What CDs to buy

I never thought I would get a CD player but opportunity knocked a couple months ago and here I am with an Audio Research CD6.  All my CDs from 30 years ago are mostly music I no longer listen to much.  I primarily listen to vinyl and stream but thought it would be cool to have an AR top loader and maybe seek out a few special CDs.  Any thoughts on specific CD releases that will give me some renewed respect for the shiny discs?  


For Classical I suggest the CD's from RCA Living Stereo and Mercury Living Presence. These were considered the most faithful to the sound of a symphonic orchestra when they were recorded back in the 50's and 60's! Lewis Layton and Donald Fine were the respective audio engineers.

For Jazz the Blue Note CD's recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in his home studio in New Jersey back in the 50's and 60's are particularly fine!

What kind of music do you like?  If you stream you can sample a lot of music and purchase CDs that sound particularly good or CDs that you think will musically hold your attention long term.

@designsfx I listen to classic rock, blues, soul, R&B, jazz and a little classical.  For streaming I use Qobuz and Amazon Music.

Physical media is hitting the shelves at thrift store from people who are streaming. My advice is hit the local stores and binge on CD's while you can get them cheap.

@tomcy6 I do stream a lot of different and new music but was not sure about purchasing CDs simply based on this.  I had been under the impression that there were certain CDs to focus on but am admittedly ignorant about CDs and sound quality.  

@vonhelmholtz Thus far with only about 20-30 CDs played, I cannot appreciate a difference from streaming.  Streaming has improved with the CD6 and Qobuz over Amazon.  I have found that newly recorded music streamed sounds just as good as vinyl, maybe better.  For example, buying Van Morrison, Ryan Adams or Taylor Swift's latest album on vinyl seems to be a waste.  Picking up a NM copy of something from the 70s or 80s though typically beats out the streamed version.  

@kota1 Makes sense....just wasn't sure if there were particular labels or anything to focus on or if it was just as random as vinyl regarding what release had the best sound

I listen to classic rock, blues, soul, R&B, jazz and a little classical

Yes there are certain CDs in those genres that are considered classic for music and sound quality, but you probably know which ones those are. If not search this and other forums for Best Classic Rock CDs, etc.or just ask for examples of those and you’ll probably get a bunch of suggestions. People like to give their favorites a shout out.

just wasn't sure if there were particular labels or anything to focus on or if it was just as random as vinyl

Yeah, it's just as random.

My analog slightly bests digital with many recordings , so I might listen to CDs when the vinyl is out of print. Also, I might not want to spend the asking price for vinyl and prefer to own the digital, which means CD, or download. So, for me CD is not a primary focus, but plays a small part of what I listen to. The Three Blind Mice 45 RPM box is out, so this probably retires my CD. We will see.

All that said, I can’t rationally justify buying physical media when streaming sounds so good.  That last ten percent with vinyl play comes at a premium.


When auditioning music to buy I generally use the following resource-


Usually at the end of the month I’ll sort the new release albums buy genre, screenshot the album cover icons to use as a list and then audition that months releases on Qobuz. I make notes of those I wish to purchase and place an order when done- Easy! 
There are other online catalogs and lists that I use as well but this provides me with the most up to date info out there. You can even go through previous years listings as well. Give it a try!


For the most part, CDs were mass produced in many countries. At the peak of CD production, there weren’t many Pop, Rock, Country releases that stood out in terms of sound quality. High quality was the norm for classical and jazz. There were some great albums that should be in everyone's collection such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

After the mid 90s til present, record labels began to remaster the original CD releases, and started a wave of terrible sounding discs. Read about the Loudness Wars.

If you want to start listening to jazz or classical, @jasonbourne52 made some great choices.






There are some small producers of high quality CDs and records of  different genres. 

Google "Analogue Productions" and "Mobile Fidelity."

XRCD’s …. Step- up in mastering from ordinary redbook cd’s

go browse DISCOGS and ELUSIVEDISC , especially for their Various – Best Audiophile Voices series 









Elusive Disc +1. Good pricing for XRCD.

Are the Redbook releases remastered for audiophiles?

The Blue Note XRCDs are outstanding. I was just listening to Hank Mobley's Soul Station, and it is superb.

Also, it is well known that some, but not all Japanese remasters are excellent. They can be expensive, but in my view worth the retail cost in at least some cases, I believe. For example, I grew up on '70s funk and soul, and of course there were plenty of less than stellar recordings. But the Japanese remasters of, for example, the early albums  of Tower of Power and Earth Wind & Fire, are really excellent.

