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Hi-fi sound. Compact Discs have 16-bit/44kHz digital resolution, which gives you better sound clarity than vinyl or MP3 files. CD players aren’t susceptible to network dropouts like streaming audio. All they need is power and a good cable connection to your receiver or amplifier.
New CD sales have grown in the past few years, reversing a nearly two-decade downward trend. Used CDs are plentiful and affordable—for now. The “album” format can be a nice change from playlists and music service suggestions. CD packaging—and the art and information it contains—might help you make a better connection with the album and artist than you can with most streaming services.
The best CD players have substantial build, quiet circuits, and smoothly functioning moving parts to minimize noise from spinning and reading discs. High-end players also tend to have balanced XLR outputs. In players with built-in DACs, you’ll generally find better DACS in better players. And if you like to listen with headphones, you should choose a CD player with a built-in headphone amp and output.
Some CD players can only play audio CDs, while others support SACDs (Super Audio CDs), CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and DVD-Rs (including MP3 and WMA files). Some CD players have wireless network streaming built in, giving you the best of both worlds. Some even have optical, coaxial, and USB digital inputs that let you connect network streamers, USB drives, and more.
Most CD players have a built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter), but not all built-in DACs are the same quality. You can choose a CD player with a high-quality built-in DAC or upgrade to an external DAC. CD players without built-in DACs are called “transports.” CD transports connect to an outboard DAC or any audio component with a built-in DAC.
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