CD-player Teac CD-H750

Esoteric is Teac's high-end division and it's widely regarded as the maker of some of the world's best CD transports. It's a specialist in optical disc mechanisms and still supports many legacy products with spares and service - in other words, it takes them seriously. As you'd expect, with the trickle-down technology from its high-end division, Teac also has a fine reputation for CD spinners, but more recently has made its name in mini systems. The new CD-H750 follows this theme, coming in a very attractive half-width box, available in black or silver, that's surprisingly nicely finished considering its price. No expense appears to have been spared on its lavish brushed aluminium fascia with rounded corners and side panels, and the remote control even has a number keypad for direct track access.

The Teac boasts full integration with iDevices; it will play music files from them digitally through its own BurrBrown PCM1791A DAC, and display the track names. And its fascia-mounted USB socket even lets you record music out to a memory stick in MP3 format, or you can play music off the memory stick instead of using the built-in CD drive. It also has the usual coaxial and optical digital outputs should you wish to bypass the unit's internal DAC. The CD-H750 is a very versatile little bit of kit then, with the emphasis on convenience and flexibility, but how does it sound?

In a word, good. Indeed, the Teac proves very impressive considering its price - in some ways it gives little away to the more highly priced players. What you get is a very smooth and sophisticated sound for a budget machine.

New Order's Vanishing Point is fascinating; the opening 16-bar section shows it to be smooth and devoid of nasties with no shrillness, edge or distortion. Hi-hats are silky, and singer Barney Sumner's slightly chilly vocals come over a little warmer than usual. The often harsh backing synths aren't unpleasant to listen to, lacking any sense of glare that often afflicts cheap digital players. Even more impressively, rhythms are really rather deftly handled; the interplay between the hi-hat and bass drum is better carried than expected.

Switching to Randy Crawford's You Might Need Somebody, and the Teac continues to surprise, delivering a really sweet and enjoyable rendition. All its sins are those of omission, which is to say that it doesn't quite have the low-level detail of the pricier machines here, but it never adds anything unpleasant. There is a sense that images are less tightly located in the mix than its fellow Group Test competitors, and this seems to provide a rather diffuse stereo soundstage, but it is still impressively wide from left to right. Overall dynamics are also slightly compressed, but the player makes up for this to an extent by being very good at conveying subtle rhythmic accenting. It is certainly no slouch.

Bass is a little lighter than some - the Visioneers' track Come Feel the Milky Night isn't quite as impactful, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, treble is slightly opaque and soft; it lacks some bite, definition and focus. But still it makes a very pleasing noise overall, the Teac showing itself capable of sewing all the strands of the mix together in a highly satisfying way. It's perhaps not the absolute equal of the others here then, but it remains great at the price all the same.

Teac CD-H750 CD-player photo