CD Players & Transports

How do CD players work?

I don’t have to tell you how to suck eggs, for everyone knows that CD players pick up digital content from a spinning disc using a laser. Again like streaming, the signal is a digital one compromising 1’s and 0’s. The signal must be converted to an analogue waveform by a Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) for it to be heard. But what’s the difference between CD Players & Transports. Read on….

What types of players are there?

Generally there are two types; – a ‘CD transport’ which conveys a digital signal to a DAC or one with an integrated DAC, which in normal use language is referred to as a ‘CD player’.

They can also be combined, such that they have both analogue outputs and digital outputs, and can operate as CD players or CD transports. You might use either the internal DAC and route it to your preamplifier or integrated amplifier, or use the digital output(s) to send the digital to a better DAC when you upgrade later. The use of such devices with digital outputs and analogue outputs allows you to use the best DAC, wherever it sits in your HiFi.


Often CD Transports and CD Players look the same and operate the same but the difference in having a DAC or not is reflective in rear connections. Hence lets have a look;

CD Players & Transports
CD Transport : with no inbuilt DAC and Optical (left) & Coaxial Digital outputs only.
CD Players & Transports
‘CD Player’ : with inbuilt DAC and left and right RCA analogue outputs only, to go to a preamplifier or integrated amplifier.
CD Players & Transports
CD Player and Transport : inbuilt DAC with left and right RCA analogue outputs and Optical & Coaxial Digital Outputs – top (to use it just as a Transport)

Rega Apollo CDP CD player & Transport : Rear Panel

Common digital cables

The demise of CD?

Now is a good time to buy your last CD spinner as it’s likely the new manufacture of CDs will have had its time in a few years. This is certainly the case of the British and American markets and in much of Europe, but in places like Japan, most music is still consumed from CD.

Read about the differences between types of amplifiers here.

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Written by Simon Price

I'm music lover who shares experiences of faithfully reproduced audio in an ENGAGING way with HIGH VIDEO PRODUCTION VALUES. I enjoy and make reviews as I love audio gadgets, being a voice on audio and producing creative videos that ultimately benefit the industry and new participation. I keep technicalities easy, as I believe great audio serves music and music is inclusive and to be enjoyed by all!

Streaming Audio in HiFi


Digital to Analogue Converters (DACs)