SuperTramp, Brothers in Arms (Dire Straights), Jennifer Warnes, Art of Noise (if you like them).


The best advise I could give you is to spend some time doing research before purchasing certain CD's. There is a vast difference in sound quality based on the particular iteration of the disk. In a lot of cases, older is better, but even that is not a hard and fast rule.

This website is invaluable in making a decision.


The site is a library of the dynamic range of each version of a particular disk.

IMO, a lot of CD's that came out in the 80's sounded like crap as far as sound quality; not surprising as it was a new technology - Midnight Oil and Iron Maiden come immediately to mind as 80's offenders, but there are many, many more, and the remastered versions of these releases sound far superior to the 80's releases, at least to me they do. 

Usually any of the latest remastered remixed CDs sound great like the Beach Boys, Beatles Sargent Pepper, Revolver, White or Let it Be, much cleaner sounding, great bottom, middle and highs as well as instrument and vocal separation.


FAVORITE CD’S (it’s hard not to be very personable about this)

DYNAMIC ‘Show Off Your System’ type of stuff: After a few listens, alone and with friends, they gather dust. So, buy a few DEMO Compilations, Praise yourself for assembling your system, i.e. get it out of your system (pun?).

IF you have an LP in good shape, and you like streaming quality, don’t look for a ‘better’ CD. Look for music you don’t have. Look for masters of Instruments, i.e. Piano; Saxophone; Trombone; Trumpet; Bass; Drums. Find you like Trombone, get more! Same thing: Singers you don’t have, find who you really like. I cruise YouTube: Tiny Desk Concerts; Boyce Avenue Duets, Voice Battles (all over the world), … Got Talent. You might not like the show’s, but there are many great singers to be found. I find new to me stuff, then buy that person’s music. I was only buying LP’s, I found a SACD player I really like, so I am buying used CD’s as well as LP’s, and rediscovering my many CD’s.

CD/SACD. IF the player you have/like plays both CD layer and SACD layer, that is an advantage. Used player: get one with low hours, the lasers get weak, and finding the SACD layer becomes problematic. Also, check if replacement laser assemblies are available on eBay to keep it going for many years. (there are not a whole lot of SACD’s)

SACD advantages: for me, what I often notice: SACD’s noise floor is always lower (a rare track un-naturally quiet).
after a while you stop listening for the difference, just enjoy that version.

Stereo/Mono LP’s: CD versions from Mono originals: MAY be quieter, but methods used: at what expense?

Stereo R2R was 1956. Stereo LP’s were 1958. For a few years, both were made/issued. Mono recording teams had excellent skills, and at first the major labels had two teams, existing Mono team, and new ‘whiz kids’ doing separate Stereo. They paid the studios and musicians for longer sessions. Our friend Rudy Gelder watched this, didn’t have the money for this, so he decided to record in Stereo and mix Mono from that, thus having the Stereo to issue later.

So, Mono CD’s and Early Stereo CD’s of Rudy’s have a better chance of sounding better than reprocessed stuff. CD’s of highly respected Mono LPs are likely to be better, no re-processing needed (avoid reprocessed to Stereo).

Mono LP’s (not CD’s I know): I learned here, playing with a true Mono cartridge is better, ranging from a bit, to a lot better. Mono ‘mode’ on your preamp is not as good. Sometimes, playing your preamp in L+R to L (or right), i.e. thru one speaker, not only sounds best, but lets you sit anywhere, and stop our habit of seeking imaging. An example: an early compilation, 20’s and 30’s, all to become greats, including a very early Louis Armstrong. Stereo: a history lesson, never would play it again. Mono cartridge: not imaging, but a distinction of individual instruments: trumpet, trombone, drums, .., much more enjoyable, and have played it for friends several times.

I sold a few ‘quiet’ mono lps. Told buyer: some noise/scuffs, very little noise with a mono cartridge, same scuffs more apparent with a stereo cartridge, it reacts to both vertical and horizontal movement. So, buyer will be happy with a Mono cartridge, don’t buy to play stereo.

This is why I always mention either two tonearms, switch Stereo/Mono in seconds in a listening session, or arms that allow different arm wands ready to go, i.e. Technics BP500 Base; VPI Unipivots, …

Enough of that, eh


JAZZ, some I collect, have a lot of, many are ‘who is that ….playing, remember from the credits)

The recording skills I prefer: small bands, not orchestras, both with and without voice. Distinct instruments, and, if engineered properly greater imaging. I agree, as many musicians did, if you see Rudy Gelder’s name, go for it.

