Unlike the Turntables and SACD pages here this page is not an attempt to empty the field of current manufacturers of CD players but rather to focus on the more interesting and/or unusual designs. There has actually been a slight pickup in the sales of mid end players recently, this is paradoxically in response the falling prices of DVD players but that has meant that there is a gap in the market for audiophile quality CD players that are not outrageously expensive, conversely a few manufacturers are actually discontinuing the manufacture of mid range CD players in favour of 2 channel, audio only SACD players.
Accuphase Released the DP-67 in late 2005 but no reviews of it have been seen so far, this is a high end model but it should be noted that the company's top of the line units are now all classified as SACD players and listed on that page, more info on the DP-67 here.
Alouette Audio Makes the rather good looking CDD transport, base mechanism is by Philips they have since added a full player version of this model called CDS that is only slightly more expensive than the transport only version a better picture of it can be found here (the transport and they player look identical), note that the English info page is down when this was written so the links are to the Dutch one.
ASTINtrew This company has a relatively recently introduced model called the AT3000, most distinctive feature is the presence of a valve based output buffer, more info here.
Audia Flight These have been getting a lot of good review in the mainland European and Scandinavian press lately, their flagship model is the upsampling CD One which features digital inputs that means that you can use it's DAC for your other digital devices, the CD one also has a novel take on the Philips Pro2 mechanism which is top mounted rather than use a sliding tray as usual, instead a motorised lid opens up when you insert a disk, this should mean a more rigid fastening of the mechanism in the long run.
Audio Research Has the CD3 player, a part of their "value line" at only 5000 USD or so, we have been told that the current version of this player is MkII but their is no info on the company's website to indicate this. This model was widely reviewed when it came out in 2002 that includes in issue 19 of Hi-Fi Plus (Sept), issue 2 of Hi-Fi News Magazine and issue 8 of iAudio, but none of those reviews is available online.
ARCAM Has a fairly large range of players and it is in fact their CD players that have kept the company in the news for the last few years, amongst the more interesting are the Diva CD73, an updated version of the 72 that was introduced earlier this year, it's a low/mid range player that has been getting very good press in the UK. Features include a 24bit Wolfson DAC and a chassis filled with Sontech sound deadening materials. The CD82 is a slightly older design but has a dual DAC configuration. The Diva CD93 has also been getting attention lately despite being much costlier than the CD82, it's upsampling player with quad DAC's on. Their top of the line model is the FHJ CD33, it has the same basic features as the CD93 but more audiophile components and the upsampling processor is more powerful.
Bow Technologies Makes high end CD players, namely the ZZ Eight and the Wizard they both feature a modified version of the Philips Pro CD transport but differ in converter technologies, in addition the Wizard has balanced analogue and digital outputs. Now the Eight is over 16 kg so make sure your back and your hi-fi rack is up to task, there is an archive of older reviews of the ZZ Eight here and of the Wizard here.
Burmester Audiosysteme Herr. Burmester's CD players are some of the best reviewed players in Europe for the last few years, the cheapest model from the company is the 992 followed by the interesting 006, now the 006 has extremely good upsampling processor and DA conversion circuitry and to allow you to utilise that with the rest of your digital equipment this player has 3 digital inputs, an unusual feature on a player, in addition to 2 digital outs and balanced and unbalanced analogue outputs. His best known player is the 001 however, that model is built around similar but upgraded conversion technology as the 006 but in addition features a top loaded patented belt driven CD transport and balanced digital inputs, you can get that same belt driven transport in a transport only version called 979 that sports no less than 6 digital outs of every conceivable type. The 969 transport is however considered to be something of a reference design, at some 30 kg it better be! It has built in power conditioners, stabilisation and acoustic suspension/isolation and all the things you have come to expect from a reference design and then some, and has no less than 8 digital outputs.
Cairn-Ezo Make the FOG 2 a tasty high end player that has 24bit converters and can optionally have an 24b/192KHz upsampling procesor added, has balanced analogue outputs.
Candeias Engineering Makes the high end Modelo CD transport based around the excellent belt driven CEC (Burmester licenced) transport, it's a massive heavily stabilised design that has a synchronised output for jitter free operation (i.e. Wordclock) along with a host of I/O options.
Carat Audio This fairly recently formed French company has a high end CD player out called C57 that has been gaining some interest, more info here (in French).
Cayin Makes the CDT17, a player with upsampling and convertors that support 24 bits @ 192KHz, main claim to fame is the output section but it gives you a choise between a valve and solid state output .
