In recent years we could witness epochal changes in the field of music playback devices, once the undisputed domain of h-fi systems and CD players. On the one hand, there has been a great and partly unexpected recovery in the vintage sector with the exponential increase in sales of vinyl and consequently record players. On the other hand, digital music sources and music file databases have increased dramatically and are now available via any mobile device connected to the internet.
One event that has revolutionised the market is the increasing popularity of streaming music services, offering access to tens of millions of files available in online catalogues at an affordable cost. In short, CDs are indeed having a bad time, but they are in no way dead and could come back to life as vinyl has done with the turntable for some years now. Buying an amplifier and a cd player is still a valid option. If well coupled, with a pair of good speakers the sound produced is sublime and doesn't fear any comparison with streaming.
If you also want to enjoy maximum audio quality for your favourite tunes, the wide range of CD players available on HiFi-Tower are the right choice when looking for performance, practicality and value for your money. Continue reading to understand why using a good CD player is still the primary option to enjoy a crystal-clear sound for your favourite tunes, and get inspired by our wide range of radio CD players and stereo systems. Take a look at our product gallery, and find the CD player model that best meets your needs. Shop conveniently online, enjoying the support provided by our customer service, for any information related to the product and delivery of your order.
In the rapidly evolving scenario of music playback devices, you can still find classic CD players, which derive directly from the devices that were in use in the early 90s, although with some necessary technological updates. Considering the enormous availability of music, and the almost unlimited possibilities of listening to it almost everywhere, the main question when setting up your home hi-fi system is: does it still make sense to use CD players? The alternatives are, in fact, many, interesting and economically attractive.
The audio CD, despite the many valid alternatives, still survives, even if with some difficulties. One of the reasons is relatively straightforward: even after several decades from its release on the market, the sampling standard generally used for Audio CDs remains the reference for listening quality. The working standard for music sales remains the CDDA Compact Disc Digital Audio format with 44.1 kHz 16-bit sampling. The quality of the original Audio CDs is almost always higher than that of the various Mp3, Wav, WMA files. Other digital formats use data compression to reduce the memory space, thus lose quality and details in the music spectrum, which is simplified, reduced from a dynamic point of view, and not very suitable for a good HiFi system.
One of the main advantages of Audio CD over vinyl is the absence of wear and tear. Even after thousands of reproductions a CD, if it is not mechanically damaged in any other way, plays as if it were new, and it constitutes a permanent and almost indestructible archive of data. A vinyl, on the other hand, every time it is played, is slightly worn by the needle that mechanically removes the plastic molecules from the groove. After a certain number of reproductions, fortunately in the order of many hundreds, even using a quality turntable, the vinyl definitively and irreversibly loses the fidelity of the original sound, especially in the high frequencies. This simply doesn’t happen with a CD, and in the following sections, we try to explain why, and how the CD technology works.
Since its debut on the market in the early 1980s, the laser-readable digital compact disc (or CD) has been hailed as the greatest innovation in sound recording since Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, or since the introduction of stereophony in the early 1960s.
To understand digital recording we first need to have an idea of how old analogue recording systems work. On the well-known vinyl record, the music is recorded in the form of a continuous wavy groove, which is, so to speak, the "photograph" (the analogue) of the sound wave. When reproducing music, the turntable needle follows the groove, and the undulations of the track make it vibrate. These vibrations, in turn, produce a weak electrical signal that reproduces what the microphone picked up in the recording studio. The signal is then amplified, and that's the music!
Digital recording uses a different method. A digital recorder measures the signal strength at precise intervals - tens of thousands of times per second - and records the measured values in the form of numbers. These numbers are recorded in binary form - i.e. in computer language - as sequences of 0 and 1. The series of numbers is then processed by a computer and stored, usually on magnetic tape. For reproduction, the CD player reads the numbers and reconstructs a signal similar to the original. This signal is then amplified and, again, this is the music!
This process, compared to analogue recording, is less affected by the limitations of the equipment used for recording and production. This means less noise, less distortion and less incidence of other factors that degrade the quality of the recordings. Also, the information in digital form can be stored in a very compact format and can be easily traced. You could say that digital recording is the natural consequence of the union between a computer and a recorder.
Regardless of the model, all CD players consist of four main components:
During normal operation, the laser beam passes through the transparent polycarbonate layer, reflects the underlying aluminium layer and hits an optical sensor sensitive to changes in light. Flat zones and zones with alternating structural roughness (called bumps) determine the digital code consisting of several bytes. The movement of the laser on the data spiral is controlled by the Tracking System, which also precisely synchronises the rotation of the disc.
Modern CD players can read both pre-printed and recordable CDs in a similar way because they are based on the concept of reflected light, whether it comes from preformed support or a reflective area of a CDR.
There are many parameters to consider before choosing a CD player. As far as the price is concerned, lately, you can also find economical devices with good overall characteristics. However, remember that when talking about CD players, a robust and efficient mechanical part is very essential and, in the case of very cheap devices, the risk is that the mechanism will be worn out and not working in a short time.
As for the electronic part, DAC converter, processors, power supply, the differences between cheap and medium-high range devices exist, but are less marked than in the past. This is because the electronic components have decreased a lot in price over the years and have reached remarkable performances also for entry-level devices.
However, it is better to favour devices with advanced electronics, for example with data "upscaling" functions, which significantly improve the listening experience. Some of the CD players you can find on HiFi-Tower are also capable of recording directly to an external USB stick.
Optical or coaxial digital output is an interesting feature available in some CD players: this connection eliminates any distortion caused by analogue RCA cables, and the digital signal can be amplified with no subsequent modification due to the analogue pre-amplification section.
Sound quality is the most important parameter, and it can only be evaluated after purchase, so it may be useful to rely on reviews from other users or extensive testing by impartial technicians. Fortunately, in recent years the differences between DAC converters that determine sound quality have diminished due to progress in electronic components and lower costs. This means that, nowadays, low-midrange HiFi CD players can also easily meet the needs of the majority of users.
Among the accessory functions, the headphone output with a dedicated amplifier can be useful, which allows you to listen to the device with high-quality audio. Some CD players can read external USB sticks: using the internal DAC, designed following HiFi standards, even the playback of Mp3 files from USB can be enhanced and greatly improved. Finally, the already mentioned function to directly record the CD by converting it to Mp3 is a handy feature, allowing you to instantly transfer and store your favourite tunes on a USB stick.
The connection of HiFi CD players is not particularly difficult, and it normally requires just a standard RCA cables. Alternatively, it is possible to connect the device to a LINE or AUX input, or using the optical or coaxial digital connection, when available: in this case, you’ll just need a special coaxial cable, or optical digital cable, costing a few euros, and proceed to the connection through the appropriate inputs on the rear panel of the amplifier.
If you need to connect your CD player to a sound bar or home cinema system , the procedure is the same. No external preamplifiers are required as the CD player signal is always preamplified. The Bluetooth CD players that you can find on HiFi-Tower can be used to stream audios from smartphones, computers and other devices, but also to send the audio signal from the CD to wireless speakers, for the ultimate listening experience even without cables.