I don’t think we should spread fud/myths about different chips sounding remarkably different . Implementation is everything if the chips are of recent vintage not some relic of the 80’s or 90’s ?
Well built modern DAC’s exceeded our human capabilities long ago . Possibly exception is if you are young enough for excellent hf hearing then the weirdest filter choices with roll off on the top and ultrasonic leakage migth sound different to you .
Please don’t attribute texture detail or soundstage to a DAC , if such words cary any meaningful information it’s about the recordings
I think what you are saying is accurate, and I do not wish to throw in more BS as it may technically be BS or hold no validity. But what I have read is that even the number of languages you know help you hear different. Not that I am a master, but I know 3 langauges and one of them is I think the #1 or 2 most characters in the alphabet which, according to this article I read, helps you pick up sounds better as you are using more of the audible frequencies. Clearly this is a very limited understanding as the talking band is a very small part of the frequency range. So I can see this as BS. Maybe slightly increased with male and female band, if I understand correctly men and women speak in different bands
However, I will throw in and I am not implying this as I have golden ears or any of that, my current and previous paragraph. But I do not know if you have heard about micro noises, but I remember for me this was a popular prank to pull in classrooms when I was in high school. They would play this micro noise and the teacher would never hear because they are old but everyone else who is clearly young is able to pick it up and it's super obnoxious. To get to my point, I am 35 and I still am able to hear that micro noise which is something that was said should not be possible. I may be wrong about the age this disappears in hearing, but I do recall it's something you lose in your 20's
But I totally agree with you on implementation and it seems more than often any time whether it's an audio show or personal units I have owned I did not like ESS. Yet again as stated, one of my streamers has an ESS dac in it and it actually sounds fairly nice. I notice the same issues but it's basically toned down. As in it's still present, but the amount of it getting to my ears is far less which is fine to me.
Precisely as you say, I have owned a couple BB chips and most the cheap units sounded very warm. I have the Ifi Neo IDSD and that one sounds much closer to AKM and realistically I feel it's even a bit more neutral than AKM. So your comments about implementation are true, but again also the chips do vary and I am not sure how much of an influence that may have. This is also why I stated I am still very interested in owning the Gustard X26 Pro to further understand your point, but I think the streamer I own is establishing that as well.
Next we must consider how many possible ways are there to implement a dac, I would guess 3 or 4 max and that would mean sound/experience should be similar amongst those implementations and a dac from the same manufacturer especially if what you point out that dacs sound hardly differ. There has to be a certain limit or available knowledge of implementations unless someone creates a completely new radical idea. Simply based on when you go to these manufacturer websites you see they give you the possible electronic routes these dacs need or have in diagrams
The only thing I would assume gives high variability but should not be a major impact on the sound is component quality in that line. Op amp rolling being one of these and it maybe similar with other parts of the chain. But even than if we are considering that dacs hardly sound different, how much of difference can op amps make. We do see burson for example with its many op amps and they definitely change the sound, but lets be clear I am not even certain if dacs even have op amps. I believe they do.
The thing which gets me and probably further validates your point and some of what I am saying as well. The ESS dacs which was a 500 dollar stand alone, housing duel 9038's non pro, sounded worse than a streamer which implemented a single 9038Q2M in differential configuration and both cost 500. You would clearly assume that the dac itself in a streamer would have a poor implementation as cost is being divided into other things ie included streamer. So more money or resources into implementation would have been used in the stand alone dac. Who knows maybe the company was just being cheap and trying to rip people off I do not know and that's why it came out poopy
I also always get a test routine when I buy a dac to see how it sounds on speakers and headphones, and similarly when it sounds good with speakers it will be good with headphones. Equally with what doesn't sound pleasant to me, but I still give the unit a chance as it may create something I can put to use somewhere.
Who is to say, this may all be placebo or even maybe something I pick up which someone else may never notice.
Edit: Also wish to point out that I am not challenging your statement, nor do I have the expertise to give facts about the matter. I am only discussing my personal experience which has only been 2 years in audio. So I am in not standing to tell anyone they are right or wrong and my statements are for rebuttal which will help me learn or acknowledgement that some things maybe correct or reasonable.