- Audiophile-quality compact disc playback
- 24-bit DAC
- Balanced XLR and RCA audio outputs
- Excellent Bluetooth streaming
- Sales of this unit will support your local record store
- The CD-eject mechanism should push the discs out just a bit more
- A few buttons on the remote support features not included on this player
CDs are an underrated music format and it’s nearly impossible to find a truly high-quality player at a reasonable price. The Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41 is your best bet.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41
Whether you’ve held onto an old CD collection, or you’re interested in checking out what is still the best-selling format in the history of audio, the Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41 delivers audiophile-quality CD sound and Bluetooth streaming for a surprisingly great price. There’s really nothing else in the market right now that can compare.
Why would anyone want a CD player these days?
For all the great press that LPs are getting, it would be a mistake to underestimate the compact disc. A properly mastered CD has wider dynamic range than any LP, and the media is much tougher than vinyl. It’s also easier for a touring band to get CDs pressed for their tour, and bands make a much higher profit on each one sold (musicians earn almost nothing in streaming royalties).
And then there’s the used CD market. A classic album that might sell for $40 these days on LP will often still be available for less than $5 on CD in a used record store. If you’re willing to hit the thrift shops, there are often hundreds of used hit titles to be had for as little as a quarter.
It’s important to note that playing your CD collection on a cheap DVD player will not deliver the experience you want. When manufacturers cut corners to deliver these players at bargain prices, the digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is the first place they economize.
Buying a CD or DVD player at thrift store is likely to yield a similar result. There’s an outside chance you’ll find an old unit with a quality DAC, but you must be more than a casual customer to know which are the finds. Plus, odds are nearing 100 percent that the player won’t have its remote control.
Who is Backgroove?
The Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41 player has an interesting backstory. Rob Sheeley worked in pro audio design before he retired and opened his Mill City Sound record store in Hopkins, Minnesota just west of Minneapolis. Frustrated by the quality of the low-priced audio gear he saw his customers buying, he first developed the AccuTRACK line of turntables to counteract the bad experiences his customers were having with the popular, low-priced brands mass-market retailers were selling.
Like a lot of audio-heads who came of age during the first digital era, Sheeley had a deep understanding of the advantages of the CD format and realized that there wasn’t a quality compact disc player on the market at an entry-level price. Seeing that giant hole in the audio market, Sheeley and Backgroove set out to fill it. What they’ve delivered is a unit loaded with pro audio features that retails for $219.99.
Backgroove CD CdPRO BGCS-41 feature set
Sheeley used his contacts in the audio manufacturing industry to partner with a company that specializes in building consumer and pro audio that’s branded by other companies and sold under a variety of names around the world.
The CdPRO BGCS-41 features a 24-bit DAC that handles digital-to-audio conversion for both CDs and Bluetooth signals. Sheeley emphasizes that the DAC was designed for high-end audio use.
The player itself is rugged and presents as rack-mountable pro audio gear. Sheeley says many buyers are professional live DJs who’ve incorporated the unit into their live racks.
The back of the player gives you a choice between professional balanced audio XLR connectors or unbalanced RCA connectors. Most buyers will use the RCA connectors, but it’s rare to find a player at this price equipped with XLR connections for audiophile systems or pro applications in a live rig or recording studio rack mount. There’s also an on/off rocker switch and a socket to screw on the Bluetooth antenna.
The CdPRO BGCS-41 doesn’t have a mechanical tray that slides out from the unit to load a CD; instead, you’ll feed the disc into the front slot as you would with a car’s in-dash player CD player. When ejecting, only the edge of the CD came out of my unit, but it was no big deal to finish pulling it out it from that point.
In addition to standard commercial CDs, the unit plays CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and thumb drives with MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, or APE files.
There’s a USB port on the front of the unit that allows you to load up a USB storage with high-resolution music for direct playback. Should every USB port be on the front of a unit? Obviously, but too many manufacturers go for a particular look with their gear and banish the inputs to an inconvenient place on the back of the device. The one exception where that’s OK is if the USB port is used only for loading firmware updates. The aux input is also on the front, so there’s no hassle if you want to quickly plug in a tape player, phone, or portable digital audio player.
