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CD Player Buying Guide

By: Amy Livingston on August 25, 2016

What the best CD player has

  • Good sound quality. Good sound doesn't have to come with a high price tag. The best single-disc player we found costs around $300, but we also found some $150 models that deliver a pleasant listening experience.
  • Ability to read common disc formats. Even a basic CD player should be able to handle CDs, CD-R/RWs, and MP3 CDs. More advanced CD players can read other formats (like SACD and HDCD), and universal players can read pretty much any type of disc (including 3D Blu-ray). Some players can also accept input from an MP3 player or flash drive via a USB port.
  • Random and repeat play modes. Sophisticated models can even repeat a section within a track.
  • Easy-to-use controls. According to reviews, simple controls are generally easier to use than more complicated ones. One feature users appreciate is a remote control, which makes it easy to kick back and enjoy your favorite tunes. Every CD player covered in this report includes one.
  • A warranty. Higher-end models tend to have longer warranties. The models covered in this report all have warranties of one to two years.

Know before you go

Are you looking for audiophile-quality sound? If so, plan to spend more. Although lots of owners are very happy with their $150 CD players, experts say music sounds better on $300-plus CD players with more sophisticated components.

How do you plan to hook up your CD player? Most CD players do not have built-in amplifiers, so they will need to be connected to an external stereo amplifier or receiver. Make sure the player you select has outputs that are compatible with your existing gear. Older amps and receivers, in particular, might not have digital inputs. Many, but not all, CD players have analog outputs as well. Which connection to use will depend on the quality of the DAC in each piece of gear. If the DAC in your CD player is superior (or if your receiver/amp lacks a DAC), use the analog connections. If your receiver has the better DAC, go digital. If you are not sure, experiment, and use the hook-up that sounds best to your ears.

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. Every player in this report will read those, but if you've got specialty CD formats such as SACD or HDCD, check to make sure the player can read them.

Do you want a multi-disc CD changer? Though many owners love the convenience of CD changers, reviewers warn that you won't get audiophile sound quality from them. High-end CD players are always single-disc models, either CD-only or universal.

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-105D (Est. $1,300), deliver magnificent sound sure to satisfy even hard-core audiophiles (with similarly awesome video prowess). If you need a good video player as well as a good CD player, a universal player could be your best bet.

Do you want to play MP3 files? If your collection contains digital music files as well as physical discs, it's useful to have a machine that can play them both. The pricey Oppo BDP-105D has this feature, but so do some cheaper players, such as the TEAC CD-P650-B (Est. $140) and the multi-disc Yamaha CD-C600 (Est. $330).

What's to come

Fans of Marantz products may notice that this well-known maker of high-end audio equipment is conspicuously absent from this report. That's because the Marantz CD6005, which won our BR pick in 2014, is no longer being made, and its replacement, the Marantz CD6006 (Est. $500), is too new to have received many reviews yet, though the initial limited feedback is encouraging. In addition, Marantz has a new high-end player scheduled to come out in the fall of 2016. The Marantz HD-CD1 will retail for around $600 and will feature both digital and analog outputs and an amplified headphone jack. We hope to be able to cover these new players in the next version of this report.

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