Sorry, Headfonia's experience with six low-end DACs and 400 word conjecture doesn't qualify.
Try getting involving with building and modifiying DACs, messing with different power supplies, using different DAC chips, different digital receivers, hearing different builds, successed improved builds, etc. Every part of the DAC contributes to final the sound. The DAC chip is the heart of it. That's what a designer usually picks first (or least a few candidates) and then builds around. The power supplies, digital receivers, filters, buffers, clocks, I/V conversion, analog stage, analog filters, etc. usually come afterward.
The DAC chip has a lot of do with the sound. It's neither nothing nor everything.
For example, all the SABRE based DACs in the list sound different. They are not indistinguishable. This is why the various SABRE DACs are not all ranked the same - they are ranked from very good to not so good. Yet, these SABRE DACs also share certain kinds of sonic peculiarities. The Gungnir, DCX2496, and a modded DCX2496 I have use different AKM DAC chips. They all sound different and are not indistinguishable. Yet all of these AKM based DACs (the chips in question have certain design commonalities) share certain kinds of sonic straits - which are actually very different from those of the SABRE based DACs.
Think of (John Elway and Peyton Manning) as one kind of chip; (Joe Montana and Fran Tarkenton) as another; and (Steve Young, Colin Kapernick, and Tim Tebow) as another kind. There's no guarantee that the use of a certain DAC chip will yield good results.
Edited by purrin - 1/8/14 at 1:50pm