An audiophile is someone, that by definition, loves to listen to hi-fi recordings. Hi-fi recordings are highly engineered and well-mastered. Typically, you think of an audiophile as someone concerned with headsets and cords, but audiophiles really just enjoy listening to the best sounding albums. Though not necessarily on the best sounding equipment.
We’ve curated a list of the top 30 hi-fi albums of all time to send you off on your high fidelity journey — in no particular order. Read also: best audiophile DAP [year] and best audiophile amplifier
Best Sounding Audiophile Hi-Fi Albums Ever
1. DAMN – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar shook up 2017 with this phenomenally produced album.
It’s a masterpiece of rap that deals with some of his most emotionally resonant music in his career.
It won a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2017 and won Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Listen to Damn and be amazed with Kendrick’s latest lyricism here.
2. 2001-Dr. Dre
Rapper and hip hop producer Dr.Dre released this album in 1999 as the follow up to his highly successful debut album The Chronic, which was released to critical acclaim in 1992. 2001 is an expertly engineered album but caused hysteria among some parents as it promoted gangsta rap themes at a time when parents were nervous about youth crime.
Now, we know it’s just one of those hip hop classics that demonstrated Dre’s mastery of the genre.
Click here to buy this genre defining album.
3. The Wall-Pink Floyd
English rock band Pink Floyd’s The Wall topped the US charts for 15 weeks and was a huge commercial success.
A rock opera, The Wall remains influential to musicians and fans alike. It was recorded in several locations because the band felt the initial location to be inadequate.
No audiophile’s collection would be complete without including Pink Floyd. They released some of the music world’s most celebrated and masterly produced albums.
The Wall is considered one of rock’s legacies and continues to reverberate generations later.
Click here to give it a listen.
4. Wish You Were Here-Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here was the ninth studio album by Pink Floyd. This masterfully produced album was produced at the famous Abbey Road Studios. The album dealt with themes of alienation, irritation with the music industry, and included a tribute to Syd Barrett, who was Pink Floyd’s founding member. In 1972, Syd retired from the music industry and public to prevent his mental health from further deteriorating.
5. Ambient 1: Music for Airports – Brian Eno
Ambient 1: Music for Airports is an ambient album consisting of four different compositions layered over one another with the goal of the album to be a sound installation for airports, and inspire calm and thought. It was one of the first albums to be labeled as “ambient music”.
This highly engineered album was conceived while Brian was sitting in an airport and thought that the typical “canned” music of the airport was annoying and uninspiring. So he sought to create an alternative.
The album was composed with loops of various melodies, sounds, and voices that combine to form a calming, dynamic tapestry of thoughtful ambience.
Check out Music for Airports here.
6. Black Star – David Bowie
Black Star is the 16th and last release by the ultra-famous English musician David Bowie.
It won numerous Grammy Awards and was Bowie’s only album to reach the Top 200 of the American Billboard Chart.
7. Ok Computer Oknotok – Radiohead
Radiohead is an audiophile’s dream. Their albums are highly produced and imbued with meaning. Oknotok is a remaster of the original 1997 release.
Check Ok Computer Oknotok here.
8. News of the World – Queen
British Rockband Queen released their sixth album with no intention of reaching number 3 on US Album chart and number 4 on UK. Remastered in 2015, this is a timeless album.
Listen to News of the World here.
9. Abbey Road- The Beatles
English rock band, Beatles rocked the charts because they used their super powers from energetic fun, to songwriting skills, to guitars, to vocal harmonies, to overdubs, everything was top-notch. This remastered album brings the instrumentals to life.
Abbey Road Anniversary Edition can be listened to here.
10. Exodus – Bob Marley & The Wailers
As a Rastafarian, Marley used the name Exodus for his ninth studio album. On a Billboard of 200, Exodus reached number 20, which is a remarkable achievement. Exodus is a reggae album that incorporates blues, soul, British rock, and funk.
11. Thriller – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson, king of pop – released a single song Thriller, which was a rage.
Thriller won a Grammy Award. I
t made a mark on the National Film Registry. Thriller was regarded as a disco-funk song.
Produced by Quincy Jones, it is an audiophile and music lover’s dream.
12. Joni Mitchell- Blue
Canadian singer/songwriter released Blue as her fourth album, Title song of this album was named as blue. It is a song about romance and womanhood. It was recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood during a breakup with Graham Nash and during an intense love affair with James Taylor.
13. Random Access Memories- Daft Punk
French electronic duo – Daft Punk released their fourth and final studio album “Random Access Memory”. This album topped the charts in almost 20 countries. Daft Punk is known for producing hi-fi albums, and this is no exception.
Listen to Random Access Memories here.
