To no-one in particular:
1. Even the professional reviewers are Stereophile etc usually admit that gear above a certain price point is usually more about finding a 'different' sound than something 'better'. That said, I'd still like to hear that dCS stack, but given a choice between that level of kit and a 2012 Camaro, I'd take the car. If that makes me a Luddite, so be it.
2, I absolutely get that some in audio are obsessed with building the ultimate rig - Australian Hi-Fi regularly profiles people who have spent more on ancillaries than the sum total of everything Jessica mentions in the post above. The catch is that most have done this over a lifetime, and each addition has been meticulously thought out. These people have very understanding suppliers who will let them spend a month with the new kit in their home, or they swap kit with other equally obsessed individuals - what they dont do is dash out and buy every big-ticket item with a shiny faceplate and a few glowing reviews.
3. A large part of the debate in this thread is not about the cost of the gear, its the momentum behind increasingly meaningless numbers in the sales pitch for new DACs. I am all for measurements - preferably independently verified - but what use can I possibly have for something which will upsample my music to frequency extremes that make no sense within the context of human hearing ? I dont care if you are a 20 year old Sonar operator - unless the military can inject bat DNA into your veins, 192kHZ is useless.
4, Audio jewellery looks great - no question - and I'm certainly not immune to the lure of big name brands. Whether that automatically means a 5000% increase in my enjoyment of music is a tougher question.
The explosion in computer audio is fantastic for the hobby and the industry, but I believe it may have translated into a 'bigger is automatically better' mindset. If we were talking video cards for gaming, I would agree, but we aren't. Read any ad for a modern DAC and its less about the traditional pressure points around perceived enjoyment of music and more about the spec sheet.
End of the day, people will buy whatever they want - that's fine with me - just dont try to tell me how much cheaper it is to be a headphone enthusiast when I know for a fact that many of the big spenders here have expensive speaker rigs and a room full of headphone amps and statement headphones. More power to them, but it begs the question : when did the gear become more important than the music ? Speakers might cost more - a lot more - but over a 5-year period I wonder whether your average 'traditional' audio enthusiast comes out on top financially .....
(Jessica, fwiw, your CDP wouldn't be considered 'high-end' in traditional audio. I don't have anything on that level, but lets be realistic - to a certain privileged subset of this crazy hobby, the majority of the kit discussed on Head-Fi would be 'mid level' at best, and a lot of the Chinese gear would be beneath contempt. You alluded to the name recognition of US-made components, then made a point of slamming Schiit's budget DAC - its fairly clear that you are an elitist. If you want to impress us, give us your impressions of the dCS stack)