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As an audiophile, it can be hard to decide which vinyl records are worth investing in when choosing between a plethora of highly-appraised and critically-acclaimed albums, and finding excellent records can be even more challenging for those new to vinyl. To help you better start or expand your collection, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best vinyl records of all time. The selection is based on the records’ popularity, critics’ reviews, and quality of sound.
Here are 25 of the best vinyl records for audiophiles:
- Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
- Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis
- Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
- My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
- Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night
- Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
- The Beatles – Abbey Road
- Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
- Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III
- Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
- Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
- The Clash – London Calling
- Carole King – Tapestry
- Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace
- Michael Jackson – Thriller
- The Congos – Heart of the Congos
- Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
- Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
- Queen – Queen II
- Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
- Janis Joplin – Pearl
- Joni Mitchell – Blue
- Prince – Prince
- David Bowie – Blackstar
This comprehensive list offers an excellent suggestion for every audiophile, no matter their preferred genre or era of music.
Table of Contents
I had to start this list with what’s widely considered to be the best jazz record of all time. Miles Davis introduced a new era of the genre with a gentle, laid-back, innovative sound that wasn’t heard before in the world of jazz. Davis was known for his unexpected and thought-provoking creations, as he tailored every musical piece he composed to a specific era of his life.
This record’s ability to effortlessly transmit its emotions through gentle-yet-crisp sounds is one of the many reasons why it quickly became the best-selling jazz album of all time.
Kind of Blue influenced the genre as a whole and helped it evolve into what we hear today. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of jazz itself, this vinyl represents a crucial part of music history that needs to be experienced by any audiophile.
One of the most beloved, dreamiest, upbeat records you’ll come across, Ella and Louis will leave you speechless with its composition and overall artistry. The album manages to outshine many subsequent records, even though it was created in 1956 when there were many technical limitations.
Fitzgerald’s tone is unmatched in power and clarity, and Armstrong’s smooth, deep harmonies perfectly complement it.
The album’s production, lyricism, and vocal power place it far above most LPs you’ll find in the music market today. Its warm, emotional feel shows the impeccable dynamic between the two artists, who deliver a piece of art history that simply can’t be reproduced.
Choosing Ella and Louis as part of your vinyl collection will undoubtedly elevate it to a new level. Furthermore, I assure you that after a single listen to the record, it’ll quickly become one of (if not the) best albums you’ve ever heard.
The Dark Side of the Moon is one of Pink Floyd’s greatest achievements, reaching unprecedented heights of commercial and critical success simultaneously.
This 43-minute album stands out as a remarkable piece of work when it comes to the experience it takes you through. As an expression of philosophical and humanitarian empathy, the album is characterized by a diversity of sounds that’s hard to replicate.
What makes the vinyl stand out even more among its competition is the impeccable sound quality that rivals even the most modern records released half a century after its debut. If you want to get the most out of your vinyl player, the crisp, melodic sound of The Dark Side of the Moon would be my first suggestion.
When it comes to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, you’ll need a vinyl record that can handle this album’s fierce spirit, as you’ll need to blast the volume to the absolute maximum to enjoy its modern, thunderous, and hypnotic sound properly.
The legendary vinyl combines approaches and techniques from many different genres, resulting in a progression that consists of overdriven guitars and impressive pop-like riffs. A must-have in every audiophile’s collection, this record introduced a new and improved era of rock that quickly became widely loved by any music enthusiast.
This iconic rock album was released two years after it was recorded due to its intensity and high emotional charge. As listeners and critics would agree, the record was worth the wait. Young delivered an album that perfectly captured the era’s warm-yet-chaotic energy, perfectly mirrored in the instrument’s texture and timbre.
The record’s sound has been improved and refined over the years, making it available for listeners worldwide to enjoy it in high resolution with a 192kHz master quality.
Amy Winehouse was a revolutionary of her time, reviving retro-sounding soul and jazz in an era when bubblegum pop was all the rage.
Her unique, groundbreaking last album still remains unparalleled in the way in which it conveys unfiltered emotion. Back to Black has been widely considered as one of the best albums released after the turn of the century, rightfully making a place for Winehouse in the list of history’s musical greats.
