From above . . . "I'm reading some conflicting literature . . . "
Writing has a magical quality; man naturally assumes anything written is true.
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” . . . Buddha
Translation for our purposes . . . your ears are the only worthwhile sound "measurement instrument."
"Calibrate" your ears by attending live performances, symphonies, jazz, operas, etc.
Absolutely the most musical DAC chips ever made; the Burr Brown PCM 63.
The PCM 63 is the pinnacle of audio digital to analog converter engineering.
The PCM 63 combines all the advantages of a conventional DAC (excellent full scale performance, high signal-to-noise ratio and ease of use) with superior low-level performance, especially around bipolar zero,where the DAC output should change from positive to negative or vise versa. Two DACs are combined in a complementary arrangement to produce an extremely linear output. Inside are two 20 bit R2R DACs with a common laser trimmed resistor network.
DACs utilizing Laser trimmed resistor networks are VERY expensive to manufacture. The MBAs and accountants decided a new DAC architecture was needed. After all, the important thing is profit, not excellent engineering or mindless musicality. Note the MBAs and accountants have a 1960s vintage transistor radio on their desk that "sounds fine for listening to their favorite talk show." The solution? Throw a million transistors at the pesky DAC problem. Thus the bit stream or noise shaping DAC was born. The very word NOISE in a DAC description should be the clue that MASH DACs are non musical.
The Burr Brown PCM54HP R2R DAC with laser trimmed resistor network is far more musical than any noise shaping DAC. In fact, the musical dynamics are very similar to the PCM 63.
Yes, they have great specifications; they sound horrible. Indeed, the engineers who designed the PCM 63 must have been disgusted with the MASH DAC chips.
BSEE NCSU + 24 hours EE graduate school including two graduate courses acoustics . . . acoustic radiation, acoustic instrumentation, psychoacoustics, etc.
Burr Brown PCM63 Data sheet
Fundamentals of Acoustics by Lawrence E. Kinsler & Austin R. Frey 2nd edition . . . Chapter 11 Hearing and Speech
Digital Integrated Electronics by Taub and Schilling