I get asked this question a lot: "Does anyone still make great-sounding affordable CD players?" Sure, most of the major brands do, but only NAD currently offers a large slate of players starting with the $300 C 516BEE, and it's a honey.
Before we go any further I want to first clarify why I'm reviewing a CD player in 2013. Despite the naysayers the CD isn't "dead," far from it. Music lovers are still buying hundreds of millions of CDs every year. Download sales just barely surpassed sales of physical music (CDs, LPs, and so on) in 2012. So if you own a bunch of CDs and listen to them at home, investing in a decent CD player would be a wise move. The format may be old, but it uses 100 percent uncompressed (data), fully equal if not superior to FLAC or Apple Lossless files.
The "BEE" in the CD player's name stands for Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, the engineer behind the brand, and NAD's director of advanced development. Edvardsen designed the legendary NAD 3020 integrated amplifier in the 1970s, and now works with a team of engineers at NAD's Ontario facilities.
NAD was never known for style, but the more recent generations of products, like the C-516BEE, are downright handsome. Nothing fancy, but the look and feel are first-rate. NAD uses its own brew of analog circuitry in the player, which explains why it sounds better than the competition's players. That's why people buy NADs, and the C-516BEE delivers what I expect from the brand, which is to say it's musical and accurate. I compared the C-516BEE's sound with Apple Lossless iTunes on my Mac Mini computer. The CD player's dynamics were livelier, with treble "air" and soundstage spaciousness improved and bass definition firmed up, compared with the computer. So if you have a bunch of CDs it might make sense to invest in a C-516BEE.
I just wish the C-516BEE had a USB input, so I could run my computer's sound through the player's digital converter. That would be a really useful feature.