Best Circa 90's CDP

Hi friends,

I am looking for a short list of the best CDP from the 90's era. I own a few hundred Redbook CD's that I want to enjoy again. I am very nostalgic about the nineties as that's when I first got into the hobby. 

Thanks for your recommendations in advance. 






I can only recommend from what I’ve had or heard. I’d put the Linn Karak III and Meridian 508 as some of the best.

Are you also nostalgic for burnt-out lasers and failing disc drives?  There are other things like speakers, amps, preamps, etc. you can more safely be nostalgic about from the 90s, but if you’re intent on rolling the dice this one would be among the cream of the crop.  Meridian is another great recommendation.  Good luck with this.

In the 90’s, I liked the Linn CD12 a lot.  It was nearly $20k back then, so it was one of the more expensive machines.  It didn’t hurt that it was one of the most elegant looking machines out there.

Audio Aero Capitole was another nice machine from those times.

Check out the Arcam FMJ CD23T.  I believe this was released in the very late 90's and it was noted for its Ring DAC which had been licensed from DCS.  I have one and for fun I  did an A-B using it's optical out to a Geshelli Labs DAC (J2 w/AKM4493 chip).  After all these years the Arcam was very close to the Geshelli J2 though the J2 was audibly a bit more precise.  Lots of info if you do a search.


+1 for the ARCAM FMJ CD23T spinner.

I had one …



If you are married to the old stuff with all its warts and distinct and inevitable assured risk of cd laser or cd transport failure from old age, then think this one as a fine performer indeed.,by%20tweaking%20this%20and%20that


Sony SCD-1 also plays SACD.

Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 98 was a Dutch-modified Marantz CD player that had favorable reviews.

Forgot to mention the Mark Levinson 39 CD player.  Came out in the '90s and upgraded to the 390S in the 2000s.

if you can find a denon 3560 (or the lesser 2560) it's a helluva player--massively overbuilt, with xlr and variable outs. the much cheaper, less formidable-looking rotel 855 is also pretty great.

A modded Magnavox I thought was the thing to have. I think they replaced the opamps or something like that, but the Op amps they replaced them with (5535A) may no longer be made.


I had the previously mentioned Sony SCD-1 that was modded to Vacuum State Level 5. That was a killer rig and even today could compete with the very best. It lacked in some details to today’s DACs but what a great musical presentation.

However, after 20+ years that machine died and cannot really be fixed easily. I would not buy a SCD-1 due to parts issues.

I plan on getting a very expensive DAC in the future. There is a $3k or $6k upgrade option to add a CD/SACD tray to this DAC. This DAC is made from the same guy involved with the Sony SCD-1.

While I waited to raise cash for this DAC I wanted to play my CD/SACD and got this.

GeerFab Audio D.BOB Digital BreakOut Box – Upscale Audio ( I paid under $700)


This device takes the HDMI SACD DSD output from my used $250 Oppo player and sends it to the D.BOB. The D.BOB processes the DSD and sends it to my Benchmark DAC3B via DSD over PCM (I think). The DAC3B is hooked up to my preamp. The sound is fantastic, better in some ways to the SCD-1 though the modded SCD-1 had some musical magic that is hard to find anywhere.

I have no intention of getting that SACD disc playback option in the new DAC I am looking at.



Nice recommendations above.  Best was the Audio Meca Mephisto II.  Next the Metronome T1A & AL2 CD Transport & Power Supply.  Another great choice is the Marantz CD-94.  These easily sound better anything suggested above. After that then find a modern unit not to expensive and have the parts upgraded.

Happy Listening.

Best was the Audio Meca Mephisto II.  Next the Metronome T1A & AL2 CD Transport & Power Supply.  Another great choice is the Marantz CD-94.  These easily sound better anything suggested above.

@bigkidz Better than the Linn CD12?  I respect your opinions/experience but color me a little skeptical on that one.


Pioneer PD 65. Add Accuphase DP-65/65v (1997) and Sony ES 7-Series.


Happy Listening!

I have an ageing Exemplar SACD player ( a John Tucker modified Denon DVD3910 ). Yes I have had to replace the laser unit but no great deal and I would back the sound quality against most recent players.  

Continuing with Pioneer, the Elite PD93 or 

PD95. Both bigger brothers, much, to the PD65. I own 

93. Pop the bonnet to be amazed at the build quality.

Separate outboard mounted digital and analog

transformers. A masterpiece in its day, still sounds 

terrific and operates perfectly.

@soix different presentation.  The Audiomeca is so musical you simply fall in love with the music and things just float in the air so it comes down to your preference.

Can't go wrong with many of the suggestions here.  Just find a unit where you can replace the laser if not once they go you are up the creek without a paddle!




Yes, the Vacuum State modified SCD-1 was considerably more natural sounding than the unmodified SCD-1; it would be a contender for top sound.  I had a Wadia from that period that was also very good.

I have a pioneer Pd 65. Lots of gain in this, or perhaps a mismatch between components. However, great sounding CDP, and looks that kill!

To all recommending or looking to purchase  90’s  Linn models I encourage you to verify the laser can be replaced.  Yes, Linn CD players were some of the best. However, I had (note past tense) an $11k Linn Unidisc 1.1.  Wonderful sounding unit until the laser burnt out.  According to Linn, Linn’s local dealer, and a local repair shop, the laser was custom.  Linn was not supplying lasers.  Linn stated they moved on to streaming devices.  I never explored what custom meant - a modification of an OTS OEM laser or a true custom design.  Regardless, after 10 years of service it was scrap.  I personally will never buy Linn again.  Verify the model you choose has either on OTS OEM laser that can be replaced or if Linn is servicing them.  Perhaps this was unique to the Unidisc 1.1.  

Naim CDi compact disc player.  Was $4000 in 1992.  Built like a tank and sounds great. Need to find a source for the laser mechanism if it fails though, as  Naim no longer stocks them.