To come back on the initial question. Saying that expensive is not better, is nonsense. Saying a B&W speaker, that is build to give the purest signal, is no the same as nice sounding 1000. dollar speaker If you just something nice sounding, it will do for most.
I have a quiet expensive set up, I bought second hand. The most important element are the speakers, as long as they are not good, u can put the most expensive gear behind it, it will not do. Although amps should be neutral, every brand has their own philosophy. Then the most important is that the elements MATCH. If you have a rather warm sounding amp, like my Mark Levinson 335, it will ask for a different player then lets say an Accuphase.
I tested dac's, and also players. I have a Accuphase DSP 67, considered by specialists as a reference player. Well on my gear it sound analog, yes, but highs are just too soft, and I get bored. I have a Oppo 93, and my friend a 95.
So I did a lot of listening test between them. Of course output level is matched, and the 93 cannot be connected by XLR. In professional test, the huge gap between players is often mentioned. Ok, if you are listening carefully, there IS a difference when you switch between them I would not say that I not believe some people find the 95 better. I have gear that sound much warmer then most. So the 93 plays well. It not sounds "digital" by all means. It is incredible it is more appealing on my installation then the 10 times more expensive Accuphase. The 95, highs are a bit more present, but the mids are more closed. Yes staging is a bit better, if you listening well. In direct comparison, the voices are a bit more defined also.
But, when I walk in the room and not remember which player is on, I cannot say, that it is so obvious. These players have 2 very different dac's. And yet I could not say that I am astonished by the 95, compared to the 93. Maybe with a more lively amp, the 93 will sound a bit more aggressive. And also, I will have to test this not knowing which one is on. Your mine knows that the 95 should be better, and is looking for obvious elements in it, that does makes it sound better. If the 93 would be considered the best, maybe I find something to make the 93 the winner! Anyway, the difference between them is not as important, as people want to make you think, and on most gear, not worth the investment either.
My idea is, to forget about an external Dac. Both Dacs in the Oppo's are fine!
I like my HT, wine and pretty girls. But...am I the only one