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Best CD players 2020: CD players for every budget

What Hi-Fi? 6/2/2020 What Hi-Fi?
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Looking for the best CD player that your money can buy? You've come to the right place. Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best CD players and transports for every budget, whether at the cheap end or the premium.

There's nothing quite like the experience of an album and a CD player still delivers a higher quality audio hit than most other new-fangled streamed music services.

It doesn't matter if you want your disc-spinner to function purely as a transport, as a disc-player/streamer or as a multi-format do-it-all with a built-in DAC, there's a machine here to suit your needs.

From clever slot loaders to more traditional machines, there are CD player options galore. It's worth taking into account factors like DAC functionality, ease of use, controls and of course performance when making your choice. If you're not sure about all of that, then stay close and we'll guide you through. 

The CD players below are a comprehensive list of those we consider the very best. The nearer the top it is, the more we like it, but rest assured that all of them below are five-star winners.

1. Marantz CD6006 UK Edition

With a ton of detail, lots of dynamics and a beautifully clear sound, this is the best CD player available at anywhere close to this money.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Optical and coaxial digital, RCA | Dimensions: 10.5 x 44 x 34 cm | Weight: 6.5kg

Detail, dynamics and clarity
Surefooted rhythmic drive
Fine build and finish
Looks just like the 'ordinary' version

It's fair to say the Marantz CD6006 UK Edition dominates the entry-level end of the market. The production is demo-like and not only offers huge detail but also a tight, powerful punch. The solid build, precise controls and quality finish all make this look and sound like a CD player priced far higher than this is. 

The UK Edition is a specially tweaked version of the CD6006 for this country, and it replaces the original in the UK (though the standard CD6006 continues in the rest of Europe). Marantz has a similar upgrade for the partnering PM6006 amplifier. 

Not for nothing has it been a multiple What Hi-Fi Award winner. To sum up, we think this is a great player with the bonus of a USB input, which allows the connection of Apple products and USB memory devices. In our experience you need to move up to the likes of Cyrus’s CDi or Naim’s CD5si to get a proper jump in sonic performance. A bargain? Without a doubt.

Read the full review: Marantz CD6006 UK Edition

2. Cyrus CD i

Cyrus's best-sounding CD player to date sets a new standard for sound quality at this price.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Optical digtial, coaxial digital, preout x2 | Dimensions: 8.5 x 22 x 39cm | Weight: 5.72kg

Dynamic expression
Rhythmic ability
Entertaining listen
dated display
Noise loading disc

Cyrus hasn’t put a foot wrong with its CD players for as long as we can remember; it would be fair to say that its track record has been phenomenal. So it’s no surprise that the Cyrus CD i is another gleaming example of the company treading the right path.

The long, narrow aluminium chassis isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue, but underneath lies one of the best-sounding CD players we've heard at the money. We like the fuss-free design, easy to read display and high-quality remote (earlier SE models came with a rather plasticky affair). The slot-loading CD transport is a touch noisy when loading a disc, though as silent as you’d hope it would be during playback.

As for the calibre of sound, it's truly impressive for the money, offering buckets of detail and rhythmic precision. Pace and momentum is exercised with articulation and vibrancy. You'll have to spend closer to £1500 to hear anything better.

Read the full review: Cyrus CD i

3. Roksan Caspian M2 CD

This Roksan player boasts excellent timing and dynamics, making it one of our favourites.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Optical digital, coaxial digital, AES/EBU digital, RAC, Balanced XLR | Dimensions: 43.2 x 33 x 8cm | Weight: 10kg

Combines refinement, bite and rhythm
Sonic composure
Excellent build
Some may not like the revised looks

Five years down the line and counting, the Roksan Caspian M2 CD is still going strong, and it's still the player to beat around the £2k mark. The M2 CD has an immensely solid, well-damped feel that suggests it will be working for years to come. The softly suspended CD transport is an unusual touch, but it minimises the amount of vibration fed in to and out of the mechanism to the benefit of performance.

