The Best Songs for Testing Wireless In-Ear HeadphonesMusic industry insiders talk about how to pick the right in-ear headphones.Published: April 10, 2019
In the market for wireless in-ear headphones? We’ve got you covered. We know what you’re thinking: so many options! Which is why we enlisted experts from around the music industry —from artists to composers—to dish on how they pick out the right headphones. They told us what to look for (clarity, bass), what to listen to (Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar), and picked their favorite out of our top 10. Now you can test out their methods at your favorite local headphone emporium (or big box store), and you’re sure to find the perfect wireless over-ear headphones for you.
Brooklyn-based artist VÉRITÉ released her debut album, Somewhere in Between, in June 2017. Known for penning alt-pop gems, we thought she was the perfect person to educate us about why Band of Horses’ epic “The Funeral” is great for testing in-ear headphones.
Apple Airpods If I'm not using high-quality in-ears, I prefer to have the convenience of a wireless Bluetooth connection. I use Apple because all of my devices are also Apple, so they match.
“The Funeral,” Band Of Horses
The live instrumentation provides a broad frequency range to test the balance of the headphones.
“New Slaves,” Kanye West
Some headphones also accentuate the bass which muddies up the overall mix. Testing with this track helps me distinguish low-end clarity by seeing how much the bass/low mids are emphasized.
“Needed Me,” Rihanna
In pop music in general, it’s very easy for high frequencies to become harsh and unbearable, especially the esses in the vocals.
After years playing dive bars and making ends meet with dull administrative day jobs, TOMI caught a break: RCA Records signed her in 2016 on the strength of her early demos. The Los Angeles-based artist talked to us about Tame Impala, clarity, and why her Beats By Dre X headphones are perfect for commuting.
Beats By Dre X I love Beats By Dre X, they are perfect when commuting because they cancel outside noise while retaining a warm tone. I especially love the bass on these. It’s present without muddying up the mix, which is great when listening to new mixes or when you’re just trying to block out all that city noise.
“Let It Happen,” Tame Impala
I love testing this song on in-ears because it has such a present mid-range that allows you to hear all the subtle details sprinkled throughout it, which is great on buds that dip on the low end.
When I mix I use in-ears to hear the drum-to-vocal ratio, it’s important that one isn’t stepping on the other because cymbals and vocals sit in the same EQ frequency range. This song has perfect symmetry between a heavy beat and clear lead vocals.
“Lust,” Kendrick Lamar
In-ears tend to bring clarity to panning and volume because they focus more on the mid/high range, which are techniques I’ll use to bring a stronger visual element to the listening experience. I like testing out headphones with “Lust” because of the panning of the instruments in contrast to Kendrick’s vocals. If the headphones are clear, you can hear the instruments bouncing off of one another.
Guitarist Sulene van der Walt has played everywhere from dimly lit Brooklyn clubs to the East Room of the White House (seriously). Her voice has been featured in film and TV, and her debut EP, Strange, came out in 2017. We talked with van der Walt about AirPods, electronic tunes, and how to identify clarity in your in-ear headphones.
Apple Airpods Apple Airpods are super convenient to travel with and pair with my other devices seamlessly.
“Dreams Tonite,” Alvvays
This is more of a lo-fi mix—it starts off with very little bass until the second verse when the bass kicks in along with other wide-panned acoustic guitars. Listening with a great pair of with in-ear headphones, you’d really feel the power of the arrangement and the little subtleties in the production and different moments of EQ.
“Just Like We Never Said Goodbye,” Sophie
This song is mostly synths and pitched-up vocals. It’s electronic. The crispness and clarity of this minimal arrangement would really stand out if the in-ear headphones you’re listening with were high-quality.
“Get Out,” CHVRCHES
This song has a really aggressive, open-filtered lead synth. You’d know you found the right in-ears if you could hear all the intricacies like the electronic, 80’s-sounding drums and the little nuances in synth sweeps and delays.
Dylan Lewis is a New York-based musician and music industry professional who has held roles in digital sales and marketing at record labels and music distribution companies including The Orchard.
Apple Airpods I picked the Apple Airpods because I needed a pair of headphones that sit in my pocket when I go out sans bag.
The human voice is hard to mess up, even on a pair of in-ear headphones.
“The Middle,” Zedd
This song was probably mixed and mastered for earbuds. Not because the song is bad, but because most people probably rock this type of headphones, and that’s the audience this song was produced for: everybody. "The Middle" has also got a killer range of the frequency spectrum involved to make your in-ear headphones stretch out a bit while Marren Morris gets you to sing along with her.
“Dangelo,” Sugah Daddy
This song has a groove with a pocket so deep that you could actually store your in-ear headphones inside of it. If you have fun listening to this syncopation masterpiece with a pair of in-ear headphones, then you could probably pick ‘em up. Make sure you can distinguish every instrument while listening, otherwise it’s not worth it.
Missy Scheinberg works at Lunatic Entertainment, an Australian music management company. Scheinberg’s current roster includes CHVRCHES, The Temper Trap, Gang Of Youths, and more. She’s looking for convenience in her in-ear headphones.
Apple Airpods When it comes to wireless in-ears, it's all about being on-the-go, so I'm all about comfort and battery-life and would thus probably go with the simple-yet-effective Apple AirPods, because surely that's exactly what those are best made for.
I tend to prefer in-ears for casual listening, especially when it comes to music that's a bit more about an overall sound rather than specific intricacies. “Nobody” is a stellar indie rock song that's focused on Mitski's lyrics, instrumentation, and vocals with a straightforward DIY barebones approach to production.
“Heavy, California,” Jungle
When testing headphones I find it important to try songs across different genres and styles, which is why a very glossily-produced number, like Jungle's “Heavy, California” is a good way to listen for something different.
“Your Shirt,” Chelsea Cutler
And on the other end of the spectrum, it would also be important to test how a straight-up pop song with more electronic production and little-to-no obvious instrumentation.