Since the time I created this post, I've listened to over 200 stereo CDs selected from this post and others. I found that these works represent the best of the best for sound quality. By sound quality I mean soundstage and imaging...not just clarity. The dynamics on all of these albums have been preserved without any apparent compression.
By far, the most incredible album I've heard is Mark Knopfler's The Ragpicker's Dream. I wish all artists would record like him. When listening to this album in 2-channel, it fools people into thinking the surrounds are on (also the center but that's not unusual for any recording on my system). Also, the M80s simply disappear. There is only one other instance where I experienced this and that is on the Persuasions album listed below. On this track (I think #5), you'd swear that there's a guy 3 feet to the left and 2 feet forward from the left speaker. When I first heard this, I had my eyes closed, lights off and I completely freaked out thinking that someone was in the room with me
All other titles that I list below have a wide, deep and tall presentation but not to the extent of Knopfler's. The problem with listening to albums with this kind of quality is that I don't want to listen to all the other crappy albums in my collection because I am now spoiled
JohnK, The Planets and other classicals that you suggested did not make my cut. Don't get me wrong - they are great to listen to. But they just didn't "jump out" at me like all these others did. With the exception of the one classical I listed below, all others sounded like the orchestra was 2 feet high off my floor even when turned up loud. I also tried all my multi-channel modes and turning it up very loud to no effect. I found this strange but I don't think it has anything to do with my system or environment. And I also tried 5 or 6 recordings of The Planets. If you have any ideas about why this may be happening, I'd love to know.
Mark Knopfler - The Ragpicker's Dream
Pink Martini - Hang on Little Tomato
Molly Johnson - Any
Govi - Andalusian Nights
Lisa Ekdahl - When did you Leave Heaven
Acoustic Alchemy - Against the Grain
Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi *
The Persuasions - Sing U2
Plastikman - Closer *
Craig Chaquico - Any
Godsmack - Other Side
Mark Knopfler - Any
Higher Octave Music - Evolution
Don Ross - Music for Vacuuming
Patricia Barber - Any
Marta Gomez - Entre Cada Palabra
Johny Frigo - Live from Studio "A"
Olatunji Babatunde - Love Drum Talk
Eliades Ochoa - Y El Cuarteto Patria
Porcupine Tree - Stupid Dream
John Butler - Sunrise Over Sea
Modest Mussorgsky - Classic Creepies **
* Incredible bass
** Turn track 4 up loud to give your system the ultimate work-out.