Since its introduction in 1983, the CD player has become a popular addition to, and inclusion in, many home audio systems. Although digital downloads and media streaming may be likely to largely replace CDs as a distribution method, many thousands, possibly millions, of CDs remain in existing collections, and on the pre-owned market, and it's reasonable to assume that players will still be required for playback of this material. This article will consider aspects of buying a CD player for use in the home, one which is intended to be connected to amplification and speakers as part of a HiFi system. Portables and car players are considered out with the scope of this article, as are CD players incorporated into all-in-one music devices, such as those combined with radios, cassette players, or iPod docks.
CD players, like other items of consumer electronics, are generally quite reliable, but there are still a number of factors to bear in mind when considering a pre-owned purchase. The prime factor in choosing a CD player is likely to be its sound quality, but since this is a personal preference, to be judged by auditioning, and usually off the agenda when making a purchase at a distance, it is excluded from consideration here.
A buyer's requirements will vary, and there are a number of facilities that a CD player may or may not offer that will influence a purchase. The display should be considered, with regard to whether or not it will be readable and usable when the player is installed in the home situation, and whether or not it includes the necessary information. Some players show track numbers only, others have full function displays that indicate playback or pause status, remaining track numbers, and a variety of other aspects of player operation. Buyer requirements will vary, and the buyer should assess this for themselves. Some players offer the most basic track skip and review features, others will allow programming of a complete playlist, whereby playback order can be varied from the original CD order, and tracks can be excluded from playback. Many players are fitted with a digital output or outputs as well as analogue. This allows the player to be connected to a separate digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), bypassing the DAC fitted internally to the player. This is a popular upgrade path for the audio enthusiast, where the CD player is retained as a transport device, feeding a digital output stream to a better class of DAC as an outboard unit. Of course, this then allows the transport and DAC components to be upgraded independently at a later date. Recent models have been developed to allow connection of other digital music devices via digital inputs or USB ports, thus allowing the CD player to act as a digital hub within the HiFi system. Consider whether or not the player comes supplied with a remote control, and whether or not the remote duplicates all of the necessary functions from the player itself. Lastly, look at physical considerations, and determine if the size, colour and form factor of the player will be a good visual fit with the equipment and any equipment racking that it will be partnered with. Many CD players come in broadly standard widths, and can usually be relied on to integrate with most other equipment from many manufacturers.
If possible, the player should be inspected in person, and auditioned by listening, to ensure that it performs as expected. In a distance sale, this may not be possible, and scrutiny of any available online pictures and descriptions will have to suffice, even though this will only give a general overall cosmetic impression. The vast majority of electronic and HiFi components are generally reliable, and can be expected to give many years of good service. However, the weak link in many consumer electronics devices tends to be the moving parts, and this tendency shows up in CD players with faults in the loading, tray or laser mechanisms, and sometimes in the laser assembly itself. Rubber drive belts can often be a weak spot, and with a certain degree of mechanical expertise, can be easily replaced, however, a discussion of replacements such as these naturally leads to consideration of whether or not replacement parts are still available, either from the original manufacturer, or from aftermarket suppliers.
Discussion of spare parts naturally leads to considerations of component obsolescence, covering whether or not required components are still in current manufacture, whether they have ceased manufacture but are still in stock, whether they are available from aftermarket manufacturers, or if they are totally unavailable. In the main, many CD player manufacturers haven't tended to manufacture their own CD drives, and have typically used off-the-shelf drives, building them into custom cases with their own design and flavour of control and audio electronics. In a number of notable cases, the drives used in these CD players are no longer being manufactured at all, and if these drives go faulty, they render the whole CD player useless unless a working drive can be sourced from another player. In this instance, the whole player might as well be replaced, rather than the drive. The buyer should, therefore, consider some brands and models with caution, especially if they are listed as for spares or repair. There's no value in a CD player being offered for repair if the crucial part that needs repair is no longer available. Unfortunately, there's no known master list covering all CD player makes and models, so it's recommended that the buyer conducts a degree of online research, via audio forums, manufacturer websites, and other sources, to establish if the chosen model has any issues of this nature. If so, the buyer should consider its value, even if still in good working condition, to be reduced, and should consider any model offered for spares and repair to be virtually worthless, unless the problem can be demonstrated to lie in an area unaffected by the obsolete componentry.
CD players are available in all price ranges, from the cheapest and most basic through to high value and premium models. While many experienced buyers will already have a clear idea of what they want in terms of make and model, and know how much they wish to spend, it's recommended that the novice buyer broadly buys in a price range that matches the equipment to which the CD player will be connected.
The buyer should scrutinise the product listing, or correspond with the seller, to determine if the player will be supplied in, and/or transported in, the original packaging. If so, this tends to suggest that the seller, and previous owners, have taken good care of the player as well as the packaging. The best way to ship a consumer electronics item such as a CD player is in its original shipping packaging, as supplied by the manufacturer. It's usually good policy to establish if the seller will include further packaging and protection around, and to protect, the original.
How to Find CD Players on eBay
From the eBay homepage, select Shop by category, and expand the drop-down category list with the See all categories button. Select Sound & Vision, and from the category box at the left-hand side, Home Audio & HiFi Separates. From the Categories list to the left, choose CD Players & Recorders. There is no subcategory definition to distinguish players from recorders, so the buyer may need to include keywords linked to their requirements in the search box, or use the Brand or other category selections to refine the number of listings -Technics or Sony might be common choices, for instance.
The CD remains a popular choice for music in the home, and by careful consideration of the guidelines above, the buyer can select a good quality player which will be likely to yield many years of listening pleasure.