CEC This company licenses the belt driven transport from Burmester Audiosysteme and makes a range of transports and players based around it, while none of the company's product could be called a budget design they are at the least much more cost effective than the original. Also noticeably the company has a propriety digital transport connector that eliminates sync and jitter problems and probably explains why they are much keener on separate transports and DAC's than most. It's main player product is the TL 51 Z Mk 2 which features an upsampling converter with a whopping 24bit 356KHz capability, it's a modular design so you can upgrade the unit at a later date and it comes with balanced and unbalanced digital and analogue outputs. The Japanese market also get the CD 3300 that is a much cheaper model featuring a normal transport but most of the other niceties of the TL 51, and also the CH 7700 which is a 5 disk crousel CD changer and one of the last of these to have any audiophile pretences.
The CEC transports start with the Flywheel equipped TL 0 Mk2, it has a very sabble construction, more like high end turntable than a CD player and balanced digital outputs in addition to the more usual. The TL 1 X is an updated version of their first belt driven transport, also flywheel equipped and heavily stabilised, the TL 2 SL is a cheaper variant of the TL 1 that keeps all the main features but has a less costly base it has just been updated to a TL 2X MkII, the cheapest transport the company makes is the TL 51 wich is basically the same as their TL 51 Z player without the DAC, it has the belt driven transport of the other models but not the flywheel etc, all of their models feature the CEC Superlink™ and balanced digital outputs in addition to the more usual SPDIF ones.
Copland Has the CDA 822 high end player with an upsampling 24bit converter, great reviews in the USA and UK hi-fi press.
Creek Audio Makes the CD 50 a recently introduced model that we have not had the pleasure of listening to but it has a high res master clock that is an improvement over the model it replaced and a bitsream DAC, and the high end CD 53 model that looks similar to the cheaper model and indeed is based around the same transport and DAC but not only features balanced outputs but ALL of the analogue portion of the player is balanced.
Daniels Audio Makes the Zero-one range of high end players and carousel type changers, that according to the blurb have advanced dithering on the analogue side of the DAC. All their models use a high endPhilips transport.
Dantax Makes the CD-210, a low budet standalone product, one of the few such still on the market.
Densen The company manufactures the B-400XS and B-400 Plus players, they are developments of the B-400 that was introduced in 1999 and was the first CD players out there that attempted to fight jitter with any seriousness and with something more than just a quality clock circuit. They contain an extra microprocessor and memory for the sole purpose of handling and correcting the transfer of data from the transport to the DAC in order to minimise jitter and similar data transport errors. The new version have upsampling in addition to this, rave reviews in Scandinavia and the UK, some of the best reviews I have seen for a CD player actually. transport is a Sony mechanism that uses glass materials instead of plastic.
Eastern Electric Makes the MiniMax, this is one of the new breed of Asian players that feature a valve based output stage, not as well specified as some of it's Chinese counterparts, but not as dear either, more info here.
Electrocompaniet Makes the EMC1 a high end player that has an isolation system similar to that of a suspended record player, the newest version of the player has a 24bit 96KHz DAC and this converter can apparently be retrofitted to older versions of the player.
GT Electronics Makes 2 players, the NC750V and the upsampling/24bit 96KHz KC1, the KC1 in particular has got great reviews in the British audio press albeit .... ehrm .... how can I put this .... under well known British high end hi-fi brands which may have influenced the reviewers a bit (god forbid), but in those markets were you can get this models from the original manufacturer they are relatively cheaper than the rebranded models and thus audiophile bargains.
Hegel While not as well known for their CD players as for their amplifications product the company has a couple of high end products in their lineup, namely the CDP2A and the CDP4A.
Kenwood No longer makes stanadalone units but does manufacture CD changers in the form of CD-404 and CD-406 5 disk changers and the CD-424M 200 disk troll.
Krell Makes the high end KPS 25sc, a player with an impressive range of features and a price tag to match, originally introduced in 1999.
LFD Audio Makes the Minstral player, it uses a Sony transport and has a high quality analogue electronics and power supply.
Linn Manufactures 3 players currently, the Sondeck CD12 is their high end unit, the company claims is the worlds best CD player and it may well be, then again they say that their outdated LP 12 is the worlds best record player, extremely expensive but has been upgraded recently with upsampling and related features. At more down to earth prices you can find the Ikemi that sports an balanced and unbalanced analogue outputs along with both optical and coaxial digital ones, an optional RS232 and a 24bit DAC but unusually for a player in this price class, no oversampling. The cheapest player from the company is the Genki which has similar specs, looks and options as the Ikemi but only unbalanced outputs. More info from the horses mouth.
