Time to give CD players equal time. I know, I know, vinyl purists are booing and hissing right now, but hear me out.
There are some good reasons to consider CDs: 1) Some music these days is only available on CD. 2) Recordings that were done 100% digital for CD sound better on CD than on vinyl. 3) CDs are cheap as ol’ chips. Then there is the DIY aspect of putting your vinyl on CD yourself for mobility and other reasons.
When CDs first came to market they weren’t very good, but believe it or not it was not so much the CD in and of itself as it was the players. Players have much improved over time. The first years of CD players were clunky and unrefined and yes, CDs sounded terrible on them. These days many advancements have been made in the transport sections, DAC, etc. Now your $100 CD players are still junky and clunky due to the cheap parts and designs used to build them, but once you get into the $400+ range you start to notice a difference and slightly better performance. When you get into the $1000 range things stand out a bit more. That said, some lower priced players (in the $400+ range) actually do the job pretty well. In fact, some can be used quite successfully as transports for connecting to an external high performance DAC if you’re not keen on the built-in DAC.
So let’s start with these two: The Marantz CD5005 and CD6006.
The Marantz CD5005: I myself run a Marantz CD5004 for CD playback. (Note:There is no difference between the 5005 and 5004, only the model number. The 5004 was merely last year).
One thing I noticed right away was the improvement in the transport. Sure it’s not a $3000 Teac transport, but it is much more solid than any other CD player I ever owned and I had a lot of them from the $100 to $200 range and they only lasted a year or two before problems started.
The CD5005 compact disc player features the reference class CS4398 24 bit/192 kHz D/A converter along with HDAM (Hyper Dynamic Amplifier Module) technology to deliver pure sonic performance. The center-mounted CD drive mechanism is compatible with music CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs, and the player features multiple file type playback capability, including MP3, WMA and AAC file types. In fact, having the drive mechanism mounted to the chassis in such a way is what improves the drive and makes it much more stable.
The CD5005 features adjustable pitch, which allows fine tuning of the tempo and the Audio EX modes can disable the pitch control, the digital audio outputs and the front panel display for maximum fidelity.
The CD5005 also has a discrete headphone amp with volume control built-in that will drive some of the tougher headphones out there. I had no trouble driving my AKG K7xx cans with it and only had to put the volume less than half way, any further would have been too loud. There is also not a whole lot of colorization with the headphone amp either, so you’re getting some purity.
The drive and drawer on this unit is of a slightly better quality build than you will normally find on other CD players. Operation feels solid and not flimsy or jittery. Transport seems very solid too. Load speed is about what one can expect, it’s fairly fast.
For more info: http://www.us.marantz.com/us/Products/Pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=HiFiComponents&SubCatId=0&ProductId=CD5005
The Marantz CD6006 is exactly the same except it has a convenient USB port on the front panel that works with many USB memory devices, and is iPod and iPhone compatible and it’s around $100 more than the CD5005. The new CD6006 is a fine-tuned version with even more specially selected components and new layout circuit compared to its CD6005 predecessor. Also added are more rigid feet to further eliminate vibration. The oversized power supply feeds the digital and analog circuitry of the player, where the high-quality CS4398 DAC converts digital signals to analog, this is then ‘pushed’ to the gold-plated synch outputs by Marantz’s own small signal amplifier, the HDAM-SA2. The CD6006 also features a newly developed, complex headphone amplifier with Headphone amp gain setting for a wider range of headphones.
For more info: http://www.us.marantz.com/us/Products/Pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=HiFiComponents&SubCatId=0&ProductId=CD6006
The latest addition to the new Marantz MusicLink series is the HD-CD1, a high-quality CD player in the same compact form as the HD-AMP1 amplifier. It’s ideal for use as a CD transport when used with the HD-AMP1, or as a CD player in any situation where a compact form-factor is required without any compromise on sound quality. Small it may be, but it makes use of state-of-the-art Marantz technology, including a high-resolution 192kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converter from Cirrus Logic, a high-accuracy system clock, and the famous Marantz HDAM-SA2 amplifier modules, as found in their flagship Reference Series CD players and amplifiers. A centralized CD mechanism, able to play MP3, WMA and AAC files as well as standard CDs, is also used for ultra-accurate disc-reading and, along with its analog audio outputs, optical and coaxial digital connections are provided. The HD-CD1 also features the stylish MusicLink design, with a solid aluminum front panel, double-layer chassis for vibration isolation and retro-style side panels. It also includes a high-quality integral headphone amplifier with adjustable gain to drive high-end headphones for personal listening and comes complete with a remote control for all its functions.
Overall, if you need a good CD player in the sub four digit area, this is a good start.