You are one nice Bro'!!
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How odd that you should mention the Rotel RCD-855, I have one that was given to me as a favor, a reward for helping a friend sell off extra audio gear.
I hooked the Rotel up a few days ago, needing something after having sold my Oppo BDP-83. The Oppo was more extended and higher resolution at the extremes but the Rotel was the one that came closer to opening my heart to the music.
I hope for your sake sound is not as important as reliability, especially should Sister be blessed with acute hearing and value for music.
Please post results.
Having owned an 855 and enjoyed it greatly, I'm presently using a Rotel RCD-971. You should be able to find a used one under $300. A better sounding CDP in all respects. Also, I like the fact it's a compact unit height wise. Exc. built quality and high quality parts are used. Give this model some serious consideration. Good Luck!
If the sound doesn't matter, in that price range you could get a pretty good DVD player from virtually any mass market supplier and use it as a CD player. I would check out Consumer Reports for long term reliability ratings. I have an Integra DVD now going for 10 years that is in that range. $500 would also buy a very fine Blu Ray.
There's an Oppo BDP-80 for sale on Audiogon for only $225. This will allow your sister to enjoy every shiny disc format - BluRay, SACD, DVD-Audio, HDAD, CD, and HDCD. The high resoulution formats (BluRay, SACD, DVD-Audio, HDAD) can sound MUCH better than Redbook CD. Why not give her the advantage of being able to playback these formats?
I'd go for newer rather than older. While you could pick up a better player if you go for something more than five years old, reliability would concern me. These current listings might fit the bill (I don't know any of the sellers):
Rotel RDV 1045 $250 (cd/dvd)
Marantz CD5003 $225
Cambridge Audio C340 $200
Marantz CD5004 $240
Marantz CD5003 $200
I don't know much about the Rotel, and it's a dvd player, but it's new and built like a tank. The Marantz players are very nice and also very well-built. I had a Cambridge and thought it was excellent for the money. If you want to go new, the NAD C515BEE is excellent for $299.
Good suggestions all--thanks. I had a RCD-971 for a while and liked it so that would be a good option if I can find one that is in good shape. Albert--I guess I should clarify my OP. What I meant was that while my sister is a music lover, she is not audiophile and so will not necessarily hear minute differences in sound quality and therefore finding her a unit that is built well becomes more important in the overall scheme of things. I'll do some looking on the site for some of the models you guys have suggested.
I have honestly had worse luck on the reliability side with new, inexpensive CD players than with older, "higher-end" models ... YMMV. The Naim CD3 which I owned was extremely robust, even surviving having a glass globe filled with over a gallon of water smash atop its surface ... had to get rid of the girlfriend who broke the globe though :)