For marrying vinyl-like sound quality with easily portable convenience, compact disc remains pretty hard to beat, even in these days of hi-res streaming.
Practically every album ever is available on it, you can easily rip it for home streaming and on-the-go listening and the discs are, if not indestructible, at least easier to care for than vinyl.
Just like turntables, you can pay almost as much or as little as you want for a CD player. To reflect that, we've picked our favourites at a variety of ever-ascending price points.
- Best record players/turntables for vinyl (delete according to your age)
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What is the best CD player?
For pure audio quality bang for your buck, the Marantz CD6006 is my favourite.
That said, as a package, Onkyo's C-N7050 is hard to beat. It's an excellent-sounding player, but also a fully-featured, hi-res-compatible home audio streamer.
How to buy the best CD player
Although this guide is arranged by price, in my view the sweet spot occurs around the £250 mark.
Of course, if you're a true audiophile, you'll want something far pricier to go on and on and on about, endlessly. And if you're more of a normal person you may well find you can get enjoyment from something cheaper.
The great thing about CDs is that they can be played on virtually anything that spins discs so in truth, dedicated compact disc players are now largely the preserve of a slightly more specialist crowd.
Unquestionably, you'll get superior sound from one, compared to using your laptop (assuming you've got one that still packs a disc slot) or console.
The best CD players offer sterling build quality with a variety of components on hand to make the most of the data on the disc. You'll need to plug it into an amp and speakers or a one-box speaker.
Practically all of the latter have a 3.5mm input but ideally you want to use something like a Naim or Master & Dynamic, which boast an optical digital input, to get the most out of your CD deck.
CD based music systems typically represent better value. Buy one of these if you want an all-in-one solution that also integrates network playback, streaming services and radio (be it DAB or Internet delivered).
CD playback is also a standard feature on Blu-ray players. Indeed, some of the best sounding CD players you can buy are actually highly specified Blu-ray spinners.
The best CD players in ascending price order
1. Teac CD-P650
Best CD player under £200
You don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for a credible CD player. The budget Teac CD-P650 is a full-size separate with decent Hi-Fi chops: the CD mechanism is centrally mounted to reduce jitter, while a Burr Brown DAC with 192kHz/24-bit resolution maximizes audio quality.
In addition to analogue and digital optical outputs, the deck could, conceivably, be coupled to a TEAC amplifier for unified system control.
A front-mounted USB input can play MP3s directly, or be used as an input for an iPod or iPhone, like it's 2005 or something.
Although old-fashioned, as this type of connection bypasses the analogue circuits of your portable device, you should get a quality improvement. There's a 6.53mm headphone jack, too.
The CD-P650 allows CDs to be ripped direct to USB sticks as MP3s, with a choice of recording bit-rates: 64, 96, 128, or 192 kbps. The deck will also play CDs burnt with MP3 files, like it's 1998 or something.
2. Marantz CD6006
Best CD player under £300
The 2017 iteration of Marantz’s renowned CD player features a number of refinements for even more superior audio playback.
Beneath the lid is a superb 24-bit/192kHz Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC, which not only makes the most of 16-bit CDs, but allows high-res WAV files to be played back via USB, in addition to MP3, AAC and WMA.
Build quality is fabulous, with the central disc loader a joy to use. Connections include a stereo analogue output – my preferred hook-up, given the quality of the DAC – plus digital optical and coaxial outputs. Audio performance is excellent, with a sumptuous mid-range and highs that dazzle with detail.
The cherry on this CD cake is a high quality 6.3mm headphone jack that's able to service serious hi-fi cans built for home listening.
3. Panasonic SC-All7CD
Best CD-based all-in-one system under £350
A member of Panasonic’s All multi-room audio range, the SC-All7CD is a CD micro music system aimed at the Sunday Supplement crowd.
Not just a CD player, it also rips discs to 4GB of internal storage as 320kbps MP3 or lossless WAV. Both these stored tracks and 'live' CD playback can be re-streamed to any other All speaker or soundbar you may have around the home.
I rate the SC-All7CD as a cracking compact music system. Behind the grille are five drivers: 2 x tweeters, 2 x 3-inch woofers and a subwoofer. There's only a modest 20W of amplification and there’s certainly a bit of a listening sweet spot, so positioning is crucial to stereo performance.
The bass can be a bit slow, but there's enough weight to propel both dance and rock tracks, and the sound overall is lively and engaging.
As an overall package this is hardly going to have the people at Sonos soiling themselves with fear but as multi-room systems with built-in CD go, it's number one in a field of not many.
4. Onkyo C-N7050
Best value CD player under £400 – and it's also a streamer
Not sure whether to buy a CD player or dedicated network streamer? How about a deck that does both?
This excellent value Onkyo is both a pukka high-fi and hi-res disc player and a well specified DLNA compliant network music player.
Buttons on the fascia allow you to switch easily between modes - CD playback, USB and Network. The CD mechanism is smooth and quiet, and build quality substantial for the price.
Musically the deck is a bit Roger Moore: smooth, confident and a little bit waspy (it's okay; this translates to a very enjoyable listen).
Outputs include analogue stereo phonos, plus digital optical and coaxial audio outs, with USB ports fore and aft; the one on the front being Apple iPod/iPhone approved.
File compatibility is excellent, with the C-N7050 happily playing 24-bit/192kHz FLAC and WAV, 96kHz ALAC, DSD to 5.6MHz plus MP3 and AAC.
There’s no Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to use ethernet, which is pretty infuriating, but there’s is an integrated internet radio service.
5. Cyrus CDi
Best audiophile CD player at around £1000
Three years on from its launch, the brand’s familiar half-size (215mm wide) die-cast case still looks highly esoteric.
Conran Shop-frequenting Monocle readers may be repulsed by its '1980s car stereo' design vibe, but it's enough to make any hi-fi fan’s heart flutter. Not that your discs will suffer a similar fate.
Behind the central CD slot loader – there's no tray, again like a car stereo – is the brand’s celebrated Servo Evolution disc reader which manages the entire electromechanical system in order to minimise error correction and ensure accuracy. A generous 32-bit DAC then does the heavy lifting.
There are standard analogue and optical and coaxial digital outputs, but if you want the full effect, splash out on a matching Cyrus 8a amplifier, in which case an MC-BUS connection unifies control. You can also upgrade to an external PSX-R power supply, if that's your bag.
In all, the Cyrus CDi is a glorious indulgence that will suck the very last milligrams of detail from your most beloved shiny discs.