For millions of music listeners, the smartphone has become their primary source component; digital music streaming services now represent close to 80% of the market with more than 50 million subscribers in the United States alone. Consumers put greater value on convenience vs sound quality and that shift has been a rude wake-up call for the high-end audio industry that has marketed expensive separates, loudspeakers, cables, and accessories for decades.
The reality is that consumers no longer see a need for so many expensive boxes; wireless active loudspeakers and one-box integrated amplifiers which include both wired and wireless digital streaming connectivity have made them unnecessary. The good news for consumers is that while prices at the top end have escalated beyond the cost of a luxury automobile for some audio components, there have never been as many affordable high-end components than what is available right now and that makes it a great time to assemble a system.
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Marantz CD6006 ($499.00)
Marantz remains committed to CD playback in the era of digital streaming, and that’s a good thing because even as 2019 heads into the homestretch, and CD sales are at an all-time low — and likely to be surpassed by new vinyl sales in North America, there is still a reason to own a CD player. Sound quality. The CD6006 supports 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution digital audio playback and does a great job with 16-bit/44.1kHz CDs as well. Built like a tank, the CD6006 has a warm and punchy presentation that is easy to listen to for hours. BUY NOW
Audiolab 6000CDT ($549.99)
Audiolab disappeared for a number of years after its parent company went under and vanished from the audio industry, but this well-respected British audio manufacturer is back with a vengeance offering some of the best affordable amplifiers and digital playback systems we’ve heard from anyone in recent memory. The 6000CDT is a solid chunk of metal that operates as a CD transport only – it requires being connected to an external DAC or amplifier with internal DAC section. Load a CD and prepare to be stunned by how much better this unit sounds compared to even some of the best digital streamers connected to the same DAC. BUY NOW
Cambridge Audio CXC Series 2 ($599.99)
One of Cambridge Audio’s best-selling products, the CXC series CD transport offers a state-of-the-art, proprietary S3 Servo to regulate the disc speed and ensure error free playback. The CXC requires an external DAC to operate but does offer its own spin on things with a bold, insightful, and slightly colored sounding presentation. Its robust power supply, durability, and solid construction make it a worthwhile addition to your system if your CD collection is no longer covered with dust in the corner. BUY NOW
Rega Audio Apollo ($1,095.00)
Rega was one of the last to the party with their Planet CD player in 1997, and for more than 22 years the brand has eschewed conventional thinking by only offering top-loading CD players that offer long-term durability. The Apollo offers both analog and digital outputs and its Wolfson’s WM8742 24/96 DAC allows this shoebox-sized CD player to offer great insight into the music, with excellent clarity, detail, and a slightly forward sounding presentation which is the Rega trademark in regard to its best-selling turntables. BUY NOW
Naim CD5 SI ($1,995.00)
Naim have gone full throttle into the streaming category with 6 award-winning network amplifiers, wireless loudspeakers, and dedicated streamers, but the CD5 SI remains. This unique front-drawer loading CD player retains all of the characteristics of the brand’s other products; pace, dynamics, timing, and a colorful presentation that is long on drama but short on imaging or soundstage depth. The CD5 SI features discrete digital and analogue power supplies for superior isolation of sound critical electronics, and stiff aluminum casework that isolates the mechanism and other components from vibration. Like all Naim gear, the CD5 SI will last its owner a lifetime. BUY NOW