• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Do CD players sound different to each other?

Digby

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 12, 2021
Messages
1,090
Likes
921
Not much talk about it these days, what with streaming and PC based hi-fi, but was there really any significant difference (improvement) if you paid more for CD players back when they were a big thing. I remember having a very cheap portable Goodmans CD player, which was crap as portable player (no buffer to stop skipping), but the sound from it when stationary seemed, to me, practically indistinguishable from any other CD player when using a good pair of Sennheiser headphones.

This was some time ago though and I'm not sure how accurate these memories are. So, was there really much difference in sound quality between CD players?
 

Vacceo

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 9, 2022
Messages
1,973
Likes
2,028
Not much talk about it these days, what with streaming and PC based hi-fi, but was there really any significant difference (improvement) if you paid more for CD players back when they were a big thing. I remember having a very cheap portable Goodmans CD player, which was crap as portable player (no buffer to stop skipping), but the sound from it when stationary seemed, to me, practically indistinguishable from any other CD player when using a good pair of Sennheiser headphones.

This was some time ago though and I'm not sure how accurate these memories are. So, was there really much difference in sound quality between CD players?
I have tried an old Denon DVD player from almost 20 years ago, a recent Blu Ray drive attached to a PC and an even older Sharp CD player in the same system. To be honest, I haven´t found a difference in any of them. Of course this is totally anechdotal, but my guess is that unless something is terribly wrong, there will be no difference.
 

fpitas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 7, 2022
Messages
3,078
Likes
3,695
Location
Northern Virginia, USA
My old CD player made a faint whirring noise ;)
 

Chaconne

Active Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2021
Messages
116
Likes
180
I did a sighted, unscientific comparison between a $1,500 Creek CD player and one of those round portable players you buy in a blister pack at Walmart. My conclusion: no difference. As the saying goes, digits is digits.
 

Purité Audio

Master Contributor
Industry Insider
Barrowmaster
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 29, 2016
Messages
5,944
Likes
6,109
Location
London
Not much talk about it these days, what with streaming and PC based hi-fi, but was there really any significant difference (improvement) if you paid more for CD players back when they were a big thing. I remember having a very cheap portable Goodmans CD player, which was crap as portable player (no buffer to stop skipping), but the sound from it when stationary seemed, to me, practically indistinguishable from any other CD player when using a good pair of Sennheiser headphones.

This was some time ago though and I'm not sure how accurate these memories are. So, was there really much difference in sound quality between CD players?
Years ago when I started PA I listened to about 20 players and the only difference was a unit with a valve output AMR?
That was awful, never did stock a CDP and too late now!
Keith
 

fpitas

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jul 7, 2022
Messages
3,078
Likes
3,695
Location
Northern Virginia, USA
Honestly it's getting tough to find a dedicated CD player anymore. I bought a Blu-Ray player, which turned for the best since I can play DVDs and Blu-Ray discs now through the decent sound system.
 

Midwest Blade

Senior Member
Joined
May 8, 2019
Messages
378
Likes
505
Having had one $1000+ and one $300-, along with a dvd/cd player given to me as a refurbished I am as not able to distinguish any difference in either my high end or bookshelf systems. The expensive one bit the dust, to many trips to realign the laser, fix the transport and then finally it just failed. Amazon HD will eventually put the remaining ones out of service, hopefully.
 

ronwan

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 3, 2020
Messages
17
Likes
35
Years ago we have done a proper blind matched ABX test between two quite different CD players, I recall a fairly cheap one vs some tube preamped ‘high end’ one.

With a bunch of people we got statistical significant results on individual and group level, all were rejecting the assumption the devices are different.

So for those two devices: I claim they sound the same.

Sighted the expensive one was much better, so if you don’t close your eyes while listening I would suggest spending a few grand extra
 

sq225917

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 23, 2019
Messages
1,293
Likes
1,437
Yes they can sound different. A marantz ki 17cd mk2 and a cd 63 se can sound quite different when level matched.

I'd imagine today's modern players sound much less different, assuming trying decent delta sigma dac equipped units of good build quality.
 

DanielT

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 10, 2020
Messages
3,626
Likes
3,172
Location
Sweden - Слава Україні
I couldn't hear any difference between these in a blind test::)


Edit:
In parts, that thread is a bit whimsical but results are after all what I report. Not level matched between the players but it would only have mattered if I had heard any difference between them. Which I didn't do.:)
 
Last edited:

Capitol C

Active Member
Joined
May 21, 2021
Messages
126
Likes
122
Location
Washington, DC

Mart68

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 22, 2021
Messages
1,335
Likes
2,377
Location
England
By coincidence, that other site has a thread on the same topic, https://audiokarma.org/forums/index...s-is-one-better-than-another-and-why.1005310/. It is interesting to compare the two threads. It is especially interesting to see how I got trashed for politely saying what everyone is saying here at ASR. The fun starts on page 2...
That thread ticked a lot of the boxes on my audiophile bingo card.

System not revealing enough
Everything makes a difference
You can't know until you try it for yourself
Jitter
Wife heard the difference
You must never have heard a good system
Synergy
All those people can't be wrong
'Audio professionals' say its true so it must be

Obviously there are reasons why CD players can sound different. It's telling that nobody on that thread who is arguing for there being differences mentions any of them.
 

coonmanx

Active Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2021
Messages
257
Likes
171
Location
Colorado Springs, CO
I would like to see some blind testing. I use three different CD players and can't tell much of a difference between any of them. And one is a portable unit. I think that the thing with CDs is that one can keep spending and spending trying to get better sound out of them. But I have my doubts. Blind testing of a high end CD unit against others, including protable units, would be a good experiment. I think that some might be surprised...

All of my CD players are late 80s to mid 90s units.
 

