United Kingdom

Spotify and its ilk make it easier than ever to spread the full musical story, but all those audio files are compressed to tiny sizes and end up lacking in warmth and richness. There’s a reason audiophiles call it “CD quality” – it sounds better.

Today, alongside the decade-long vinyl revival and the resurgence of the record player, we are seeing a resurgence of CDs. Last year in the United States, sales of compact discs increased for the first time since 2004 and music fans in the UK bought over 14 million CDs in 2021.

So whether it’s time to dust off your physical record collection or you’re looking for new CDs onlinehere’s the Esquire edition of the seven best CD players to buy in 2022:

    There are a whole host of arguments why you should go back to CDs. They’re affordable, support artists for more than just pennies per streamed game, sound even better than records (and don’t skip), and come in collectible cases with great artwork and lyric booklets. Say goodbye to shuffle and listen to your favorite songs the way the musicians intended.

    The need to know

    You don’t want to buy a new player only to find that you can’t connect it to your speakers or that it needs batteries. So, before you buy, here are a few things to keep in mind:

    Type of player: The most high-end type is a component player that fits into a larger system and won’t come with built-in speakers. Alternatively, you can look for an all-in-one system with built-in speakers and additional connectivity options, a simple boombox that can run on mains or batteries, or a portable battery-operated model. We’ve included at least one model of each of these types in our roundup.

    Outputs: You will want to take note of the outputs that can connect to your drive. All on this list have a headphone jack, but some devices will also have analog RCA outputs for connecting to an amplifier or speakers. Some devices will have optical and coaxial outputs as well as the usual RCA, making them more versatile. If you choose a player that is only a “transport” it means that it only includes CD mechanics and will need a separate DAC (digital to analog converter) to output sound . It’s also worth checking if the one you choose can play files from a USB drive or if it has wireless options like Bluetooth or wifi.

    Best CD player for audiophiles

    Marantz SA-10 Super Audio CD Player Black

    Available on AV.com and Vickers Hi-Fi

    After some serious high-end specs? The best CD players are components that fit into a larger system, like this model that can play just about any disc imaginable and also play Hi-Res Audio via USB. Mix in some high end speakers to make your music sing. It’s pricey, but it’s a key part of an amazing home hi-fi system capable of the best dynamic range and detail.

    Speaker: n / A
    Power source: Power supply
    Connections: Digital optical input and output, digital coaxial input and output, USB, headphone jack
    Dimensions: 12.7 x 44 x 41.9cm
    Mass: 18.4kg

    Cambridge Audio AXC35 CD player

    Available at Amazon and Richer sounds

    This slim player comes to us from UK sound specialists Cambridge Audio and is a capable performer at a sub-£400 price. Compared to its high-end CD player rivals, it’s on the more affordable end of the spectrum, and it has a classic look that reminds us of our old DVD player. It produces clear, detailed sound from its minimal design but lacks an optical or USB connection.

    Speaker: n / A
    Power source: Power supply
    Connections: Headphone jack, digital coaxial input and output, line output
    Dimensions: 51 x 42 x 15cm
    Mass: 4.3kg

    Best Portable CD Player

    Oakcastle CD100 Portable Bluetooth CD Player

    Available at Amazon, curries and oakcastle

    We all remember the Sony Discman, but you’ll be hard-pressed to get your hands on one of these models in 2022. That doesn’t mean the portable CD player is dead, though, and it does offer a few times today’s conveniences, including a rechargeable battery (via the included USB cable), car compatibility and Bluetooth to connect your headphones wirelessly. It also includes an aux cable to hook it up to external speakers and retro headphones with in-line controls.

    Speaker: n / A
    Power source: Rechargeable battery (lasts 12 hours)
    Connections: Headphone jack, Aux, Micro USB
    Dimensions: 2.8 x 14 x 14cm
    Mass: 230g

    Best Classic Boombox CD Player

    Sony CFDS70B.CEK Classic CD and Cassette Boombox with Radio

    Available at AmazonO.A., Argos and Very

    I can’t resist recreating the scene where John Cusack held his boombox above his head in say anything? This traditional Sony has a classic design – it can play CDs, has a built-in cassette deck for some serious throwback vibes (can’t we be the only ones who’ve recorded Top 40 on cassettes?), and FM radio /AM tuners. It’s a boombox like the one you had in your childhood bedroom and while familiar, it doesn’t have any of today’s comforts, so don’t expect DAB or Bluetooth here.

