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Lifewire / Scott Gercken
Easy to use
Display is hard to read
Came with Japanese instructions
For most of us, CD players have taken a back seat to digital audio streaming. But there are still people who want to listen to music that hasn’t been compressed into files that can be streamed through 4G networks. If you still want to enjoy your CD collection at full sound quality, the Teac PD-301 CD Player is a great choice for the budding audiophile.
We tested the Teac PD-301 CD Player and its USB features to see if it delivers on the promise of great sound at a mid-level price.
The first thing we have to say about the Teac PD-301 CD Player is that it’s pretty. Everything about it looks nice, from the silver sides to the blue lights backlighting the control panels, to the point that you don’t want to hide it inside a stereo cabinet or in an entertainment center.
It’s also much smaller than most CD players, at 8.5-inches wide, 9-inches long, and a little over 2-inches tall. Most of the body is black textured metal, but the sides have silver metal plates that extend beyond the box on all sides, which is a big part of its design appeal. It’s designed to look great on its own with a set of bookshelf speakers or with a full stereo system. Teac claims that these features help keep vibration under control for better sound, too.
Each of the buttons—power, stop, play/pause, next track, previous track, and source—are silver, matching the ridges. The front control panel also has a USB port for a flash drive.
The display is disappointing in terms of functionality. It has a blue background with light blue letters that’s easy to read if you look at it from straight on, but the letters quickly disappear if you look at it from an angle.
On the back, there are three sets of outputs. For analog audio, there is a stereo RCA jack and an optical output and a coaxial output for digital signal. There’s also an FM input that fits the included FM antenna.
Setup was simple as the CD player is basically plug-and-play. We used both coaxial to test the digital output and RCA to test the analog output. All we had to do was plug the appropriate cord into the appropriate slot, and it worked—the hardest part was slipping the cord through the tangled mess in our entertainment center.
Since the Teac PD-301 is smaller than most CD players, the size made it much easier for our arms to reach where they needed to go.
The Teac PD-301 CD Player has some great features that make it enjoyable to use. It has an automatic power save (APS) feature that you can turn on or off, accessible by the menu button on the remote, and if you forget to turn off the player when you’re done (like we do) this feature is a great way to save electricity.
The menu also lets you select CD autostart “on” or “off,” too, as well as three different light settings on the display (bright, dim, and off). If you’re listening to music as you go to sleep, you don’t want a bright blue light shining in your face. The remote also works from a wide angle, about 45 degrees to the left side and slightly more to the right.
The Teac PD-301 CD Player has some great features that make it enjoyable to use.
The “program” feature also allows you to set up a different order for the tracks on the CD, although we found the process to be cumbersome and not really worth the effort.
There are a few buttons on the remote that apply only to European users (the PTY, PS, and RT buttons) and correspond with the European FM radio systems. Users in the United States can ignore these buttons altogether.
Quality digital sound depends on what type of file you’re using and what the player is capable of reading. Standard CDs have a sampling quality of 48kHz, a bit depth of 24 or 32, and a bit rate around 320 kbps. You’ll notice that the Teac PD-301 supports that quality in all files except for WAV, which supports a bit depth of 16. This matters less with lossy formats, but the PD-301 can play lossless formats at their full quality.
The USB port only supports a flash drive with up to 300 files total. While that’s a lot of music to play, it’s also a lot smaller than most people’s music library.
When we tested the files, everything worked smoothly. The player navigated through a folder hierarchy easily, and the display showed file names when it played, too. When playing an audio file, it can display the file name, the song title, the album title, the folder title, and the artist name.
The USB port only supports a flash drive with up to 300 files total. While that’s a lot of music to play, it’s also a lot smaller than most people’s music library, so it’s important to be aware of this limit if you wanted to have your whole library on hand.
The PD-301 also supports digital files on a data CD, so you can play MP3 CDs if you want to.
The sound quality from the Teac PD-301 is fantastic, which comes down to some of the technical specs. This CD player has a signal to noise ratio of 105 dB, which is a big improvement over the analog systems on other CD players we’ve tested. The sound was even better when we switched from analog to digital coaxial. The difference between analog and digital was about the same as the difference between MP3s and CDs—if you have the capability, go with digital.
The sound quality from the Teac PD-301 is fantastic, which comes down to some of the technical specs.
We also tested the sound quality for several digital formats. We converted a single song (“A Man and the Blues” by Buddy Guy) into MP3, WAV, and AAC in both lossy and lossless formats, then put them on a USB drive and played them in the TEAC PD-301. Going back and forth between the lossy and lossless files, we could hear a difference, even on the older sound system we used, with one sounding flat and the other deep.
At the time of this writing, the Teac PD-301 CD Player with FM Tuner USB goes for between $350 and $400, which puts it above entry-level CD players that can cost about $150.
So what do you get for that price? You get improved sound quality in both analog and digital outputs. It’s all the details in the specs that matter. If all you want is an entry-level CD player, this one isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for something that’s both stylish and has great sound quality, the Teac PD-301 is a great option.
The Yamaha CD-S300 CD player is a comparable alternative to the Teac PD-301. It’s MSRP is $349, though you can frequently get it for under $300. In terms of specs, the Yamaha has an S/N of 105 dB while the PD-301 is at 113 dB, and the harmonic distortion for the CS-S300 is a better 0.003% compared to the PD-301 at 0.005%. The Yamaha also has a feature to turn off the screen and other extra electronics to decrease distortion.
But the biggest differences are in the design. The Yamaha CD-S300 loads with a tray while Teac has a slot. The Yamaha is also much bigger at 17 inches wide (about the standard size for most audio components), and it’s not nearly as good looking. If you like the size and style of the Teac PD-301, it’s the better option.
The NAD C 538 CD Player is a straightforward, no-nonsense CD player to consider alongside the PD-301. It doesn’t have the Teac’s extra features: no USB, no digital output, and no fancy design. But let’s face it: few people buy a CD player so they can play MP3s on a flash drive. It’s also 17 inches wide, like most components, and not as pretty as the Teac.
In terms of specs, the S/N ratio is about the same, NAD at 110 dB and Teac at 113 dB, but the harmonic distortion is dramatically different. The NAD comes in at 0.01% and Teac at 0.005%. The NAD C 538 is about the same price as the Teac PD-301 (around $350) without some of the features and design.
Stylish design with great sound.
Most hi-fi components look the same, but the Teac PD-301’s design sets it apart from other similarly-priced CD players—it actually looks good on display. And while it's more expensive than entry-level CD players, its impressive sound quality makes it worth the price for audiophiles.