Luxman Manufactures the D-7 Custom, a high end CD player that is not widely distributed outside of Japan, it has balanced analogue and digital outputs, apart from sounding rahter nice it looks much better in the flesh than you would judge from the picture supplied, almost imposing while still being relatievly wife friendly.
Marantz The company still has a couple of dedicated CD only models in their range although they have moved most of their mid and high end range of players into SACD territory, both their CD players do have a couple of unusual features like pitch control suggesting that they share control electronics with the professional range.
Their “budget” CD player is the CD5004, it supports the playback of Compact Disk Recordable and CD-RW disks with MP3 and WMA in addition to the usual, it also has a couple of audiophile features not often seen at this price point including digital electronics defeat and discrete electronics in the buffer amp rather than an op-amp. The unit has optical and electronics S/PDIF outputs in addition to a line level analogue outputs and a Marantz specific remote bus, is in general quite well specified at the price. When this was written in July 2011 the USA RRP was 349.99 USD, the UK list was 229.95 and on the mainland it varies between 280 and 350 Euros depending on VAT rates and so on but the UK retail price hoovers from 170 to 200 pounds and from 240 to full RRP in the USA. Reviews of the unit have in general been very favourable and you can find one by Stereophile here and a user review from hifi-reviews com in addition to some Youtube marketing blurb by Marantz USA.
The second up in line is the CD6003, the primary difference between it and the cheaper CD5004 is that the 6003 has an iPod capable USB port that supports the playback of AAC and WAV files in addition to the MP3 and WMA that the 5004 can candle and is unusually enough capable of charging USB devices, in addition to that the 5004 uses a CS4392 while the 6003 uses a CS4398 DAC chips, the 4398 being the top of the line model from Cirrus Logic and sports considerably better audio specifications than the 4392. RRP in Europe was 370 Europe when it was initially introduced in 2009 but has gone up a bit and varies somewhat between VAT zones but retail prices here in the UK go as low as 250 UKP. A review by What hifi is here and a review by Australian electronics magazine Silicon Chip is partially here, in addition the 6003 was voted the best CD player under UKP 500 by What Hifi in both 2009 and 10.
Both 5004 and 6003 are available in the classic Marantz brown/silver and in black as well in most markets, frankly black does not suit the player, and in bigger markets you can also order them in gold and silver to match the rest of your system.
Meridian Has a host of CD players available, most of them are high end stuff, more info on their CD home page.
Metronome Technologie This company is something of a CD specialist and has for the last decade or so put out some of the more interesting designs out there, not the least visually. The T1i Signature is their best known player, it is basically an upgrade of the Metronome T1i and shares the same basic specifications but has the 24/96 upsampling board as standard rather than as an option and the analogue portion of the T1i Signature's circuitry has been put on a Teflon based PCB. The T1i Signature Transport shares the same specifications as the T1i Singature but has an upgraded motor spindle, and no analogue outputs obviously but all of the same IO and upsampling options are available. The T2i Signature CD is basically the T1i Signature with the heavy duty spindle mechanims from the T1i Sig. Transport while the T1A Signature transport is a variant of the T1i Signature Transport with a heavy duty outboard power supply. The top of the range model from the company are the Kalista and Kalista Reference CD transports, they are basically the T1 transport line taken to it's locical conclusion with both structural enhancements such as an open frame casing construction and a new external power supply in the case of the Kalista and a battery drive in the case of the Reference in addition to tweaks such as a ground connection for the CD, an anti-resonant clamp made out of composite materials and an upgraded motor spindle construction, the Kalista Reference also has a more massive base plate. It's externals have also been much admired, so much so that a numer of Asian top loaded high end designs that have come out in the last coule of years are, well ... if not copies the at the least shall we say "heavily influenced". The company replaced much of their lineup in 2006 with the CD3 Signature, CD3-T Signature transport, CD4 Signature and CD5 Signature models but no technical information on them had been released when this was written.
Monrio Manufactures the high end player called Atsy in 2 variations, the plain PL that simply stands for player and features a 24bit dac and a separate power supply for the analogue and digital sections, and the upgraded HP player, HP standing for High Performance, is a variant of the PL with a built in superclock and jitter reducing electronics, my understanding is that the PL version can be upgraded to a HP version at a later stage.