    Speaker: 3.4W output
    Power source: Mains powered or six 1.5 VC batteries
    Connections: Headphone jack, Aux
    Dimensions: 35.1 x 22.8 x 15.8cm
    Mass: 2.3kg

    Best Minimalist CD Player

    Panasonic SC-HC302 Bluetooth DAB+ Micro Hi-Fi System, Black

    panasonic
    johnlewis.com

    £139.00

    Available from John Lewis, Amazon and curries

    For a sleek and minimal home stereo system, opt for this Panasonic model. More than just a CD player, it also offers DAB radio stations, audio files via USB and streaming music via Bluetooth and Chromecast Audio. You can mount it on a wall so it also disappears into your decor. Ideal as a versatile mini hifi, there aren’t many downsides given its good value for money, but it should be noted that it can’t transmit to wireless headphones.

    Speaker: 20W
    Power source: Power supply
    Connections: USB, headphone jack, auxiliary
    Dimensions: 19.7 x 40 x 10.7cm
    Mass: 2.5kg

    Best all-in-one music system

    Ruark R3 DAB/DAB+/FM/Internet Radio and CD Bluetooth Wi-Fi Wireless All-in-One Music System

    Available from John Lewis and Amazon

    Looking for a compact player to sit on a table? Go for it. The Ruark R3 plays CDs, DABand internet radio and can stream via Bluetooth and wifi. It’s a sleek and versatile package that’s tough and capable. If you want something more eye-catching, Ruark’s R7 is a bigger, more powerful version that packs great acoustics into a sleek piece of furniture. It is a centerpiece to make the guests talk before impressing them with its sound quality.

    Speaker: 30W output
    Power source: Power supply
    Connections: RCA input and output, optical input, USB, Ethernet, headphone jack
    Dimensions: 42 x 22 x 16.7cm
    Mass: 5.3kg

    John Lewis & Partners Tenor Hi-Fi music system with DAB/DAB+/FM/Internet radio with CD and wireless connectivity

    Available from John Lewis only

    Like the sound of the Ruark above but not sure about the price? John Lewis makes a similar player for around half the price, and it connects to wifi, Bluetooth, DAB and USB players in addition to playing your treasured CD collection. It’s loud enough to be a good option for the kitchen or living room, or with its dual alarm functions – which can wake you up with your favorite radio station, a CD or a buzzing sound – it can work best in the bedroom.

    Speaker: 40W output
    Power source: Power supply
    Connections: USB, Aux, Headphone Jack, Line Out, Ethernet
    Dimensions: 15.3 x 45.8 x 22.7cm
    Mass: 5.84kg

    Compact discs – invented 43 years ago – aren’t obsolete, but it’s fair to say that the “revival” is more of a cultural resurgence than an economic resurgence. They are in tune with the times in 2022, carried by the nostalgia of the 90s.

    Even with the news that CD sales increased last year, it’s worth noting Adele’s latest album 30 is solely responsible for the increase with 898,000 units sold in the United States, and you can’t call it a comeback if a single artist is the cause. Yes, we all know that the vast majority of music consumption happens through streaming, but niche formats persist. CDs are far from gone though buyers in the United States bought 40.16 million in 2021, while UK record lovers bought more than 14 million.

    Why do CDs sound better than streaming music?

    If you listen to all your music on streaming services, nine times out of ten it will be a compressed digital file small enough to stream over the internet. Unless you’re on Hi-Res Audio from Apple Music, Tidal, or Amazon HD Musicyour songs are grouped into more manageable files for easy streaming.

    While perhaps a little less convenient than streaming, humble compact discs offer uncompressed audio that can get louder without distortion and has more dynamic range and detail. We’d be the first to admit that you might not always notice the difference, especially if you’re not using high-quality speakers, a full home audio system, or a pair of the best wired headphones.

    At Esquire, we appreciate any physical media just slightly more than digital alternatives. For all its convenience, you can never truly cherish that downloaded file stored somewhere in the cloud or think your streaming subscription matters as much as an actual music collection. That said, there are a few differences between CDs and vinyl if you’re forced to choose between the two.

    As the name suggests, CDs are more compact but they also lack a bit of the nostalgia factor and analog fullness of vinyl sound. They are less susceptible to damage, won’t warp, or pop like LPs can. If you’re looking for perfect audio clarity without crackles or scratches, go for CDs. There’s also nothing wrong with owning both a CD and a record player. If you have room for both, why not?

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