Best CD players 2022: CD players for every budget

Best CD players Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best CD players you can buy in 2022.

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 allow you to enjoy that musical journey to the max.

How to choose the best CD player for you

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. 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 hub, 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.

Best CD players: Marantz CD6007

The latest iteration of Marantz's excellent CD player is the best option for first-time buyers on a budget. (Image credit: Marantz)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. With detail, dynamics and a beautifully clear sound, the CD6007 is the best CD player you can buy at this price point.

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading insight
+
More dramatic presentation
+
Excellent build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks like previous models

This is the best affordable CD player and probably the best model for most people.

It's been a winning option for many years, in various versions, and while it's business as usual on the outside (with typically excellent build quality, we're happy to report), it's on the inside where Marantz has made big improvements.

For starters, the CD6007 has a quieter power supply and improved HDAM amplifier modules. These are helped 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 the front socket, supporting PCM music up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD128.

What does all that mean? Great sound. It's full of rhythm and drive. It's precise, clean and delivers dynamics at every inch of the spectrum. Stereo imaging is focused yet expansive, and there are even a few digital filters to tweak the sound to your tastes.

Owners of the CD6006 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 Marantz CD6007 review

Hi-fi system: Technics SA-C600

A supremely talented CD-and-streaming all-in-one player. (Image credit: Future)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. A truly compact just-add-speakers system that shines

Specifications

Type: Integrated
Network: Wi-fi and ethernet
Inputs: RCA, MM phono, USB Type A, USB Type B, optical, coax, Bluetooth
Outputs: 3.5mm headphone, subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 9.4 x 34 x 34cm
Weight: 4.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Entertaining sound
+
Expressive and punchy dynamics
+
Well equipped
+
Good MM phono stage

Reasons to avoid

-
Setting up without the app is a bit clumsy
-
Line-level input could sound better

The Technics SA-C600 is an elegant all-in-one system with built-in amplifier, 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

Best CD players: Technics SL-G700

Combining disc spinning with streaming, this fun-sounding Technics is a fine option for your digital music library. (Image credit: Technics)
A high-quality digital source that covers all bases and sings like a bird too.

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound with disc and streaming
+
Impressive connectivity
+
Lovely build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
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 and 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 Technics SL-G700 review

Best CD players: Marantz SA-10

A superb player, this premium Marantz SA-10 shows off its tremendous skill with insight and dynamics.
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.

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 Marantz SA-10 review

Best CD players: Cambridge Audio CXC

If you're looking for an affordable way to play CDs in your system and already have a DAC, try this fuss-free CD transport.
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

-
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. Yes, you'll need your own DAC, but it's worth getting this attractive CD transport, which simply reads the data using its single-speed transport and S3 Servo, for under $650. 

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 Audio'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 this to match the sound quality it offers.

Read the full Cambridge Audio CXC review

Best CD players: Cambridge Audio AXC35

Cambridge Audio once again delivers if you're looking for a stylish, affordable and enjoyable CD player. (Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
Slimline, no-frills CD player, a capable contender

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Good detail resolution
+
Fits well within AX series
+
Minimalist design

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be beaten for sound
-
Functional build
-
No optical output

The AXC35 CD player is actually the pricier of two compact disc spinners in Cambridge Audio's affordable AX 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 and 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, 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 Cambridge Audio AXC35 review

Best CD players: NAD C 538

One of the most affordable CD players around, this NAD is worth a listen if you're on a strict budget. (Image credit: Future)
A solid CD player worthy of serious consideration.

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Informative and organised sound
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound lacks sonic authority

At $349, this is one of the most affordable and appealing CD players here. 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 NAD C 538 review

How we test CD players

At What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year at our state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, and some of those, inevitably, are CD players. We have complete control over our testing environment, and we test as a team of audio experts with a combined wealth of over a century of experience. 

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 also evaluate all the different features a player might support, and how easy it is to use.

It's important to us that we judge all products, including CD players, on a strict pound-per-performance basis, making sure to emphasize value and tell our readers how good something is for the money. Accordingly, we compare all products we review against similarly-priced class leaders to help us settle on the most accurate rating.

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the in-house review 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. As a rule, there's no input from sales teams or PR companies ever in our reviews, with What Hi-Fi? enjoying a sterling reputation of delivering honest, unbiased feedback for decades.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

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Kashfia Kabir
Hi-Fi and Audio Editor

Kashfia is the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and first joined the brand over 10 years ago. During her time in the consumer tech industry, she has reviewed hundreds of products, been to countless trade shows across the world and fallen in love with hi-fi kit much bigger than her. In her spare time, Kash can be found catching up with TV shows, tending to an ever-growing houseplant collection and hanging out with her cat Jolene.

  • MrMeaning
    What about portables? (Or are they considered beyond the pale?)
    Reply
  • Dan Sung
    Beyond pale in the face of PMPs loaded up with lossless music files. Both the size of the discman and the need for carrying around CDs is just too impractical. Besides, some of these players sound brilliant - https://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/portable/best-portable-music-players
    Reply
  • Sclafonz
    I paid $600 for a Marantz CD player and after 9 years it stopped reading CDs. The USB input still works great. I didn't expect the CD player to last forever, but at least 10 years. I didn't abuse it either. Once it was set up it never moved. It really wasn't used that often. A few times a week. I tried cleaning the laser, but no luck. Based on this experience I wouldn't buy a Marantz CD player. Perhaps it was just my unit and not a design flaw, but I wouldn't take the chance.
    Reply
  • sprachnroll
    Sclafonz said:
    I paid $600 for a Marantz CD player and after 9 years it stopped reading CDs. The USB input still works great. I didn't expect the CD player to last forever, but at least 10 years. I didn't abuse it either. Once it was set up it never moved. It really wasn't used that often. A few times a week. I tried cleaning the laser, but no luck. Based on this experience I wouldn't buy a Marantz CD player. Perhaps it was just my unit and not a design flaw, but I wouldn't take the chance.
    Same thing happened to me and I think I paid far more for my Marantz CD player. Still love CDs and SACDs and have never gotten into streaming, though my receiver is supposedly capable of it.
    Reply
  • DELBOY14
    Sclafonz said:
    I paid $600 for a Marantz CD player and after 9 years it stopped reading CDs. The USB input still works great. I didn't expect the CD player to last forever, but at least 10 years. I didn't abuse it either. Once it was set up it never moved. It really wasn't used that often. A few times a week. I tried cleaning the laser, but no luck. Based on this experience I wouldn't buy a Marantz CD player. Perhaps it was just my unit and not a design flaw, but I wouldn't take the chance.
    I have had a Marantz CD63 Ki for around 25 years, two years ago I put a new sled and laser in it and lubed the sled with dry PTFE, made an improvement and I am now using it with an Audiolab MDAC plus. Very pleased. Like all electrical components, some last some don't and it could all be down to the house wiring, the socket or plug or how stable your supply is.
    Reply
  • Peter Bailey
    I've eliminated the ones beyond my budget, and I've selected the ones with the features I need. I'd be interested in your preferences. Is the best at the top, or is the list somehow weighted according to purchase price? If it is how do I remove the weighting? I'd hope the best was No. 1, so the reader can work down the list based on budget.
    Reply