I am not asking the "best" because that is so subjective of a question, but to people who have had the fortune to try many different portable audio sources at the higher end (into the $1000+ range) where did you find the various players strengths and weaknesses were compared to each other?
I am looking to buy a portable audio source/DAC soon and I will not be able to test out various units and will likely have to "take a chance" and buy one based purely on the information I get from here.
I tend to like more analytical/reference types of musical presentation. I tested many headphones a few years ago and found the AKG 702 (with the help of this forum) to be my favorite of many of the higher priced headsets. I do not need huge amounts of bass and would prefer not to have the music shifted towards the warmer end of the spectrum. I like to hear the clear precise and detailed nuances of the music. I find in a song like "Hungry Like a Wolf" by Duran Duran that all of the little things that are constantly going on in that song are often lost on many players or speakers. On the right source with the AKG's that song sounds entirely different from listening to it coming from a FLAC file on my phone through some $40 Sony IEM's.
So, if anyone can help me out on this what are the strengths of the various high end portable sources? Are there any standouts for pure sound quality and clarity? Are there any that while expensive tend to push into the warm spectrum and become the "Dre Beats" equivalent of a portable audio player? Is there one that has significant power and simply phenomenal clear presentation that clearly puts it above all the others? Are there any that have a more natural/non-digital-esque sound then others?
I am not worried about physical size as I will be using it at a desk or in my vehicle most of the time and wont be jogging with it or using it at a gym. I am also not overly concerned about power consumption as I will be able to plug it in and recharge it most of the time. In some ways a unit not handcuffed by trying to be small or power efficient might actually be a good thing.