Q: What CD player would you recommend for use in a high-quality component stereo system that originally cost around $2,000?
A: I have received several variations of this question lately. The vinyl record renaissance has led to accompanying renewed interest in CD players. I think it's because many people are building stereo systems with a turntable as the centerpiece. Once the system is finished, they see their old CDs and think they will put them into use, too, so it is time to shop for a player.
I've been researching the topic for several months, and my highest recommendation goes to the Emotiva CD100 CD player, which sells for $299 (emotiva.com). The Emotiva feels like it was carved from a single block of steel, the kind of quality you would expect from a high-end product, not one selling for $300. But I was impressed by a lot more than its physical attributes. It had far and away the best CD sound I have ever heard in my system.
During my evaluations I compared the CD100 with a very highly regarded Denon player, and the Emotiva was a clear and dramatic winner. It also has digital outputs, so it can accommodate an external digital-to-analog converter. I don't see a need to bother with an external converter, though, because the CD100 is so good on its own.
A few people also asked about buying a vintage CD player because modern gear tends to be cheaply made. I understand these concerns, but I'd recommend against it with CD players. The issues I have with vintage players are sound quality (CD player sound quality tends to get better with every generation), reliability (CD drives wear out with time and use) and compatibility with burned CDs and MP3s (most 1980s-vintage units won't play them).
A vintage player still is a good buy if you can get it at the right price. I often visit thrift stores where I find excellent old audio gear selling for a pittance. One of my best finds was a 1980s-vintage Nakamichi OMS-1 CD player, in good cosmetic and working condition, for only $10. There was no remote, but I was able to locate one on eBay for $15. The OMS-1 is a prime example of audio gear I dreamed of owning when I was in college but could never afford at the time. Now it's a nice addition to a retro system built with other gear from that era.
I've been getting letters asking why my website hasn't been updated for quite a while. I'm also receiving follow-up e-mails from readers complaining that I've ignored their earlier notes. No disrespect was intended. My mother somewhat suddenly contacted a rare lung disease that resulted in her death, and my energies were focused on her. If you have written to me in the past two months, I promise I will get back to you. Thank you for your patience and the kind thoughts sent my way.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.