Speaking of which, the Roksan prefers a slightly smooth and full-bodied balance which helps give one of the friendliest and most likeable presentations we’ve heard at this price. Yes, this Roksan will resolve the tiniest detail. Yes, it will communicate the music’s message beautifully. But what makes it great is that it will make the best of any disc you feed it. Take the most compressed and hard-sounding recording you have, and the Roksan will reveal all that’s good about it.

It lacks digital inputs and there's no streaming capabilities, but what it does do is play CDs better than similarly-priced rivals. A What Hi-Fi Award-winner in 2014 and still a terrific buy.

Read the full review: Roksan Caspian M2 CD

4. Quad Artera Play+

Not just a great CD player, but a hub for your system.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: 2 x balanced XLR, coax, RCA | Inputs: 2 x RCA, 2 x coax, USB, aptX Bluetooth | Dimensions (hwd): 10.5 x 32 x 32cm | Weight: 9kg

Insightful and fluid sound
Agile and articulate presentation
Impressive range of features
Excellent build and finish
Nothing of significance

To call Quad’s Artera Play+ a CD player is to undersell its true capabilities. Think of this not just as a disc source for your system but also its hub. With analogue, digital and aptX Bluetooth inputs also included, this is a component of considerable versatility. Just add a power amplifier and speakers to complete the system.

It's a smart looking unit that's feels classy and superbly-made. Inside, you'll find the highly-rated ESS Sabre ES9018 DAC. This chip allows the unit to handle pretty much any file format out there from 32-bit/384kHz PCM all the way up to DSD 256. Sound is detailed and energetic, yet presented in an unforced and refined manner. 

If all you're after is a CD player, then you might be best to choose something higher up this list that puts all its eggs in the audio basket. But if versatility is required and you want to stream your services over Bluetooth as well - and why not - then you'll find nothing else around that comes close.

Read the full review: Quad Artera Play+

5. Musical Fidelity M2sCD

An agile and refined-sounding CD player

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Coaxial, optical, RCA | Dimensions: 10 x 44 x 37.5cm | Weight: 6.65kg

Clear, elegant vocals
Layered and expansive soundscape
Refined and musical across frequencies
Plays a little safe

The M2sCD is the firm’s most affordable CD player, sitting below the M3 and M6 models. Although initially launched at £799, some retailers are now offering the player for less and that puts it in a clever spot with the Marantz on one side and the likes of the Cyrus CDi and the Quad on the other.

There are no complicated features. It has a sleek, fuss-free design with RCA and coax outputs and no digital ins to think about. It's a player with a 24-bit Delta-Sigma dual differential DAC built in and nothing more.

Instead, your money goes towards a musical presentation that's refined and enjoyable to listen to. For those who like a smooth, musical, elegant and highly listenable sound, it’s a fine proposition – easily beating less expensive models for both breadth and clarity.

Read the full review: Musical Fidelity M2sCD

6. Technics SL-G700

A high-quality digital source that covers all bases and sings like a bird too.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Coaxial, optical, 6.3mm headphones, RCA, XLR | Inputs: Coaxial, optical, 2x USB-A | Dimensions (hwd): 9.8 x 43 x 40.7cm | Weight: 12.2kg

Excellent sound with disc and streaming
Impressive connectivity
Lovely build and finish
Can be clunky in use
Streaming app could be slicker
Headphone output not as good

CDs, SACDs, Bluetooth and music streamed over a network - this is a player for the 21st century. It's both Chromecast and AirPlay-enabled for easy connectivity and goes high quality on the wireless too thanks to MQA support.

Ergonomically, you can't argue with it. The precision controls and the silky smooth disc drawer feel top notch, even if it's a little squished up to one side for aesthetics. Likewise, the software for the streaming control isn't the best we've seen but it definitely gets the job done.