A standby button reduces power draw when you’re not actively using the player. You’ll also find a complicated array of buttons that hearkens back to audio gear from the late 1980s: Volume up, volume down, next track, previous track, skip forward 10 tracks, skip back 10 tracks, play/pause, stop, and eject are the obvious ones.
There are also Folder up and down buttons that allow you to navigate file folders on data disks. You can also program a custom song order via the Prog button; turn off the lighted display; set the CD to repeat on an endless loop; and choose between CD, Bluetooth, USB, and auxiliary inputs.
The Backgroove remote
The CdPRO BGCS-41 comes with an excellent remote that’s clearly labeled with a logical layout. It’s obviously a remote that does double duty with another device because there are buttons for AM, FM, and station scan, features that aren’t available on the BGCS-41. The contrast between buttons and the body of the remote makes the buttons relatively easy to see, even though there is no backlight.
Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41 audio performance
The 1999 remaster of The Horace Silver Quintet’s Blue Note Records classic LP Song for My Father was a fantastic showcase for this CD player. There’s both depth and detail in the opening piano riff, the one that Steely Dan so obviously ripped off for their hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”
One problem with CD remasters of classic jazz albums is that the trumpets can sound harsh in the digital world if they’re not properly remastered and the CD player’s DAC isn’t up to the job. The BGCS-41 handles that job with ease. The trumpets and tenor saxophones have just the right decay and never have the irritating and pointy texture that digital jazz can introduce.
The 2018 Intervention Records’ remaster of the 1970 LP Burrito Deluxe by The Flying Burrito Bros. is another stellar showcase for the BGCS-41 DAC. There’s a color and thickness to Gram Parsons’ lead vocals that you’ll never hear from a Spotify stream and won’t get from vinyl unless you’ve invested in an audiophile cartridge and turntable.
The BGCS-41 has five built-in EQ settings, accessible from a button on the remote: Flat, Classic, Rock, Pop, and Jazz. I generally preferred the Flat EQ but found the Rock setting to be beneficial when listening to the 1997 CD of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock: The Movie, Live in Paris. It’s the band’s last recording with original lead singer Bon Scott, and it’s a rather thin-sounding document of a great live band. The Rock EQ kicked up the low end and compensated for many of the flaws in the original recording and mastering.
Bluetooth streaming was equally outstanding. When playing the Hi-Res version of Fleetwood Mac’s “You Make Loving Fun” from the band’s 1977 album Rumours on Qobuz, and then switching to the same song on Spotify, the difference was dramatic. This DAC yielded far better results than the inexpensive Bluetooth receivers you can buy online.
Should you buy the Backgroove CDpro BGCS-41?
Whether you’re amassed a massive library of compact discs and are looking for a new player, the Backgroove CdPRO BCGS-41 has an outstanding DAC and it can double as a Bluetooth receiver when you’re looking for the convenience of streaming music from your phone to an audio system. If you’re new to CDs, this player will deliver the best possible introduction to the format.
And if you’re a person who’s been lining up for Record Store Day over the past decade and wants to support your local small business, that retailer will be able to sell you one of these players at its low list price and still turn an excellent profit. This gear is a win for everyone involved.
Where you can buy a Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41
Unlike almost every other audio component you’ll see reviewed online, you can’t order the Backgroove CdPRO BGCS-41 CD player from Amazon or pick one up at a big-box store like Best Buy. The unit was designed to be an exclusive for independent record shops, and this distribution model gives store owners a much higher profit margin than they’ll ever see on sales of LPs, CDs, or cassettes.
You’ll find a list of retailers selling the Backgroove CdPro at the preceding link. Any of these stores should have the player in stock or be able to order one for you. If your local independent retailer isn’t on that list, the store owner can contact Backgroove and set up a wholesale account.