This contemporary spin on soul took a refreshingly blunt approach to heartbreak, making it widely beloved and deeply understood. Back to Black is an absolute must for those looking to add a modern but timeless record to their collection.
It’s hard to choose a single album from The Beatles’ vast and beloved discography.
Still, this eight-track record is generally considered to be the best representation of the band’s captivating sound. Its production speaks of an album released way ahead of its time, while its melodies bring us a side of pop that showcases genuine artistry that withstands the test of time.
Abbey Road was remastered and re-released in 2009, 40 years after its debut. The 2009 vinyl brings The Beatles’ discography to a new era, with a high-quality sound that would be an excellent addition to any audiophile’s collection.
This smooth, smoky, jazz-influenced record was brought to life during a dark time in Sinatra’s life. The loneliness and isolation felt in each masterfully sung note are goosebump-inducing, opening you up to a world of emotion that can give each listener a unique feeling they’ve never experienced before.
The smooth, vivid orchestration oddly complements the melancholic sentiment due to the sounds of a celesta, a rhythm guitar, and Bill Miller’s exquisite piano. Any of the artist’s other records would be an excellent addition to a great vinyl collection, but among Sinatra’s vast discography of masterpieces, In the Wee Small Hours stands on a league of its own.
Led Zeppelin III is an underrated, masterfully composed record that perfectly complements the band’s other classic albums. The melody progression will take you on a thoroughly enjoyable ride of folk, rock, and Welsh countryside music, from which the sound notably takes great inspiration.
This love letter to disco is Daft Punk’s most complex and richest-sounding record. Random Access Memories is a groundbreaking 2013 album that far exceeded its expectations by instantly turning into a classic, a feat that’s been proven near-impossible to achieve by contemporary musicians.
This ode to 70s discotheque quickly became a public and critic favorite due to its excellent production, dynamic sound, and innovative use of instruments.
The deep, bassy sound upon which the whole album was built doesn’t take from its complexity, setting it apart from many records debuted around the same time that have fallen victim to what audiophiles consider as the “loudness war.”
Random Access Memories is bound to be a hi-fi favorite for decades to come, so make sure to add this contemporary must-have to your collection as soon as possible.
Miles Davis makes his second appearance on this list with what you’ll see is a progressive and unstructured record with little relation to Kind of Blue. This love child of modal jazz and rock rhythm solidified the musician’s role as one of the biggest influencers of the genre.
Because Davis’ discography is inherently unique and unparalleled, no two of his albums will sound alike. This means that Bitches Brew and Kind of Blue will add two different but equally essential flavors to your collection.
This fun, upbeat album is a celebration of British outsider music. London Calling is a must-have when it comes to punk albums, as it brings the genre’s passionate and aggressive spirit in all its late 70s glory.
The remastered London Calling Double LP vinyl brings the record’s sound to the new era with impeccable quality and resolution. Therefore, if you’re thinking of expanding your rock collection, this timeless classic would make an excellent, worthwhile investment for any genre’s fan, audiophile, or vinyl collector.
Tapestry is one of the most monumental musical creations of the 20th century, carving a rightful place for King on the wall of the music’s greats. With this record, she solidified herself as one of the best composers and lyricists of her time. Critics praised her soulful melodies, and fans showcased their appreciation with more than 25 million sales worldwide.
The album masterfully showcases the artistry of fusion, pulling inspiration from rock, jazz, and pop simultaneously. The innovative sound perfectly complements the plainspoken, captivating lyrics that only King can deliver. This album impeccably showcased her growth as an artist, most evident in the renewed version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” included in the record.
This song, whose original version jump started her career during her teen years, was presented in a mature, grown-up version that served as an ode to King’s personal and artistic growth. For any enthusiast looking for a timeless classic that can polish and improve their musical point of view, Carole King’s Tapestry will not only reach but exceed your expectations.
This list wouldn’t be complete without Aretha Franklin. Her third and best-selling album plays havoc with her traditional style while offering a never-heard-before sound that’s centered on liberation and freedom of spirit.
