2013 Records To Die For

It has been another year of great torment and turmoil in the world of recorded music. The loudness wars grow ever . . . well, louder. The confusion and profusion of formats continue to roil buyers of tracks and albums. And streaming services like Pandora and Spotify continue to bleed off purchasers of downloads and physical media. Yet at the same time, the LP, once derided as dead and gone, is back with a vengeance. In short, everyone has had to find their own way—the mix of online and physical that works for them. Fortunately, all this diversity and change have not kept fans from listening, or stopped the truly devoted from still needing their music. And happily, the old adage about audiophilism is still true: If you're willing to invest in quality gear, you probably own considerably more than five records.

Every year, we ask each of our distinguished crew of music and equipment contributing editors to give us two albums (yes, we're still using that term) that he feels are special, and to tell us exactly why. The only restrictions are that they must be available, if only on eBay (speaking of sea changes in musicdom), and that they can't be records that that writer has chosen before. Despite the near-constant upheaval in terms of formats, not to mention the problem of artists getting paid and the still potent menace of piracy, lasting music still wins out, and we hope to have highlighted some of it here. Welcome to the 2013 edition of Stereophile's "Records To Die For"!—Robert Baird

Note: If a recording listed here has previously been reviewed in Stereophile, whether in "Record Reviews" or in past editions of "Records To Die For," the volume and number of the pertinent issue appear in parentheses at the end of the review. For example, a listing of "(XXXV-6)" means that a review of the recording appeared in Vol.35 No.6 (June 2012).

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COMMENTS
dalethorn's picture

When I first saw this post I had a thought - what if I weren't familiar with Stereophile and just found this on the Web by chance? It's like finding money and not having to pay taxes on it, or finding love and not having to stay home at night.

Edit: Ordered the Saint-Saens. Now who would have dreamed in 1959 that someone would be ordering this to rip to WAV/FLAC tracks to play on a USB DAC in 2013?

volvic's picture

Kudos to Fred Mills for chosing Grime's Visions album as one of his 2013's records to die for.  A fantastic album and group.  

Nick 

Not Scroggins's picture

I love the idea of posting your favorite albums and musicians. It's a great way to find music I wouldn't have seen or heard any other way. 

If you were to post links to the albums being presented that would be an amazing help for us. Instead, copy and pasting and then trying to find the artist on a site that can then be played on my mobile device is tedious and deters me from wanting to continue. 

I read your articles online and in print. When I have free time when I'm away from home I love to glance at your site and see what's new. Please help us expand our musical understanding and knowledge!

Ariel Bitran's picture

hi not,

thanks for your suggestion.

a link to which source would be helpful for you?

youtube?

spotify?

or were you thinking something totally different?

Thanks

dalethorn's picture

Saint-Saens with Munch/Boston Symphony arrived today - an RCA Victor "Living Stereo" CD. Recorded in 1959, it was apparently one of the first true stereo recordings to enjoy widespread distribution on Long Playing (LP) records. There's a detailed description of the planning process for this recording in the liner notes, and given what we know about stereo recording today, it's an informative and entertaining read. The digital restoration was apparently done circa 1993, which I presume would allow the newer and better analog-to-digital converters to be used for the final master.

I use headphones only, but I imagine from what I've heard in four playings today, this would sound really great on a high end loudspeaker system. I started with the ATH ESW11 and thought the stereo image wasn't good, at least at the beginning. Switched to the new Soundmagic HP200 and it didn't get any better, and the sound was strident in places. Then for the third try, Earpods with Dirac music player. Heavenly - real depth - it sounded like I was there. Lastly a spin with the Sennheiser IE800 - better yet.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this recording on most mid-fi gear, since I think the sound (massed violins especially) can get a little hard or steely in places. It might play better on a valve/tube amplifier, but even on low-budget solid state gear the Dirac/Earpods and IE800 make it sound real. Highly recommended.

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