The 10 Best Portable CD Players
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Despite the convenience of digital downloads and streaming services, many music lovers still swear by CDs. Whether you’re devoted to '90s nostalgia or just prefer the sound to MP3s, you’ll want to check out the portable players on this list. We’ve selected everything from durable, high-end models to casual options, so you can listen to your collection at home or while you’re out and about. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 04, 2020:
Although smart speakers and affordable smartphones have rendered the CD boombox of yesteryear unnecessary for many, we've still found plenty of options for those who wish to make use of a CD collection. As for boombox-type choices, we've kept both the Sony CFD-S70 and the Sony Sound System, with the latter being the more expensive and feature-heavy choice. We selected the Magnavox Top Loading, as well, on the strength of its fun flashing lights and highly portable design. Note, though, that this one isn't the most intuitive to use, especially if you're trying to turn the light feature off, so it may not be the right choice for those who aren't very tech savvy.
As for other styles, we added the upgraded version of the Tenswall Wall-Mountable, which now has a cover to protect the CD being played, an improvement over the previous version. Not only that, but it now has a small LCD screen to display the time, as well as a memory function, both nice touches.
If you need something very small and portable, the Monodeal Rechargeable, the Gueray Personal, or the Hott CD611 should suit. The Hott model is especially notable thanks to its styling, but unlike the Monodeal or Gueray models, it isn't rechargeable, nor does it come with the required AA batteries. This is somewhat frustrating given the relatively high price, which means this model simply won't be for everyone.
July 31, 2019:
Believe it or not, a lot of people still have plenty of CDs to listen to, and the truth is that they can sound even better than a high-quality streaming service because they don't use the same type of lossy compression. Options like the GPX and Hott are much like the Discman of days gone by, featuring reliable skip protection and form factors about as small as you can get for a CD player. For something almost as portable and considerably more versatile, check out the DBPower, which makes a great video player as well, although it doesn't have the ability to play Blu-rays.
Then there are some boomboxes and boombox-like options. Both Sonys are excellent choices; one offers NFC and Bluetooth pairing while the other has a cassette player in case you're REALLY interested in going old-school. The DPNao is even more portable than those thanks to its relatively slim construction. And the Tenswall is a nice choice for use at home in the kitchen, but its lack of a dust cover may be problematic for some users. It does have the ability to double as a bluetooth speaker, though, which can come in handy if not everything you listen to is recorded on last-generation media.
Bose Wave SoundTouch It's not "take it to the beach" portable, but you can move the Bose Wave SoundTouch music system IV between rooms or carry it to your office if need be, since it weighs only about 8 pounds. But whether you use it at home or at work, it will make for an easy listening experience thanks to Alexa, Spotify, and Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility. bose.com
Hammacher Schlemmer Wireless You can have an old-school music experience, but without the wires, when you choose the Hammacher Schlemmer Wireless, which can connect to any Bluetooth-enabled headphones or speaker. Guaranteed for life, this cordless unit has an anti-skip function and rechargeable batteries that you can juice up with the included USB charger. hammacher.com
Features Of Portable CD Players
But before you grab just any old player, you'll want to make sure you opt for the features that will work best for you.
Whether or not you're old enough to remember the days before streaming music and boundless MP3s, you may have just the space in your life for a portable CD player. For one thing, there's less to go wrong with this type of optical media (you can't accidentally delete everything, say), and for another, there's something appealing about the physical and nostalgic presence of CDs. But before you grab just any old player, you'll want to make sure you opt for the features that will work best for you.
You might think about how the player is powered, first of all, to ensure that keeping it juiced up won't be a hassle. Are you okay with a battery-only model, or will an AC adapter give you the freedom to keep the music going for long stretches of time? And what type of batteries does the player take? Keep in mind that larger models requiring larger batteries will ultimately be heavier and probably not as easy to transport.
Then, there's the actual media to consider. Your portable CD player should certainly be able to play traditional audio CDs, but many these days also accept MP3 CDs and CD-R/RW, greatly expanding the amount of music you have at your fingertips. Some can also connect to other audio-playing devices, like your phone or MP3 player; some have cassette players; and some throw an AM/FM radio into the mix, too. But only you can decide if you need a smorgasbord of audio media always available or if a taste of your CD collection now and then will suffice.
Don't forget about the "extras," as well. A backlit display can be useful but not necessarily crucial if you only listen to music during the day. For audiophiles, some EQ functionality is probably a must, while the more technologically savvy will enjoy models that can connect to other audio devices via Bluetooth. And for those who need some extra help getting up in the morning, there are now versions that will even make your coffee for you. Just kidding, technology isn't quite there yet — although there are versions that do offer a built-in alarm clock.
Cleaning Your CDs
CD lovers all dread the day when their favorite disc begins skipping, bringing audio frustration at its worst. If you find that your CDs have become dirty, scratched, or smudged, don't panic, there are a few things you can do to get back to the beat.
Start with a quick, easy fix: turn the player off, then restart it. If that doesn't help, try the CD in another player, if you can, as some CD players are more sensitive than others. You can also determine whether it's the disc or the player that's malfunctioning by trying out different discs. A player that's skipping with any CD you put in it may be the problem, rather than the disc.
Realistically, whether any of these methods have a perfect outcome is largely dependent on the size and severity of the scratches.
After you've determined that your CD needs to be cleaned, take a look at the non-labelled side. Does it look dirty, greasy, or smudgy? If it looks a little grimy, you can wipe away the dust and grit with an anti-static cloth. For smears and smudges, you'll need a CD cleaning kit or some extremely gentle soap (think baby shampoo). Try not to be too rough as you wash or wipe the disc; run the cloth gently over the surface, from the inner circle straight to the outside edge.
A CD may not just be dirty, though — it could be scratched. In these cases, you might try one (or several) of the home remedies that CD lovers have suggested and tried over the years. For instance, some people propose lightly buffing the CD using a variety of materials, including white toothpaste, metal polish, furniture polish, window cleaner, peanut butter, and even the inside of a banana peel. There are also disc repair kits available, if rubbing foodstuffs over your CD collection doesn't appeal to you. Realistically, whether any of these methods have a perfect outcome is largely dependent on the size and severity of the scratches.
You can avoid the hassle that comes with cleaning and de-scratching discs in the first place when you keep your CD collection in good condition. If you'd like to leave your discs in their original cases, a CD tower will help you keep them easy to manage; for those who need greater portability, a high-quality CD case may be in order.
A Brief History Of The CD Player
Up until the 1980s, music lovers relied on records, cassettes, and even 8-tracks to enjoy their favorite audio recordings, but Sony's 1982 release of the first commercial CD player, the CDP-101, started the audio industry down a new path. Released first in Japan, the player sold briskly once it made its way to Europe and the U.S., even though it was anything but cheap at just under a grand.
This was the Discman, again from Sony, which launched in 1984.
The specifications for this player and the newly developed compact discs evolved through a joint effort by Sony and Philips, whose cooperation paved the way for widespread consumer adoption of the technology. Music selection was low at first, of course, but as the medium became more popular, more and more bands began to offer their albums in this format. It only took until 1985 to reach the first million-copy-selling CD album: Brothers in Arms, by Dire Straits.
With the runaway popularity of CDs, it wasn't long before the portable CD player hit the scene. This was the Discman, again from Sony, which launched in 1984. It didn't attain immediate must-have status, however, because it didn't yet feature anti-skip technology; if you jostled the player slightly, the disc would skip, a surefire source of annoyance. The player picked up steam in the 1990s with the improvement of its playback capabilities, and remained popular just into the beginning of the 2000s, when the release of the iPod sounded the death knell of the portable CD player's dominance.