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Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

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.

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 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 the below are superb products.

Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

(Image credit: Marantz)

1. Marantz CD6007

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

Look familiar? Hardly surprising – you'll need to go back a decade and four model cycles to find a CD6000 that looks notably different. 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.

Sonically, it leaves nothing wanting. 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

Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

(Image credit: Technics)

2. Technics SL-G700

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 2021: CD players for every budget

3. 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.

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 2021: CD players for every budget

4. 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

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. 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 / $650 / AU$1000. 

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

Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

(Image credit: Dixons)

5. Marantz CD6006

It might be old, but it's still an excellent affordable CD player.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy

Big sound
Good timing and focus
Fine build and finish

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more detailed

The CD6006 is a little old now – we first reviewed it back in 2016 – but it's still an awesome buy. The production is demo-like and offers a tight, powerful punch. The solid build, precise controls and quality finish all make this look and sound like a CD player priced far higher than this is.

Inside is a high-quality, high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC that’s capable of dealing with better-than-CD-quality digital files. It can be accessed via the USB input, so if you’ve any hi-res WAV files on a USB stick then the 6006 can becomes a hi-res audio player. The USB will also handle (lower quality) MP3, AAC and WMA files, as well as being a direct input for Apple devices.

The headphone output is also very well specified – it’s compatible with a wide range of headphones and headphone impedances – and is far from an afterthought, as on some rival players. An oldie but a goodie.

Read the full Marantz CD6006 review

Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

6. Cambridge Audio AXC35

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 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

Best CD players 2021: CD players for every budget

(Image credit: Future)

7. NAD C 538

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 £249 / $349 / AU$549, 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

  • 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