Oscar Peterson, nearly anything, check online for remarks. SACD 4 disc series ‘For My Friends’ is terrific. He had a stroke, early/later recordings, but it’s hard to tell the difference. I’ve seen him live at the Blue Note, he can do bass with his left hand, lean left and do EVERY thing else with his right hand, you wouldn’t know, big reach with his arms, big hands, wonderful to watch..

Louis Armstrong with Ella Fitzgerald, other separate Louis and Ella also

Miles Davis. Start with early Miles, Kind of Blue, … then after a while ‘Sketches of Spain’ a near religious experience. Then. Later stuff, he simply couldn’t play the same stuff over and over, so he experimented, if you keep that in mind, you ‘get it’ more readily.

Dave Brubeck, Take 5 for sure, other recordings, and then his band member’s individual recordings:

Paul Desmond,
Stan Getz, Stan-Getz-Gold--Happy-50th-Stan-A-Celebration-Live-At-Montmartre
Ben Webster, meets Oscar Peterson

A 1953 line-up of the Dizzy Gillespie/Stan Getz Sextet featured Gillespie, Getz, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Max Roach.[1] He moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1958.[5] Here he performed with pianist Jan Johansson and bassist Oscar Pettiford, among others, at the Club Montmartre.[12]

Toots Theilemans, Chez Toots, Belgian Harmonica, unique playing style.

Bill Evans

In late 1959, Evans left the Miles Davis band and began his career as a leader, with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, a group now regarded as a seminal modern jazz trio. In 1961, two albums were recorded at an engagement at New York’s Village Vanguard jazz club, Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby; a complete set of the Vanguard recordings on 3CDs was issued decades later.

SAX: COLEMAN HAWKINS, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, BENNY CARTER, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, PAUL DESMOND, Bud Freeman. Dexter Gordon, ILLINOIS JACQUET, RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK, LEE KONITZ, Joe Lovano, BRANFORD MARSALLIS, Hank Mobley, James Moody, GERRY MULLIGAN, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, Art Pepper, IKE QUEBEC, Joshua Redman, SONNY ROLLINS, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, STANLEY TURRENTINE, Grover Washington Jr., BEN WEBSTER.

PIANO: Mose Allison, Lil Harden Armstrong (Louis’s Wife), Patricia Barber, Count Basie (early), Eubie Blake, JOANNE BRACKEEN, DAVE BRUBECK, Henry Butler, Ray Charles, Cyrus Chestnut, Nat King Cole, Connie Cruthers, Duke Ellington, Bill evans, RED GARLAND, ERROLL GARNER, Vince Guaraldi, EARL HINES, JAMES P. JOHNSON, HANK JONES, NORAH JONES, Stan Kenton, Kenny Kirkland, DIANA KRALL (early), John Lewis, RAMSEY LEWIS, Marian McPartland, JAY MCSHANN, Thelonius Monk (take your time), Phineas Newborn Newman, OSCAR PETERSON, Leon Russell (some, not organ), Dianne Schurr, GEORGE SHEARING, BOBBY SHORT, NINA SIMONE, CLARENCE ‘PINETOP’ SMITH, Billy Taylor, Allen Toussaint, MCCOY TYNER, Mal Waldron


DRUMS: MAX ROACH, GINGER BAKER, Ray Barretto, LOUIS BELLSON, ART BLAKEY, Sid Catlett, Stanley Crouch, Al Harewood, Roy Haynes, Albert ‘Toothie’ Heath, ELVIN JONES, PHILLY JOE JONES, Willy Jones

TROMBONE: Bob Brookmeyer , Jimmy Cleveland, Jimmy Cleveland, Robin Eubanks, JJ Johnson, ,tromboneshorty, Fred Wesley, Urbie Green, Natalie Cressman, Curtis FowlkesBennie Green, Urbie Green , J. C. Higginbotham,

Trumpet: NAT ADDERLEY, Red Allen, LOUIS ARMSTRONG, Chet Baker, TERENCE BLANCHARD, Chris Botti, Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, BENNY CARTER, Doc Cheatham, Don Cherry, Buck Clayton, Johnny Coles, MILES DAVIS, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Roy Eldridge, Art Farmer, Maynard Ferguson, DIZZY GILLESPIE, Roy Hargrove, Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, WYNTON MARSALIS, HUGH MASEKELA, Fats Navarro, King Oliver, Nicholas Payton, ARTURO SANDOVAl, Charlie Shavers, CLARK TERRY, Cootie Williams, Webster Young,

My ass hurts.



