CD Players and Recorders Product Guide

CD Players and Recorders

Whether its your first time buying a CD player for your home audio system, or you're looking for more ways to expand your current system, there are some key issues involved before investing in a new CD player.

Emerging technology has made it possible for devices like DVD players to play audio CDs too. New audio formats are also developing and you want to make sure the player you decide on will support them. Know the basics before making your decision. Here's a quick guide.

A CD player is a crucial component for any home audio entertainment unit. It allows you to play your CDs as well as store them. Most CD players play in various adjustable modes, can be programmed, come with remote controls, and have headphone jacks. A convenient display comes built-in with most players to show features like which song is now playing, and in which mode. Most CDs are recorded in such a way that titles of songs may appear on some CD players, and some CD players even allow you to enter titles in manually. A CD player connects to a home audio system via a receiver.

Types of CD Players

Single CD Players

Although not very common anymore, single-tray CD players are still around. These players only play one CD at a time. They will perform just fine, and are still very cheap compared to carousels and disc changers.

CD Carousels

CD carousels are the most common components in audio systems today. Carousels can hold anywhere from 5 to 6 CDs, play them continuously, and skip CDs too. Most disc changers can hold 5 CDs. Most changers have special modes where they can be programmed to skip songs on certain CDs. Some players even allow you to open the device and replace CDs while one is still playing.

Mega Disc Changers

If you are like most people and have somehow managed to compile a collection of hundreds of CDs over the years, you'd certainly appreciate mega-disc sorters and changers. These devices have the ability to store and play up to 500 CDs. There are some that house up to 200, 300, 400, and 500. It's like having your own little jukebox in the comfort of your very own home. These large disc changers are special in that most of them offer CD custom filing which allows you to categorize and classify bundles of CDs. Most disc changers have the ability to link up to one another to form a daisy chain.

Track Programming

Most players allow you to program tracks in any sequence. The track-programming feature on any CD player allows you to become your own disc jockey. Create your own play list, and your CD player will play tracks in the order you requested. A good home audio CD player will allow for 24 or 32-track programming.

Play Modes

Different CD players come with various playback modes. One of the more common modes is Repeat Play, which allows you to play a song or an entire CD over and over until you tell it to stop. Random Play is also very common and it's a mode that enables your player to randomly select and play tracks from your CD. For disc jockey and recording purposes, many players have fade-in and fade-out modes, which simply fade music in and out wherever it is on the track. Many other cool modes exist on other CD players. Not all players have all modes. Familiarize yourself with the modes of your own CD player by referring to your player's instruction manual. Another mode common in disc changers is the Shuffle mode, which allows you to randomize songs from several disks.

Multi-disc players usually have multi-disc programming and multi-disc random play. Some changers allow you to change several discs while one plays. In a CD jukebox, one feature to look for is daisy chaining, the ability to interconnect several high-volume multi-disc players to create a larger virtual jukebox. Good ones will accommodate up to five or six units.

Recording CDs

There are an increasing number of CD players that also have CD recording capabilities. All CD recorders also play CDs. Most DVD players today also play standard CDs. Some CD players today also play CD-Rs (CD Recordables). CD recorders are generally much more expensive than CD players. See CD Recorders for more information.

Remote Control

Most home audio CD player units and carousels come with remote controls. These remotes have all the basic and non-basic programming and menu options. Some of the less expensive CD players have no function buttons located on the front panel, and the use of a remote becomes mandatory.

The Best CD Player for You

This depends on what you plan to do with your player and how you will have it set up. If you're just looking for a plain CD player for the simple task of playing a single CD, go for a single-loading CD player. If you need a player for a home audio system, it would be a good idea to get a carousel. Those of us who have a very large collection of CDs may even consider storing them in a CD jukebox. You have the ability to chain link a number of CD storage devices together, go through them and pick CDs you'd like to play with ease. If you're looking to save some money and need something more compact, try purchasing a DVD player (if you don't already have one), which will also play CDs and other audio formats.


DVD Audio and Super Audio CD are two new audio formats we'll be seeing more often in the future. Super Audio CD is theoretically better quality than standard CD and will offer the potential for six-channel surround sound. Some of the first Super Audio discs will play on today's CD players- but only in two-channel sound. At this point, only Super Audio's creators, Philips Electronics and Sony have committed to manufacturing Super Audio discs. DVD Audio discs, like Super Audio CDs, will offer six-channel sound that is much better than that of current CDs. The new discs can't be played on CD players- or even on current DVD movie players. Audio DVD players and combo-DVD players play both DVD movie and DVD music discs.

DVD Player vs CD Player

Why buy a CD player, when you could buy a DVD player that will play CDs and DVDs? While the current crop of DVD video players does a fine job playing CDs, most of them do not play recordable CD-Rs or CD-RWs. Another reason for considering the differences between the components is the fact that only a few DVD players currently offer new HDCD decoding. Although only a few titles are recorded in HDCD format now, we should see more and more in the near future. You can easily play an HDCD disc on a DVD player, but the actual quality and difference in sound will not be audible. Additionally, CD players sound better than DVD players at the same price point when playing standard CDs. General wear and tear will overwork your DVD player so you might choose to use it for the sole purpose of playing DVD movies.

D/A Converter

Every CD player has a D/A converter or a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). In order for the audio signal being produced by a CD player to be heard, it must be amplified. The amplifier needs an analog signal, which is where the converter comes in. It just converts digital data to analog. A transport inside a CD player is what spins the disc and gets the digital data from it. This data is then sent to the DAC through a digital cable. The DAC turns the digital data into a signal ready for amplification. A CD player contains both a transport and a DAC. A CD recorder on the other hand has the opposite technology, they come with an A/D converter, which takes an analog signal and makes it digital so you may record onto a CD. Most DACs in CD players today are 1-bit. Some have 16-bit, but there is virtually no difference in performance between the two.


A CD player needs to connect to a home audio receiver. The connections may be with standard RCA cable or through digital ports. To learn how to connect your CD player, check out's Monster Cable Connection Guide for color diagrams, articles and tips.

Digital Output

Many higher-end model CD players come with optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. Either one of them gives you the best possible audio, eliminating any interference. The signal is pure digital rather than analog. If you wish to use these outputs, keep in mind that they need special cables, usually not included with the sale of your player.


Opening and closing CD player trays and carousels can very easily lead dust and dirt into your player. When dirt gets inside your CD player, it may skip or jump while playing music. We carry numerous cleaning kits for CD players.

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