The best CD players for classical music lovers
How do you choose the right CD player for your budget? Does your CD player have to be the same brand as your amplifier? BBC Music Magazine's audio expert Chris Haslam answers all your questions and recommends some of the best CD players for listening to classical music
Why are CDs a good way of listening to classical music?
The superior sound quality of a Compact Disc still puts it head and shoulders above most streaming services. And while pop and rock have almost entirely moved to digital, over 80 per cent of classical releases are on CD. Which means that it’s still important that you have a decent player. And upgrading will considerably boost your enjoyment of your discs.
How do you choose the right CD player for your budget?
How much you choose to spend depends on the system into which you’re plugging it, but try to budget as much as you did for your amplifier. Better-sounding CD players use higher-quality DACs (digital-to-analogue-converters) and boast more connections and features. You can spend £20,000, but back in the real world you can find superb options for £250-£350 from brands like Marantz, Cambridge Audio and Yamaha.
Digital displays show basic track information, but readability varies, so if you need a larger font, check before you buy. Also see if the display can be turned off, as some believe the digital ‘noise’ impairs sound quality.
Should you buy a CD player and an amplifier from the same brand?
All players come with a remote control but if you buy from the same brand as your amplifier, chances are the remote will be able to control both. Simon Freethy from award-winning audio brand Cyrus (cyrusaudio.com) offers his own advice. ‘It’s best if you select a CD made by the same brand as your amplifier,’ he says, ‘as they have probably been designed by the same engineering team, and the CD player would have been used as the reference source during the amplifier design – and vice versa.’
All players have standard (one-pin) phono sockets, but if you need to run a cable over a longer distance without reducing signal strength and your amplifier has compatibility, using balanced XLR connectors (three-pin) can improve quality.
Optical or coaxial digital outputs enable you to bypass the CD player’s circuitry and connect a separate DAC which can significantly boost sound quality. Some high-end CD players don’t have a DAC at all. Known as a ‘transport’ they just play the CD and rely on a separate DAC to turn the information into music.
Of course, all CD players play standard discs, but if you have home recorded mixes of MP3, FLAC or WAV files, check compatibility. A basic model will also be able to play Super Audio CDs but proper compatibility will extract the extra detail from these hi-res discs.
The best CD players on the market for listening to classical music
This classily designed player can get the best from your CDs and SACDs (Super Audio CDs), but it also streams music via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay and MQA, so it’s future proof and sounds exceptional. The price is steep, but it’s worth every penny. technics.com
The matching CD player to one of my favourite amplifiers – the Marantz PM6006 – is superb value and sounds more like a £500 player. And USB gives you digital convenience. marantz.co.uk
This excellent CD player has a 24-bit Delta-Sigma DAC and reads your CDs multiple times so you get more detail from the music, while the weighty metal enclosures and aluminium front panels reduce vibrations. henleyaudio.co.uk
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.