Fortunately, the functionality is rock solid whether from a disc or over the air and its sound is superb. It's nuanced enough to deliver the full emotional impact of vocals snd strings, and comes with enough weight in the bass to keep your tracks feeling big. 

Punchy and tuneful, feature-packed and fun: if you’re looking to buy a high-quality digital source that covers all bases, the Technics SL-G700 is a brilliant option.

Read the full review: Technics SL-G700

7. Audio Research Reference CD9 SE

Range-topping CD player with a valve-powered output stage.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Balanced XLR, RCA, BNC (coax), AES/EBU | Dimensions: 13.4 x 48 x 39cm | Weight: 15kg

Fluid and expressive presentation
Scale and dynamic subtlety
Digital inputs
Finish lacks sophistication
No DSD through digital inputs

Is there still a place for a truly high-end CD player this far into the age of streaming? Apparently so. With its top-loading design, valve-powered output stage and hefty price tag, the Reference CD9 SE is quite some statement.

Inputs are limited to 24-bit/192kHz at best and DSD isn’t even on the menu but, for CD sound, this is a hugely accomplished performer that sets sky-high standards for one-box spinners.

You'll of course need a top class system to truly appreciate its talents but stereo imaging is excellent, with enough spatial information to give an appropriate sense of scale to recordings. There’s just so much detail here and a nicely judged tonal balance, both of which help to create a top-class, highly transparent sound. It's a strong choice high-end choice for those who still love the humble compact disc.

Read the full review: Audio Research Reference CD9 SE

8. Marantz SA-10

Not outrageous money by high-end standards, but as accomplished a no-compromise CD player as we've heard.

Type: Transport | Outputs: Digital coaxial and optical | Inputs: Digital coaxial and optical, USB | Dimensions (hwd): 12.7 x 44 x 41.9cm | Weight: 18.4kg

Refined, informative sound
Fluid dynamics
Superb DAC section
iPhone compatibility is limited

If price isn't an issue and pure sound-quality is your focus, then the Marantz SA-10 could be the CD player for you. This impressive-looking box can handle pretty much anything you care to throw in its direction. That includes SACDs and FLAC, DSD128, ALAC, AIFF and MP3 files fed into the player via USB.

Playback is aided by Marantz's custom-built SACD-M3 transport and a brand new signal path and digital-to-analogue section called Marantz Music Mastering. The result is breathtaking sound quality with amazing attention to detail. We’re struck by the way the Marantz renders the instrumental texture and the subtlety with which it tracks small-scale dynamic changes.

The remote control feels more luxurious than most supplied with high-end players, and we're impressed by this CD player's casework – it’s immensely rigid and well damped. If it's within budget, the Marantz SA-10 is a brilliant choice and one of the finest disc players you'll probably ever come across.

Read the full review: Marantz SA-10

9. Cambridge Audio CXC

If you already own a DAC, you can buy this CD transport instead of a standalone player. Trust us, its sound will impress.

Type: Transport | Outputs: TOSLINK optical and S/PDIF coaxial | Dimensions: 8.5 x 43 x 31.5cm | Weight: 4.7kg

Musicality and muscle
Well-built
Good remote control
It requires an external DAC
Getting older now
Minimal for some

The Cambridge Audio CXC transport is an affordable way to listen to your CDs with precision quality that takes full advantage of an external digital-to-analogue converter. Yup, you'll need your own DAC, but that's why you get this attractive CD transport, which simply reads the data using its single-speed transport and S3 Servo, for under £500 / $650 / AU$1000. 

Using this separate bit of kit to do one specific job makes for better sound quality. There’s a real musicality here that can get lost on lesser players, with organic, fluid interplay between instruments. Although the CXC is restricted to doing one thing – it only reads CDs, not SACDs or MP3 CDs – it does that one thing very well.

It's a nicely made bit of kit too, with a machined -metal chassis that feels solid and a design than matches the rest of Cambridge's impressive CX range, including a streamer and integrated stereo amplifier.

