There are many well recorded and mastered red book CDs with excellent sound quality and many historic recordings may not be available for some time as downloadable or real-time streaming digital files. Many would passionately advocate the continuing viability of CDs just as there are those who would with equal fervour debate CDs are a "has been" technology. What does appear to be the case is that after 37 years - since the launch of CDs in 1982 - we are very close to realizing the theoretical potential promised in CD mastering, manufacture, and replay. The cost to performance ratio is now very good indeed and 44.1kHz/16-bit CDs can still sound pretty darn good.
CD Players typically last 7-10 years before the laser has dimmed with age to the point where error correction is no longer able to compensate for missing data and the player begins to mistrack. Installing a new mechanism is not always a straight forward option because it has to be compatible with the older controlling electronics. The optical drives and DACs in current modestly priced products offer superior sound quality results compared to a restored older model so it's better overall to purchase a reliable new player with a full warranty.
kemela offers a good range of products to play CDs. There are strict CD players with analog outputs in which the internal DAC handles only the digital data stream from the CD. Because the DAC does not have to deal with other sampling rates or decoding formats, it can be very finely tuned for optimum red book 44.1kHz/16-bit CD output. Most, but not all, have a digital output so they can also be used as a transport giving the opportunity to add a better DAC as future upgrade.
For those who already have a separate DAC, CD transports consist of the optical drive mechanism with a digital output for connection to a DAC. These range in cost and performance from good basic level for those with a small collection of CDs to low jitter reference level which are indicated for those with a large CD collection. In the reference category other digital processing elements may be present such as a digital upscaler that can significantly improve CD performance.
There are CD transports with full feature DACs with other digital inputs for other digital sources that are compatible with most digital file formats - including DSD. These are suited to those with large CD collections wishing to continue playing CDs as a primary source but with the ability to play and begin to discover, explore, and test out high resolution digital files from a digital music library or real time streaming as a source.
Finally there are optical drives with USB outputs that can be used to play CDs or rip CDs to a digital music library storage component. These are suited to those wanting to consolidate existing CDs while primarily building a high resolution digital file library so music is all in one place.
Research has shown that, provided CDs were not poorly manufactured in the first place, they hold up well with age. However CDs experience normal wear and tear with handling just like vinyl records. Some maufacturers have taken into account the playability of older CDs so you get better sound compared to playing them on an older player/transport. Library of congress government research on CD longevity
Book a demo with kemela and we'll explain the pros and cons of all the CD play options we sell. More relevant than any other HiFi component, we have considerable experience with the reliability and serviceabilty of these products.