CD player with headphone out?

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by Starlet, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. Starlet

    Starlet New Member

    Jun 29, 2010
    Can you recommend a CD player which has a headphone outlet, or is it better to buy a CD player and a separate headphone amplifier?
    Presently I'm using Shure ear canal buds with a Sony MP3 player but am not impressed by the quality. I fancy some Audio Technica ATH-500s but would like something better than the Sony portable CD player I've got. It doesn't have to be portable in the sense of battery powered, as I want to use it in my caravan where I can get mains power. However I would prefer something reasonably small and neat.
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

    Apr 28, 2010
    Hi Starlet,

    Portable CD players are a good way to go if storage space is your biggest concern. As far as I know there is little difference between the top brands in quality of components - in consumer tests both Sony and Panasonic seem to come out on top.

    To look a little further into this question though maybe it isn't a CD player you're after.

    On the face of it the natural assumption would be that, because a CD is made in full 16 bit stereo quality sound, that playing it in a CD player gives you the best quality sound - doesn't it? Well yes and no!

    There are several parts of a CD player the transport (where you put the CD - with the motor and the laser that reads the CD) and then the DAC (Digital to Analogue Converters) the but that changes the information into sound. It is the quality of these parts and the components in between which govern the final quality of output.

    Basically there is a lot of potential to lose all that quality from the CD - MP3 players are no different, just because they are digital with no moving parts poor quality components can still spoil things. There are however many advantages to MP3 players and several great "lossless" formats to rip CD's in which will sound better than a bad CD player! Have a look at COWON who make some of the nicest MP3 players out there and don't forget the amazing latest gen iPod Touch - all those apps to help with... everything and the slickest menu I've seen.

    To sort this one out you will have to pick the brains of someone selling these devices as I'm very happy with my iPod but have little experience outside this. Once you've got a device in mind some full size headphones are fine with the power output of small music devices but should you need an amp here are some suggestions.

    A headphone amp will help to power high resistance of inefficient headphones - instead of appearing quiet and "veiled" they will open up giving better bass and treble response. Most cheaper amps will be pretty neutral whereas more expensive amps could be dark (emphasis on bass frequency) or bright (emphasis on the treble). Bright headphones are better twinned with a darker amp and vice versa. Here are a selection of small portable amps.

    This one powers from your iPod and connects directly to the bottom dock for a better quality signal.

    FiiO E1 Headphone Amplifier for iPod/iPhone in Black


    These amps all need an interconnect to your portable player like these good quality leads -

    iBasso CB05 Line Out Dock Cable for iPod & iPhone in Black


    iBasso CB06 High Purity Copper 3.5mm to 3.5mm Jack Plug (CB-06)


    these keep the quality up as you pass your signal to -

    FiiO E5 Headphone Amplifier in Black


    iBasso T4 Ultra Portable Headphone Amplifier in Grey & Brown


    iBasso D2 Portable Headphone Amplifier & USB DAC in Silver


    Graham Slee Voyager Portable Headphone Amplifier


    iBasso D10 DAC & Headphone Amplifier in Black


    If you want a "Desktop" size mains powered amp (half the size of a conventional Hifi amp) these are definitely worth a look!

    Pro-Ject Head Box II Headphone Amplifier in Black


    Graham Slee Novo Headphone Amplifier


    Graham Slee Solo Intro Headphone Amplifier


    Lehmann Audio Black Cube Linear Headphone Amplifier in Black


    Hope this helps - although not a perfect answer to the original question.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010
  3. Starlet

    Starlet New Member

    Jun 29, 2010

    Thanks for your reply. I've got a Rega CD player and amp at home, which sounds great, and were chosen after much auditioning. I don't really want to cart the player around with me in my caravan, though!

    If I could rip CDs from the Rega into a lossless format and place on a good "MP3" player then that would be good I guess. I went looking for a portable CD player some time ago and bought a Sony one which is OK as mentioned. I was surprised to find that the market only seems to offer "budget" portable players, nothing of better quality, hence my question. My MP3 player is a Sony NWZ-A818 which I bought on recommendation of having good sound quality, but I haven't been able to try it against other players other than the Sandisk one it replaced (it sounded much better than the Sandisk). I avoid temptation to go for an iPod as I don't really subscribe to Apple products.

    Can you suggest a program that can rip CDs to a suitable lossless format? I have a USB soundcard to connect my laptop to the Rega, but last time I looked I found nothing I could put onto the Sony MP3 player. (I take it there are programs for an iPod? I guess I might be tempted by a iPod touch and eat humble pie!)

    If you can then I'll buy a headphone amp such as the FiiO E5 and some phones. "What HiFi" had recommended the ATH-500s I mentioned, but I see you recommend others in other threads. I want acoustic isolation as does colint, so perhaps the HFI-780s you suggest would be better? I had half a mind to buy noise cancelling while I'm at it and like Bose products (their pilot headset is regarded as creme de la creme but costs £700!) and their QuietComfort 15s look good. How would you rate these for sound quality against the ATH and the HFI phones?

  4. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

    Apr 28, 2010
    Hi Starlet,

    I too was surprised there is no such thing as a high end portable CD player. There are quite a few great bits of software out there but my top tip is EAC (Exact Audio Copy) use this and the cd drive in your laptop to make an exact digital copies of your CD's!

    If fidelity is what you are looking for in an MP3 player then check out the beautiful COWON S9 or it's smaller brothers and sisters.

    I think the most important thing with picking headphones is that they match the style of music and artists you love - this way you are guaranteed to fall for them. Although I am not a massive Bose fan (expensive when compared to items of equal or better quality) I have to say it's not really a fair comparison as noise cancelling is never going to positively effect a headphones ability to accurately reproduce sound. I would always go for the Hifi option as noise cancellers always feel like 2nd best and I really don't fly that often (this is where noise cancellers are in their element removing the low frequency noise of the jet engines).

    ATH A500
    's are an excellent headphone but are also very large and not particularly robust - these are definitely for home use.

    I am really positive about the Ultrasone HFI780 which have an open and balanced sound that is seriously impressive for a closed back. They even fold for easy storage whilst travelling!

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