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What's the best 'classic' CD player/s to buy today?


Mightyquin
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Super Wammer
24 minutes ago, callen24returns said:

Curve ball?

what is stopping you from getting something like an audiolab 6000T?

Thank you for the suggestion, all are welcome, especially curve balls. I always like to have ideas challenged! But I have a few reasons to discount Audiolab, to be honest.

  • Bad prior experience with the brand. Bought an M-DAC a couple of years ago, damned thing was faulty out of the box, no output at all. Went back, never considered another one. You only get one shot in this household!
  • Don't like slot-loaders
  • I'm not convinced that it would be significantly (if at all) better than my current setup, and I'm looking to make a jump in performance.

Where I was aware of the limitations in my front end (analogue as well as digital) my new speakers are now significantly highlighting shortcomings in the CD replay chain. I am just beginning my research into potential replacements. Second hand is the way forward given that I can't afford to throw big money (many thousands) at this, plus I think you get a lot more "pizazz for one's pound" (my English version of the usual phrase!).

A friend has suggested looking out for a Mark Levinson second hand, I'm not sure what their brand personality is to know whether it would be a good choice or not. For the Marantz options, from what I read in that Stereophile review I think the voicing of the 11 might be more suitable than the Pearl, being a little more on the "lush" side. I would expect insightful speakers + insightful amp + insightful front end to equal way too much!

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Super Wammer

 Another curve ball for you Jules.

I have Lexicon RT20 universal disc player, which I rate very highly. Superb build quality too. I would class it as detailed but warm/lush, and not fatiguing to listen to.

Edited by greybeard
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Super Wammer

Not a brand that was even on my radar, I'll admit. Thanks, will look them up 👍🏼

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I'd buy me own off me! In fact i'm gonna pay myself £1250 for my fully serviced and uprgaded Restek Concret 11 with HDCD reader with fully serviced and repaired Dirigent handcontroller£350 quid last time I Looked. What a bargain and nice bloke to deal with😆

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Super Wammer
2 hours ago, hiesteem said:

I'd buy me own off me! In fact i'm gonna pay myself £1250 for my fully serviced and uprgaded Restek Concret 11 with HDCD reader with fully serviced and repaired Dirigent handcontroller£350 quid last time I Looked. What a bargain and nice bloke to deal with😆

Proper player that. 

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Ok, this thread is from more than four years ago and the OP is probably long gone, but Klassik will play along anyway.  xD

On 19/04/2017 at 18:41, Mightyquin said:

As per title, i'm wondering what people think are the best CD players from the 90's - early 00's ? 

If you wanted to buy a great sounding CD player on a budget today what would you be spending your money on? (let's say a budget of £70-£150 ish). 

Or would it be better to buy something like a new Cambridge Audio DAC to add to an existing average model of CD ?

It's hard for Il Klassiko to determine what might sound good to you.  It's hard for Il Klassiko to determine what sounds good to Il Klassiko relative to other options...mostly ones Il Klassiko has not heard.  ;)  A CD player from the late 1980s or 1990s might not objectively be the best option for sound quality via the built-in DAC, but Klassik knows more than a few people who nonetheless prefer the sound of older CD players.  Klassik's Teac from the 1989 should not sound as good as some newer players Klassik also owns, but there is something quite pleasing about the way it sounds.  It certainly has a tad bit of a warmer sound.  A tad.  None of Klassik's CD players sound nearly as different from one another as, say, Klassik's different cassette decks or phono cartridges.

So, with all of that in mind, it might be worthwhile to look at features and reliability rather than an obsessive focus on sound quality.  Before Klassik goes on, Klassik will post an image of a Technics SL-P990 CD player from the late 1980s.  There are reasons why Klassik is posting this:

Technics+SL-P990+4.jpg

Klassik is not necessarily recommending the Technics as even Klassik does not own one, but Klassik is using this as an illustrative example:

  • One thing Klassik appreciates about the Technics above is the large display.  Ok, the peak meters might be pretty useless today (though they were helpful in the days of recording CDs to tape...some CD players even had a peak find feature which theoretically was very helpful for recording), but having a large display of the track and time can be useful depending on how far back you are sitting and how much one cars about such information.
  • Notice that the Technics has a rather complete set of controls on the front panel.  This is great for some people, but for others, they won't care about this.  Things like direct access buttons to tracks can be very helpful.
  • This might be less obvious, but these particular Technics CD players used a rather unique sled mechanism using magnets Klassik does believe to reduce the time it takes to seek between tracks and to other specific portions of the disc.  This, combined with the jog shuttle, can be useful for some.
  • Most 'better' CD players from the 1980s have index controls for CDs with index marks.  These CDs are relatively rare, but if you have discs like this, having an older player might be the only option of using those index marks.
  • The Technics above has a little window so one can see the CD spinning in the drive.  This is a completely useless feature, xD, but some might be amused by it.  Those who like seeing LPs spin might appreciate the feature. 

Now let's look at some other features worth considering:

  • At one time, it was common for CD players to conform to nearly all Red Book standards such as provisions for pre-emphasis and gapless playback at least when using the built-in DAC.  With newer CD/DVD/Blu-Ray Players, such conformity is not a given, sadly.  :S  How much this matters to you will depend on the types of CDs you are playing.
  • Some newer CD players, and especially higher-end CD players, seem to use PC type drives.  Whether this is the case or not, some of these players have issues playing copy-protected CDs from the 2000s and they also may not play back CDs with hidden pre-gap tracks and London like that.  If you have CDs like that, keep this in mind.
  • CD-R and CD-RW compatibility.  This is usually pretty good on newer CD players, but it might be an issue with older players.  Some older players work great with at least CD-Rs so it just depends.  This may or may not matter to you.
  • Some older CD players, especially really old ones, do not like discs longer than, say, 74 minutes.  Some players, even newer ones, might not like discs longer than 80 minutes.  With some commercial CDs now pushing 90 minutes, which is probably against Red Book standards, this might be something to consider if you have such CDs.  Also, some older players may not like those colored discs that look like PlayStation 1 game discs and they may also not like playing the Red Book layer of hybrid SACDs. 
  • HDCD & SACD compatibility - how much does this matter to you? 

