Despite the popularity of streaming music and the resurgence of vinyl, CD still reigns king as the music source of choice for many, thanks to their durability, crystal clear sound quality and physical size.CD players have evolved though and many models now also feature streaming capabilities and/or pre amplifiers and/or DACs that can accept connections from other digital sources, although we also sell "purist" CD players that are designed to play CDs exceptionally well, and nothing more.
A CD player consists of two key components – a CD transport and a DAC. The CD transport is the mechanism which reads the disc via a laser and provides raw digital data in which the music is contained. This is where the DAC comes in. DAC stands for Digital to Analogue Converter, and does just that; takes pure digital audio and converts it into an analogue signal, which is what is required for playback and to actually play music out loud. Both CD transports and DACs vary in quality, and so can be purchased separately. CD players feature both a transport and a DAC in a single unit, adding convenience and eliminating the need to pair and match two components sonically.
Most CD players feature digital outputs, typically optical and coaxial, enabling you to use your unit as a transport and take the digital output and feed it directly into an external DAC. This enables you to upgrade your CD player in the future, and improve the overall sound experienced from it. As with amplification and many aspects of hi-fi, the use of separate boxes and units can have a profound effect on the overall sound quality. Separating noisy power supplies from delicate circuitry can result in greater overall fidelity and sound quality, which is why separate CD transports and DACs are regarded as the pinnacle of hi-fi, just as a separate power and pre amplifier are the pinnacle of amplification. All in one units often represent excellent value, and are not necessarily worse than separate transport and DAC solutions. In fact, at entry level and mid level price points, an all in one CD player typically outperform a similarly priced separate solution.
The quality of the CD transport mechanism, whether that is a standalone unit or the transport in a one-box CD player, can have a massive effect on the overall sound from your Compact Discs. Some high end models use a manual drawer rather than a slot-loading or mechanised disc tray, which eliminates the need for additional motors, circuitry and potential noise interfering with the sound quality achieved. Internal resonance control and prevention of laser refraction ensures that a precise read can be achieved, which ultimately results in the best sound quality.
One box CD players feature analogue RCA outputs for connecting to a pre amplifier or integrated amplifier. As mentioned, some models also feature digital outputs, enabling you to connect a DAC which in turn is connected to an amplifier via RCA cable. A good quality cable can also offer an improvement to the sound you achieve, and can also help to alter or adjust the tonal characteristics of your system – for example adding a more well-rounded sound to an overly bright system.