nick_charles, so then my question is this...
In a higher end system (say $30,000 and up) would you expect to get the exact same sound no matter what DAC you use, assuming you level match? For example, would you expect the same sound with a $200 DAC from SHEK compared to a very expensive DAC from say KONDO or LINN?
Yes, as long as the DACs deliver low distortion, flat FR, low noise and have no notable flaws. The great Julian Hirsch summed it up in 1982, why would you expect any two such digital devices to sound different. But don't take my word for it. On the web there are a few DBTs between high end digital and modest digital components such as those by the Spanish Matrixhifi bunch - they almost always conclude that no differences could be heard. They compared a $12K Oracle vs a $200 Pioneer. Of course it is always possible to create something really bad or to do poor comparisons (the sort that hifi reviewers get paid for ) , however your DAC is technically superb so you do not need to worry about that.
I repeat my question, with high fidelity technical performance being so easy to achieve nowadays where is the source of difference ?
But the real issue here is that in order to make any kind of sensible judgment requires rigorous controlled testing which in other sub-forums we cannot even talk about !