This record is much more than a great gospel album, as it showcases Franklin’s groundbreaking range and power. It combines soul, R&B, and pop in a refreshingly dynamic and upbeat sound that any audiophile can enjoy, regardless of genre preferences. The reason for this is that anything Aretha sings is no longer just soul, R&B, or pop; it’s simply hers.
Franklin can take any sound or genre and put her own artistic touch on it, turning it into a masterpiece in the process. So if you’re thinking about investing in this timeless classic, I’m here to assure you that it would make an excellent start or addition to a high-quality vinyl collection.
This Michael Jackson masterpiece has undoubtedly proven to be one of the most influential records of the 20th century, reshaping the music industry and influencing following generations of musicians for decades to come. Thriller is the best-selling album of all time, which alone speaks volumes about the recording’s unparalleled importance in the music industry.
Its mainstream success was accompanied by endless critical acclaim, praising Jackson for this immaculately recorded and produced album. The creating process was long and exhausting, as no song was released without being deemed absolutely perfect. This level of attention to detail contributed to the formation of an album that combined soul, rock, disco, and R&B in a way that was never so seamlessly achieved before.
Therefore, Michale Jackson’s Thriller is an absolute must, especially for those just starting their vinyl collection. If you decide to pick up a copy, though, you’ll need to be diligent, as there’s still an incredible demand for this album. For this reason, the vinyl record often goes out of stock, so try to get your hands on it as soon as you can. I wrote an entire article about MJ that you might be interested in. You can find it here: Michael Jackson Albums You Should Own on Vinyl.
This 86-minute record is one of the most brilliant and well-received debuts in music history.
The Congos were able to bring a hypnotic blend of rhythms that brought reggae to a new era. The unique sounds, the vocalists’ seamless harmonies, and the timeless and thought-provoking lyrics made this album stand out among its peers. Still, its brilliance is indeed brought out by the album’s production approach.
Roots reggae gained a great deal of mainstream and critical success through this impeccably-created record. When it comes to the genre, The Congos are able to capture its essence perfectly, introducing a rhythm and melody progression that is hard to replicate.
I highly suggest investing in this vinyl for any audiophile looking to experience a soulful and captivating musical point of view.
Songs in the Key of life is generally considered the epitome of Wonder’s highly appraised discography and has forever remained the culmination of his historical period of creativity. This upbeat record, which mixes 70s funk and soulful writing, perfectly showcases the artist’s ambition and scope.
Stevie Wonder brought a new layer of artistry to pop with this hit-filled album, which has granted him a lifelong legacy in the genre.
Decades after the record’s debut, young generations of musicians still take a great deal of inspiration from Wonder’s unique writing style and singing flair. The public support was backed up by critics as well, who still treat this album as a golden standard when it comes to pop records.
Songs in the Key of Life is an excellent vinyl to invest in, as its fresh, inviting sound is a timeless classic that will retain its power for decades (even centuries) to come.
The beloved rock legends are already a favorite amongst music enthusiasts, so there’s a high chance most audiophiles already own one or two (or 15) of their vinyl records. Still, in case you don’t and you’re interested in getting your hands on the greatest representation of their work, I highly suggest Wish You Were Here.
Their complex and excellently produced albums are full of lengthy, widely adored hits, which is most evident in this specific album. You won’t find any filler songs thrown in there just to complete the album time in Wish You Were Here. The record is only composed of five tracks and runs for more than 40 minutes.
The album is a beautiful, emotional tribute to Syd Barrett, whose extended drug use led to him moving on from the band. So even for those of you who aren’t the biggest fans of the genre, Wish You Were Here is an excellent addition to your collection that brings a soul-shaking quality that not many other records can.
Only Marvin Gaye can bring to light heavy themes of social injustice through a silky, satin-like voice. The theme of this album took inspiration from Gaye’s brother’s experiences in the Vietnam War and his depiction of what he viewed as uncontrolled, widespread injustice in America. This album was written to depict the state of the world through his point of view in a touching, soulful, soaring tone.
The spacious jazz and blues arrangements felt along this record give the album’s nine tracks an unparalleled flow.