14. Hello, I Must Be Going! – Phil Collins
Drummer, songwriter and singer Phil Collins came up with this album which included the spectrum of emotions. In this album, Collins shifted his vision and also of his admirers as it was completely different from his previous work.
Check out the deluxe, remastered edition here.
15. Hyperspace – Beck
Beck’s 14th studio album is“Hyperspace”. It ismore of an experimentation that featured real NASA data transformed through artificial intelligence by Osk. It is a must listen, must seen and must understood album to be enjoyed by hi-fi lovers and audiophiles.
16. Funeral-Arcade Fire
This was the debut studio album by the Canadian indie rock band. This album was nominated for the Grammy Award. It is an amazingly crafted album with layers upon layers of instrumentals and sounds–a must for anyone that loves highly engineered music.
17. Titanic Rising- Weyes Blood
American Musician Weyes Blood released his fourth album as “Titanic Rising”. As the name suggests, the album is about hope and catastrophe, and landed on numerous top 20 album lists in 2019.
18. What’s Goin’ On?- Marvin Gaye
This album is written from the perspective of a Vietnam veteran returning home to the hostile environment that many veterans faced after returning home. Multi-layered vocals and high production value make this album a must-listen.
Listen to What’s Goin’ On here.
19. “Awaken, My Love!”- Childish Gambino
It received Grammy nominations for album of the year and best urban contemporary album. The single ‘Redbone’ received nomination for the record of the year. It also topped music critic’s lists in 2016 as well as earning several Grammy nominations.
20. Drunk – Thundercat
Featuring guest appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller and Pharrell Williams. There is a lot of music and sound for any audiophile to appreciate with this album.
21. American Dream- LCD Soundsystem
A clear picture of failing friendships, love, heroes,and the American dream, of course.
Released in 2017, it was their first album since the band broke up in 2011.
It is full of sounds and synths to the delight of audiophiles and fans alike.
Listen to American Dream here.
22. For the First Time- Black Country, New Road
British Rock Band – Black Country, New Road, made their mark in the industry with this debut album. Experimental rock, post-punk, post-rock and jazz being their genre. Released earlier this year, it received widespread acclaim for its high production value as well as its poetic lyricism.
23. Conflict of Interest-Ghetts
Ghetts, also known as lyrical don, made a mark with this album in 2021.
It has been two decades and his journey has been overwhelming. It has many guest appearances from Ed Sheeran to Dave.
Arrangements were subtle and feature horns and strings–not the MIDI type.
This is a must for audiophiles.
Listen to Conflict of Interest here.
24. Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers, American song-writer, who is known for her cynical style, launched Punisher as her second album. It is a deeply personal album blended with hi-fi instrumentals.
25. 24K Magic- Bruno Mars
In a few words, this album can be regarded as funk, disco, and contemporary. This album is a motley of sounds and feels. One song off of the album underwent 20 recordings until it was just right.
26. Dangerous – Michael Jackson
This Album by Michael Jackson made a mark with its versatility. From ‘Heal the world’ to ‘She Drives me Wild’, he covered a range of emotions and also a range of people. This is a classic album that every audiophile should enjoy.
27. Hourglass – James Taylor
Hourglass won James Taylor a Grammy for Best Album. Hourglass features deeply personal songwriting and high production value featuring his emotive voice with a bit of accompaniment.
28. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish
American singer Billie Eilish released this album and gained almost overnight popularity. Her sound and heartfelt lyrics won over both critics and music lovers. This album definitely deserves a listen.
Listen to When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? here.
29. Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss and Union Station
The album won three Grammys for Best Bluegrass Album, Best Engineered Album and Non Classicals. It is an album that reaches out to the audience with a number of emotionally resonant themes.
30. Elephant – The White Stripes
Featuring several of the White Stripes best known tracks, this album and its variety of songs were the pinnacle of the garage rock revival in the mid-2000s. This is an album that is certainly not to be missed.
Final Thoughts About the Best Engineered Albums of All Time
Audiophiles are not to be confused with hardware snobs. An audiophile will seek out the best auxiliary cable to enhance the sound of the album just a smidgen more. An audiophile seeks albums that have been carefully crafted and produced to produce a dynamic range of sounds for the audiophile to enjoy.
The best engineered albums of all time feature strong production value, and much time is spent mastering the album. The best sounding albums comprise the musicians and the producers recording and rerecording their work until it is seemingly perfect.
Dave Pearson is a Canadian musician, sound editor, and audiophile. He is also the founder and owner of the website SoundProofGeek. On SoundProofGeek, Pearson offers advice and resources on audio equipment, including how to assess and improve audio quality, how to troubleshoot and repair audio equipment, and how to improve the music listening experience.