What music player plays CDA files?

CDA stands for Compact Disc Audio and is an audio file format that contains the raw audio data from an audio CD (according to https://filext.com/file-extension/CDA). CDA files do not contain any actual audio data – they are essentially shortcuts or pointers to tracks on a CD. When you insert an audio CD into your computer, it will recognize each track as an individual CDA file.

The CDA format was developed in the early 1980s alongside the release of the first CD players and discs. According to https://www.quora.com/What-is-a-CDA-file-extension-used-for, CDA was designed as a simple format to represent CD audio tracks. It contains metadata about the length of each track, but does not include any actual audio data. To play CDA files, your CD must be in the drive so the player can read the raw audio directly from the disc.

While CDA files allow tracks on a CD to appear as individual files in your computer’s file explorer, they have limited functionality on their own. CDA files cannot be copied, edited, or converted without ripping software that extracts the raw audio data from the CD.

CDA File Compatibility

Many popular music players support CDA files, which allows you to play audio CDs directly without needing to convert the CDA tracks to another format first. However, CDA file compatibility varies across platforms.

On Windows, Windows Media Player fully supports CDA playback. Simply insert an audio CD into your computer’s disc drive, open Windows Media Player, and you can browse and play tracks just like other digital music files. iTunes for Windows also lets you import and play CDs, including CDA files.

On Mac, iTunes has native CDA support. Just put an audio disc in your Mac’s CD/DVD drive, open iTunes, and you can play the CD tracks from within the program. The open-source VLC Media Player also works for CDA playback on Mac.

While many Android music apps don’t directly support CDA, VLC for Android can play tracks from an audio CD. For iOS devices, the compatibility is more limited – you’ll need to convert CDA tracks to a format like MP3 first before importing to the Music app.

Overall, Windows Media Player and iTunes for Windows provide the simplest options for playing CDA files on a desktop. For mobile and cross-platform support, VLC is the most versatile CDA compatible audio player.

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player (WMP) has supported playback of CDA files since Windows XP. According to Microsoft’s documentation, WMP 12 and later can play CDA files on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 [1].

To play a CDA file in WMP, first insert the CD into your CD/DVD drive. Open Windows Media Player and click the “Play CD” button near the top. This will begin playing the CD from the beginning. You can also click on the listings for individual tracks to play them. The tracks from the CD will be listed in the library under the “Unknown Album” listing. One limitation is that WMP cannot rip or convert CDA files directly, so a separate tool is required for that.

Some users have reported issues with WMP detecting CDA files, especially on Windows 10. Solutions include updating WMP and your CD/DVD drivers, changing preferences in WMP like enabling digital CD audio playback, or using an external drive [2]. Overall, WMP provides basic CDA playback capability in Windows PCs.


iTunes has limited compatibility with CDA files. According to discussions on Apple’s forums, iTunes cannot directly import or play CDA files, which are essentially track index files that do not contain actual audio data (source). In order to import tracks from an audio CD into iTunes, users need to use iTunes’ CD import feature, which rips the CD tracks into audio formats like MP3 that iTunes can recognize and play.

The process to use iTunes to play CDA files is as follows:

  1. Insert the CD into your computer’s disc drive.
  2. Open iTunes and go to File > Import CD.
  3. iTunes will import each track on the CD as an audio file such as MP3.

This ripping process allows iTunes to create playable versions of the tracks while ignoring the unplayable CDA files. iTunes versions 12.7 and later include this CD import capability. Overall, iTunes relies on audio conversion to bypass limitations with the CDA format itself (source).

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player is a popular free and open source media player that can play CDA files. According to the VideoLAN Forums, VLC Media Player has the ability to play CDA files since the software can access CD drives directly.

To play CDA files in VLC Media Player, users need to go to Media > Open Disc, select Audio CD, choose the correct drive letter, and click Play. This will allow VLC to read and play the CD audio tracks (Source).

VLC Media Player requires version 2.0 or higher to play CDA files. Older versions will not work properly. Users on Windows 7 and higher or Mac OS X 10.7 and higher should have a VLC version that supports CDA playback out of the box (Source).

Other CDA-Compatible Players

In addition to Windows Media Player, iTunes, and VLC, there are several other media players that support playback of CDA files.

On Windows, Media Player Lite is a popular free option specifically designed to play CDA files. It provides a simple interface and fast loading times. Foobar2000 is another open source Windows player with CDA support and advanced audio features for enthusiasts.

