Apple’s iTunes now sells more music than any other retail outlet and CD sales are famously in decline, so you’d be forgiven if you thought nobody makes CD players any more – or at least nobody would be foolish to launch new ones. That's why I was somewhat delighted to read this press release: Parasound has just introduced a new CD player, the Zcd. This isn’t a CD player aimed at the mass market, but it isn’t targeting money-is-no-object audiophile snobs, either. It costs $400; mass market CD players start at $17.99 at Target, and audiophile brands can top $4,000. Instead, the Zcd is aimed at the custom installation market (the giveaway is that it is described as being “half rack width”).
Parasound apparently thinks there is a market for a high quality CD player where the home owner wants to insert a single disc and listen to it, as opposed to a hard drive-based music server. In other words, the Zcd is intended to be used for dedicated listening sessions, not strictly background music. In that sense, the Zcd is a throwback to the other physical music format with a focused use case – vinyl (though vinyl is explicitly "old school," and all the limitations of the format are typically celebrated as features). The Zcd has top of the line DACs and does fancy things with the volume control and analog converter power source to give installers something to talk about when justifying its cost. While the Zcd can also play back music from USB or a line in jack, it doesn't support dead music formats like SACD or DVD-Audio that few people today seem to even remember. It's a CD player. It plays CDs. It isn't something you're going to find in Best Buy, but it's nice to see someone thinks there's still a market niche left that calls for a dedicated optical disc player.