CD Changers: Love/Hate

John Frum

Secret Society Member
I personally like having a changer. Or, I do in theory.

To me, in a digital disc player, the performance is a secondary concern behind function and usability. Many changers fall pitifully short in that category, and for that reason I reject out-of-hand cartridge-based players and all “mega changer” carousels.

That leaves me with 5-disc carousels.

You’d think the manufacturers wouldn’t have a problem churning out reliably decent ones. You’d be wrong. Like your more frustrating single-disc CD and DVD player experiences, changers are plagued with the same spotty reliability and sluggishness in loading and response. Add in the increased challenges of engineering and ergonomics associated with changers, and the self-fulfilling prophecy that they aren’t audiophile devices, and it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of losers out there.

I blundered into my current favorite changer, the Marantz CC3000, for $7 at Goodwill - the only piece of my main rig that I “scored”. It was rolled out by Philips in ‘99 at the bottom of a line of three Chinese-made Marantz changers that also included the CC4000, which had a different power supply and a headphone output, and the CC4000OSE, which put Black Gates in the analog section.

The CC3000, which I use exclusively as a transport, has seen off a number of challengers on the basis that it simply works. The controls are logically laid out, and the player is quick to respond. The display is readable. The tray and carousel are fast and quiet. The Philips CDM12.1 transport is regarded as near the top of the consumer-grade heap and it’s used in a number of more-respectable single-disc players. I’m told the transport will eventually fail and need replaced with the readily-available and inexpensive VAM1202, but I’ve had it for several years, and it still plays every CD-R I throw at it.

This should not be a hard bar to clear, and yet...
 
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JoeThePop

Known member
I personally like having a changer. Or, I do in theory.

To me, in a digital disc player, the performance is a secondary concern behind function and usability. Many changers fall pitifully short in that category, and for that reason I reject out-of-hand cartridge-based players and all “mega changer” carousels.

That leaves me with 5-disc carousels.

You’d think the manufacturers wouldn’t have a problem churning out reliably decent ones. You’d be wrong. Like your more frustrating single-disc CD and DVD player experiences, changers are plagued with the same spotty reliability and sluggishness in loading and response. Add in the increased challenges of engineering and ergonomics associated with changers, and the self-fulfilling prophecy that they aren’t audiophile devices, and it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of losers out there.

I blundered into my current favorite changer, the Marantz CC3000, for $7 at Goodwill - the only piece of my main rig that I “scored”. It was rolled out by Philips in ‘99 at the bottom of a line of three Chinese-made Marantz changers that also included the CC4000, which had a different power supply and a headphone output, and the CC4000OSE, which put Black Gates in the analog section.

The CC3000, which I use exclusively as a transport, has seen off a number of challengers on the basis that it simply works. The controls are logically laid out, and the player is quick to respond. The display is readable. The tray and carousel are fast and quiet. The Philips CDM12.1 transport is regarded as near the top of the consumer-grade heap and it’s used in a number of more-respectable single-disc players. I’m told the transport will eventually fail and need replaced with the readily-available and inexpensive VAM1202, but I’ve had it for several years, and it still plays every CD-R I throw at it.

This should not be a hard bar to clear, and yet...

When I was looking for a used transport for my desktop system, I purposely ruled out changers because I had two (one I repaired, and the other that want to a tech when it didn't even make it past the 1 year warranty) that the carousel stopped functioning. My simple, single disc player that I gave to somebody else when I "upgraded" to the 5 disc changer, never had any problems.
 

Try1256

Very Special Member
I have a nice Yamaha changer acquired at GW Hi End Audio in the bedroom and a Sony in the garage. Both have the remote and work great. My CD player in my listening room is a very nice Denon DCD-1560 that I picked up at the Salvation Army store for the princely sum of $25 USD. I use it for the transport only now but the internal dac sounds pretty good. I actually use the changers more. If I am really listening, I prefer records.
 

JoeThePop

Known member
I have a nice Yamaha changer acquired at GW Hi End Audio in the bedroom and a Sony in the garage. Both have the remote and work great. My CD player in my listening room is a very nice Denon DCD-1560 that I picked up at the Salvation Army store for the princely sum of $25 USD. I use it for the transport only now but the internal dac sounds pretty good. I actually use the changers more. If I am really listening, I prefer records.

Proof how different personal experiences can be with equipment. The changer I fixed myself was a Sony, and the one that didn't make it a year was a Yamaha. I pitched both the second time they quit working.
 
The only 5 disc changer I still have is a cheap-o Sony SCD-CE595.

It's slow to read discs, not at all quiet when shifting among them, and sounds surprisingly good, especially when playing SACDs.

But I also don't use it, so there you go....

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle of the love/hate camp.
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
I have no strong opinion -- but I will say the first CDP I bought new (I was a late adopter) was a low/mid level Sony 5-disc carousel changer, which is still installed and still works fine (not that it gets used much... but it always works when asked to). The drawer open/close is a little tenuous sometimes, but it does work. The round 'n' round gizmoidals still work fine.