Musical Fidelity Makes the Nuvista 3D player, a high end unit that has a filter unit based around Nuvistor microvalves.
Music Hall Audio Makes the CD 25 which is one of the last examples of a dying breed, the resonably priced CD player with audiophile pretensions. It features a good quality transport in the form of the Philips CDM 12 and a 24bits capable DAC although not with any upsampling capabilities, only sold in the USA though.
NAD Makes the C520 player, a fairly low priced model intended to mate with their C320 amp, introduced in 1999 and has a Sanyo CD transport with a Burr-Brown 20 bit delta/sigma converter and sports a coaxial digital out.
North Star Design Makes the simply gorgeous Model 192 top loading CD transport, although it features both S/PDIF and AES/EBU balanced digital outputs to make the most out of it's internal high resolution clock, 24bit/192KHz upsampling feature and it's re-clocking circuitry you are supposed to mate it with a D/A converter from the company (or compatible) and use I2S digital link that carries both 24bit audio data and a timing signal.
NVA Makes 2 CD players in the form of the CD30 and the CD50, both are high end devices designed around a modified Philips transport, the main difference between the 2 appears to be the power supply arrangement but the CD50 has a separate supply for the digital and analogue sections. More info here.
Polyfusion Makes a high end CD player and an D/A converter to go with it.
Rega Currently makes the Planet 2000, a mid range CD player based around a professional top loaded transport and a custom 24bit DAC.
Rotel Makes the RCD-991 unit that was introduced in 1999 and has had great reviews.
Reimyo Makes the very impressive Reimyo CDP-777 player, it's something of a monster as it features no less then 4 power supplies (one for each section of the player), upsamples to 176.4kHz @ 24bits and the converter is 4x oversampling, balanced analogue outputs and has got great reviews around the world.
Resolution Audio This American CD specialist makes one model of a CD player that has been getting very good reviews.
Roksan Makes the Caspian high end player and the Kandy that is in the upper reaches of the mid end, these 2 are quite reasonably priced in the UK but difficult to get hold of elsewhere.
Sony When it comes to CD players Sony is on a roll, a host of excellent players have been emanating from the company in the last few years especially in the lower reaches of the market, and interestingly the company has decided to have many of their mid range models different from market to market in a bid to make their product more acceptable locally. There has noticeably been a range of players intended for the UK market that have been designed to deliver the dry and flat sound that the English love so much (apparently the breed only listens to chamber music and the Smiths or equivalent).
Stein Music This company makes a high end CD player with valve based filtering, but more interestingly they make the parts of their players available as modules for those that want to tinker with building their own and it's one of the few shops that will sell you the Philips CD drive unit at a reasonable price. (the drive unit/transport is the same unit as most mid/high end manufacturers use to construct their players, it's actually a full CD player uncased and is slightly smaller that a CD-rom drive).
Stello Has the CDT2000 high end Cd transport but also have recently announced a new standalone CD player in the form of the CDA320.
TEAC Teac makes the CD-P1120 model, one of the products from the company that are optionally rackable and have a feature set that falls between that of their Teac consumer players and the Tascam Pro range, it has a rather old fashioned 8x oversampling DAC. The CD-P1440 is more expensive and has features that will probably not be of use to the average consumer or audiophile such as variable pitch control, same DAC as the cheaper model.
Thule Audio Has a small range of mid/high end CD players, the Sprint CD150B model sports balanced outputs and upgradeable electronics.
Yamaha Corp. Offers the CDX-397 a low/mid end player with an oversampling feature, fairly basic in other respects but keenly priced, the CDX-497 is basically the same unit but has support for discs with MP3 and WMA encoded audio tracks on them.
3D Acoustics Sells the futuristic Omega Drive player, it sports a valve output stage, it's a UK variant of the Shanling CD-T300 and while extremely good looking the designer perhaps spent too much time looking at the Metronome Kalista.
47 Laboratory Makes the lovely (and expensive!) 4704 PiTracer CD transport, it's an open design (almost a turntable) that has the laser pickup on top. A difficult unit to build so every unit is hand assembled by Kimura-san himself, and has got great reviews left right and centre even if some reviewers have balked at the price. The company has since introduced the Flatfish CD player and the cheaper Shigaraki transport.
