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Does vinyl really sound better than streaming? It depends on who you ask. One thing that’s certain is that vinyl sounds different — it adds a warmth (and often a comforting hiss) that many people find nostalgic. And even in the modern age, where pretty much any song is a few taps and scrolls away, some still prefer taking the time to find a record and drop the needle.
Below, we’ve asked a number of musicians, audio professionals and vinyl lovers to share which records they still love listening to on vinyl. From obvious classics to deep, deep cuts, these albums are sure to bring your audio setup to life.
Duke Ellington — Masterpieces by Ellington
“A 1950 mono recording that sounds better than most recordings made since, cut from the original tape. The vinyl has a tactile, three-dimensional “you are there” quality lacking in any digital version. On “Mood Indigo” vocalist Eve Duke is in your room on the LP, not so much on the 44,1k/16-bit stream.”
Joni Mitchell — Blue
“The 24-bit/192kHz MQA Tidal file sounds more vibrant and three-dimensional than the 192/24-bit Qobuz file, which sounds sweeter and somewhat softer but the vinyl combines the best of both and puts a live Joni with hammered dulcimer in your room with natural not etched sibilants, though the hi-res digital files make a great case for the digits.”
Nirvana — Unplugged, Live in New York
“The 2009 cut from tape by Bernie Grundman ORG LP edition puts you in Sony Studios where it was recorded and delivers texture and dynamic nuance. The CD resolution file sounds the way Cobain probably would not have liked it. There are so many other vinyl editions I’ve not heard I can’t vouch for those!”
Dave Malekpour is the founder and president of Professional Audio Design (PAD), a retailer and design group that specializes in building professional studios and personal listening rooms.
Iggy Pop – The Idiot
“The recording is both primitive and emotional, and you can feel his voice from the vibrations off the needle. The digital versions I have heard just offer a different experience.”
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets
“When I put this on, I feel like I am more inside the music experience with the limitations of the era in recording. The low end isn’t huge, but it feels very natural though they were pushing the envelope of recording for their time. I like to experience that feeling.”
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II
“The magic of the recording is pressed into the vinyl in a way that the remastered version can’t replace. Though the digitally remastered tracks are very good, the original sounds and fidelity of that time can be heard on the vinyl and it really pulls you in.”
Oscar Zambrano is the founder of Zampol Productions, an acclaimed NYC recording studio. He has worked on five Grammy-winning albums and collaborated with Harry Styles, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson and Shania Twain.
Jack White – Lazaretto
“The concept of hidden tracks, bonus tracks, and hidden easter eggs in an album is something we rarely see now because of streaming; Lazaretto is a great reminder of not only how great an album can sound on vinyl but it’s also a throwback to how analog can surprise. The ultra-LP edition has hidden tracks under the label that play at different speeds, and side A plays from the inside out. One song even has 2 different intros depending on where you put the needle, and this is just scratching the surface!”
Billy Joel – The Stranger
“The first track of Side 2, ‘Vienna,’ is one of my favorite songs. The reverb used throughout this entire album is the one thing that really stands out. It’s so smooth and so elegant.”
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
“Not only is this a great album, but it also really shines on vinyl. It does not sound compressed, as some streamed versions do, and the low end is spectacular. Big and clear.”
Corbin Harwell has been a music buyer at Waterloo Records — a popular record shop located in Austin, Texas — for over 30 years.
Prong – Beg To Differ
“Compressed streaming versions of this do not do the album justice. Infinitely more 3D on LP. Tommy Victor’s guitar has depth, bite and lots of low end. Ted Parson’s drumming really inhabits the space, filling every corner of the room.”
Truly – Fast Stories from Kid Coma
“A very dense album sonically. Streaming versions squeeze out so much of the vitality of this one. The LP version is sonically vast and really gives the complex mix a chance to breathe.”
Bauhaus – In The Flat Field
“If I turn it up loud enough (and you should), the LP version of this album always makes me feel like I am in the room with the band. Streaming this album makes me feel like I am in the next room over.”
King Tubby – Never Run Away: Dub Plate Specials
“Mega Producer Bunny Lee is one the most influential producers in the roots reggae vibrations. His hi-fi sounds working out of King Tubby’s studio fashioned the local Jamaican scene, that would be the shot heard ‘round the world. Only to be experienced on heavy-weight vinyl. Special acknowledgment to the musicians!”
Makaya McCraven – In The Moment
“Recorded live and straight to wax. The improvisational kaleidoscope of off-the-top-of-the-dome vibrations. This experiential approach and technique is as refreshing as waking up and breathing that good breath of life. Let it fill your lungs with the natural air that emerges only when you take the time to notice. Ah, it’s a head rush brought to you by master drummer and teacher Makaya.”
Jozef Van Wissem & SQÜRL – Only Lovers Left Alive
“Rare issue dark dusty hi-res sound from filmmaker Jim Jarmusch starring Tilda Swinton. Music for late-night vampires that soothes the soul with a taste for something more than the usual. Remember to close the door and the drapes before sunlight rises. Beautifully painful.”
Johanna Lassig is a buyer and merchandise manager at Waterloo Records, a popular music store and record shop in Austin, Texas.
AC/DC – Back In Black
“There’s something about classic rock on vinyl. Pops or clicks make the songs feel even harder, and the needle somehow pulls those guitar wails up out of the wax and makes them strike with even more ferocity.”
Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair
“Every time that needle drops on ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ I can’t wipe the stupid grin off my face. Experiencing this album through vinyl makes you realize that this album is an experiential sonic journey rather than just a group of songs.”
Glass Animals – ZABA
“On vinyl, these tropical hypnotic tracks are given new depth. The way the sounds of this record bounce and writhe around you is especially evident when the turntable is hooked up to some good speakers.”
Jeremy Greenspan is a musician and member of the Canadian indie electronic pop group Junior Boys.
China Crisis – Flaunt The Imperfection
“Speaking of masterpieces, this album is one of the best albums of the 1980s and is inexplicably not streaming. I have no idea what is going on. This is China Crisis at their most daring as songwriters and the album was produced by Walter Becker so it has the same sheen and attention to detail that you would expect from him.”
X-102 Discovers The Rings of Saturn
“This is an album I remember a lot of people having as vinyl, tapes or CDs. This is vintage UR/Jeff Mills laying a template for how futuristic modern music could be groundbreaking.”
Jean Piché – Heliograms
“This is an important album from a great Canadian electronic musician and composer. I’m surprised that this has not been reissued. My old copy of it has totally deteriorated so I’d appreciate a new master.”