping, yet easy-going anthem that's ideal for chilling out to.
Bicep - Just
By Tom Parsons, TV & AV Editor
Electronic music isn’t always thought to be worthy of hi-fi consideration, but, just as with any genre, there are carefully produced, fantastically testing gems to be discovered in the muddy waters of mediocrity. Bicep produces such gems with impressive regularity, but of late, it’s the DJ Duo’s 2015 hit Just that I’ve consistently turned to when reviewing audio kit. The combination of analogue and digital elements tests the kit’s authenticity of reproduction; there are deep, isolated thumps that test bass extension; effects that sweep around the soundstage, testing spatial placement; and, at its peak, a nest of swirling instrumental strands that require careful rhythmic organisation if a mess is to be avoided. If you’re auditioning components or looking for an ideal track with which to show off your system, give Just by Bicep a spin.
Nils Frahm - Right Right Right
By Becky Roberts, Hi-Fi & Audio Editor
Having not long ago been enthralled by the Tripping with Nils Frahm concert film on streaming service MUBI, I was revisiting the German composer's 'neo-classical' electronica when I stumbled upon his latest track – the first single from his forthcoming album. Scintillating and yet simultaneously soothing in the way Frahm tracks often are, Right Right Right is a great test of dynamic expression, with the most revealing kit able to capture the almost constant build of the hypnotic drum machine pattern before the yearning synths come in over the top around the two-minute mark.
Kanye West - Devil In A New Dress
By Ruben Circelli, Staff Writer (US)
Ye’s seminal classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is known worlds over (even by the aliens) for its production, and one of the record’s standouts, Devil In A New Dress, is a perfect testament to this fact. Its plucky bass riff is perfect for sussing out muddiness, while listening to the layering of the bass, the beat, soul samples, vinyl crackling, strings, and Ye’s rapping is a great way to test out separation and the soundstage of a piece of kit. Whether it’s a filthy, sludgy guitar solo, a piano interlude, or an absolutely top-notch featured guest, Devil In A New Dress has it all on top of its patented groove. It’s a punchy, dynamic listen packed with textured detail and nuance that will put any audio product through its paces.
James Blake – Limit To Your Love
By Jonathan Evans, Magazine Editor
This track has been a What Hi-Fi? reviewing go-to for quite some time now – for one very obvious reason, and for a number of less apparent, but no less important features. It starts off with Blake’s spare, vulnerable vocal, accompanied by piano – useful for highlighting midrange, timing, dynamics and more; but then the listener is hit by a remarkable bass pulse – and it is this that tends to bring reviewers back. Can the equipment being reviewed remain faithful to the edges of each pulse of bass? Or is it just presented as a blurry, sludgy mess? It’s a revealing track that has been the downfall of many unfortunate pieces of hi-fi.
Intermission Song - Michael R. Jackson
By Mary Stone, Staff Writer
Often swamped in reverb with effervescently bright vocals sat a mile high in the mix, musical theatre albums aren’t typically known for yielding excellent test tracks. But then, A Strange Loop isn’t your typical musical, racking up awards in recognition for its incisive and uncompromising storytelling. And fortunately for those who can't make it to Broadway, the audio production on the show’s new cast album is likewise superb and refreshingly free from prescriptive touches. Ebullient opening number Intermission Song is richly layered with dense vocals interwoven with the intricate operatic orchestration. There’s resounding transparency and precision to the recording, but as the track builds to its exhilarating climax, only a nuanced system will be able to pick out each vocal line alongside the arpeggiated acrobatics of the flute and melodic toms of the drum kit. There's also a fantastic undulating trajectory that notches up the intensity incrementally but relentlessly. It's an ideal test for your hi-fi’s dynamic ability.