P1020535.jpg
 
Fun to look at? Yes. Fun to load? Big nope. Easy to remember what is loaded in each slot? Nope, nope. I have a 100-CD carousel but haven't used it in 15 years. Also had a cartridge-loading Maggotbox (Philips) from the late 80s that was even more of a pain to load, since I couldn't play a single CD without having to load that effing cartridge. (Only had enough money at the time to own one CD player.)

Moot point now that I play back music from a server. 😊
 

mhardy6647

Señor Member
Hmmm... does there need to be an accounting of number of CD players also? Could there be more than tuners in the house?
No! Far less, actually. In fact, I was gonna go back and change "bunch" to "few" :) I don't think it'll even crack double digits.
umm... now...
PLEASE don't make me count them! ;)
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
I bought a new NAD 515, 5 DISC, carousel CD-Changer around 1996. Not only did I love the idea of being able to play 5 CDs, one could program tracks from the various CDs, and I thought it sounded much better than the Denon I was using.

On this player, one could open the drawer and keep a CD playing.

Hate to jinx myself, but the thing still works just fine, and it did garage duty for a couple or three years.


 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
I had the top of the line Sony ES five disc changer, and it was an absolute gem. Never an issue with it. Beautifully crafted.
The only 5 disc changer I still have is a cheap-o Sony SCD-CE595.

It's slow to read discs, not at all quiet when shifting among them, and sounds surprisingly good, especially when playing SACDs.

But I also don't use it, so there you go....

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle of the love/hate camp.

About 5 years back, I had a chance to compare and contrast the Sony CDP-S735, the CDP-CA70ES, and the a SCD-CE595 (CD/SACD).

The S735 was the oldest, and reminded me of the Sony changer my parents had when I was little. I could have lived with it, but the Marantz was newer and had a better feel. The two newer decks were a substantial step down, taking forever to load, respond, open/close and change discs. Evidently somewhere around 2000, Sony just sort of gave up.

In spite of my experience, yesterday I bought a SCD-C2000ES CD/SACD changer. The silver brushed aluminum faceplate is sexy as hell, and the seller said it’d only been used about ten times. Surely, I thought, this beautiful beast will de-throne the Marantz. Nope. The SCD-2000ES is just the tarted-up version of SCD-CE595, subject to the same maddeningly pokey operation.

Last year, I found a Marantz CC4001 - just one line newer than my CC3000. “No brainer” I thought. Nope. As bad as the modern Sonys.
 
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n spite of my experience, yesterday I bought a SCD-C2000ES CD/SACD changer. The silver brushed aluminum faceplate is sexy as hell, and the seller said it’d only been used about ten times. Surely, I thought, this beautiful beast will de-throne the Marantz. Nope. The SCD-2000ES is just the tarted-up version of SCD-CE595, subject to the same maddeningly pokey operation.

What I can say about the Sony SCD-CE595 is that it's a cheap, nice sounding way to dip one's toes in the SACD pool but, yes, it is also without question an extremely clunky machine. It's too bad the SCD-2000ES is no improvement in this regard. Oh, well, at least you have the CC3000.
 

John Frum

Secret Society Member
Maybe I got spoiled by that first Sony changer, circa 1996. I have no idea whether my parents bought it used or new (likely used) but it soon replaced a slightly older single-disc player we got in 1995 - our first CD player. The changer felt like a necessity after all those 1¢ BMG Record Club CDs started rolling in, and I dutifully scooped up everything the new alternative rock radio station was playing.

I remember pinching pennies, likely getting help from Mom or Grandma, and buying my dad a Sharp changer for Christmas to use in his workshop. It was terribly slow and finicky, and my first major lesson in buying the cheapest possible home electronics. Of course, it lasted probably 20 years.
 
I like things simple. Those changers introduce a level of complexity and unreliability that are not worth the benefits.

Besides, for convenience, I have my PC connected to my DAC. My entire collection is a click away. No CD changer can come close to that.

For those relaxing moments of audiophoolery, I’ve got a couple of single disc players. I do like the consistency and quality of sound I get when I play the CDs. Sometimes, it seems as though the music played from my PC has good days and days where I wonder why things don’t sound as good as they usually do. Playing the actual CD never gives me those moments of doubt.
 

fiddlefye

Senior Member
I had the top of the line Sony ES five disc changer, and it was an absolute gem. Never an issue with it. Beautifully crafted.
I too have a top-of-the-line Sony ES five disc which currently resides in the system at my wife's art supply shop. It sounds good and has never caused a moment's trouble, either. I've two more Sony carousels, mid-pack models, one in the kitchen and another in the art studio and both have been completely reliable as well. The only other CD changer I had was a Carver 1-bit that sounded remarkably good. I gave it to a music-loving friend when she was in the process of divorce along with an Arcam integrated, very early reference 3A speakers, Onkyo tuner and one of the better BIC turntables. As far as I know it is all working nicely and it was quite an enjoyable system.
 
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