This post/response to this thread, to some, due to the 3K price point, may not qualify as a relevant observation, but please try to work with me.
Below is a photo of the "Audio" side of my AV setup. For you hi-end audio types, try not to laugh too hard.....
The components consist of:
Cambridge Audio Azur 640C (Dual Wolfson WM8740 24bit/192kHz DAC's). Connected with AQ Diamondback interconnects and Monster M1000 Coaxial Digital cable. $649.00
Denon DVD2910 Universal SACD/DVD-A/CD/DVD Player (Dual Burr-Brown PCM-1791 24bit/192kHz DAC's). Connected with Key Digital Pro-Connect Interconnects and Monster InterLink Lightspeed 200 Toslink cable. (Key Digital Python HDMI cable and 6 AQ Diamondback interconnects for 5.1 audio). $729.00
Philips CDR950 CD Recorder (Analog Devices AD1855 - Stereo, 96 kHz, Multibit Sigma Delta DAC). Connected with Monster M850 Interconnects and Key Digital Pro-Connect Toslink cables. $499.00
Yamaha CDC 685 CD Changer (S-Bit DAC's: Yamaha is very vague when revealing specs. "S" meaning, "Single" bit to bit conversion). Connected with Monster M1000 Interconnects and Acoustic Research Pro II Series Toslink cable. $229.00
The room size is 18 x 11.6 x 8. The speakers are pointed inward and they sit exactly 9 feet apart. I sit approximately 9 feet from the speaker dead center. No subwoofer is used in the comparison. "Source Direct" and "Stereo" are the modes used.
All players listed are connected to a Marantz SR9300 AV Receiver 140 watts x 7/165 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms ($3199.00) which in stereo mode, the Digital-to-analog conversion is performed by a quartet of Cirrus Logic Crystal CS4396 24bit/192kHz stereo DAC devices with 120 dB of available dynamic range. In stereo mode, to improve performance, four of the eight DACs are employed in a differential configuration, as with many other high-end products.
Now, as you can see, there's nothing on that audio rack that's remotely close to $3000.00!
Actually, the Denon DVD2910 Universal had the highest MSRP at $729.00.
Being that all the components are going to the same AV Receiver and the same speakers are being used, Klipsch Reference RF35 Towers via Monster M1.4 Bi-Wired cables. And finally, the digital devices are plugged into a Panamax MAX5100 Power center.
Now that you have a breakdown of the audio aspect of my system, which I will admit, is far from being the paragon of 2 channel playback. There's a lot to be desired with this setup. Compared to what a lot of you own, 20-30K+ audio setups, my system can easily be considered low budget. But I do believe I have an even playing field when comparing playback quality of different cd players, all with different implementations and DAC's.
First off, when listening to music and using the digital process allowing the Marantz to do the converting, they all pretty much sounded the same! Why shouldn't they?! Same DAC's, right!?! (The Marantz's)
Now, when I switched each player to analog, that's were the differences became evident. How? Well let's start with the Cambridge.
There was virtually no difference in sound quality via analog or digital. Both have evenly matched high quality DAC's. Same with the Denon DVD2910. The Burr Brown DAC's performed just as well as the Marantz's.
Now, when it came to the Philips playback via analog, the dynamic range fell off. The volume lowered by a couple decibels. The Philips is a hell of a CD recorder. It makes excellent duplicates of recordings, but the playback in analog is a little strained.
The Yamaha does sound decent in analog. Better than the Philips, but paled in comparison to the Cambridge and the Denon. I guess the S-Bit technology can be considered run of the mill conversion. It just wasn't as engaging.
Now if any of you feel that because of the superior specs of the Cambridge and the Denon, the placebo effect kicks in, but I can assure you, that is not the case.
I did hear sonic differences when using the players DAC's. The sound stage was different in some cases, imaging, dynamic range, low and mid range, even in the highs. The Klipsch's, although, often ridiculed on this website, does well revealing flaws in recordings.
The Redbook CD's I used for the comparison was:
Basia - Clear Horizon (Best of Basia)
Al Jarreau - Tenderness
Jonathan Butler - Ultimate Butler
Diana Krall - The Look of Love
U2 - 18 Singles
Natalie Cole - Leavin'
Bobby Caldwell - Timeline (The Anthology Pt. 1)
Sting - Fields of Gold (Best of Sting 1984-1994)
FourPlay - Best of Fourplay (Greatest Hits)
Nancy Wilson - Greatest Hits
Boney James - Shine
Sade - Lover's Rock
Puff Johnson - Miracle
So my conclusion is......Digital connection will pretty much sound the same.
Analog connection will reveal any differences.
I hope this contribution can be considered relevant. The comparison is subjective. Anyone could come to my home and come back with completely different results. It really comes down to what you prefer. Knowing what to listen for could also prove helpful.