Review: Philips CD-880 CD Player

Category: Digital

The Philips CD-880 cd player is *still* in my system after all these years. Considering this unit was released in late 1988 that is a huge statement for a digital product.

It has a warmth and presence that I really like - not the last word in fidelity and digital playback, but very "musical" in a way I have never found any of the single-bit players to be. Of course as technology has improved the world of digital has in bulk become somewhat more refined. A while back I took the CD880's main circuit board out of the unit for a tweak-up. Mods included judicious replacement of ceramic decoupling caps with Wima units and introduction of Burr-Brown OPA2132 op-amps in place of the original NE5532 units. There was nothing to change in the power supply section since all there was tremendously well-designed and well-executed by the factory in Belgium where my unit was made. The above simple changes refined this player's character and smoothed up some of that "early-digital" feel that still made itself apparent once in a while. The end result is a unit that is even better than before - I was originally very happy with it and am now quite thrilled.

Aside from the very impressive physical build quality of this unit (note the 34 lb. cast aluminum chassis and aluminum cd-transport) there is it's superb reliability to date (November, 2002) and the outstanding feature-set that comes standard with it. Direct-track access, various types of repeats, the superb Music Library system, etc. Talk about a fully-featured cd player!

Even if 16-bit 4x oversampling is not your idea of a good audio idea, this unit is so well built and has such a raft of convenient features, as well as such a superb chassis and transport that it makes a great digital transport for use with an outboard DAC. I've done this too and been very happy with the results when it was mated to a Micromega DAC.

The Philips CD-880 was not made in large quantities and aren't seen too often in the market. Nevertheless, when they are seen they tend to be reasonable in price. $US 300 should get one quite easily. A terrific audio bargain either just as it comes, modded up a little as I did to mine, or used as a digital transport.

The Philips CD-880... Highly recommended!

Associated gear
tweaked up Harmon-Kardon Citation V PP7581 tube power amp, DIY 12B4 tube preamp, tweaked up 3-way Canton loudspeakers (10" woofer, 4" midrange, 1" tweeter), Canare/Neutrik interconnects, XLO Pro speaker cable

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I have a Philips Cd-80 that I am quite happy with. I am not quite sure of the manufacturing date but I bought it in 1991. Do you know if this was the successor to the Cd-880 or predecessor or just a different model altogether as it looks slightly different than the pictures you posted. It was good reading your review as I am in agreement with you that is is a very good sounding and well built player. In all the years it has never given me any trouble. I have considered selling it but I havn't made up my mind yet as it is still a very good player.

Interesting idea, Oldtime -- reviewing a piece from the past.It enriches the review archives & your suggestion to use the 880 as a transport inspires further modding.
Have you considered changing the IC connectors -- or even soldering the IC of choice directly onto the output board?
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The manual to my CD-80 says that it is a 16bit x 4 sample DAC. I believe that I read somewhere while I was researching this machine that Philips used their Gold Crown DAC (unsure about the name) chip in this player. Which as I undersood it they were sorted based on their higher degree of accuracy and linearity. As you state it can be run directly to an amplifier because of its variable output. My machine also has the option to run an optical output into another DAC

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The back of my CD-80 says that it was manufactured in September of 1990. It does not say bit stream anywhere on it.

