CD and SACD Players: How to Choose
Whether you're looking for a simple single-disc player, a jukebox that houses 300 CDs, or a unit capable of unlocking the multichannel thrills of ultra-high-fidelity Super Audio CDs, it's important to get a deck with the convenience features you want and the format-playing flexibility you need. [Shop our selection of CD and SACD players.]
How many discs do you want at your fingertips?
One major differentiator to consider when you're choosing a CD player is disc capacity. If you rarely have time to listen to more than a single CD or a few songs at a time, a single-disc player is probably all you need. Even these players feature programming functions that let you cherry-pick only the tracks you want to hear on a disc, and play them back in any order you choose.
|If you love the idea of hours of uninterrupted playback, or the ability to randomly play songs from several discs at a time, get a multi-disc changer. (Denon DCM-390 shown)|
If, on the other hand, you love the idea of hours of uninterrupted playback, or the ability to randomly play songs from several discs at a time, get a multi-disc changer. All of our 5-disc carousel changers let you change up to four discs while the fifth keeps playing, for nonstop music.
Jukebox changer options
For the ultimate in playback flexibility, go for a mega changer. Also referred to as jukebox changers, these units provide a permanent home up to 300 of your favorite discs. They're popular with music fans because they keep your CD collection loaded and ready to go.
If you've decided you want a jukebox changer, one feature you might want to keep an eye out for is disc naming capability. Some mega changers let you enter the title and artist name for each CD stored, which makes searching for a particular disc especially easy. A few even provide an input for a PC keyboard, which allows for much quicker name entry.
And for those of you with truly massive music collections, some mega changers let you connect a second changer and operate the two units as one. This not only increases your disc capacity tremendously, but in many cases also provides sophisticated playback options like cross-fading and no-delay shuffle play.
What types of discs do you want to play?
Of course, all players handle the standard CDs you're used to buying in music stores, but there are other options to consider these days too. And when it comes to format flexibility, all CD players are not created equal.
If, for example, you've got a computer or a component CD recorder that lets you burn your own CD-Rs or CD-RWs, you'll probably want a player that can handle these formats. All newer players can play recordable CD-Rs, and many also work with rewritable CD-RWs, but if this is an important feature for you, be sure to check before you buy.
If you've got loads of MP3s on your PC, and you have the ability to burn them onto CD-Rs or CD-RWs, you may want a CD player that can play back MP3 discs through your main A/V system.
Another type of disc is the SACD, or Super Audio Compact Disc. These discs require a specialized player because they're based on a recording technology called Direct Stream Digital (DSD). SACD players, however, are built to play both SACDs and standard CDs with outstanding precision.
DSD captures four times as much musical information as the Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) technology used for CDs. As a result, SACDs sound warmer, smoother, and more "analog" than standard compact discs. SACD faithfully captures the purity and freshness of the original musical performance, right down to the ambience of the studio or concert venue where it was performed.
This unprecedented level of sonic realism is further enhanced by SACD's multichannel capabilities. Some SACDs are recorded in two-channel stereo, but many take advantage of the format's ability to store music in up to 6 discrete channels. Best of all, this multichannel capability is designed for compatibility with a standard 5.1-channel home theater system.
For more information about high-resolution audio, see our article on SACD and DVD-Audio.
Making a direct digital connection
You'll want to check for digital input/output compatibility if you want to make a direct digital connection between your CD player and A/V receiver. SACDs require digital-to-analog conversion that can currently only be provided by SACD players themselves. Therefore, SACD signals can only be sent to a receiver using analog connections. That means you'll need a home theater receiver with a 5.1-channel analog input to enjoy multichannel SACD sound.