2009 Records To Die For

A crime of passion? Depraved indifference to the importance of tuneage? Death by music? The simple fact is that most audiophiles got that way by having too many records. That's right—very few got into this rewarding, non-contact sport because they were aroused by shiny brushed-steel boxes or supersexy speaker grilles. It's because they wanted to hear their piles of music—their Mahler, Monk, or Rick James—sound the best it could. (And, okay, yes: It is cool to show drooling friends your designer gear.)

It's in that spirit that we present our annual "Records To Die For" extravaganza. Each Stereophile writer was asked to choose a pair of recordings, be they CD or LP, of music they would not want to live without. The only restriction is that these recordings must still be available, if only in the deeper, darker recesses of the Internet. Not to get all Fireside Chatty or anything, but in these troubled times, investing in great music and gear—from both of which you can derive endless pleasure and fulfillment—seems a smart move for both the wallet and the head. So please, read on and enjoy!—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 "(XXI-11)" means that a review of the recording appeared in Vol.21 No.11 (November 1998).