Mart68

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 22, 2021
Messages
1,335
Likes
2,377
Location
England
I would like to see some blind testing. I use three different CD players and can't tell much of a difference between any of them. And one is a portable unit. I think that the thing with CDs is that one can keep spending and spending trying to get better sound out of them. But I have my doubts. Blind testing of a high end CD unit against others, including protable units, would be a good experiment. I think that some might be surprised...

All of my CD players are late 80s to mid 90s units.
Stereo Review did some blind tests back in the 1980s. No-one could tell a difference unless the player did not have a flat frequency response.

There was a Carver player that had some sort of 'Super Dynamic' switch (I can't remember what it was really called) which shelved up the bass by little across a wide frequency band. With that switched in people could spot it blind, with it switched off so the FR was flat they could not then distinguish it from the other players.
 

Tim Link

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 10, 2020
Messages
350
Likes
308
Location
Eugene, OR
I thought I already posted on here so I hope I'm not repeating myself. Back in the early 1990s I thought for sure different CD players I owned had different sounds. I had a Sony ES CD player with the nice wooden side panels. I loved the operation and build quality of that thing but it seemed to have a lack of dynamics, seeming almost compressed to me, and maybe a little rolled off in the high frequencies. Totally non-offensive but boring. Makes me wonder if something was wrong with it. It had a volume control on the output so I could hook it straight into a power amp. That didn't seem to sound as good as running it through a pre-amp. No blind testing so it was just my sighted perceptions. Later I bought a Theta Cobalt DAC to use with the Sony ES digital output and that seemed much more punchy and lively sounding. I thought I really liked that, although it would develop a static noise problem and the owner's manual admitted so. The remedy was to put one hand firmly on the chassis, unplug it and then plug it back in. That would work for a while. Strange product.
I also had an early Sony portable CD player that seemed to have a breathy, wispy sort of sound it would add to flutes. It didn't produce pure high tones cleanly it seemed. I think there was some kind of low level linearity problem that was acknowledged with some of those early CD players. A JVC portable I got later did not do that at all. There was a buzzing noise I could hear on a Phillips classical CD on the Sony player that completely disappeared on the JVC and I've never heard it since on any other CD player or DAC.
Since the early 2000s I haven't been able to notice any real difference between DACs or CD players. One exception being a Moodlab brand DAC that I bought. It came with a walwart power supply that I read somewhere did not provide enough current. Easily audible breakup and static could be heard until I got a beefier power supply for it. Once it was working correctly I really didn't hear any unique sonic character to it, which was surprising since it was a NOS dac and I figured oversampling must sound like something or why would they do it? It also had a very early Phillips chip in it. I used it in conjunction with a Creek headphone amp and came to the conclusion over time that the analog output on my iPod or Mac sounded just as good to me and was far more convenient.

I guess I strayed off CD players and on to DACs but really we're just listening to the CD player's built-in DAC. The last old CD player I listened to was a Bang & Olufson CD-X CD player. I thought that sounded a bit rolled off on top but couldn't be sure. I was selling it on eBay for a friend and was really impressed with the style and operation of that player. I almost bought it from him!
 
Last edited:

Azazello13

Member
Joined
May 17, 2022
Messages
41
Likes
126
an older player might have kind of a crappy DAC, if you're forced to use it (with RCA or other analog outs)

any disc player with a digital out, you're not even using the onboard DAC, so you can eliminate most of the sources of real "difference" right there.

the quality and functionality of the laser/reader might introduce some errors and artifacts, especially with older, scratched, or dirty discs or burned CDRs. If your player seems to have an easy time reading whatever you throw at it, then this is likely a complete non-issue in your listening.

the only other variable that can really matter is some units can be loud in their mechanical operation.

If you have a good modern DAC, then any old DVD or bluray player running as a transport through coax or optical out is likely to give you bit perfect performance.

and yet, this is a persistent myth in the golden ears community that different transports and different players make a big difference. it's so demonstrably and scientifically untrue that it's hardly worth efforts to debunk, yet it's still out there.
 

Azazello13

Member
Joined
May 17, 2022
Messages
41
Likes
126
By coincidence, that other site has a thread on the same topic, https://audiokarma.org/forums/index...s-is-one-better-than-another-and-why.1005310/. It is interesting to compare the two threads. It is especially interesting to see how I got trashed for politely saying what everyone is saying here at ASR. The fun starts on page 2...
wow! great job keeping it civil (on your side), I feel like that's a master class in how to deal with those types. I love how the one guy accuses you of "appeal to authority" fallacy, then a few posts later is like "I guess all the recording engineers are hearing things!" :facepalm:
 

MickeyBoy

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
96
Likes
77
Yes, they can sound different. I have had Oppo 103 and Oppo 205. The latter had a tad more accurate sound. The data can show why this is the case.
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
4,472
Likes
7,152
As I've mentioned before, in the late 90's I did two sets of blind tests between a Sony CD player, Meridian CD Player and a Meitner DAC (level matched with voltmeter). It was easy to tell them apart even under the blind conditions.

Which is weird because I'm generally skeptical about the differences in digital gear playing good ol redbook standard (and don't really care much about it these days). But...those were my results back then.

I had a Benchmark DAC 1 for many years and now have a Benchmark DAC2L, and I seriously doubt I'd be able to tell the difference.
 

DonR

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 25, 2022
Messages
1,792
Likes
3,146
Location
Vancouver(ish)
I had one of the original Sony CD players, the "portable" D-50, and later I bought a CDP-770. The difference was obvious and immediate. I then went on to use some decent DVD players as CD players including my Toshiba which I still have that plays DVD-A and finally an LG BD player. They all sound the same to me.
 
Top Bottom