Best CD players 2018

Whether you want your disc-spinner to function purely as a transport, as a disc-player/streamer or as a multi-format do-it-all, there's a machine here to suit.

The humble CD player still offers high-quality audio that trumps a lot of the streaming services out there right now. Also there's something special about loading at CD before the show begins, right?

From clever slot loaders to more traditional machines, there are lots of options to pick from when deciding which CD player is best for you. Factors like DAC functionality, ease of use, controls and of course performance are all taken into account. This comprehensive list should have something to cater for every desire.

CD transport under £500

Best CD transport under £500

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Musicality and muscle
Well-built
Good remote control
Reasons to Avoid
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 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.

CD transport under £1000

Best CD transport under £1000

Cyrus CD t

This Cyrus CD transport delivers tremendous bang for your buck.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Superb, near-faultless performance
Exquisite detail, rhythm and precision
Backlit remote
Reasons to Avoid
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. Cyrus' Servo Evolution disc-reading software, from its £2,000 CD xt Signature, combined with enhanced internal circuitry, create 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. 

CD transport under £2000

Best CD transport under £2000

Cyrus CD Xt Signature

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Class-leading sound
Superb dynamics
Solid design and build
Reasons to Avoid
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. Cyrus claims its software offers 20 per cent fewer errors in disc-reading when compared to 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.

Money-no-object CD transport

Best money-no-object CD transport

(Image: © Chord)

Chord Blu MkII

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Exceptional insight and clarity
Well made
Upscaling
Reasons to Avoid
A little clunky in use
That price

If you demand nothing but the best then 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. 

CD streamer under £500

Best CD streamer under £500

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Dynamic, lively sound
Crisp detail
Smooth balance
Reasons to Avoid
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 £350 each, which makes this two-in-one machine extremely attractive. 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.

CD player under £500

Best CD player under £500

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Detail, dynamics and clarity
Surefooted rhythmic drive
Fine build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
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 an 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. 

CD player under £1500

Best CD player under £1500

Cyrus CD i

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Dynamic expression
Rhythmic ability
Entertaining listen
Reasons to Avoid
Dated display
Noisy loading disc

Cyrus hasn’t put a foot wrong with its CD players for as long as we can remember. It’d 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 heart 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.

CD player under £2000

Best CD player under £2000

Roksan Caspian M2 CD

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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

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

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

Money-no-object CD player

Best money-no-object CD player

Marantz SA-10

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

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy
Refined, informative sound
Fluid dynamics
Superb DAC section
Reasons to Avoid
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.

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.

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