Are you looking for audiophile-quality sound? Prepare to spend more. Although lots of owners are very happy with their $150 CD players, picky experts say music sounds better on $500-plus CD players with more sophisticated components.
How do you plan to hook up your CD player? Some stand-alone CD players can hook up directly to your speakers, but for others, you'll need a separate amplifier or digital-to-analog converter (DAC) in between -- check to make sure. Also check that the CD player has the ports you'll need. Audiophiles favor analog hookups, but some setups require digital connections like HDMI.
What format are your discs? Most people own CDs they've bought, maybe some CD-R/RWs they've recorded and some MP3 CDs they've burned -- and every player in this report will read those. If you've got specialty CD formats (SACD, HDCD, etc.), check to be sure the player will read them.
Do you want a multidisc CD changer? Owners still love the convenience of CD changers -- they're the best-selling CD players at retail websites. You won't get audiophile sound quality from a CD changer, though. High-end CD players are always single-disc models.
Do you want to play music and movies? Universal players can play all types of discs -- CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray and more. The best ones, like the Oppo BDP-105 (Est. $1,200), deliver magnificent sound sure to satisfy even hard-core audiophiles (with similarly awesome video prowess). Less expensive models like the Oppo BDP-103 (Est. $500) aren't quite as splendid, but still offer very good quality. If you need a good video player as well as a good CD player, a universal player could be your best bet.