What do you mean by more "refined" sound ? Could you elaborate more : soundstage, timbre, bandwidth extension, dynamics, instruments separation, low level details, ... The Hiface is extremely revealing in my system and let me hear more of the above.
My reference dac uses 2 parallel PCM1704UK converters with a discrete zero feedback output stage. So I don't mind listening to its full potential. However, when I switch to the EMU 0404 usb which uses AK4397 and opamps, I prefer the sound when I use upsampling (smooths things out) and non-revealing cables. So more "refined" could be explained by smoothing details (just a theory).
Also, I don't discard the possibility that my musiland might be deffective in some way (not sure of that since it performs better than the EMU 0404 usb). I will probably buy a second musiland unit just to make sure and will resell it if there is no improvement.
By the end so I have two very good toys, but the differences between them are small matters, I simply do not agree on the fact that you think is the musiland dramatically lower, no, both are excellent at roughly the same level.
What do you use xp, vista or seven?