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Best CD Changers

By: Amy Livingston on September 07, 2017

CD changers trade off sound quality for convenience

The CD changer has a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to quality. Experts generally agree that CD changers don't deliver the same audio performance as a single-disc player. This makes true audiophiles reluctant to buy them, because they'd rather invest in a higher-quality single-disc player. This, in turn, gives manufacturers little incentive to develop luxury CD changers for the discriminating listener – and so the category is one that appeals most to those seeking convenience rather than the absolute best sound quality.

Thus, if you choose a multi-disc changer, you shouldn't expect the same sound quality you'll get with a good single-disc player like the Marantz CD6006 (Est. $500) or the Oppo BDP-205 (Est. $1,300) universal player, covered in our discussion of the best single-disc CD players. However, there are some CD changers that can deliver competent, if not extraordinary, sound performance, along with the convenience of loading up several discs at once. So if you're having a party or a marathon listening session -- or just don't feel like getting up and changing the disc every time -- you can just queue up a selection of tunes, press play, and walk away.

Among CD changers, most reviewers give an edge to the Onkyo DX-C390 (Est. $150). Lifewire.com names this not only as the best CD changer on the market, but as the best CD player overall. While most CD changers hold only five discs at a time, the Onkyo can accommodate six, for even more uninterrupted music listening. You can set it to play one disk, all disks, or random tracks, as well as programming up to 40 tracks into its memory. In addition to commercial CDs, it can play CD-R and CD-RW discs and browse tracks organized into folders on a disc. Other features include analog and digital output and a remote control.

We found tons of user reviews for this CD player at sites across the Internet. The biggest collections are the nearly 1,335 reports at Amazon.com, and nearly 780 reports at BestBuy.com, where owners give it a 4.6-star score, and 96 percent recommend it. Users say the player's sound is full and clear across the entire musical range, without a lot of distracting mechanical noise. They generally find it easy to operate, and they like its hefty construction.

On the downside, users note that the Onkyo's extra-large capacity makes for an extra-large machine – about 17 inches wide and weighing over 15 pounds. However, the majority of complaints about this CD changer have to do with reliability. Several owners say the machine is very sensitive, skipping when a disc is even slightly damaged and sometimes refusing to recognize discs even if they're in perfect condition. We also saw complaints about machines that broke down within a few months after purchase. Although the CD player comes with a one-year warranty, many users who had problems say it's hard to get repairs or even a response from Onkyo's customer service.

While the Onkyo CD player can handle most types of discs, it can't play digital music files directly from a music player or flash drive. For that, you need a player with a USB connection, such as the Yamaha CD-C600 (Est. $330). This five-disc CD changer can play all the same disc formats as the Onkyo, along with MP3 and WMA files via USB.

The Yamaha is the runner-up pick at Lifewire.com, and most owners are pleased with its audio quality. Users at Amazon.com, Crutchfield.com, and BestBuy.com describe the sound as warm, detailed, and accurate. They also find its front-panel controls intuitive and easy to use. However, some say the remote with its tiny buttons is hard to read.

Owners also disagree about the ease of loading and unloading the CD tray. The platter doesn't rotate when the player is open. Some users have no issue with this, but others say it's hard to load the two rear discs, as their positions are partly concealed under the frame, without scratching them. One plus: the player features Yamaha's PlayXchange feature, which lets you switch out four discs while the fifth disc is playing, and many owners appreciate that convenience.

Another thing users find it awkward to do on the Yamaha CD changer is select a specific disc and track to listen to. You can't punch in the number of the specific disc you want on the remote control; instead you have to toggle forward or backward from the one that's queued up, skipping over the ones you don't want. Then, you have to wait until your chosen disc starts up before you can choose the track you want.

Like the Onkyo player, the Yamaha has some durability complaints. Several owners say theirs started acting up within two years after purchase, sometimes even on its very first use. On the plus side, the two-year warranty on this Yamaha CD changer is better than the Onkyo's one-year warranty.

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