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.
A CD player still delivers a high-quality audio hit to outdo most other new-fangled online and streamed music services. And there's nothing quite like popping in a disc, admiring the album art and knowing that you can sit there and enjoy an entire album before searching for what to play next.
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. And with Black Friday around the corner, it's a good time to be keeping an eye out for bargains.
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, good looks 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 Award winner. To sum up, we think this is a great player for the money. 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
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.
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
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 new 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. It offers 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
Five years down the line, 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.
Read the full review: Roksan Caspian M2 CD
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.
Be in no doubt that the Marantz SA-10 is a brilliant digital source component and one of the finest disc players you'll probably ever come across.
Read the full review: Marantz SA-10
The Cambridge Audio CXC transport is an affordable way to listen to your CDs with precision quality that takes full advantage of an external DAC. Yup, you'll need your own convertor, but that's why you get this well built and attractive CD transport, which simply reads the data using its single-speed transport and S3 Servo, for under £500.
And 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.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXC
The Cyrus CD t is one of the best CD transports you can get, regardless of price. Cyrus's Servo Evolution disc-reading software, from its £2000 CD xt Signature, combined with enhanced internal circuitry, creates a performance that's difficult to criticise.
The audio is nuanced and subtly dynamic while offering deep bass with varied textures and precision throughout. The aluminium chassis design is solid and the backlit remote offers a great way to enjoy everything from a comfy chair.
Read the full review: Cyrus CD t
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. Cyrus claims its software offers 20 per cent fewer errors in disc-reading when compared with the best OEM alternative.
Expect astounding levels of detail and razor-sharp precision, where every subtlety is revealed and every leading edge accurately drawn out.
Read the full review: Cyrus CD Xt Signature
If you demand nothing but the best, you'll find it in the Chord Blu MkII. The design and build are stunning thanks in part to the brushed-metallic finish. This quality continues when the Blu's upscaler takes CD's 44.1kHz sampling rate to 768kHz. The scaling and processing in the Blu transport are done with the latest and most powerful FPGAs the company could get its hands on, the Xilinx XC7A200T.
And, partnered with a suitable 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. The Blu MkII undoubtedly delivers.
Read the full review: Chord Blu MkII
It's the only non-five-star CD player on the list but, at £249, it's the most affordable and we did say that these were CD players for all budgets, now, didn't we?
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, 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.
Definitely worth considering at this low price.
Read the full review: NAD C 538