If you already own an external DAC, we would not hesitate to recommend the Cambridge CXC over a standalone CD player. You’ll have to spend a good deal more than £300 to match the sound quality it offers.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXC

10. Cyrus CD t

This Cyrus CD transport delivers tremendous bang for your buck.

Type: Transport | Outputs: digital optical, digital coaxial | Dimensions (hwd): 7.3 x 21.5 x 36cm | Weight: 4.7kg

Superb, near-faultless performance
Exquisite detail, rhythm and precision
Backlit remote
Old-fashioned design and display
Requires external DAC

The Cyrus CD t is one of the best CD transports you can get, regardless of price. It's a CD transport, rather than a CD player, meaning it will simply read the data on the disc. You'll need a standalone DAC to handle all the digital-to-analogue conversion.

Cyrus's Servo Evolution disc-reading software, plucked from its £1750 CD xt Signature (below), combined with enhanced internal circuitry, creates a performance that's difficult to criticise. Sound is nuanced and subtly dynamic while offering deep bass with varied textures and precision throughout. 

The die-cast aluminium chassis design is solid and the backlit remote offers a great way to enjoy everything from a comfy chair. Connectivity is best described as 'minimal', with two digital outputs – optical and coaxial – and the standard MC-BUS control connections. 

Provided you own, or are willing to invest in, a good DAC, the CD t is an exceptionally talented transport for the money. Clarity and insight are unrivalled at this price.

Read the full review: Cyrus CD t

11. Cyrus CD Xt Signature

The Xt Signature transport sounds cleaner, crisper, and more dynamic than anything at the same price.

Type: Transport | Outputs: Digital optical, digital coaxial | Dimensions (hwd): 7.3 x 21.5 x 36cm

Class-leading sound
Superb dynamics
Solid design and build
Loud loading mechanism
Fussy about disc quality
DAC needed

At this price you get what you'd expect from the Cyrus CD Xt Signature and that's pure, clean and crisp quality audio. Improvements to the power supply, electrical noise levels and servo control software all make this a refined CD transport. Indeed, Cyrus claims its software offers 20 per cent fewer errors in disc-reading when compared with the best OEM alternative.

The design is solid and the design crisply rendered, although it doesn't quite feel as premium as you'd expect for this kind of money. It's also worth noting that it's fussy about disc quality and the slot-loading transport rumbles a bit (though it's silent during playback). 

Neither of those things really matter when you consider the astounding sound quality. The level of detail and razor-sharp precision, where every subtly is revealed, is hugely impressive. The Signature sounds cleaner, crisper and even more dynamic than its predecessor.

Offering the kind of performance we'd expect for double the money, the CD Xt Signature is a class-leader. If you want to hear how good your CDs can sound, and are happy to supply your own DAC, it's a terrific buy .

Read the full review: Cyrus CD Xt Signature

12. Chord Blu MkII

Chord's upscaling CD transport doesn't come cheap, but it sounds fabulous with the right DAC.

Type: Transport | Outputs: AES, BNC S/PDIF | Dimensions: 9.85 x 33.35 x 14.2cm | Weight: 7kg

Exceptional insight and clarity
Well made
Upscaling
A little clunky in use
That price

If you demand nothing but the best, the Chord Blu MkII CD transport could be just the ticket. The design and build are stunning thanks in part to the brushed-metallic finish. The level of quality matches the unit's impressive capabilities, including extreme upscaling. When playing CDs, the Blu will scale to 705.6kHz - but feed in a 48kHz signal from an external source and it hits the 768kHz limit. While upscaling CDs is nothing news, the Blu MkII does it delicately, without dulling any of the track's rhythmic drive or dynamic expression. 

Partnered with a suitable DAC, such as the company's brilliant DAVE DAC, the Blu MkII delivers a beautifully balanced and textured sound. Vocals have a wonderful combination of weight, warmth and, when required, power. Individual strands of songs are rendered convincingly with a huge sense of scale and an expansive soundstage. 

