Records To Die For

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Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 21, 2007  |  First Published: Feb 21, 2006  |  0 comments
I sat down to write the introduction to the 2006 edition of Stereophile's annual "Records To Die For" extravaganza, and what popped into my head? Why, death, of course. After that, dead rock stars. What a concept. I mean, talk about dying for music.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 09, 2008  |  First Published: Feb 09, 2007  |  0 comments
This year marks the tenth time I've written an introduction to Stereophile's venerable annual feature "Records To Die For." Looking back, I'm proud that readers always find it useful and entertaining. I'm also amazed, on some levels, that our writers—hardware or software, deadline-phobic or not—manage to find something worthwhile to say, year in and year out, about music—which, after all, is why we became audiophiles in the first place.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 02, 2009  |  First Published: Feb 02, 2008  |  0 comments
The value of music as a commodity, and as one of mankind's wonders, has never been in such flux. Retail record shops are dying, the former major labels are focused on making records for kids (the same kids they're suing), and the business overall remains wedded to an incredibly short view (get a hit or get out), but the music itself continues to trickle through to those who want it—and, yes, on some level would die without it.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 08, 2010  |  First Published: Feb 08, 2009  |  0 comments
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.)
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 03, 2011  |  First Published: Feb 15, 2010  |  4 comments
It's always revealing to see exactly what music people have sitting on their shelves or hard drives. It tells you a lot about them—whether they're kindred spirits (Bill Evans) or something less (Sting). In many ways, our annual "Records To Die For" feature is a kind of mini-window into the musical souls of our contributing editors; may the Gods of Song bless their tortured souls, every one. In the past, such choices as the soundtrack album for the movie Casper have raised eyebrows, if not outright suspicion. Still, along with crowing about our favorite records, we try to keep it all in good fun. What's the title of Stephen Mejias's excellent blog at—"Elements of Our Enthusiasm"? Well then, here are some of those precious elements that feed that enthusiasm. Remember: Gear ain't great without something to play on it.—Robert Baird
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 01, 2012  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2011  |  0 comments
Each year when I sit down to write this introduction, I get stuck on the whole dying-for-music thing. I get visions of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, swinging from ropes with sacks over their heads. Like '80s hair bands do ya? Pull the trap door! Or Mary Queen of Scots kneeling before the block: A fan of smooth jazz? Let the blade fall! Yes, it's silly on some level, but what exactly is the feeling that would make one martyr oneself for music?
Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 26, 2013  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2012  |  9 comments
At a time in history when the music business seems less interested in making anything of lasting value than in churning out disposable music—hits intended to be consumed for a few days via iPod, then left behind—the notion of cherishing the masterpieces, the records to die for, seems a lost art. Yet it's exactly that state of being—as when Lady Gaga's latest outfit commands a bigger spotlight than the recent Pink Floyd reissues—that makes our annual "Records To Die For" feature that much more essential.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 15, 2013  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2013  |  5 comments
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.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 06, 2014  |  4 comments
Much as we audiophiles love a good format war—nothing like a dustup over the tactility of vinyl vs the convenience of downloads—not to mention all the ever-evolving gear, the base of this pursuit is still the music. Which is why February is the month least cruel, and time again for our annual "Records To Die For."
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 05, 2015  |  25 comments
Are you trying to decide between high-resolution downloads and LP reissues? In the market for a hi-rez portable audio player? A zealot bravely fighting back in the Loudness Wars? Change is inevitable, and in the audiophile world it's the spice that keeps things interesting—there's always a new remastering or idea product just around the corner. Minds and tastes, too, can change. In answer to the eternal question "What are you listening to now?," we present the 2015 edition of "Records to Die For," our annual album of snapshots of the minds and ears of Stereophile's staff.
Stereophile Staff  |  Feb 18, 2016  |  22 comments
What's your favorite record? It's a simple enough question, but one that dedicated music consumers never tire of asking each other. And so, every year, we ask the distinguished writing staff of this magazine to choose a pair of favorites and tell us a little of what seems so compelling about them. Oddly enough, most writers never choose the same record twice—though one did choose the soundtrack album for Casper three years running! Music in any recorded format is fair game, the only restriction being that it must still be available, if only in the deep, dark recesses of the Internet. Of course, favorites come and go in minds and hearts—speaking of dark recesses—but these are Stereophile's takes on the essential music of the moment. Enjoy!—Robert Baird
Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 18, 2022  |  7 comments
So, what's this all about? Most of you already know—after all, we've been doing it since 1991, and it's one of our most popular features. But if you're new to Stereophile, here it is: Originally, the light-hearted conceit was, these are the records you'd be willing to lay down your life for. (This foie gras is to die for!) But, let's be real: That ain't gonna happen, or so I hope.
Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 20, 2023  |  24 comments
Once each year, since 1991, we've asked our writers, both hi-fi and music, to name two of their favorite albums of all time—albums that are, to them, "to die for." It has long been one of our most popular features.

Originally a light-hearted conceit based on a phrase that was popular at the time, there never was a real implication that anyone would give up their life for this music. Yet, for many of us, it has always carried that baggage. So, while this has long been my favorite Stereophile feature, I've never cared for the name.

Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 19, 2024  |  7 comments
As I was preparing our annual Records to Die For feature for 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it occurred to me that at such a moment, "Records to Die For" didn't evoke the same feelings it once did. That name—for what has become Stereophile's most popular feature—had started out light-hearted, derived from a 1980s pop-culture idiom, which eventually found expression in several book and movie titles as well as at least one Death-Metal band. In late 1990, as the 1991 feature was being prepared, it didn't seem so light-hearted at a time of so much death and suffering. At such times, music is a salve, a source of encouragement, perhaps even a means for survival. Records to Die For officially became Records to Live For.

Today—knock on wood—the worst of COVID well behind us, the new designation seems exactly right. This feature is all about music that inspires, that makes life rich—that gives us a reason to live, in times troubled and joyous. These are records that, if you knew you didn't have that much time left, you'd be eager to hear one last time. At least.

Stereophile Staff  |  Jan 26, 2017  |  24 comments
Never in the history of our venerable "Records To Die For" feature has the word Die come to mean as much as it has in the past year. Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Rudy Van Gelder, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Otis Clay, Blowfly, Bob Cranshaw, George Martin, Steve Young, Chips Moman, Lonnie Mack, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Ralph Stanley, David Bowie—all died in the past year. So to drive away any evil spirits that may be hovering over this year's R2D4 extravaganza, we may need to think of this 2017 installment more as "Records to Live For."