For Mac users, alternatives like Audirvana, Cog, and Songbird can handle CDA playback. Audirvana offers high resolution audio output while still being easy to use.

Linux users can utilize players like Amarok, Rhythmbox, and Banshee. These all include CDA support along with extensive library management tools common in Linux audio players. Additionally, online players like Spotify offer cross-platform CDA playback through its desktop app.

On mobile, apps like Poweramp (Android) and Cs (iOS) are designed to handle various audio formats including CDA. Many also allow ripping CDs directly to a local music library.

With a wide range of compatible apps and programs across platforms, most users should have multiple options to easily play back CDA files.

CDA File Conversion

Converting CDA files to another audio format like MP3 can provide several benefits. Since CDA files only contain references to tracks on a CD, converting them allows you to extract the actual audio data into a more usable file format. This enables you to play the music on more devices, edit the files, and retain copies even when you don’t have the original CD.

The most recommended formats to convert CDA files to are:

  • MP3 – The most popular digital audio format, supported by almost every media player.
  • WAV – An uncompressed format that provides high audio quality.
  • FLAC – A lossless compressed format that retains all audio information.
  • AAC – An efficient compressed format supported by iTunes and many other apps.

There are a few ways to convert CDA files:
– Use Windows Media Player’s “Rip CD” feature to extract tracks to MP3 or WMA files (see https://multimedia.easeus.com/audio-editing/convert-cda-to-mp3-using-windows-media-player.html).

– Use free online converters like Zamzar to convert CDA files you’ve uploaded to various formats.
– Use paid software like dBpoweramp to batch convert CDA tracks ripped from a CD.

The benefit of converting CDA files is that it allows you to access the audio content in a usable format, so you can play the music on more devices, edit it, back it up, and preserve it even without the original CD.

CDA File Troubleshooting

CDA files can sometimes be problematic to play back properly on devices and media players. Here are some common troubleshooting tips for debugging issues with CDA files:

A common problem is getting an error that the media player cannot find the associated CD when trying to play a CDA file. This is because CDA files do not actually contain the audio data itself, only references to the tracks on an audio CD. To play the CDA, the media player needs access to the original CD or an image of the CD. If you copied the CDA tracks off the CD already, try locating the original CD or remounting the disk image.

Another issue arises when trying to play the CDA file on an operating system like Windows 10 or 11. Since these OS do not natively support CDA playback, you may get errors even if the media player supports CDA files. Try installing a compatibility layer like ActiveX or DirectShow filters to enable CDA support in the OS.

For advanced troubleshooting, examine the media player and OS audio settings. Look for options relating to CD audio, like “Play CD audio with: [dropdown].” Try toggling the outputs if available. Updating audio drivers could also help.

As a last resort, consider converting the problematic CDA files to a more compatible format like MP3 or FLAC using a tool like Exact Audio Copy. This can allow you to play the tracks even if the raw CDA does not work properly.

CDA File Limitations

The CDA file format has some technical constraints that limit its functionality in modern media players and devices:

CDA files only contain metadata about the tracks on a CD, not the actual audio data itself. The raw audio is stored on the disc sectors, while CDA files act as pointers to those sectors 1. This means CDA files cannot contain any actual audio data.

The CDA format was designed in the 1980s specifically for CDs. It does not support any compression, metadata tagging, or modern audio features. Everything about the format assumes the audio tracks are located on a physical CD 2.

Due to these limitations, CDA support is very sparse today. Most media players cannot directly play CDA files. The audio CD itself is required. This is why converting CDA tracks to more modern formats like MP3 or AAC is usually necessary for playback on modern devices.

Compared to formats like MP3, AAC, FLAC, etc., CDA offers no compression, no tagging, and no portability off a CD. It is an obsolete relic from the past that has been superseded entirely by more capable audio formats.


In summary, CDA files are audio files that contain raw CD audio data. Since they are not a standard audio format, CDA files require a compatible media player to play the audio content. The most common CDA-compatible media players are Windows Media Player, iTunes, and VLC Media Player. While Windows Media Player and iTunes work well for Windows and Mac users respectively, VLC Media Player is recommended as the most universal, cross-platform option.

For those struggling to play CDA files, converting the files to a more standard audio format like MP3 or WAV using free audio converter software is an option. This allows the audio content to be saved in a format playable on many more media players. When dealing with CDA files, look for players that explicitly support the CDA format, and consider converting to a standard audio file type if playback issues arise.

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