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Best Single-Disc CD Players

By: Amy Livingston on September 07, 2017

CD players that actually make your CDs sound better

It's possible to pay upwards of $25,000 for a CD player, but reviews suggest that doing this won't necessarily make your CDs sound any better. The biggest factor in a CD player's audio fidelity is the quality of its DAC, or digital-to-analog converter, which translates the digital signals recorded on a CD to a form your ears can listen to. The cheapest CD players use low-quality DACs that don't provide the fidelity that you'll hear with a high-end DAC from a maker like Cirrus Logic or ESS Technology.

However, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars for a player with a higher-quality DAC. Even moderately priced CD players in the $300 to $500 range have superior signal processing technology from top-shelf vendors. Spending more than this may get you more bells and whistles, but it isn't necessary for great-sounding music that's sure to please all but the most demanding audiophiles.

The Marantz CD6006 (Est. $500) proves this point admirably. It's named as the best entry-level CD player in the British tech publications T3.com and What Hi-Fi?, and Lifewire.com calls it the best single-disc player, period. All three reviewers agree that its Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC produces excellent sound. What Hi-Fi? describes it as "robust, full-figured delivery," though perhaps a touch heavy on the bass; T3.com, by contrast, cites the "sumptuous mid-range and highs that dazzle with detail."

Professional reviews also emphasize the Marantz player's excellent build quality. They say the front panel display is bright and clear, and T3.com calls the central disc tray "a joy to use." You can operate the player using the fairly standard array of controls on the front or with the remote control, which What Hi-Fi describes as "logical, responsive and decently hefty."

The Marantz offers plenty of options for music playback, too. In addition to standard CDs, it can handle CD-R and CD-RW discs with WMA, MP3, and AAC files. In addition, it can play any of these file types, as well as high-resolution WAV files, from an iPod, iPhone, or USB storage device hooked up through its front USB port. You can listen to any of these via a 2-channel analog output, digital optical and coaxial outputs, or a ¼-inch headphone jack with its own volume control. On the downside, some audiophile disc formats, including Super Audio CD (SACD) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A), are not supported.

User feedback for the Marantz CD6006 is limited, but generally positive. We found about 20 reviews for it at Crutchfield.com, with an overall rating of 4.8 stars. Like the professional reviewers, owners praise both its build quality and its sound, which they describe as deep and detailed, with crisp highs and a full, punchy bass. Many owners offer the comment that their discs have never sounded better. They also love the USB connector and headphone amp.

However, the player gets more mixed reviews at Amazon.com. Of the 30 or so reviews we found, about one out of every five complains of malfunctions: skipping, failure to recognize discs, finicky power buttons, and randomly stalling before restarting the CD from the beginning. Fortunately, the player is backed by a very good three-year warranty, but it's only valid if you buy your player from an authorized Marantz dealer. (A list of authorized dealers is available on the Marantz website.)

If $500 is a bit more than you're prepared to spend, the Onkyo C-7030 (Est. $150) is worth a look. Lifewire.com names it as a runner-up to the Marantz, and it also earns overall ratings of around 4.5 stars from hundreds of owners at sites like Amazon.com, Crutchfield.com, and BestBuy.com. Owners describe the sound as clean, clear, and well balanced, with plenty of detail. They also note that the player doesn't produce a lot of mechanical noise to obscure the music.

Like the Marantz, the Onkyo can play CDs, CD-Rs, and CD-RWs, but not SACD and other audiophile format discs. It can handle MP3 and WMA files, but not AAC, and it doesn't have the USB connector found on the Marantz player. In other respects, it has similar features, including easy-to use controls, a remote, and a headphone jack with volume control. Also like the Marantz player, it gets some complaints about reliability from owners, mostly involving skipping or a failure to play certain discs or certain tracks. We also saw several complaints about machines that broke down just outside of the one-year warranty.

Another cheap CD player with fairly good reviews is the TEAC CD-P650-B (Est. $150). This Teac player has one feature that sets it apart from the two players above: in addition to playing both discs and digital files via USB, it can transfer tracks from a CD to a USB flash drive. However, unlike the pricier Marantz player, it can't handle high-resolution WAV files.

Users at Amazon.com and BHPhotoVideo.com the TEAC player's crisp, full sound and its ability to play files from USB drives and Apple devices. However, like other players, it gets mixed reviews for reliability. While several users say it plays even scratched disks with ease, others complain that it skips tracks or refuses to read discs that other players handle with no problem. Overall, it gets about 4.1 stars from roughly 350 reviews at Amazon.com, which isn't quite as good as the rating for the Onkyo.

A universal disc player that does it all -- flawlessly

If you're equally serious about audio and video, a universal disc player can be a good investment. The best ones can play pretty much any type of disc or file -- 3D Blu-ray, CD, SACD and more -- at amazingly high quality.

