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CD player

A CD player is an electronic device that plays audio compact discs. CD players are often a part of home stereo systems, car audio systems, and personal computers. They are also manufactured as portable devices. Modern units can play other formats in addition to PCM audio coding used in CDs, such as MP3, AAC and WMA. DJs often use players with an adjustable playback speed to alter the pitch and tempo of the music.

 

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OPPO BDP-105D Universal Audiophile 3D Blu-ray Player

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CD Player Buying Guide

 

If you've spent years building an impressive CD collection, an equally impressive CD player is the best way to enjoy your discs. Sure, you can play CDs on your computer or Blu-ray player. Or you can rip them to digital files and play them on your smartphone or iPod®. But if you’re looking for the easiest way to enjoy all the musical details of your favorite discs, a quality CD player is a smart investment.

 

What should you look for when shopping for a CD player?

 

Though they’re less versatile than Blu-ray or DVD players, the CD player’s focused mission of music playback means they are optimized for good sound. Designers don’t have to find room for video processors or add cost to prevent interference between the video and audio signals.

 

The best players are distinguished by solid construction, smart design, and high quality internal components. They’re designed for accurate, detailed playback while minimizing interference and distortion in the signal. Pay attention to the following features when shopping for a new player.

 

Digital-to-analog converter: turning 1s and 0s into music

 

Because CD is a digital format, every CD player must be able to convert the digital signal to analog for playback on a stereo system. This is the job of the digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

 

Most inexpensive CD and Blu-ray players use low-quality DACs. However, high-quality CD players depend on better DACs to squeeze all those little details out of your discs for more accurate playback. One way they achieve this is by minimizing jitter – digital timing errors that can occur during conversion. By minimizing this sound-degrading effect, high-quality DACs can produce a cleaner, more vibrant sound. Some brands of high-quality DACs include Wolfson, Burr-Brown, Analog Devices, Cirrus Logic, and ESS Sabre.

 

Some high-end CD players are also capable of converting digital signals at a higher sampling rate than the CD. This process, called upsampling, can take a digital signal from a standard CD, encoded at 44.1kHz, and convert it to a higher sampling rate such as 192kHz before converting it to an analog signal. This can make your music sound more detailed and lifelike.

 

While every CD player has a DAC, some players feature two DACs, using separate converters for the left and right channels. This allows for even more accurate playback as the left and right-channel signals can be kept separate prior to conversion all the way through the output stage, creating a wider soundstage with clearer stereo imaging.

 

Get more mileage from your player's DAC with digital inputs

 

Some high-end CD players have digital inputs for using the player’s built-in DAC with other source components. For instance, USB (type B) inputs allow you to connect a computer to use the CD player’s DAC. This can produce far better sound quality than your computer’s stock sound card.

CD player Inner workings

 

The process of playing an Audio CD, touted as a digital audio storage medium, starts with the plastic polycarbonate disc, an analogue medium that contains the digitally encoded data.

 

The data is read out by loading the disc in the player's mechanism that scans the spiral data track using a laser beam. The tracking control is done by analogue servoamplifiers and then the high frequency analogue signal read from the disc is digitized, processed and decoded into analogue audio and digital control data which is used by the player to position the playback mechanism on the correct track, do the skip and seek functions and display track, time, index and, on newer players, title and artist information on a display placed in the front panel.

 

Analogue signal recovery from the disc

 

To read the data from the disc, a laser beam shines on the surface of the disc. Differences on the particular disc being played and in the loading mechanism makes the need of using a movable lens with a very close focal length to focus the light on the disc.

 

A low mass lens coupled to an electromagnetic coil is in charge of keeping focused the beam on the 600 nm wide data track.

 

When the player tries to read from a stop, it does a focus seek program that moves the lens up and down from the surface of the disc until a reflection is detected; when there is a reflection, the servo electronics lock in place keeping the lens in perfect focus while the disc rotates and changes its relative height from the optical block.

 

Different brands and models of optical assemblies use different methods of focus detection. On most players, the focus position detection is made using the difference in the current output of a block of four photodiodes. The photodiode block and the optics are arranged in such a way that a perfect focus projects a circular pattern on the block while a far or near focus projects an ellipse differing in the position of the long edge in north-south or west-southwest. That difference is the information that the servoamplifier uses to keep the lens at the proper reading distance during the playback operation, even if the disc is warped.

 

Another servo mechanism in the player is in charge of keeping the focused beam centered on the data track.

 

Two optical pick-up designs exists, the original CDM series from Philips use a magnetic actuator mounted on a swing-arm to do coarse and fine tracking. Using only one laser beam and the 4 photodiode block, the servo knows if the track is centred by measuring side-by-side movement of the light of beam hitting on the block and corrects to keep the light on the centre.

 

The other design by Sony uses a diffraction grating to part the laser light into one main beam and two sub-beams. When focused, the two peripheral beams cover the border of the adjacent tracks a few micrometers apart from the main beam and reflect back on two photodiodes separated from the main block of four. The servo detects the RF signal being received on the peripheral receivers and the difference in output between these two diodes conform the tracking error signal that the system uses to keep the optics in the proper track. The tracking signal is fed to two systems, one integrated in the focus lens assembly can do fine tracking correction and the other system can move the entire optical assembly side by side to do coarse track jumps.

 

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