You could spend thousands of dollars on a CD player -- but you don't have to. The Marantz CD6005 (Est. $550) sounds as good (or nearly as good) for a lot less money.
"The best CD player we've heard at this price," Britain's What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine says, naming the Marantz CD6005 the "Best CD Player up to £500."
"A great system," Audioholics.com's Clint DeBoer says, awarding it a "Gotta Have It!" tag.
Sound quality is unbeatable for the price, experts say. Paul Simon's "rich, mellow voice (comes) through with no apparent distortion or tonal imbalance" in Don Disbennett's test at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. "The detail of his guitar and the accompanying instruments were very clear, allowing me to hear 'into' the recording, somewhat like wearing a good pair of headphones."
It's so pure and clear, "my CD collection really took on new life," DeBoer says. A delighted owner at Amazon.com agrees: So much more detail comes through with this player, "it is like having a new library of discs."
This tray-loading player reads CDs and CD-R/RW, as well as a few other types of files (MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV). You can stream music from your iPod/iPhone/iPad via the USB port (and charge your player too). There's a great-sounding built-in headphone amp too.
The runner-up Marantz CD5004 (Est. $350) cuts costs by omitting the iPod jack. It steps down the sound quality a bit too -- but it is still a customer favorite at Crutchfield.com and Amazon.com, and it gets a rave review in Stereophile magazine. "Well done, Marantz," tester Robert J. Reina writes, after testing the CD5004 against his $2,500 CD player. The Marantz can't match it, but in several ways, it gets "damn close."
The CD players discussed here aren't cheap. Digital music has become so ubiquitous, the CD is now a niche music format. CD players are now specialty equipment, and budget stand-alone CD players are nearly extinct. Some good, low-priced choices remain among CD changers, which we cover in a separate section of this report.
If you're equally serious about audio and video, consider a universal disc player. The best ones can play pretty much any type of disc or file -- 3D Blu-ray, CD, Super Audio CD (SACD) and more -- at amazingly high quality.
The best of the best? The Oppo BDP-105 (Est. $1,200). It astounds experts in test after test. In fact, even the harshest critics can barely find any faults with this player's beautiful sound and video. And it's so full-featured, it can truly stand alone -- you won't even need a separate audio-video (AV) receiver.
"Something magical ... almost limitless in capability," raves John E. Johnson Jr. at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, an online magazine.
"An audiophile's delight ... the last player you'll ever need," declares Kris Deering at Sound & Vision magazine. The Oppo BDP-105 likewise aces tests at CNET, Audioholics.com, AVForums.com, HomeTheaterReview.com and EnjoyTheMusic.com. It's also an overwhelming customer favorite at Amazon.com and Crutchfield.com, making it by far the most-recommended player of any kind in this report.
No matter what you're listening to, experts say it'll sound better on the Oppo BDP-105. Johnson spins Barbra Streisand's "Love is the Answer" CD: "The violins caressed her like dozens of velvet covered hands, and they were absolutely crystal clear, without even a hint of glare or harshness." At HomeTheaterReview.com, Myron Ho watches "Cold Light of Day" on Blu-ray and marvels at how the BDP-105 handles a raucous club fight scene: "Every syllable of every word, every punch and slam was heard while the loud music was blaring. I seldom find this level of precision and separation in any $1,200 receiver or preamp."
That's because every aspect of the BDP-105 has been crafted with the audiophile in mind, experts say. Its digital-to-audio conversion is top-of-the-line. It can output via 7.1/5.1 analog jacks, rather than High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), although that's on board too), so as not to degrade the sound. It's cooled fanlessly, so it's virtually silent. (Video quality is equally stellar: "Bit perfect in every way," Deering says.)
Thankfully, experts say, Oppo loads up the BDP-105 with features that let you enjoy its superior digital processing with all of your music and movies. It can read pretty much any disc or file you've got -- CD, HDCD, SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray 3D, MP4, high-resolution lossless WAV and FLAC, and the list goes on. Two HDMI inputs (one front MHL-capable and one rear) let you show videos from your cable box, Roku/Apple TV, smartphone, tablet, camcorder, etc.
It "has every type of input that one could ask for," Johnson says, "including a connection for a hard drive through the USB port, that gives you unlimited space to store your music and video files, as well as an HDMI input, coaxial and optical digital inputs, and wireless network, which allows you to access music and video files anywhere in your wireless home network."
The icing on the cake: The Oppo BDP-105 can stand alone. Its fine-tuned controls allow it to do the job -- admirably -- of an AV receiver. It's even got a built-in headphone amp.
"I honestly can't imagine recommending any other product with more enthusiasm," Deering writes.
If you're not a hard-core audiophile, though, save yourself a bundle and get the Oppo BDP-103 (Est. $500) instead. It's identical, except it lacks some of the BDP-105's audiophile niceties (like the upgraded DAC, dedicated stereo analog outputs and headphone amp). Although most experts say the BDP-103 still sounds superb, the BDP-105's extras are what make it sound heavenly.