41 Rotel CD11 bCDs are dead and gone, right? So how come at one major importer sales of CD players are up 30 per cent on last year? It’s an increase that says much about the determination of buyers. In 2018 CD players are rather like Western Australia’s famous underground orchids; alive and kicking but damn tricky to find.

CD players were all but wiped out in the late 1990s when everyone started buying DVD players. Why have a CD player when a DVD player handles CDs? The market was kept alive, just, by those fussy people who listen to music rather than just hear it. Then and now dedicated CD players do a noticeably better job with music than DVD players, and there is no video circuitry inside achieving nought but the generation of noise.

So the CD player market has changed fundamentally. Back in the 90s you could get stand-alone players for $100 and portables for as little as $30 or $40. These days you won’t find a dedicated CD player for much less than $500, and that’s because anyone who wants a cheapie buys a DVD player.

41 Marantz CD5005CD players these days all have respectable digital-to-analogue converters, good transports and decent headphone amplification because they’re bought by people who won’t accept anything less. These are folk who settle in for the evening with a pair of headphones and a glass of red, to be transported to another place.

Thus if you happen to have a collection of CDs and nothing to play it on you’re looking at either a good sounding CD player from $500 to $600 or a poor sounding Blu-ray or DVD player at $100. If you take the sound quality route console yourself with the knowledge that a $1000 CD player in 2018 sounds lots better than a $1000 CD player did in 1998. And way better than the vast bulk of DVD players.

Which brings us to the second point: You won’t find these things at the local discounter. I tried three big electrical chains. The first had one model only, a Denon at $649 (“We sell about 20 a year”), another didn’t stock them at all and at the third, where the salesman judged me to be dumb as mud, I was told that: “CD players are now called DVD players.”

You’ll need a specialist hi fi shop where they’ll commit unpardonable sins like demonstrating how much better music sounds when the equipment is nicely matched, and it becomes dangerously easy to spend more than you intend. Example: you’ll need good amplification and speakers, or at least good headphones. You’ll also need plenty of red plonk and unless the family has taken a vow of silence, a quiet corner.

41 Rotel CD11 and A11Look and there’s plenty happening with CD players. Pioneer’s $599 PD30AE has just won a 2018 Sound and Image award while sales of last year’s winner, the Marantz CD5005 also at $599, are brisk. However Ralph Grundl, who imports Marantz and Denon, says the biggest sales increase is with the $1060 Marantz CD6006. Rotel has a new entry-level model at $599, the CD11 and the bargain is NAD’s C516BEE at $479. Yamaha’s range starts with the $529 CDS300and Denon’s DCD520AE is in the same territory. Cambridge Audio’s offerings start with the $499 CD10.

From there the sky is the limit. Many premium CD players also play super audio CDs and Grundl says lots of audiophiles are buying SACDs online.

If you’re serious about listening to CDs you’ll also include a generous supply of big Barossa reds in your budget. Hunters are also acceptable.

First published by smh.com.au November 2018.


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