As for reliability, well, many older players are old enough to have track records for their reliability.  Some CD players are known for having laser replacements and others are known for not having laser replacements.  Klassik knows, for example, that some Pioneer CD players are known for a problem where the lens falls off the laser assembly.  This can be reattached by most people if the lens is still there, but some might wish to not deal with this issue. 

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That technics could do with another 100 buttons firing at it from the designers shotgun 😂

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11 minutes ago, bigfish786 said:

That technics could do with another 100 buttons firing at it from the designers shotgun 😂

It can sometimes be enjoyable to use Hi-Fi equipment whose control panel feels like a flight engineer panel from a DC-10 airplane or something like that, but sometimes it's not so enjoyable.  At least one can pat themselves on the back if they know what all the buttons do and how to properly use them.  ;)

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6 hours ago, Jules_S said:

Thank you for the suggestion, all are welcome, especially curve balls. I always like to have ideas challenged! But I have a few reasons to discount Audiolab, to be honest.

  • Bad prior experience with the brand. Bought an M-DAC a couple of years ago, damned thing was faulty out of the box, no output at all. Went back, never considered another one. You only get one shot in this household!
  • Don't like slot-loaders
  • I'm not convinced that it would be significantly (if at all) better than my current setup, and I'm looking to make a jump in performance.

Where I was aware of the limitations in my front end (analogue as well as digital) my new speakers are now significantly highlighting shortcomings in the CD replay chain. I am just beginning my research into potential replacements. Second hand is the way forward given that I can't afford to throw big money (many thousands) at this, plus I think you get a lot more "pizazz for one's pound" (my English version of the usual phrase!).

A friend has suggested looking out for a Mark Levinson second hand, I'm not sure what their brand personality is to know whether it would be a good choice or not. For the Marantz options, from what I read in that Stereophile review I think the voicing of the 11 might be more suitable than the Pearl, being a little more on the "lush" side. I would expect insightful speakers + insightful amp + insightful front end to equal way too much!

Yes had a cdt here recently and they are excellent but I can't get over nervousness with slot loaders

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What I like about marantz is they are still churning out CD players like no tommorrow while others have given up years ago !! Linn, to name one 

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2 minutes ago, hifinutt said:

What I like about marantz is they are still churning out CD players like no tommorrow while others have given up years ago !! Linn, to name one 

The Marantz I have has a front usb for iPod or usb stick so I barely ever use the actual transport. It also has usb (c) and digital inputs on the rear, so even if the transport completely buggered up, it’s still a useful piece of kit. 
can’t see it braking, it’s 16kg of tank. 

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Super Wammer

Thanks for all the replies, it does sound as though Marantz engineering (at this level at least) is pretty substantial and bodes well for long-term use, and for buying older equipment. I see that they make their own transports too rather than buy in off-the-shelf, hopefully that's a good thing for repairability too?

I am sorely tempted by an 11S2 - the only downside I can see is that it has no digital inputs so can't be used as a DAC for external sources, whereas the 14 and 14 SE have optical, coax and USB inputs. The 11 does have balanced output though which might be useful. I wonder how much improvement the 11 is over the 14S1 SE?

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Super Wammer
42 minutes ago, Jules_S said:

Thanks for all the replies, it does sound as though Marantz engineering (at this level at least) is pretty substantial and bodes well for long-term use, and for buying older equipment. I see that they make their own transports too rather than buy in off-the-shelf, hopefully that's a good thing for repairability too?

I am sorely tempted by an 11S2 - the only downside I can see is that it has no digital inputs so can't be used as a DAC for external sources, whereas the 14 and 14 SE have optical, coax and USB inputs. The 11 does have balanced output though which might be useful. I wonder how much improvement the 11 is over the 14S1 SE?

It’s hard to unpick all these different models as you say. If it’s any help, my SA14s1 SE was bought in April 2016 and I think it had been around for a year or two by then.  

What appealed to me was the SACD capability rather than being able to access the DAC.  My only disappointment is the relatively dull display (especially compared with my much older Marantz CDs) and the slow reading time upon loading a disc.   

Edited by Nopiano
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Super Wammer
33 minutes ago, Nopiano said:

It’s hard to unpick all these different models as you say. If it’s any help, my SA14s1 SE was bought in April 2016 and I think it had been around for a year or two by then.  

What appealed to me was the SACD capability rather than being able to access the DAC.  My only disappointment is the relatively dull display (especially compared with my much older Marantz CDs) and the slow reading time upon loading a disc.   

That's an interesting point you make about the loading times. That's one reason why up to now I've not been so keen on the universal players like the Oppo (and the earlier mentioned Lexicon) - they seem to have a rep for slow responses. I know it's a first-world problem, but I don't fancy waiting 45 seconds for my disc to be read!

Another player I rather covet, without ever having heard one, is the Bow Technologies ZZ-Eight. Seem to be pretty rare, although there have been a number for sale internationally, but all seem to be sold now. Any experiences with this rather seductive bit of tech? Used the Philips CDM12 Pro I believe?

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Marantz CD601OSE LE (limited edition).

Bought one of these with it's stablemate amplifier (PM6010) as a second system. 

My main system digital front end was a Marantz CD17 mark 2, around 2.5x the price when both new.

TBH, there was little difference between the 2 CD players, so I guess on that basis it qualifies....

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