My point was that a $5K DAC made by a group of industry specialist that know a great deal about the niche the are trying to market sounds almost or even as good as a product costing 2 - 4x as much.
MMiles, in this statement you are conceding that the more expensive the DAC, the better the sound. IOW, ¿a $20K DAC must sound better than a $5K DAC and this in turn woudl sound better than a $1k DAC?
No, that's not necessarily true, at least when a rigorous scientific test is conducted. For the time being, there's a well stablished technical knowledge that tends to demonstrate that sonic differences are extremely difficult to be noticed, I insist, in the typical domestic environment.
And this knowledge is well beyond any opinions of any of us.
Price differences, as you said, are related to a specific market where on many ocassions those differences have to do with dozen things that have nothing to do with sound. Brand name is the main factor.
But when I remember the ultraexpensive Goldmund CD player that actually was a humble Pioneer with another case and brand, it makes me angry with the modern audiophile, stupid, snake-oiled market.
I've ownded and tested a number of more or less expensive DACs and CD players, including CI Audio, Benchmark, Esoteric, Mark Levinson, Berendsen, a modified Rotel 1072, Arcam FMJCD33, and finally my current Cary CDP-1 and Onkyo CD7555.
I´ve come to the conclusion that the differences (if any) can be attributed to a dozen things that have nothing to do with sound. A heavy, robust case, clock and buffer, expensive opamps, expensive materials, expensive PSU and conectors, even a expensive remote control made out of metal, such as the Levinson's, Esoteric and Wadia controls.
I'm a humble human being, imperfect, with a lot of expectations and aspirations that with no doubt cloud my judgement. But I'm also an engineer.
Now my personal POV is that subjective opinions may be under discussion, but the only valid approach to assess differences is the technical approach.
BTW, I'm considering spending 750 dollars in a dedicated DAC for my new Western Digital Music Server. It's the Eastern Electric Tube DAC, that includes the Sabre 32 DAC. I need no more. I know spending more is like dropping money to the rubish bin.
And believe me. I can afford spending $5k is the Berkeley DAC under discusion.