You can't just take dynamic range specs etc and not look at the entire picture. There's always going to be some discussion about what is audible and not but at 16/44, the amount of distorion or non linearity near the noise floor is quite high regardless of dither and effectively limits things. 16/44 has always sounded a bit dead or lacked that ease or sustain until masked by the next louder sound type of character I get from good analog or 24/96. I don't get more music going beyond 24/96. I have always found up or downsampling in exact multiples to be better and I use after market dither in Wavelab to do it.
Not sure where you picked this up from. There are a couple of problems with what you are stating. First of all, yes there is some non-linearity near the noise floor (in the Least Significant Bits, LSBs). But to then say "regardless of dither" is completely incorrect. The whole reason why dither was invented and why it exists is specifically to remove the non-linearity in the LSBs. I said I'm not sure where you picked your assertion up from because dither is hardly some new development, dither has been a required feature of digital audio since the 1980's. Dither works by randomising any quantisation errors, effectively converting them into white noise. What you end up with in the LSBs is perfect linearity plus some noise, it is this noise which defines the digital noise floor. More recent developments (about 12 years ago) was the introduction of noise-shaped dither. This not only eliminates quantisation error (non-linearities) but moves much of the resultant noise to the least sensitive areas of the hearing spectrum. This results in CDs being able to provide a perceived dynamic range of roughly 120dB (equivalent to 20bit). In other words, not only is "non-linearity near the noise floor" not "quite high", it is actually non-existent! So obviously, something which doesn't exist cannot "limit things".
There can be as much discussion as you like, the fact is that a correctly noise-shaped dithered 16bit CD is going to have a digital noise floor at least 1,000 times lower than the noise floor of the music recording stored on it.
"You can't just take dynamic range specs etc and not look at the entire picture." - I think you need to explain this, the entire picture when it comes to bit depth is the dynamic range (or amplitude to be more precise), what else do you think is there?
16/44 (and 24/96) has way more accuracy, HF linearity and not to mention dynamic range than any analogue recording you may own. If you are hearing a lack of ease or sustain at 16/44 but the same type of sound character from both analogue and 24/96 there can only be 3 possible explanations: 1. All your 16/44 music files are incredibly badly mastered or 2. Your DAC has a fault or serious design flaw when decoding 16/44 files or 3. Placebo Effect.
Edited by gregorio - 9/16/11 at 3:15am