In the age of the disposable hard disk the CD changer is something of a dying breed, there are however some models still being made but they are increasingly made by Japanese companies specifically for the USA market. The main niche for CD changers these days is actually sound system installations which explains why so may of them feature an RS232 port which allows them to be controlled by specialised equipment and other I/O unusual for a CD player. There are 2 primary types of CD changers in the form of the Cassette changer and the Carousel, in the case of the cassette changer an x number of disks are stacked into a cassette, which is then inserted into the changer, a mechanism retrieves a CD from the cassette and places it into a transport identical to that of a normal CD player, the cassette is typically removable but in some cases you stack them directly into a section of the unit. A carousel changer is identical to a normal CD player except in place of a normal tray there is a large tray with a rotating circle (carousel) that can accommodate 3 to 6 disks, the changer rotates the circle so that the desired disks is placed above the disk transport.
The main advantage of a cassette changer is the large amount of disks it store, with the average holding about 30 disks and some models accommodating up to 200 disks, the disadvantages are that the disk retrieving mechanism is less reliable than that of a carousel and it is for that reason that the latter are more popular in sound installations, in addition the carousel is quieter, much quicker in changing disks and there is little effect upon the transport from the changing mechanism, the more complex cassette mechanisms can however have an effect upon the transport and thus the sound.
Yamaha Corp. The company has one 5 disc carousel changer still in their catalogue named CDC-697, this model has extensive programming capabilities in addition to an RS232 and in keeping with it's emphasis for background and install market pretensions it has features that allows the unit to play music uninterrupted and the analogue output is variable as to allow it to mate better with unusual equipment.
Professional CD players are intended for the broadcast and sound reinforcement industries mostly and have features such as balanced outputs, buffers, pitch controls, advance control circuitry and I/O for remote control and automation purposes. Most of them also feature better transports than are shipped with the average home player (although those Pro Transports are often seen in high end audio as well).
APart Makes the PC1000R, it is primarily designed for use in audio installations and supports in addition to CD playback the usage of MP3 and WMA files on CD disks or FAT32 formatted DMA capable USB drives or SD cards, more info here. Fully controllable via an RS232 port and unusually enough duplicates the USB and SD ports on the back. The company also offers multi sound sources for pro usage that also offer CD playback capability as an option (Tuner/CD/MP3/DAB combi sound sources).
Denon The recently introduced DN-C615 is one of those newfangled professional players that support MP3 playback, it offers -+12% pitch control and some programming options but is otherwise pretty pedestrian, also newish is the DN-C635, it's basically the same deck as the 615 but adds autocue, fader start, balanced outs. programming features and RS232C and parallel interfaces, in other words the 615 is for your dance class instructor while the 635 if for the broadcast professional. The DN-951FA & DN-961FA are narrow chassis tabletop workhorse broadcarst/professional/DJ players with extremely stable transports, and the usual gamut of analogue and digital balanced output, host of automation and cueing options with the obligatory parallel and serial control interfaces, the only difference between them is that the 951 is a cart player while the 961 is a conventional tray loading version, there is also a standalone variant of the 961 distributed in Asia named DN-961FA-S, and while the conventional 961 is one of the smallest pro players out there the S verion has to be the biggest.The DN-680 is the company's top of the range rack mountable unit it has basically all of the features of the 635 here above excluding the MP3 playback option and adds a host of automation and control functions such as auto space and auto edit, it has advanced error correcting abilities such as being able to play CD's with an unreadable or corrupt TOC, a jog wheel, it also has optional internal sampling rate converters and a SMPTE synchroniser. The company also recently added a pro-spec 5 disk changer to their lineup, the DCM-280 & DCM-380 that has an unusual feature in that while you are playing one disk you can swap the other 4 out, the difference between the 2 models is that he 380 supports HDCD playback, has a remote control I/O and better converters. Finally Denon introduced in 2003 2 decks that integrate a CD player and a cassette recorder, namely the DN-T625 and the DN-T645 both seem to share the basic cassette and CD mechanism with features such as balanced I/O synchronisation bus, serial port and a 10 second playback buffer but the DN-T645 adds more advanced controlling functions such as a parallel port.
Marantz Makes the PMD-320 it has +/- 12% pitch control and fader control input, the PMD 325 however has in addition a RS232C input, balanced output, support the playback of MP3 disks and offers a host of neat functions such as support for the playback of unfinished CDR and CDRW disks. The PMD 331 is more broadcast oriented with features such as AMX/Crestron compatible control protocols, jog wheel and a heavy duty transport, the PMD 340 is a variant of the 331 with balanced outputs. The PMD 371 is a programmable 5 disk changer with some interesting features such as allowing you to change disks while it's playing.