GM Audio Engineer's Test Songs Don't Include Modern Rock, Rap

While it would be really easy to poke fun at the 10 songs GM’s audio engineer Matt Kirsch listens to when he tests car stereos, I look at his list and wonder where all the oomph is.

One pet peeve of mine is getting into a test car and discovering it can’t handle the guitars of whatever rock music I put in. Often it does the same for rap. Now I know why my music is muddied so often: Audio engineers don't test that music.

The closest you get is Radiohead – which is as orchestral as rock gets – and the Black Eyed Peas – which is as pop-oriented as rap or hip-hop could be. I won’t hazard a guess as to what the best modern rap is, but if you’re not testing someone as widely listened to as Jay-Z or Eminem, I think there’s an issue. Their styles of rap, as far as beats and bass levels, are the industry standard.
For rock, I test out Queens of the Stone Age’s "Rated R" or "Songs for the Deaf" albums. Throw in a recent Nine Inch Nails recording or some dirty indie rock like The Bronx and if the stereo can handle those, it can handle anything else I listen to, from Pearl Jam to the Pixies. It’d also sound good for whatever the kids are listening to these days, like Avenged Sevenfold or Kings of Leon.
To test for the middle ground, though, doesn’t seem like you’re testing for the folks who care about music. I mean, if you like Norah Jones, is that what you play on your commute? If the stereo can handle the extremes, it can handle the middle ground just fine for John Mayer fans and the like. Maybe GM figures the more extreme music fans will be the buyers opting for aftermarket stereos.
Check out GM’s full list here – you can even download on it on iTunes -- and let us know what music you’d test in a new car stereo in the comments below. I hope I didn’t offend any Norah Jones or John Mayer fans. I hear Norah’s latest is pretty good.

GM Audio Engineer Lists Top 10 Songs to Test Your Car's Stereo (USA Today)
By David Thomas | September 24, 2010 | Comments (12)


Jake Holrich

Before starting my own business I paid the bills as an audio engineer so this article hits close to home. I try to keep the car shopping/stereo analysis fairly simple otherwise the wife loses interest. I believe Acura has the best general sound system across their line-up with the ELS line. Individually the best system I've ever heard is the Mark Levinson system in my wife's LS. It's better than both the Harman Kardon set-ups I've had in my past BMW's and the current Bower & Wilkins sys in my Jag.

I test a cars system by bringing a mp3 player and listening to certain parts of Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, Lil Wayne - The Carter, Hans Otte - Das Buch Der Klange, Sade - Live, Jimmy Hendrix - Band of Gypsys, and John Coltrane - Love Supreme. It takes less than seven minutes and will expose any flaws in any sound system. To date the Mark Levinson system is the only one I've heard that provides full range with zero distortion. It's such an expertly balanced system that you'll parts of songs that you didn't know exist. Now if I could only get the Levinson system in my Jag the world would be perfect. If only for a day.


An audio system is about sound reproduction and therefore certain songs are better identifiers of those measurable qualities regardless of the musical genre.

What do you mean "can't handle the guitars..."?


Thank you Mr.Holrich for a mature and insightful comment.
However, instead of The Carter, try Count Bass D - Dwight Spitz for your rap selection. I only listen to it in my TSX. WOW...


In 2005 I leased an Acura RL and found a CD in an envelope under the front seat with some Japanese symbols written on it along with the words "Symphonic Audio Testing". Upon playing the disc I was shocked to hear Led Zepplin's Black Dog, The Doors Break on Through, Bee Gee's Stayin Alive, and Michael Jackson's Off The Wall among a total of eleven songs. Out of curiosity I took the disc back to the dealer for an explanation. A couple of days later I got a call saying it was left behind by a test engineer in the Siatama (sp?) factory. I've been an Acura fan ever since.


Gregg that's a cool story. The Japanese always seem to go the extra step and that's why I believe they have so many loyal owners. Our next car will be from a Japanese manufacturer.

This is funny cause this obviously written through the viewpoint of a Hip Hop Romantic rather than a practical objective engineering one. Style hit the head on the nail.

Compliments to Jake Holrich's comment! I am in a hurry to try out Pink Floyd on my MP3 :).

Well if certain songs can't even be listened too because bass and midranges are muddied I don't think the testing songs are the best ones to use. that was my point. In any car test of shocks etc the most extreme settings are thrown at cars in development. Why not the stereo?

Also, why is it you can always turn the stereo up too loud but there are less steps on the quiet volume levels?


I agree 100%.


If you going to test any car stereo the main song to use would have to be a song called I Go Bannanas. it is a weird song but i have yet to find an audio system that can play it without distortion. Ive even tried my schools dance setup. So if companies start using that and get it to play clean, then the stereo will be able to handle any song you throw at it.

I never thought this would happen.. Im not that observant or something.. better yet check if there's something wrong.. lol

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