I also own a CD80 from circa '89. It does not say Bitstream anywhere on it. However, I am pretty sure it samples at 16bit 4X. I am getting ready to use it as a transport only with a EAD 7000 that has been upgraded to Mk 3 status. I wander if anyone has heard this combo?
I have a CD80 from '91. It's definitely at 16bit 4x unit with the single beam CMD-1 transport. It absolutely killed the other CD players kicking around at the time. McCormick used the unit for their first post Mod-Squad CD player (they just tweaked it up and put their own frame around the face). Somewhere around 96 I started having drop outs with the direct-circuit-board-mounted analog RCAs and decided to upgrade to an outboard transport. I initially used a PS-Audio Ultralink which sounded so good in combination I started to pull away from my records (I have a killer analog rig with ET2 arm and Roksan Xerxes deck - so that's saying something). I upgraded that setup with the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro which really smoothed things out. Later on I upgraded the DAC to a Muse Model 2. Digital cables were Van Den Hul D102 Mark III, "The First", and later, Silver Serpents, Illuminati Orchid, and Cardas Lightning. (Rest of system is ProAc Response 2, Acoustic Research SP14 & Classic 60, MIT wire, later Tara RSC, later Zu Cable.) The CD80's strengths - slamming bass, vivid midrange timbre, excellent soundstaging - came through great when used as a transport. The EAD7000 is a kickin DAC so should sound great with the CD80, Daveyf. I initially compared the CD80 as a transport with the Optimus CD3400 and much preferred the CD80. Recently I compared it with a '97 vintage Theta Data Basic II. The Theta improved on the CD80 in several important ways that reveal both the strenths and weaknesses of the CD80 as a transport (keep in mind the Theta cost almost 3 times the CD80, almost a decade later, although I purchased my CD80 as a closeout for $500 in '92, and got the Theta used for $550). The Theta has the slamming bass and vivid midrange, but has a smoother treble, with no audible digital artifacts. There is greater cohesiveness, the music feels more "all of one piece" - with greater overall smoothness. The soundstaging is about the same on both (i.e. HUGE). The CD80 has a bit more boogie factor, especially on Rock, Rockabilly etc... Actually, the Muse moved things in smoother direction, so going back to the CD80/PS Audio Ultralink combo gives the maximum boogie and it a killer rig on rock. I wasn't really aware of the digital artifact issue until I got the Theta. It's pretty subtle - but up in the mid to high treble, there is some transient digital glaze to the CD80, audible when using the CD80's built-in DAC and to a lesser extent with the outboard DACs. That little edge was pretty easy to live with all those years, it's amazing how well the CD80 has held up. As for tweaks, heavy and solid as the CD80 is, good feet or bladder platform is a must. I could dramatically hear the difference between sorbothane pucks and Black Diamond Racing Cones (it likes the cones). I also used Mod Squad combo sorbothane, aluminum short cones for a long time. The Audio Alchemy DTI Pro (or kin) unit is a must too. It has a dramatic and positive effect. The EAD 7000 unit has a "digital flywheel" (same concept) built-in so you might not miss it. These DTI units are cheap on the used market. All in all, the CD80 is a great transport, and with a DTI and an Ultralink makes such a good rock rig that I haven't sold this gear even though the Theta, AA, Muse Model 2 rig bests in in many areas. I heard that back in the early 90s it was popular to put a tube output stage into these. Anyone do that mod?
Anyway - the CD80 is highly recommended too!
Newyorkjosh,I got the EAD 7000 Mk 111 about two weeks ago. The CD 80 is now hooked up to it via a Harmonic Tech Cyber Platinum IC and the sound is amazing.I have the CD80 on its own dedicated stand with Combak Harmonix footers beneath it. Did an AB with a friends older Wadia cd player, blew the Wadia away. Interesting about the Theta/ Muse combo.
Interesting review subject and subsequent posts. What a concept - vintage digital! My first players were the original Mission, then the Philips 650 (not sure about model numbers?). Can't say I miss 'em, though. Current rig is a Theta Pearl/Basic IIIa combo, which is quickly becoming vintage practically as I type the words.

Also have a Philips CD880, and have enjoyed it for 15 years, but unfortunately the laser head is now dead. It makes severe scratch noises after 20-25mns, I had it checked in case if it was just a head alignment problem; the technicians told me that the laser head is dead (the lense I believe) and unfortunately compatible spare heads are not available from anywhere. Any idea on that?

Thanks in advance...

Hi :

The CD 880 is an extraordinary product you can mach it with a lot of transports these days and these old guy will kill them , try it and see it yourself!