British hi-fi journalist Paul Rigby, aka “The Audiophile Man,” recently posted an insightful video on his YouTube channel about CD players. The video includes recommendations of CD players at various price points.
You may be wondering, “Why should I bother with a CD player when disc sales have been declining for years and streaming and vinyl have become the preferred formats? Isn’t CD dead?”
Not even close.
“Believe me, CD has legs,” Rigby said. “In sonic terms, it ain’t finished yet. Right now, I prefer to listen to CD than streaming and other digital sources. CD done well sounds far better.”
For starters, worldwide CD sales remain in the hundreds of millions, including 45 million sold in the U.S. in 2019. Rigby reminds us that is equivalent to sales figures from 1986, and off from CD’s peak sales year of 1 billion units in 2000. Impressive numbers, nonetheless. Rigby goes on to quote a recent BBC article that claims there are over 200 billion CDs currently on planet earth. As he notes, “That’s. A. Lot.”
Rigby explains there’s a big difference in quality between a mass-market player and one that is specialty and niche, which is the market CD is entering. Because CD technology is nearly 40 years old, it’s had time to mature and improve. He believes that, now that CD is a specialty product and untethered from mass-market profiteering, it will continue to improve. According to Rigby, in comparison to streaming, the current technology darling of “the pinstripes,” CD is far more reliable and consistent.
“CD should be hitting its sonic peak around now,” he said. “As for streaming, well, it’s hardly out of its nappies.” [Editor’s note: “nappies” are diapers in Britain].
In recent years alone, Rigby has seen improvements in the quality of CD transport technology (ie, the laser and servo parts), DAC technology, pre-amp technology, as well as better noise-reducing chassis designs. In general, the more you spend, the better the performance, Rigby said, adding that new tends to be better than secondhand in regard to sonics.
Nowadays, you don’t see as many budget-line CD players. Budget players tend to be inexpensive DVD or Blu-Ray players that will also play audio CDs.
Said Rigby, “Because dedicated and specialty CD players are no longer mass-market, the design is now more considered, careful and precise. Today’s CD players are being built with sound quality in mind.”
You’ll want to watch Rigby’s YouTube video below to learn many interesting things about CD. In particular, he hips us to the surprisingly consequential nature of the center hole in the disc itself. A fascinating bit of sonic minutiae.
For a deep dive into CD technology, including more fascinating sonic minutiae, Rigby also directs us to a 1990 piece in the audiophile journal Stereophile, in which digital-audio expert Robert Harley discusses CD technology and the tweak culture that emerged. Read Harley’s article, which was reprinted in 2004.
Rigby recommends the following players in order from least to most expensive:
- Audiolab 6000CDT
- Rega Apollo
- Icon Audio CDX1
- Quad Artera Play+
- Roksan K3 CD DI
- Leema Elements
- CEC TL5
- Luxman D-03X
- McIntosh MCD600
Know a great new CD player? Rigby encourages viewers to recommend players in his video’s comments section. Click here to visit Rigby’s website. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Watch the full video below: