Where have all the CD players gone…..

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Ok, I was singing that borrowing from Peter Paul and Mary, “where have all the flowers gone”. Have you noticed lately, a shortage in available component CD players? I’m talking about dedicated CD players, not Blue Ray players or Multi format disc players.
Part of the reason for this is the waning sales of CDs these days. There was a time when one could turn their CDs into a (what was still called “record shops”) and get money or store credit for your unwanted CDs. Today, don’t even try that. Many of those same shops will not accept CDs anymore because they don’t sell, so why try to dedicate space for them?

So is the CD dead? Hardly. There are plenty of CDs out there, mostly on the internet. In fact, the used CD market on the internet is alive and well. Yes, there are some well done CDs, they can be done right. Of course there is also music available only on CD that will never come to vinyl such as artists like David Arkenstone, Venus Hum, Mythos, etc. Then you have artists such as Tori Amos who sounds just as good on CD as on vinyl (very well produced CDs) or 1990s remasters of Rush on CD, etc. All valid and all good.
I have lots of CDs as well as vinyl and still buy them used mostly. (In my world there is room for both, it’s the music that matters at the end of the day). Those of us who do have plenty of CDs and still buy them also still want good CD players. The whole of the CD market is not going to die anytime soon. In fact, in my observational opinion, it may slightly be on the up swing as folks are realizing that streaming is just not as satisfying as having music in some tangible format such as CD or vinyl. Those who do not have a vinyl rig (or analog front-end) are buying CDs again as well as those of us who have both a vinyl and CD playback ability. (So we are clear, I am not putting down streaming, it has a place in my opinion, just not really geared for serious listening or having that complete emotional or visceral connection one gets from something they can hold on to. Yes, while vinyl has it strongest, even CDs have that quality in a way that files will never have).

Ok fine, there is still an issue though and that is that not all dedicated CD players are created equal. The problem is that lately, the cupboards are starting to get bare as far as CD players go. The cheap ones in the $100 to $300 range while improved somewhat over the years were and still aren’t that good. On top of that it is getting more difficult to find those players if you want to. Players in the $300 to $600 range tend to be a bit better with better drives and internal dacs, etc; but still not as good as can be and are also scarce now. Marantz has a couple of decent CD players in the sub $1k range and they are not too bad for what they are. However, there is still the issues of transport (drive), internal dac being too close to the motor and other electronics producing interference in the signal path and the clocks or drives producing what is known as jitter. Jitter refers to the data (1’s and 0’s) that are not perfectly time-aligned that is transmitted slightly earlier or later than should be in the optimum case. This time flaw though is not as great as to cause a digital error (data fallout), however, it can make things to sound kind of off.
Understand that the Digital Out of a $100 to $600 CD player is the same 1’s and 0’s as with a $30,000 player. The difference is the jitter content, if you will. The jitter comes from the CD transport, that is the drive that spins the CD. The transport/drive is that hub motor thing the CD sits on. In the case of a component (stand alone) CD player (just as with a DVD player, etc.) one usually puts the CD in the “drawer” or “slot” depending on load style of player and when “play” is pressed a hub comes into the middle hole of the CD and slightly lifts it off the tray you loaded it on. (If it didn’t, your CD would be scratched beyond recognition and likely start to melt or come apart from the heat created by the friction of rubbing against the plastic tray at the very high RPMs the CD spins at). In fact, a lot of times you know about a failed player when you hear the disc against the plastic tray. When you hear that it is game over.
There are CD transports used in cheaper players that cost very little (less than $20) and ones that can cost as much as $4000 or so. The difference is Jitter. The cheap ones shake a lot and the expensive ones don’t.
So how does one solve the dilemma of jitter and signal path interference with CD players? (Continued on Page 2)

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