CD Players DAC’s and transports explained.

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It may seem obvious to everyone now, but a quick explanation is always handy.

Compact Disc players have been available since late 1982, and when they were launched, they were the answer to everything audio. Although that may have ended up not quite being the case, the fact is, certainly for thirty years, they have been the deficit way to enjoy high quality music for the vast majority of people. Only now, as people turn to downloaded music has its popularity begun to wain. However, a good CD player is still an incredible way to listen to music, and in most instances, easily better sounding that a downloaded compressed format audio file.

So, what’s inside of a CD Player? Well, we’re going to cut it down to a very simplistic level and lie and tell you there are only three things inside.

First there is a power supply and regulation components to make the thing work and then a transport with a laser for reading the CD disc.


Lastly a DAC (Digital to Analogue Convertor) to change the digital information that is stored on the disc into an analogue sound wave that your HiFi can play back - and more importantly that your ears can make sense of.


It has been suggested by people who are either idiots or presumably clinically deaf, that because the CD player is only reading 1’s and 0’s, that a player, any player, is just as good as any other. This is of course as far from the truth as me saying I’m going to be retiring at fifty.

The power supply and regulation for the many myriad of components inside of a CD player make a huge difference to the sound, much as they do for any other HiFi component. The transport and quality of the laser inside make as big, if not even bigger difference, since if the information is not retrieved off of the disc correctly in the first place, how can you expect it to be good in the second place. Finally, the DAC makes an overwhelming difference, and DAC chips and their matching components are available from just a few pence to many hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

An important point about CD players is that many have a separate digital output on the back allowing you to upgrade them by adding an external DAC for enhanced sound replay. Similarly you can but a stand alone CD transport that does not output an analogue signal at all, it must be run through a separate DAC to complete the process of disc to sound.

For many, the integrated CD player may be as high a quality as they ever need to go, indeed, since CD players are available for many thousands of pounds, it could be concluded that separate transports and DAC’s are somewhat frivolous, as with any device, there will always be a small group of individuals who aspire to getting as good as it can be. So the niche’ for such devices carries on.


For a great explanation of a DAC, we heartily recommend you look at the MATRIX page, since it holds your key to understanding the ins and outs of DAC’s.

For even greater understanding, you can also look at our Asynchronous DAC’s explained page.