The quality that set apart Gaye’s creation from many other artists tackling the same issues at the time was his stance built on love, not anger or hatred. It’s hard for a musician to take on heavy topics such as drug addiction, poverty, and political injustice in a way that still transmits affection and warmth to the listener.
This hugely influential album still holds relevance not only regarding the topics and issues it tackles but also when it comes to Gaye’s musical artistry and charisma.
What’s Going On continues to influence the formation of young jazz, blues, and soul musicians to this day, as its sound has proven to be timeless. Therefore, try to get your hands on this iconic record that will shape your musical and personal growth.
20. Queen – Queen II
This 1974 album showed Queen’s impressive range and ability to reach their listeners and lift them spiritually. Say you’re only looking for one Queen album as part of your carefully curated vinyl collection; if so, Queen II would undoubtedly be the way to go.
This prog-rock staple will never disappoint when it comes to its ability to convey raw emotion. Widely considered Queen’s finest piece of work, the album packs a series of progressive elements gathered in dense, chaotic clusters. The deep contrasts of sounds and sensations will take you through a wild ride when listening to this vinyl.
So no matter your preferred genre or era of music, I guarantee this album will become an undisputed favorite on your ever-growing collection.
Innervisions is a beautiful depiction of the world as Steve experiences it and the crucial role that sensations created by music play inside it. This innovative fusion of soul, funk, and gospel is produced with such precision and poise that it is near-impossible to recreate.
This album quickly became one of Wonder’s fan and critic favorites, as it transmitted raw emotion within such a moving sound that makes you experience the world from his point of view. This work of constant, progressing surprise adequately celebrates the artist’s evolution and maturity throughout his musical career.
Pearl, released in 1971, was the album that reformed the image of Janis Joplin in the public eye. With this fusion of rock, blues, and soul, she consolidated her musical persona as a fearless, uninhibited artist that spoke her mind through her creations.
Through this record, she was able to gain an amount of control over her art that was never given to her before, which allowed her to fully evolve as a musician before passing away.
The album quickly became a testament to her free, artistic spirit and turned into a point of inspiration for many generations to come. This is what makes Pearl a crucial point in musical history that needs to be thoroughly enjoyed as part of your vinyl collection.
This beloved masterpiece still proudly holds its place in the industry more than 50 years after its release. It’s a one-of-a-kind record that excellently showcases Mitchell’s authentic, raw songwriting.
Her naked guitar playing as one of the sole sources of instrumentation in this album adds to its confessional, intimate nature. Every love song feels like a diary entry enriched by soulful improvisational jazz sounds. The tracks were created to be as honest and revealing as possible, and the production choices showcase this aspect wonderfully.
Its stripped-down nature doesn’t take away from the melody’s unexpected flights and turns, which goes to show Mitchell’s exceptional ability to transcend any musical rule or genre. Her strikingly precise depiction of emotion made the album a rare creation that can enrich any audiophile’s library.
24. Prince – Prince
This self-titled record showcased the artist’s first signs of his adventurous sound. This perfectly balanced combination of pop and urban R&B featured many tracks that were able to instantly turn into classics.
The album displayed a much more pronounced sense of self from the artist, depicting his signature production and songwriting more authentically than any of his previous records. Therefore, even though this self-titled album wasn’t the artist’s debut, it truly felt like his musical persona’s genesis, giving life to what the world widely knows and admires as “Prince.”
His simple but striking approach with this synth-funk piece of work revolutionized the music industry as a whole, which makes it a must-have vinyl for any enthusiast.
The icon’s last album is widely regarded as one of his best, which is a very rare achievement for most artists of his caliber who have already set impossible-to-reach standards through their work. The record’s release days before Bowie’s passing feels like a final acknowledgment to his fans, with a dark, inciting narrative that we’ve grown to expect and love from him.
Blackstar made waves through its impeccable production that combined rock, jazz, and a splash of electronica that made all seven tracks a transcending experience to enjoy. Beautifully fusing its iconic 80s flare with contemporary sounds, Bowie ensured that his last piece of work would surpass generational limitations and instantly become a timeless classic.
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