Quality costs, but those who think all CD transports sound the same are in for a shock. The Blu MkII delivers the most informative and enjoyable sound we’ve heard from the CD format.

Read the full review: Chord Blu MkII 

13. Cambridge Audio AXC35

Slimline, no-frills CD player, a capable contender

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Coaxial, RCA | Dimensions: 7.5 x 43 x 30.5cm | Weight: 4.3kg

Good detail resolution
Fits well within AX series
Minimalist design
Can be beaten for sound
Functional build
No optical output

With an asking price just shy of £300, the AXC35 CD player is actually the pricier of two compact disc spinners in this affordable Cambridge range. The inclusion of coax is the main difference but there's no optical out and no USB (for the connection of Apple products or USB memory devices).

Nonetheless, the sound is good. It offers plenty of scale, lots of subtlety and a good degree of dynamic fluidity too. The minimal design is slim and stylish, and you get a functional remote with a basic dot matrix display. 

In summary, this fuss-free CD player serves up enough detail and clarity to justify its entry into our rundown of the Best CD Players. However, it's up against the truly brilliant Marantz CD6006 UK Edition, which sounds better across the board and has the added bonus of a USB input. Still, if you prefer the AXC35 CD's slim and stylish form factor, this unit is a very worthy proposition. 

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio AXC35

14. NAD C 538

A solid CD player worthy of serious consideration.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Coaxial, optical, RCA | Dimensions: 7 x 44 x 25cm | Weight: 3kg

Informative and organised sound
Easy to use
Sound lacks sonic authority

It's the only non-five-star CD player on the list but, at £249 / $349 / AU$549, it's one of the most affordable and appealing. NAD seems to have followed the same style notes for decades, and the C 538 bears many similarities to its forebears. The transport mechanism works well with minimum fuss and not much noise. 

Once properly warmed up, the C 538 is a good, solid performer. It doesn’t set new standards for budget CD players, but it does deliver enough in the way of detail and clarity to keep most people happy. Stereo imaging is convincing too and the player’s soundstage remains solid throughout with instruments located with a good amount of stability. 

Round the back, there’s the standard stereo RCA analogue outputs augmented by coax and optical digital connections – the latter being essential if you want to use this player as a transport. 

A likeable all-round performer that isn't a class-leader, but for those who are keen on the NAD sound, the C 538 is definitely worth considering at this price.

Read the full review: NAD C 538

15. Onkyo C-N7050

This Onkyo has a foot in both camps, being both a CD player and music streamer. A truly versatile bit of kit.

Type: Integrated | Outputs: Digital optical, digital coaxial, RCA | Dimensions: 10.2 x 43.5 x 30.2cm | Weight: 6.4kg

Dynamic, lively sound
Crisp detail
Smooth balance
Limited app availability
Display lacks sophistication

The Onkyo C-N7050 undoubtedly has a wide appeal. There aren’t many products that can spin CDs and stream files from one box, and not for such an affordable price either. Our usual starting price for individual CD players and streamers is £300 each, which makes this two-in-one machine better value than it might seem and a very good buy - so long as you can find one.

Plug the Onkyo into your home network using the ethernet port. It connects instantly, and recognises all devices on the network without a hitch.

The Onkyo’s file compatibility is extensive. From MP3 and AAC to high-resolution 24-bit/192kHz FLAC and WAV (and 96kHz ALAC), the C-N7050 will play all popular music formats. It supports DSD files, too. The C-N7050’s sonic presentation is upbeat and smooth, but edges aren’t soft. It doesn’t make a fuss with file types, either, having a forgiving balance that makes the most of low bit-rate MP3s while still retaining enough transparency to make listening to 24-bit/192kHz FLAC files a worthwhile experience.

Read the full review: Onkyo C-N7050

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