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Best-sounding albums to own on vinyl

Whether you're buying records as a gift or for your own collection, these are the 20 of the best-sounding albums, according to CNET.

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Ty Pendlebury
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1 of 21 Josh Miller/CNET

The best albums to own on vinyl

Vinyl is booming, and if you own a record player, you've probably got a nice collection of records with music you love. One of vinyl's great benefits is sound quality, but which records bring out the best in the format?

We've picked 20 of the best-sounding records from a bunch of different genres -- including folk, pop, punk and electronica -- dating from the 1950s right through to the 2010s. If you want to augment your record collection, or perhaps buy a record for a music fan, you'll find something to like here.

Note that CNET may receive a commission from the products featured in this article.

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2 of 21 Apple Music

The Beatles -- Abbey Road (1969)

The Beatles' music still endures 50 years after the band broke up, and every vinyl fan probably owns at least one of their records.

Though the Sgt Peppers stereo remix was released to great fanfare several years ago, we were bigger fans of the band's penultimate record Abbey Road. The 2009 remaster sounds fantastic, but the forthcoming 2019 version promises to truly bring the record into the 21st century.

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3 of 21 Island Records

Amy Winehouse -- Back to Black (2006)

Easily one of the best albums released since the turn of the century, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black captures her soon-to-be tragic life in amber. Recorded by Mark Ronson at Brooklyn's Daptone Records (see CNET's tour here), this LP deserves to be in any self-respecting collection.

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4 of 21 CBS/Epic

The Clash -- London Calling (1979)

Much more fun than the title track would have you believe, London Calling is a celebration of British outsider music in all of its late-'70s forms. If you only buy one punk album, make it this one.

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5 of 21 Sub Pop

Father John Misty -- God's Favorite Customer (2018)

Father John Misty's output may be frustratingly inconsistent, but God's Favorite Customer is one of his best records. It sounds lush on vinyl and if you can nab the "Loser Edition", it offers colored wax and foil tears on the cover.

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6 of 21 Rhino

Television -- Marquee Moon (1977)

While not as famous as other late-'70s NYC bands like Blondie or Talking Heads, Television's debut album is one of our most cherished vinyl records. Minimalist, edgy and often hilarious, this release is a real stayer.

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7 of 21 DFA

LCD Soundsystem -- LCD Soundsystem (2005)

You can tell James Murphy is an old-school DJ from the care he puts into his vinyl releases. If you haven't heard LCD Soundsystem's debut playing on a turntable, have you really heard it? 

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8 of 21 Mercury Records

Parliament -- Mothership Connection (1975)

There can be no argument that '70s funk and soul sounds best on vinyl, and Parliament's Mothership Connection is a high-water mark for the genre. Beats co-founder Dr. Dre sampled this record extensively for his album The Chronic.

See it at Amazon

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9 of 21 Vinyl Me Please

Feist -- Let It Die (2004)

Lovingly repackaged by subscription service Vinyl Me Please, the sophomore album by Feist is the late-night album to end all late-night albums. Recorded in Paris years before her song 1234 made her a star, Let It Die immerses itself in French pop and jazz, and it sounds simply exquisite on vinyl.

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10 of 21 Epic

Cheap Trick -- At Budokan (1978)

Arguably one of the most famous live records, Cheap Trick at Budokan is also the band's best album. Every song slays any previous versions, and it's easy to see why the band was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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11 of 21 Sire

The Replacements -- Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

Though many rock critics point to Let It Be as the band's high point, Pleased to Meet Me dispenses with the toilet humor for a more consistent listen. Alex Chilton makes you want to drive down a freeway in a top-down Cadillac, while the album's penultimate song, Skyway, predicted the coming of Wilco and alt-country.

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12 of 21 Drag City

Palace Brothers -- Viva Last Blues (1995)

Will Oldham has had a long career under many names, most involving the word "palace", but Viva Last Blues is one of his most memorable efforts. Steve Albini engineered the record specifically to be heard on vinyl, and songs such as the creepy Tonight's Decision (And Hereafter) will stick with you.

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13 of 21 Capitol Records

Kraftwerk -- The Man-Machine (1978)

Yes, we could have chosen any one of Kraftwerk's '70s records but Man-Machine loses the meandering approach of other albums in favor of actual songs, even "hits" (The Model).

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14 of 21 Motown Records

Stevie Wonder -- Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Stevie Wonder had a great run in the '70s, and Songs in the Key of Life is held up as the epitome of his output. The album boasts four hit singles (two of which topped the charts), and solid funk combined with soulful songwriting carries the record from beginning to end.

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15 of 21 Interscope Records

Portishead -- Dummy (1994)

Portishead's Dummy is the musical version of the movie Withnail and I -- its meaning shifts depending on your mood at the time. It works as a soundtrack to your next dinner party or can take you through a post break-up period. Final track Glory Box is one of the best songs ever written.

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16 of 21 Amoeba Music

The Avalanches -- Since I Left You (2000)

Trip-hop and turntablism have thrown up many great records which sound amazing on vinyl. So how do you choose just one? The Avalanches' first and best album combines sly samples with a great sense of humor. Best served with a fruity drink and a hammock. 

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17 of 21 Daft Life

Daft Punk -- Random Access Memories (2013)

Daft Punk's richest-sounding record, Random Access Memories is less '90s rave and more '70s discotheque. This album is single-handedly responsible for rekindling the careers of producer Giorgio Moroder and producer-guitarist Nile Rodgers.

See it at Amazon

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18 of 21 Amazon

Pink Floyd -- Wish You Were Here (1975)

Every fan has a favorite Pink Floyd album, and this is ours. The first side is a chemical-free drug trip, while the title track on side two is simply devastating.  

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19 of 21 Amazon

King Crimson -- In The Court of the Crimson King (1969)

If your tastes in rock tend to have the "prog-" prefix attached, then you are likely a King Crimson fan. From the iconic cover art to the genre-defining fantasy and sci-fi themes, In The Court of the Crimson King still sounds fresh today.

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20 of 21 Amazon

A Tribe Called Quest -- Midnight Marauders (1993)

Early 90s hip-hop at its finest, Midnight Marauders shows A Tribe Called Quest imitators like Us-3 how it's really done. Also check out the excellent Low End Theory.

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21 of 21 Amazon

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers -- Moanin' (1959)

The best jazz albums on vinyl is deserving of its own gallery but here's one album you don't see as often. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Moanin' appeared around the same time as better-known albums like Miles' Kind of Blue and Brubeck's Time Out, but it is just as iconic.

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