Best CD player Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best CD players you can buy in 2021.
Who needs playlists? Put on a CD and listen to a great album how it was meant to be heard – from start to finish. The best CD players allow you to enjoy that musical journey in a higher quality audio hit than most music streaming services.
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 you can feel confident picking the player below closest to your budget.
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
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
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
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 $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'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
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, 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
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