In the early days of CD, practically all CD players irrespective of price earned raving reviews, with a very narrow ranking, say from 95 to 100 "points". In comparison to that, reviews and rankings of turntables, cassette decks or amps had a much wider range, say 30 to 100 "points" and were more in proportion to price. Yes, some items were rated as outstanding, but basically the "marks" did reflect the price.
Whilst the advanced lyrics utilised to describe the sound of audio gear, there are a similarities to the language used by wine reviewers, have remained unchanged, magazine reviewers nowadays rate CD players from 30 to 100 "points", just like all the other audio gear. Market economy is reinstated.
I would understand that today's reviewers have learned to better hear the very subtile differences in sound in between CD players. But I have great problems to translate the narrative, usually enthusiastic part into the quantitative rating. Sometimes the reviewers describe a CD player "X" in comparison to a "reference" CD player, rank "X" above or below the "reference" and eventually create a "point" system on this basis. After all, this would be still a matter of personal judgement and of course the other elements in the audio "chain".
Whilst headphones might not be the perfect tool to evaluate "spacing", they certainly are a great tool for evaluating detail, speed, neutrality and eventually the difference between CD players. Loudspeaker typically have more distortion and colouration than headphones.
If it takes carefull A/B comparison and concentrated listening to identify differences between CD players, not speaking of identifying the "better" CD player, I would say the more expensive player is not worth the money. On the other hand, after listening to an overall "better" system for a while, you may notice the difference more easily.