Who needs streaming and randomised playlists? Nothing can beat putting on a CD and listening to a great album from start to finish, and the best CD players take you on a fantastic musical journey.
While streaming undoubtedly has the convenience factor compared to physical media, many of us still prefer owning a physical object – something that digital files can't replicate. And that's why we still regularly review CD players and CD transports.
CDs are also enjoying a resurgence for the first time in over 15 years. According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), CD shipments in US rose by 47 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year (from 31.6 million to 46.6 million). It's still shy of the billion discs sold in 2000, and vinyl (and streaming of course) outstrip CD sales by far, but it's nice to know that those of us who never replaced our disc collection aren't alone.
CD players haven't quite increased in demand in the way turntables have, but some manufacturers still produce dedicated disc spinners (at both budget and high-end prices) to cater for CD fans and audiophiles alike. Many new all-in-one systems are starting to feature CD players alongside streaming starts, too.
So if you want to give your CD collection a fresh spin and are looking for the best disc player to buy, you're in luck. Every recommendation on this list has been thoroughly tested by the team of experts at What Hi-Fi? in our dedicated listening rooms. Each CD player has a star rating based on our test findings, so you can trust that when you make a purchase you'll be buying only the best.
How to choose the best CD player for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
What should you consider before purchasing a CD player? It's worth taking into account factors like DAC functionality, ease of use, controls and of course audio performance when making your choice.
More premium players will have better DAC chips and internal components, fewer errors and also support different optical disc formats (SACD alongside standard CD, CD-R, CD-RW, for instance). Some CD players even pack in wireless and streaming tech to turn your CD player into an all-in-one media system, and include a USB port so you can play 24-bit high-resolution files. It's up to you whether you want the extra features (which can be more expensive) or stick with a solid disc-spinner that will do the job well.
The other thing to consider is if you need an integrated CD player (one with a DAC built-in) or a CD transport (no DAC inside). Transports such as the Cambridge Audio CXC will need to use either a standalone DAC or the one in your stereo amplifier to handle the digital-to-analogue conversion before the sound reaches your speakers. The upshot of a CD transport? It puts all its concentration and skills on reading the CD disc. The downside is you'll need to make sure you buy or already have an appropriately skilled DAC to connect it to.
Or you can simply pick the player that's most closely aligned with your budget, system and preferred functionality. Do you prefer slot-loading or a disc tray? Does it have a display that can be read easily at a distance? Do you need Bluetooth, or do you have a large collection of SACDs that needs some love? Remember to set your budget according to the demands of the rest of your system.
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, based on its performance per pound quality. But be in no doubt that all the models below are fine choices.
Integrated CD players
This Marantz model has been around in various guises for a long time, and remains the best option at this price.
You'll need to go back a decade and four model cycles to find a CD6000 that looks notably different, which is why you might do a double take if you scroll down to the predecessor further down the list. Despite the typically excellent build quality, though, it's the insides where Marantz has made the improvements to their CD players count.
It has a quieter power supply and improved HDAM amplifier modules, helped along by a sprinkling of higher quality internal components, not least of which is the change of DAC chip to an AKM 4490. That chip allows the CD6007 to process high-resolution files through USB-A on front socket, supporting PCM music up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD128.
What does all that mean? It makes your music sound great. It's full of rhythm and drive. It's precise, clean and delivers for dynamics at every inch of the spectrum. Stereo imaging is focused and expansive, and there are even a few digital filters to tweak the sound to your tastes.
Owners of the CD6006UK needn't rush to change their player but the CD6007 is most definitely the right choice for first time buyers at this end of the market.
Read the full review: Marantz CD6007
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 CDi 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 significantly more to hear anything better.
Read the full review: Cyrus CDi
The Technics SA-C600 is an elegant all-in-one system with extensive streaming and connectivity (even an MM phono stage) that you just have to add speakers to – and it also has a talented CD player.
We like the tactility of the swivelling transparent CD cover on the top; it’s made of toughened acrylic and feels good to use. The SA-C600 proves an admirably consistent performer across the board, producing musically compelling results with CD as well as high-res files across our network.
It’s an expressive and punchy performer that builds its performance around a solid framework of surefooted rhythmic drive and expressive dynamics. Details levels are good, but it is the confident way this unit organises that information into a cohesive and musical whole that really impresses.
If all you're after is a CD player, then you might want to choose something more dedicated in this list that puts all its eggs in the audio basket. But if versatility is required and you want to stream your music services over wi-fi as well as spin records - and why not - then this Technics is worth your attention.
Read the full review: Technics SA-C600 review
Cyrus already dominated this list before the arrival of the CDi-XR, but its latest disc-spinner just reinforces the brand's domination of this category over the years.
The XR version sits above the Award-winning CDi (positioned above) in the grand scheme of Cyrus products. It looks quite similar thanks to the half-width casing but the LCD display is new and it's also been fitted with new control buttons.
Under the bonnet there's a second-generation 32-bit QXR DAC platform and a new power supply arrangement plus other tweaks designed to boost sonic performance.
Connectivity includes two pairs of RCA stereo analogue outputs, coax and optical digital outputs, and MC-Bus connections that allow an all-Cyrus system to synchronise things like power on/off. You’ll also find a socket for Cyrus's new outboard power supply unit, the PSU-XR £1995 (around $2770/AU$3740).
Sonically, the CDi-XR delivers detail, dynamics and powerful bass in spades. There's a fantastic level of clarity to the sound and it presents low-level information in a manner that rivals struggle to match. It's bursting with rhythmic drive, and can communicate the energy and momentum of the music effortlessly.
Read the full review: Cyrus CDi-XR
Despite being around for nearly a decade, the Roksan Caspian M2 CD is still going strong. It remains one of the best players at £2000 (around $2700, AU$3700). 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 back in 2014 (!) and still a terrific buy.
Read the full review: Roksan Caspian M2 CD
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 line level and coaxial outputs and no digital inputs 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
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
Note: A new version of this streamer-with-CD-player, the Technics SL-G700M2, has been announced, promising to deliver “a host of performance and sound improvements” including a new and enhanced DAC, better noise-reduction in the power supply and a USB-B input.
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
At £249 / $349 / AU$549, the NAD is one of the most affordable and appealing machines on the list, even though it doesn't boast a five-star rating. 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 are the standard stereo line level 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
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
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.
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
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
How we test CD players
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door – including CD players.
What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we listen to every CD player we review against the current leader in its field to gauge how it compares to the best-in-class competition. We keep What Hi-Fi? Award winners – like the Cyrus CDi – in our stockrooms so we can always pit new products against ones we know and love, and we do our best to review as many new models in as many markets as possible to ensure our contextual knowledge is the best it can be.
We are always impartial in our testing and ensure we hear every CD player at its optimum – connected to the appropriate kit and placed on a sturdy and level surface. We'll use them in their best use case with different partnering amplifiers and speakers, as well as play plenty of discs in different genres of music through them. Naturally, we give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in) too.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.
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