Nothing makes a track more engaging than a powerful bass, and although it might seem obvious to simply look for subs that can reach the lowest possible frequencies, the best sonic results are often a combination of bass articulation and how the subwoofer blends with the rest of your equipment.
It’s intrinsically more difficult to assess the quality reproduction of lower frequencies, but as always, choosing a few demanding tracks and cranking up the volume will give you a clear understanding of how low your system can go.
In this article, I selected a few songs that can help you identify how your sub performs when put under pressure. From hip-hop to electronic music, heavy metal and classical, these tracks will make the most of your sub’s ability to reproduce the lower side of the spectrum.
If it succeeds at representing these cavernous basslines and punchy kick drums, then your subwoofer will provide you with the power and depth you need to reproduce anything you fancy.
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These are my favorite bass-heavy tracks for testing subwoofers:
- Royals – Lorde
- Uh Uh – Thundercat
- Shellshock – Noisia feat. Foreign Beggars
- 1812 Overture – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Limit To Your Love – James Blake
- Money Trees – Kendrick Lamar feat. Jay Rock
- Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
- Angel – Massive Attack
Royals – Lorde
Lorde’s “Royals” is an excellent track to start your subwoofer testing: a pop song with minimalistic production that relies heavily on a groovy rhythm and ever-present bassline.
The track features a deep, resonant kick drum and a simple yet impactful bass that complements Lorde’s vocal melodies. And that’s basically it!
The perfect combination of punchiness and deep rumbling of the rhythmic section provides an excellent test for subwoofers to reproduce lower-frequency sounds with clarity and power.
Uh Uh – Thundercat
As I said earlier, you can’t judge a sub exclusively by how low it goes, and Thundercat’s bass guitar virtuosity is the perfect example that the subwoofer’s agility plays a crucial role in reproducing complex textures.
Thundercat’s “Uh Uh” is a jazz-fusion track with frenetic energy, where rapid scales and arpeggios dip into the lower end of the spectrum, providing a dynamic range that forces subwoofers to accurately reproduce sonic nuances with both speed and depth.
That’s far from trivial, but if you’re into jazz in any of its forms, consider “Uh Uh” as the baptism of fire of your sound system.
Shellshock – Noisia feat. Foreign Beggars
Noisia’s “Shellshock” is a drum and bass track that packs an enormous amount of low-end energy and is undoubtedly the ultimate stress test for any subwoofer’s ability to handle rapid transitions and extreme low-end.
The production features complex, multi-layered basslines that dip into sub-bass frequencies, coupled with highly compressed kick drums that deliver a rhythmic punch.
The track evolves relentlessly, with the hectic kick constantly shifting as the low bassline passes from subtle rumble to main melody as the song progresses.
If you’re into D’n’B, EDM, and electronic music in general, test your system with “Shellshock,” and you’ll know what it’s capable of.
1812 Overture – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
While classical music may not be the first genre you think of for bass-heavy tracks, the “1812 Overture” has moments of profound low-end that require the utmost accuracy to recreate the sense of awe and immersiveness that defines the piece.
The composition is a sonic tapestry of orchestral grandeur, marked by a variety of instruments that contribute to its dynamic range. The timpani and bass drums resonate deeply and offer a robust low-end presence, punctuating key moments in the overture and adding a layer of complexity to the piece.
Finally, the cannon fire in certain performances also offers a unique test for subwoofers, with its deep, resonating booms that require accurate reproduction for the full dramatic effect.
Limit to Your Love – James Blake
I talked about this track in a recent article on the best songs to test stereo speakers, and I still consider this reinterpretation of Feist’s beautiful piece an ideal test for any sound system, particularly for those audiophiles interested in accuracy on the lower side of the spectrum.
This track features a sparse arrangement that makes its deep sub-bass frequencies even more noticeable. The minimalist piano and the haunting vocals of James Blake are punctuated by intermittent but highly resonant bass notes. Here, low-end elements are drawn out and sustained, challenging a subwoofer’s ability to maintain clarity over longer periods.
Without a deep and articulate bass, the song loses its soul, but with an accurate reproduction, it’s a masterpiece of electroacoustic minimalism.
Money Trees – Kendrick Lamar feat. Jay Rock
Hip-hop offers the ideal battleground for your sub because of a production that often relies heavily on groovy and catchy basslines and how they blend with unpredictable vocal lines. As such, a sound system should excel in delivering low frequencies with articulation and agility.
If you’re into hip-hop in all its variations, I’d recommend you give a spin to Kendrick Lamar’s excellent “Money Trees.” The song features a laid-back hip-hop beat with a deep, rumbling bassline that’s the backbone of the track’s engaging groove.
The kick drum is tight and punchy, allowing for the bass to occupy its own space in the low-end spectrum.
Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
I’m not a huge fan of Lars, but oh boy, the way his drum kit sounds! In “Nothing Else Matters,” the slow and steady groove gradually evolves in a crescendo that reaches first the chorus, then a poignant ending with Hetfield’s iconic solo.
Throughout the track, the bass guitar and kick drum are powerful and prominent, providing the emotional foundation without being overpowering. A good subwoofer should be able to capture not only the groove’s energy but also its nuances and low-end resonance that give the song its depth.
Angel – Massive Attack
Perhaps the most popular track to test subs, Massive Attack’s “Angel” is a beautiful and haunting trip-hop classic with a slow, ominous bassline that serves as the track’s sonic core.
The bass is deep and sustained, with a rumbling quality that can showcase a subwoofer’s ability to reproduce low frequencies without distortion. The drum pattern is intricate but secondary to the bass, making it an excellent track to assess your sub’s clarity and power in the low end, especially when it comes to prolonged bass patterns.
Remember that while a heavy bass is crucial to creating a galvanizing soundscape, what’s more important is to craft a cohesive sound texture where different frequencies don’t overshadow each other.
Take your time to analyze how your speakers deal with midrange and high frequencies, and then use the sub to emphasize the lower side of the spectrum. The result should be an immersive sound texture where all frequencies coexist and is further enhanced by the power and depth of bass.