It is obvious that you hadn't a chance to spend more than several minutes in a recording studio during recording sessions and now you are enough prepotent to teach me a lesson about my point of view regarding my qualifications to judge about sound quality of modern portable audio players. Even more, you are suspicious about my as you say imaginary superstar friend which is clear sign to me that you don't have an opportunity in this forum to read posts from professionals who have number of years experience working in recording studio and knows in person experienced musicians and a couple of them are superstars. Or maybe I have it wrong, maybe you are such musically educated and experienced and in such case find my apology.
I suggest that you should spend more time researching on the net and you will find that weakest points of every single DAP are: integrated phono amp chip, same battery powering D/A converter and phono amp, and large touch screen which directly influences amplifying chip. Approximately 80 components in every DAP can disturb sound quality. Certainly it is not easy to make small unit such as DAP ( unlike large CD players) and have ideal sound, clean and detail.
Eh, your words : What sounds 'great' to you might sound like utter horse manure to someone else... really provoke me. Great sound is simply a great sound, nothing else for everybody ( certainly depending on a music genre they listen). It is same if I say that Beethoven is bad composer or Renoir is bad painter. It is not personal taste in a question, it is general opinion indeed. I suggest you pay a visit to recording studio, where everything with regards to music and GREAT sound starts. It worth every minute you spend, trust me.