Well my new cables came in allowing me to compare the AP2 w/ WireWorld UV to my old EMU 1212m which also has dedicated crystal clocks for 44 and 48 as well as galvanic isolation. As good as the 1212m was back in 2004 for PC audio... it just doesn't compete with the AP2. In comparison the 1212m almost sounds broken. The sound is brighter, edgier, not fuzzy and still focused but completely flat down low. Imagine a sound that start flat and laid back and as frequency increases so does attack and dynamics... weird result let me tell you
My PWD2 should hit my door Monday or Tuesday and then the real, almost fair, comparison can begin. A big part of me hopes the PWD2 has a USB input that is as good as the AP2 because well $600 is $600 ;)
But for now its fair to say the AP2 is without a question better than onboard spdif and professional soundcards as well. The level above the EMU costs more than the AP2 so... not really relevant. I'd love to have another usb>spdif on hand to see how much of the performance is from being out of the PC but since I'm happy with the AP2, not much point ;)
I see some things listed in your for sale section;):))
Ever heard or considered using the Off-Ramp 5 if you really want to hear a proper sounding USB converter?
My .02=I have listened to a LOT of converters/soundcards/plain vanilla dvd players etc. etc. etc. I have heard differences, but at the same time, the differences are so tiny, I question what exactly it is that people hear. Now on different systems, I can hear very very apparent to simply more subtle but easily enough heard based differences. This all said, every time I came back from auditions of extremely high rez/exceptional recordings+top flight front ends using the very best USB converters or all in one DAC's with superior conversion on the usb side, I find my system using a nice front end w/mediocre 'source" to sound vastly superior. It is not to say I think my sound is something to take pride in, but when some of these systems I have heard have won the best of RMAF or CES shows, I scratch my head.
When I have tested various sources in my system, I hear differences, but the funny thing is, these differences disappear depending on the listening position. I.E. I play a disc via dvd or cdp, I listen to a high end USB converter (I consider AP2 to be mid-fi in the scale of costs/performance/etc.), or even one of these budget mid-fi converters. I say wow, this sounds very lively but not necessarily in a bad or good way...just initial impression vs. another source. I put on the other source and say, ahhh, it sounds more "hi-fi", as in, more refined. I put on a different one and say it sounds like this/that/and so on and so forth. BUT, for whatever reason, when the listening position is changed, so is the sound of the source to the extent that even the most big buck source that supposedly rivals anything ever made as a source, is absolutely no different or so very subtle in difference I need to constantly a/b the two...I cannot be convinced to say one is absolutely and in fact superior or inferior.
I do not hear any of these adjectives or words you have said about bass drop off or sound stage focus and blah blah blah stuff. If I had all the money possible, I would use the Off Ramp 5 since it has the most refined sound that I have heard, even if this sound is extremely subtle to be heard for me, it is there and I would pay the money for one if I had it. Well I do have the money, but no offense to this exceptional converter that has made the AP2 sound absolutely atrocious and terrible/mediocre in another's system, I still find the differences of the sources I have to be so close that it really doesn't make any sense to dish out $1500 more than what I use.
In the end, I have concluded that the source is very important, but it is very important per one's own system. I have been told that my system may not be high enough resolution to hear the grand differences, but I have never once told the person that their sound is absolutely terrible and misses a TON of information that my system is producing, along with far more musical satisfaction.
My .02 is to have a listen at various listener's positions to see if you still hear such drastic differences before you continue on the dac/source/blah blah blah path. I may be the only one or one of few, but my ears are extremely discriminating even when in the end, the flawless system for me is the one we all know to be compromised, but fills in the majority of the things we love most about the sound we hear and enjoy as a hobby and pass time.