The clear standout in this category is the Oppo UDP-205 (Est. $1,300). It gets a perfect five-star rating from HomeTheaterReview.com and a 4.5-star rating from TechHive.com, which says, "of all the players we've tested, this is the one we'd like to keep." It can play discs in any format, including 4K (UHD), and reviewers consistently say both video and audio quality are superb. HomeTheaterReview.com praises its sound for "exceptional detail, utter neutrality, and a laudable lack of coloration."

The Oppo also has the superior build quality and features you'd expect from a player of its price. Audio processing is handled by dual ES9038PRO Sabre Pro DACs – the flagship processor from ESS Technology, a line that's typically found in audiophile players costing thousands of dollars. One DAC is handles the 7.1 channel analog audio output, the other the dedicated stereo outputs, which have both RCA and XLR balanced connectors.

Reviewers say that the Oppo is a solid piece of machinery, paired with a hefty remote control that features a handy motion-sensitive backlight so you can easily use it in a darkened room. In addition to the aforementioned analog outputs, it offers coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, and dual HDMI ports, as well as a USB connection and a built-in headphone amplifier. TechHive.com says the on-screen interface is "easy to use and easy on the eye," with logical menu options.

If you plan on using the Oppo for viewing video as well as listening to audio, it's a top shelf performer on that front, too, with support for HDR (high dynamic range) and Dolby Vision. HomeTheaterHiFi.com remarks on its "phenomenal images," saying that watching the opening sequence of Pacific Rim on this player was better than viewing it in the theater. One thing it lacks, however, is built-in streaming apps such as Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon Prime. To watch these services through the player, you'll have to hook it up to a separate streaming media device, such as a Roku.

Format and file support is in line with what you'd expect from a modern universal player. In addition to UHD (4K) Blu-ray, it can handle standard Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, and audio CD. Supported audio file formats include AIFF, WAV, ALAC, APE, DSD and FLAC.

The Oppo UDP-205 has only a limited number of user reviews at sites such as Amzon.com and Crutchfield.com – about 35 across both– but its overall ratings are excellent. Owners say that in addition to providing great sound and picture quality, the Oppo is easy to set up and use, with loads of useful features. At the time of this report, we didn't find a single owner at either site who wouldn't recommend this universal disc player.

Still, while the Oppo's $1,300 price tag is "low end" for the audiophile market, it could be overkill times infinity for more casual users who appreciate good quality video and audio, but would rather not break the bank to get it. If you're in this category, the Sony UBP-X800 (Est. $250) is worth considering. This  universal player, like the Oppo, offers impressive disc format support, including support for audiophile disc formats like SACD and DVD-A. Audio file support, including high-resolution audio file support, is comprehensive as well, including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, DSD, FLAC, WMA and more. It also sports Sony's Digital Sound Enhancement Engine to "upscale" highly compressed, lower resolution audio files.

However, where the Sony parts company with the Oppo is that the UBP-X800 lacks its own DAC. Instead, it passes off the digital signals to another component, such as a home theater receiver or a stand-alone external DAC, for conversion to analog audio. In addition, as you would expect since there's no on-board digital-to-analog conversion, the Sony lacks any type of analog audio output.

Is that a deal killer? Certainly the lack of on-board digital-to-analog conversion and analog outputs will be a turn off to some (many?) audiophiles. However, in reality, those with an interest in high-quality audio are likely to already have components with good quality DAC hardware in their sound system. While opting for the Sony means that you will be relying on that rather than your disc player to define much of what you hear, that's a trade-off that many might be willing to make in exchange for a smaller price tag. The good news is that the Sony is capable of delivering every bit of digital data in a recording. Adrienne Maxwell at HomeTheaterReview.com had to fiddle with some default settings, but reports that once done, the "receiver used its internal DSD decoding to deliver SACDs at the full 2.8 MHz."

On the video side, this Sony universal disc player is an outstanding performer with support for UHD as well as standard and 3D Blu-rays -- and, unlike the Oppo, it has fairly impressive streaming service support, too. Most experts review the UBP-X800 as a video player first, and most come away impressed -- or at least mostly so. HomeTheaterReview.com gives the Sony 4.5 stars out of 5 for performance and a perfect 5 stars out of 5 for value. "In all respects, the player simply did what I asked of it, without misbehavin'," Maxwell says. "It never froze up on me, nor did it struggle with any disc type that I fed it -- be it UHD, BD, 3D BD, DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio, or CD."

CNET is a bit less enthusiastic, but still awards it 4 stars out of 5, saying it has "impressive build quality and video performance." Owners at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com echo these sentiments in over 900 reviews, saying the Sony player is easy to set up, loads discs quickly, and delivers a great viewing experience.

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