As was previously stated, solid state dacs that output perfectly linear, distortion free sound cost pennies to manufacture. This isn't my "theory", it is scientifically measured fact. Now if you are going to tell me that these 'audiophile' daps are doing something OTHER than outputting linear sound (euphonic distortion/eq sweetening), I will buy that, although I would consider that an undesired behaviour, considering an amp/dac's job is fairly simple. The only device I ever used that did something other than this was my first android phone, a Motorola Charm that produced a quite audible buzz while listening to music and using the screen. Also what I said was SIGHTED listening proves nothing. All human beings are subject to expectation bias, if you believe that you are not, then this discussion can go no further for obvious reasons.
A few years ago I had a Samsung Galaxy, you know the ones with the Wolfson DAC and Class 'H' headphone amp. After installing voodoo sound I ran around telling everybody who would listen (and some who wouldn't) how amazing it sounded. As I liked trying out different firmwares, it was inevitable that one day I forgot to reinstall voodoo. I never noticed and still believed how amazing my device sounded, way superior to those horrible sounding iDevices because that's what Mr. Curio was telling me. Imagine my surprise when I finally DID notice and then after reinstalling I did back to back listening with and without. Couldn't hear a difference. All that stuff about unlocking the analog amp and oversampling and direct DAC was boola boola, at least as far as my ears were concerned. Would it measure differently? Who knows? Probably, but it certainly wasn't an AUDIBLE difference. It wasn't any louder, cleaner or more magical sounding. In fact, after discovering all of this, the sound quality became inferior to my ears, demonstrating the power of subjective listening. Then it was back to back with my sansa clip+. All the differences I swore up and down I heard before on my Galaxy (wider soundstage, deeper bass, higher highs) were gone because they NEVER EXISTED.
The comment about 'my world' is rather insulting as it implies that I am stupid or somehow have inferior hearing abilities. I passed the golden ears test with $30 headphones, if that means anything, although with practice I assume that most people with normal hearing could as well.
I want to add that what I am saying hear has nothing to do with needing an amp to drive high impedance headphones, (obviously an unamped ipod can't drive 600 ohm Beyerdynamics), I am assuming normal conditions within spec.
Edited by Mach-X - 2/24/14 at 9:39am