CD player recommendations

Hello all,

Just looking for a few recommendations here. After being almost exclusively vinyl over the last few years, I've decided to break out the cd collection again. I have two CD players from the dark ages. A CAL icon mkii power boss and a CAL CL-20. Just wondering what current or newer used CD players would be up for consideration and sound significantly better. I do not have any hdcd's, sacd's, or burned cd's. Strictly red book. Amp is a plinius hautonga driving B&W 804s speakers. Balanced outputs would be a plus since the plinius accepts balanced CD player inputs. Budget is around $1,500

thanks in advance



If either one of your current players has a digital out, I would use it as a transport and get a DAC.  There is m ore of a selection of good DACs  in your price range than good CD players, and you can use it if you ever add another digital source, such as a streamer, or to connect to your computer 

I would consider the age of CDs are over. The transition to streaming is well advanced. I bought a CD player over 10 years ago that was advertised as a DAC with transport. Today my CD player sound quality is indistinguishable from the streamed album. Often my steamer sounds better since the files steamed by Qobuz are often higher resolution than red book.


I would recommend approaching it by buying a good quality DAC and using your current players as a transport. If you current players do not have a digital out, it would be simple to get a inexpensive streamer (Bluesound). This way you would have access to virtually unlimited music for $14.99 a month.

For a DAC look at the Schiit Gungnir multibit... or if you can stretch a Yggdrasil DAC. While both budget audio components, these two are comparable to stuff twice their cost. With either of these you should be well positioned for good sound quality now and a big jump if you can later jump to a high quality streamer.


I have 2,000 CDs and 2,000 vinyl albums. My CDs sit and collect dust, streaming and my vinyl are equally satisfying to listen to (this is a pretty new development... over the last five years or so), although vinyl has a slight edge in detail. This is true at different levels of investment.. well chosen gear with a $10K, $25K, $100K... etc you can put together a satisfying streaming end with good choices and some money.

Emotiva  ERC-4 CD with  DAC two inputs


has balanced outputs  $599.00 buiilt like a tank

Marantz SA-10 Player. My dealer showed me a great streaming system. It was nice, hip, I took my Marantz in to see on my CD compared, sorry my CD sounded much better, more tone, weight and color, and dynamic, the dealer said to me well it is but and miss, but you got to look at the convinence, I told him why? I have 1,500 CD's, he said you have a point I have no answer for. I grew up on vinyl, had a huge collection, sold them all to a collector, never looked back. 


So I have finally added an external DAC to my system, a Topping E30 I picked up used for $80.

I am running 2 Pioneer units into it. An older DVD player via SPDIF and a 25 disc jukebox via optical.

At this point the CD players are transports only. I see that some folks have dedicated CD transports, but do they make much of a difference?

From my layman’s perspective, with the DAC out of play, the only thing that the CD player is doing is reading 1’ and 0’s from a disc and sending them to my DAC. Or am I a completely ignorant and I am missing something critical?



Good suggestions as above. Seek out a Plinius cd player to match the Hautonga.

Otherwise, an AYRE, Balanced Audio Technology (B.A.T.), or Rotel works well with your gear. For now, become re-acclimated with your CAL spinners and CD collection. Have fun and Enjoy the music.


Happy Listening!

 OP sets price range of $1500. and someone recommends the Marantz SA 10 at $7500. Big help.....

i agree with mahler--you'd be better off to keep you cdps as transports and add an external dac--you can get a topping or smsl w/balanced outs for less than $500 which will likely outperform the inboard dacs on most $1500 cdps.

There is a Wadia 122 over on UsAudiomart for ~800.  Pair that with a $500 Cambridge Audio transport and you be in fat city.   Although I agree with the streaming suggestion.  Properly invested and configurized it gonna oh so close to red book sound especially at $1.5K


I got solid confirmation regarding 'look no further' after listening for 4 hours last night with my friend/neighbor/music producer. If not streaming higher resolution content, just playing CDs, the DAC(s)/Additives of some CD Players do a great job.

he brought music he just mixed, music he won a grammy for, and we played lots of my music, LP's and CD versions via the Integra CDC-3.4.

He likes Peter Gabriel, Steamroller as a quick revealing test. I have favorites I find revealing. 1st round darn good, but ....then we tweaked the tweeters a bit higher with their L-Pads, then he pronounced the system sound, imaging, depth excellent. You can imagine how happy I was to hear that.

I had been over-cautious with the tweeters, I got +/- 1.5db up to10k, then let the highs drop slowly from there. He heard that, I twirled the controls a speck at a time L & R, he listened and thinks we got it just right. He's interested to know what the meter says we did. Of course I will get L/R equal if they are not.

I'm lucky to know him, a great guy, brought some good beer, told me some funny stories ....

It's a shame it doesn't play SACDs.

Thanks for all the input. As you can tell, I'm rather ignorant when it comes to the DAC/digital world. So the next question is this. The icon mk2 has only a coaxial rca digital output. The cl-20 has numerous outputs, including some labeled pcm/96k. Looks like an optical and a 3 pin jack as well. Which is the best output to send the info to the outboard dac?

thanks again all,