My go to process has always been to search for “best version of X CD” then select Steve Hoffman forums and start researching. It’s always worked well for me.

Anything by Patricia Barber will sound good on CD. But basically, anything mastered in the last ten to fifteen years should be good - provided the original recording is good enough in the first place. However, if you have a top quality streaming setup, don't necessarily expect the CDs to better it.

I’ve had good luck with both Blue Note CD’s, and any Van Gelder reissues, not necessarily only Blue Note ones. You might try out a few SACD’s if your CD player can play them. The two I own are markedly better, although perhaps prohiibitively costlier than their Redbook equivalents. I’ve also had luck, generally speaking, with Japanese CD’s.

The price is definitely right on used CD’s versus new vinyl. I hardly mess with used records due to condition issues which CD’s are immune from for the most part. You’ll see a wide selection on Ebay.


“Target cd’s” made in West Germany in the early 80’s

was the first transfer from the analog source to cd.

I have a few and they are well done 

Good luck Willy-T

I recommend the XRCDs from Japan, 24 bit sound of the RCA living stereo series.

The Bartok recordings with the Chicago under Frits Reiner are incredible.  I also love the Beethoven 6th on the XRCD label.  There are others!



I should also add that I use a DVD sony DVD 999-ES (bought it for $139) player that was modified by Dan at Modwright in Oregon.  His modification (about $1500 in 2010) includes adding a separate power supply and output tubes to the DVD player modification.  I have used it for 12+ years and it is awesome sounding!

Explore Japanese press CDs. Lots of rare jazz titles not available anywhere else, exceptional quality, nice artworks. Could be expensive sometimes but totally worth the investment. Also CDs from Dabringhaus und Grimm label could worth your attention due to very good quality. 

When Sting left The Police, he'd already made a fortune, so his solo career not only features great musicians, but high quality recordings. They really shine on a good system----Nothing Like the Sun, Soul Cages, Ten Summoner's Tales, and Brand New Day are all great albums/recordings.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Jacques Loussier Trio - The Brandenburg Concertos or Best of Play Bach

Allan Taylor Looking for You


Almost every classic rock album has been remastered and The Beatles and Pink Floyd are no different. All the 2010 remastered Beatles and the newer Animals and Wish You Were Here are great!

are you looking for new recommendations, music you don’t know?

My greatest discoveries in the last decade were

M. Ward, The Be Good Tanyas, Shovel and Rope, Nataniel Rateliff, Paulo Nutini, and a few others, mostly mainstream (Wilco, BNL, and the like).

All CDs, no issues. Of my favorite 80s - 90s bands I am pretty unhappy with my ELO, Queen, Stones CDs. U2 is OK, but not great. I don't know whether it's a recording or music doesn't work well in a smallish room.

Two phenomenal illustrations of what digital mastering can do to pull sound out of 78 records you'd never imagine possible are Robert Johnson: The Centennial Collection and the American Epic collection engineered by Nicolas Bergh. If I'm not mistaken the Johnson reissue was the first one taken from the original metal parts. The recent remastering of the Band's Music from Big Pink was something of a revelation, and a similar remastering of Stage Fright restored the album to Robbie Robertson's preferred sequencing. These are a lot older than 30 years, of course, but there are new things to hear.

Nothing really to add. I also buy CDs when the music is not available on LP’s - generally speaking. 

I did find this thread interesting in concept. As much as we compare LP releases, I never considered ‘is this a good company for CD cuts’. I think that’s because we assume the skill of cutting a CD is in the mastering. If the mastering was done right, whoever produces the CD using the same master doesn’t matter. I may be 100% wrong - but I’m OK with that. I have enough neurosis in my life - no need to add on. 

What kind of music do you like?

Almost anything by TELARC, MOFI or Chesky Records is going to be well recorded and high quality.


Cowboy Junkies; Trinity Session 8568-2-R

TELARC 1812 Overture / Capriccio Italien  CD80041

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (Legacy Editions) CK64935 or 8869 747627-2

MOFI Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon UDCD517

Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms 9 25264-2 or 9871498

Holst- The Planets CFM FW 021

TELARC Vivaldi - The Four Seasons CD 80070

Any of the Chesky "Demonstration Discs"


Lots of good classical CDs from Europe, especially Germany.


So far, the best recording to show off a sound system is a song "Nasty" by Vincent Ingala.

Any of the Steven Wilson remix's (Chicago - Jethro Tull - XTC - Yes) or any of the recent remasters of The Beatles, Joni Mitchell or Pink Floyd will get you started.

