If you’re of a certain age or younger, it’s likely that you’ve never held a CD (Compact Disc, to the youngsters) in your hands, and probably even more likely that you don't have a CD player in your home.
Does that mean that the CD format is dead? After all, the buzz is much more about the resurgence of vinyl and the latest high-resolution online music streaming services. Should we just forget audio CDs?
Not on your life. LP’s have made a huge comeback and in 2021 finally regained the lead on sales against the Compact Disc for the first time in 30 years. This doesn’t change the fact that music fans continue to buy CDs to the tune of nearly 50 million units per year (46.6 million, to be exact). If you were a music-buying consumer when CDs were introduced, you recall well the tremendous impact that new format had. The convenience and ease of handling was a huge timesaver. Stereo equipment manufacturers rushed their designs for CD players to the marketplace. You could buy CD players for a song in the grocery store. Everyone had a multi-CD player in their car. CDs were everywhere.
Yet there was definitely a tradeoff in audio quality from LPs to CDs. The lack of warmth and the brittleness of the sound was obvious if you compared the same album in the two formats. Convenience carried the day, but sound quality took a hit. The rub was that over time the LP would degrade in quality if not handled properly, and the cassette? Well, the cassette was still the cassette, degrading in quality with every single play. The CD could and will conceivably last forever.
Did the establishment of the so-called CD-quality digital audio specification of 16 bits and 44.1 kilohertz have something to do with the reduction in quality? Audiophiles would say yes, and they have a point.
But the bigger culprits in the besmirching of the CD’s reputation were those you couldn’t see: Low quality digital audio converters (DACs) with underpowered chipsets, mass-produced connectors in the signal path, and chassis made from cheap materials. And quite possibly a flaw in the physical manufacturing process of CDs themselves. All these poorly made components added an imprecision into the CD player laser’s ability to read data accurately and an inability to restore the audio to its full purity. In short, this confluence of less than desirable conditions introduced jitter and noise into the audio signal, which our ears interpret as brittleness, coldness, and lack of depth.
This is fantastic news for you as a CD collector. Why? While the recording and encoding process of digital audio for the CD format has largely remained unchanged for the past 40 years, the R&D into the components for CD players themselves has resulted in vastly improved audio quality, thanks to build quality that helps to minimize vibration and noise. Just as the technology for home theater has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, so has the quality and power of the DACs, direct digital audio output, signal path connectors, power supplies, and chassis that you’ll find in the CD players in this guide.
Among the CD players below you will find a wide variety of formats:
- Some that are chassis only, requiring a separate amplifier
- Top-loading, so you don’t have to bend over to put a CD in its tray
- Front-loading, so you can stack other gear on top of the CD player
- Portable players
- CD Players with USB inputs for hi(er)-res audio
- CD Players that also act as CD rippers to store your music on a hard drive to be accessible by other equipment in your home
One thing that these CD players all share: An ability to render the audio in your CD collection at the level of quality the producers of the original recording intended. We stand behind every one of these fantastic devices, and we can help you find the perfect player that will integrate into your existing system or will become the core of a whole new home stereo system.
How We Chose These CDs
The CD Player was invented and released to the public in 1979.
World Wide Stereo was invented and released into the public in 1979 (that's us).
Trust us. We’ve got 40+ years of experience with these things and we’re here to point you in the right direction
We have hand-picked a selection of the best CD Players that our industry has to offer and then narrowed it down even more to the very best pieces of equipment you can get your hands on. These range from entry-level rock-solid players to the cream of the crop best player you can drop by our showroom, pick it up, plug it in, and rock and roll to into the wee hours of the morning (or until the neighbors invite themselves over or call the police… whichever comes first.)
First off, we made sure that the performance was up to snuff. We thought about you. Are you exclusively looking for a high-quality CD player and nothing more? We’ve got something for you. Are you looking to rip your existing CDs and store them on a hard drive for use with a streaming system? We've got that covered. Are you looking to pop in a USB stick and play some hi-res audio? We can make that happen. Once we considered your needs, we made it even more personal!
We took your Media Room into account, and what would look best installed next to your amplifier and speakers. We consulted the head of the house to make sure we had your design and decorating palette on our minds. When we thought we were finished is when we started thinking about the bells and whistles, the icing on the cake, the mustard on the hot dog, the feather in the cap, etc. What I’m getting at here is that we thought about everything from the rubber on the bottom of the feet of the CD player, the screen printing on the back of the device showing you the “ins and outs” all the way down to the chassis screws holding the beast together. All of it.