Psst...It's a Panasonic
Cheap, quiet, feature-packed
For years, companies in various industries have used alternate brand names under which to market certain products. Some of the most obvious examples exist in the automobile industry, such as Ford/Mercury and Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth. Often this occurs because a particular company wants to produce and sell some "lower-end" products without jeopardizing their good name. Fortunately for the consumer, what often results is a perfectly high-quality line of products at lower prices than would usually be expected.
Panasonic is a well-known, Japanese electronics corporation that has been making excellent products for years. They are always on the cutting edge of technology, yet their standard electronics rarely miss the mark. The Technics SL-PD888 5-disc CD changer has all the features and quality you would expect from a Panasonic product, yet its price falls closer to those of the cheaper, more generic models.
I purchased an SL-PD888 for my Dad last month as a birthday present. At that time, I paid $129 for it at Circuit City, which isn't even the lowest price I've ever seen for this model. Although it was supposedly on "sale" when I bought it, I've seen this model or an almost identical one at Circuit City for $109 and $119 at various times in the past. Although several years ago I would have been somewhat wary of the idea of buying a Technics product, my good experiences with their products (including a set of home speakers and a cassette deck) over the last few years has led me to trust Technics products in general.
As far as play-mode features are concerned, the SL-PD888 has the same basic set of features that are pretty much typical to all CD changers, including: random play over one disc or all discs; repeat play over one track, one disc, all discs, or certain songs as programmed; programmable memory to play the tracks you choose; and a whole lot of buttons. There are so many buttons on this piece of equipment that you'll probably be able to play your CDs in just about any way you choose.
The SL-PD888 is a front-loading, carousel-type, 5-disc changer. While a CD is playing, any of the other four CDs can be ejected without stopping play. Another nice aspect of this CD changer which is often overlooked is how smooth and quiet the motion of the carousel itself is. While I realize that this doesn't particularly make much difference to most people, it's a pretty good indication of the overall quality of the unit.
This CD changer also features an easy-to-read display which clearly shows the CD number and track number being played, as well as the track time. Of course, the track time can be displayed any of several different ways, according to your whim.
The moral of this story is that you shouldn't always stay away from the cheaper brands. While some of them certainly are garbage, others might be gems in disguise like the Technics line.