Summer is synonymous with cruising in the car with the windows down and music up.
Building the perfect playlist may seem like a simple task, but there’s a science to choosing songs that not only amplify the driving experience, but also take full advantage of the nuanced power of a premium car audio system. Luckily, we’ve tapped some experts to help you broaden your listening palate this summer. Jonathan Pierce, Senior Manager of Experiential R&D, and Bradford Hamme, Senior Acoustics Manager, have recommended a diverse mix of tracks that capture the exhilarating combination of music and driving.
Whether you’re heading on a cross-state excursion or just to a friend’s BBQ, give a listen to our top songs here before adding them into your own personal playlist.
#1. “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits
A good driving song must have a certain groove. What’s unique about this song is the continuous unrelenting beat that marries the driving tempo and keeps time with the passing scenery. Not only is the groove infectious, but what’s more impressive is that the recording is gloriously stripped down and simple by today’s production standards – the focus is on the natural talent of the musicians and each individual instrument.
What to listen for: Spatially, listen for the rhythm guitars panned left and right, and reverb effect from a Fender Twin amplifier. The detail of Mark Knopfler’s guitar picking is beautifully raw, a detail that truly shines on a high-quality car audio system.
#2. “Old Thing Back” by Matoma, The Notorious B.I.G., Ralph Tesvant, Ja Rule
If you’re a fan of 90’s tunes, but you also appreciate the energy of EDM, this is the song for you. The BPM of Biggie and Ja Rule’s cadence, coupled with a tropical house beat and catchy hook make for a summer party anthem. Be prepared to sing along and reminisce about good times and open sunroofs.
What to listen for: This track demonstrates great bass extension and punch. Best experienced through an immersive 3D audio system, you’ll be able to clearly hear the finger snaps and atmospheric effects, which are panned wide left and right. The reverberant synth is also sure to shine.
#3. “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” by Porcupine Tree
Really want a song to put your audio system to the test? Look no further. This winding 12-minute saga of a song is an experience within itself. Get to the end and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in a whole new mental state.
What to listen for: This song will truly showcase the dynamics of your audio system. When it finally hits full stride, a well-crafted system will be sure to keep up with its change in pace and the swells of the band (especially at higher volumes). The guitar solo around 9:00 is mesmerizing!
#4. “Take On Me” by Weezer
A wonderful take on A-Ha’s 80’s hit “Take On Me,” this song has proven to be a coveted remake. The synthesized tones are still there, dancing across the dashboard, but the rhythm section is the biggest upgrade. The first time you hear the kick drum, you know it’s time to hide the acid washed jeans and slap bracelets! The vocal melodies are also well balanced between the lead singer Cuomo and the rest of the crew.
What to listen for: The robotic e-drums and bass synth are replaced by a natural drum kit and electric four-string. This sets the foundation for a more dynamic experience and heavier “vibe.” Listen for the backing vocals that pan wide left and right.
#5. “Doing It for the Money” by Foster The People
This song shines best with a surround-sound or 3D capable premium audio system. We love the subtle video game effects and Mark Foster’s interweaving vocals. In a 3D system, the vocals crawl around the headliner. However, what’s most notable about this song is its bass. Thick, rich and punchy? Absolutely. Each note is perfectly balanced and complements the next.
What to listen for: A major highlight of this song is its spatial vibrancy – the mixing engineer for this record deserves a round of applause! The stage is extremely wide and the left and right imaging creates a dancing wall of digital warmth. If the door woofers in your vehicle are perfectly phase-aligned with your subwoofer, it’s going to be a great drive.
#6. “B.O.B.” by OutKast
Few bands have the ability to garner appreciation like OutKast. You’ll find Southern soul, funk, infectious beats, and refreshingly positive vibes throughout the group’s renowned tracks. Our favorite part of this particular song? Undoubtedly the gospel choir.
What to listen for: Again, a 3D system will really highlight the levels of recording production you’ll hear in this song. Equipped with layered arrangements, “B.O.B” is spatially vibrant, showcasing a fantastic use of stereo panned vocals. It’s not overly compressed, so the nuanced effects, like the vocals of the choir, will really stand out.
#7. “My Own Summer” by Deftones
One song that takes full advantage of a hazy summer day is “My Own Summer.” Need a wakeup call as you clock your next hour on the road? The proper dynamic difference between Chino’s softly distorted whisper of the word cloud followed by the drastic scream will awaken any driver as they drift through traffic.
What to listen for: The slow hazy feel you get from the beginning of the song is most effectively heard on an audio system that gets the midrange warmth just right.
#8. “Terra Firm” by Delerium feat. Aude
For fans of the electronic genre, “Terra Firm” will be an absolute must for your next playlist. Delerium has done a lot of work to record this track in a way that is best experienced in 3D surround, with Quantum Logic Immersion (QLI) adding the perfect final touch. With a range of voices and samples mixed into a very moving and alive sound stage, this song will truly showcase how an immersive car audio system, complex music and an epic drive will leave you wanting to hit replay!
What to listen for: The bass line is simple but surprisingly difficult to hear clearly in your average sound system. Make sure to listen for the mixture of synthesized tones moving left to right, smoothly interrupted with the depth of the Gregorian Chant.