Radiohead OK Computer 

I practically never listen to rock, but this one blows my mind.





While my instincts warn me against wading into such waters, I can’t resist. To come onto an "Audiophile" site in search of recommendations for recommendations of CD’s to purchase does nothing less than provide evidence that audiophiles care about the sound quality of recordings more than the music itself. My God, @dhite71, reconsider your priorities! Do you use your recordings to show off your hi-fi, or rather use your hi-fi to increase your immersion into and appreciation of the music contained in your recordings?

Jvc xrcd either generation.  Likely  the best. Mobile fidelity  sound lab gold cds ok. Chesky  very good. Ma very good. Try some of those audio file  recordings  on those discs

Welcome aboard the CD train.  I have a AR refCD7 that i still use a lot. Recently got a DCS Bartok to take me into the realm of streaming.  I find that I prefer the sound of cd's to most of the hi rez on Qobuz but not always- for instance, to my ears, most Allman Bros versions sound better streamed.  I highly encourage you to order a copy of Rupa and the April Fishes "este mondo".  It is one of the finest recordings I own and I find the music very interesting too.  "trouble" is a great reference recording.  The CD version is particular ambient.  Leonard Cohen's "ten new songs" is another one with similar characteristics. Happy listening!

While my instincts warn me against wading into such waters, I can’t resist. To come onto an "Audiophile" site in search of recommendations for recommendations of CD’s to purchase does nothing less than provide evidence that audiophiles care about the sound quality of recordings more than the music itself.

This is ridiculous. Where else should one go to find good opinions on the topic?!

No one would argue that some audiophiles do not fall into that trap category, but given the amount of time, energy and money that many put into their systems, why on earth would they not have an interest in listening to exceptionally well-recorded music? Not necessarily at the expense of less well-recorded music, but as an understandable emphasis.

I posted specifically about a genre that was generally not very well recorded, and how it is possible to find relatively good exceptions. Others have made useful suggestions as well.

bdp24 ... "ridiculous." Far from the truth, keep stretching.

You asked, "Where else should one go to find good opinions on the topic?!" Simple ... a bag of tricks :-)

For well-recorded jazz try the Three Blind Mice (aka TBM) Japanese label. Pianist Tsuyoshi Yamamoto is artful on "Midnight Sugar" (TBM-XR-0023) and "Misty" (TBM-XR-0030).

Also for jazz, I like "Jazz at the Pawnshop" for its immersive you-are-there microphone capture. My favorite version is XRCD on the First Impression Music label (FIM XRCD 012-013).

@bdp24  I for one appreciate your perspective. It is true that "audiophiles" often fall into the trap of worshipping equipment and "sound quality" (which is of course a subjective term) - and for many, as is unfortunately evidenced on so many threads of this forum, the more expensive the better, lol - over enjoying music itself.

That said, it is fun to find both: good music, recorded well.


@curtdr: Yes indeed, finding music you like that was recorded in good sound is the audiophilic music lover’s dream. Unfortunately, as J. Gordon Holt often said in his Stereophile reviews as far back as the early-60’s, the two are often mutually exclusive: the best performances (he was concerned mostly with Classical music) are all-too frequently the worst sounding recordings.

I consider myself lucky in that my preferred genres of music (Singer/Songwriter, Americana, Hard Country, Bluegrass) are one of the generally better recorded musics. In his YouTube review of the January LP releases by Vinyl Me Please, Michael Ludwig (his YouTube moniker is 45 RPM Audiophile) gives the month’s Country music title (VMP does one release per month in 5 genres)---Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man album---an absolutely rave. I had written off Michael’s musical opinions (his taste is very different from mine) after he last year panned VMP’s re-release of Iris Dement’s debut album. It’s good to see him coming to his senses ;-) . In the currently-running Favorite Female Singer thread here on AG, I listed Tammy and Iris as two of my three (the other being Darlene Love. I had to leave off Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, who round out my Top 5 list. Sixth would be Brenda Lee.). By the way, the Country release in February is Busy Bee Cafe, a great album by another fave of mine, Marty Stuart.

T Bone Burnett is the man responsible for the two Alison Krauss/Robert Plant albums, a great example of good music and good sound. T Bone’s 1980 album on Takoma (a label known for good sounding albums)---Truth Decay---features fantastic sound (it was produced by the great Denny Bruce), and can be found for peanuts on both LP and CD, as can many of his other albums. I like his earlier ones, his later ones not so much.