What is a Compact Disc Player?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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The compact disc player is certainly a common feature in many people’s homes though sales of simple disc players that only play audio compact discs has declined greatly. Today most people have machines that will read compact discs in a variety of formats, including DVD formats. Most DVD players are also compact disc players, and the majority of newly manufactured computers with a disc reader can read both CDs and DVDs. This was not the case when the compact disc player originated, though its design was based on the laser disc player, which could be used to read movies. Laser discs enjoyed some popularity but never quite as much as VCR or video players; the compact disc player had a different fate.

It’s helpful to understand some history of the CD and compact disc player, which was first released by Sony®. Initially, the price was prohibitive for many people, and few albums were released on CD. This began to change as the 80s waned, and by the early 1990s, there were a number of companies producing players, and many artists releasing music on CD.


Both CDs and players were still higher in price than records and record players (or cassette tapes and cassette players). Gradually, CD players did drop in price, and they began to be incorporated into other equipment including video gaming machines, like the Sony Playstation® I, and computers. Portable and car installed CD players also became popular, though these had problems at first and were prone to skipping if subjected to too many bumps or sudden movements.

Compact disc players have some basic design elements. It may be oversimplification to state that a compact disc player reads information stored on a CD, yet this is essentially its purpose. The CD is a data storage unit, capable of playback, and the CD player reads the stored data, reproducing it perfectly. This method of reading is performed via laser, motor, and tracking system. When the disc is in place, the motor spins it, and a laser device evaluates the information encoded on the disc. The tracking mechanism is responsible for moving the laser so that it can follow the pattern of the information on the disc.

Several types of CD players remain popular including those that have the capacity to store and/or play material from several CDs, called disc changers or carousels. Yet buying a compact disc player for a stereo system is becoming less common, since there are machines that can serve this purpose and others at the same time. DVD players read CDs, and for home use, provided they’re connected to speakers, they can function in place of a CD player.

Another source of competition is the MP3 player. The pricier ones may store numerous hours of music, far more than a CD is capable of holding. They’re lighter and smaller too, which can be an advantage, and many can be hooked into a stereo system or speakers.


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Post 2

I remember when the portable compact disc players were the item to have. Many of them seemed to be poorly made and would skip a lot, but the advantages seemed to be much better than the disadvantages.

By using a compact disc player you also took up much less space. CDs are much lighter and smaller than what cassettes were without the annoyance of constantly rewinding or turning the cassette over.

Post 1

I remember the transfer from music cassettes to CDs. There were so many advantages to these over the cassettes that you would have to take out of the player and turn over in order to play the other side. I also remember splicing many cassette tapes when the tape would break or get stuck.

When the portable cd players first came out, many of them also had a cassette player so you had the option to play both, but it gradually phased to mostly just the cd player. I remember having a unit that would copy the cassette on to a CD which I did many times.

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